When in 2015, Spain’s government opened the door to the return of the descendants of the Jews forced to flee the country in 1492 as a result of the royal decree which forced Jews to convert to Catholicism or leave, few thought that only a few years later, the Spanish government would not only renege on its promises forcing thousands of people to lose thousands of dollars in application fees, but would threaten to deport some Jews to socialist Venezuela, endangering their lives.
Approximately 17,000 applications received no response, while thousands had been rejected despite meeting the criteria for applications. The criteria includes having one Jewish ancestor traceable to the Inquisition through presentation of genealogical documentation, and demonstrating the fluency in Spanish. One change that may explain the disparity between the official position and the current situation is the Spanish officials starting to second-guess the decisions by the notaries who received the applications initially.
Since 2019, the officials receiving the applications from the notaries, rather than sticking to the letter of the law, began reviewing them and arbitrarily choosing “winners” and “losers”. One interpretation is that the Spanish government may have lost interest in pursuing the “reparation” program of restoring justice to the descendants of the families affected by the decree. In that case, the fact of the government violating its own laws is scandalous enough. But there are other facts pointing to a more sinister view of these developments.
For instance, aside from the official requirements introduced in 2015 in the application process, since 2019, the Ministry of Justice began to add various additional requirements without notifying applicants. The program in its known form ended in 2019, but was continued informally with the newly imposed modifications. These requirements were arbitrary and essentially impossible to meet. What’s worse, they had been “grandfathered in” to endanger the status of those who had already been approved for citizenship. Some of the requirements are so onerous and unprecedented that they raise the question whether perhaps the Spanish government is using the legal system to keep the Jews out of Spain altogether.
For instance, the above-mentioned reliance on notary is a fixture of the Spanish legal system that extends to every aspect of domestic decision-making. The second guessing of these essential legal gatekeepers extends only to the Sephardic Citizenship Law, and not to any other line of application. This system has been in place for 160 years; the movement away from it to target Sephardic Jews can later be used to target other minorities in Spain as has happened in the past. Indeed, what has started out as a process of restoring justice after the egregious actions of forcing Jews out of Spain is now actually being used to the same effect again.
The New York-based American Sephardi Federation, which represents the interests of Jews and their descendants expelled from Spain and Portugal, among other Sephardic Jewish communities, is hosting an event with a member of the US Congress from New Mexico, who is a descendant of the conversos. “529 years after the Alhambra Decree, the expulsion of the Jewish people from the Iberian Peninsula, we forget the insidiously bureaucratic nature of the Spanish Inquisition. The depravity was in the details, not merely discrimination but denunciations leading to death. There are centuries worth of documents attesting to Spain’s relentless persecution of descendants of Inquisition survivors, who were tortured and murdered, including at autos-da-fé, which not always but infamously featured the public immolation of victims.” – said the executive director of ASF, Jason Guberman, in an exclusive statement to The Washington Outsider. The turnover of Jews to Venezuela is reminiscent of those dark days. In 1492, Jews forced out of Spain sought refuge in Morocco and the Ottoman Empire. But where are the Venezuelan Jews to go after losing access to the hope of a safe harbor?
This also does not bode well for the system of justice overall. The law that had been passed unanimously by Congress and remained in place from 2015 to 2019 is now being eroded, if not dismantled through arbitrary acts by individual officials. This ensures that no one in particular will ever be held accountable for violations of the law, turning Spain from an orderly country into a lawless state abdicating its duties to protect minorities from malicious and bigoted targeting by state power.
Jew hatred appears to raise its ugly head once again in the Spanish government. Furthermore, the apparent targeting of “conversos” also known as “crypto-Jews”, descendants of Jews who were forced to convert to Catholicism but who preserved their sense of identity and traditions to the best of their ability, raises questions about the efficacy and reasoning behind the so-called “reparation” to begin with. If the overwhelming majority of the people excluded from the process are the most vulnerable groups that would have been best served by the law to begin with, the law can hardly be considered just or making amends.
Indeed, in retrospect, Spain, which is facing significant economic issues, may have instituted this law as a money grab from the return of the wealthiest Jews; making thousands of dollars on each application, without taking into consideration all the potential investments. Taking this thought to its logical conclusion, the antisemitic elements of the Spanish government, seeing the profit margin of the applications, may have decided that there is no reason to go through with welcoming back thousands of unwanted Jews, when the money was coming in regardless.
The willingness to take away citizenships and even deport vulnerable Jews to Venezuela lends credence to this theory. The two socialist parties comprising a significant portion of the governing coalition, PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party), and in particular, Podemos, known for its support of revolutionary regimes and groups, including Iran, Venezuela, the junta-ruled Algeria, and the separatist terrorist Polisario, have clear ideological positions and biases, which do not serve justice for Jews well at all. The willful violation of the Sephardic Citizenship Law would not be the first time the leftist governing coalition in Spain broke the country’s own laws, nor commitment to European Union standards on human rights.
Most recently, the Spanish government entered into an illicit arrangement with Algeria, allowing the later to spirit in the Polisario leader Brahim Ghali under a fake Algerian diplomatic passport and name (Ben Battouche) into the country, supposedly for medical treatment. Ghali stands accused of various war crimes, including rape and torture of Moroccans, including some who are Spanish citizens. Nevertheless, the Spanish judiciary has allowed Ghali to escape an official investigation, and the government openly facilitated his speedy departure out of Spain following the media scandal over Spain’s double standards on human rights. The pattern of impunity and lawlessness plaguing Spain under socialist rules leaves no doubt that in Spain, some animals are more equal than others.
Nor is the non-compliance with the Sephardic Citizenship Law the final word on antisemitism of the two main socialist parties in Spain. According to Javier Cremades, the chief partner at Cremade Calvo Satelo, one of the law firms hired to sue the Spanish government for legal violations, PSOE in partnership with Podemos, following the antisemitic lines of their geopolitical allies, had imposed BDS against Israel in 78 municipalities across Spain. “The PSOE-led government is destroying any good will generated by the Law of Return and, worse, inflicting terrible suffering on those who mistook this gesture as a real sign of atonement for Spanish sins to Sepharadim and Anusim (Crypto-Jews). As US Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernandez (NM-3) said to the New York Times: “‘Their refusal is worse than if they didn’t offer citizenship in the first place. This is an example of how you don’t do reparations.’” – concluded ASF’s Jason Guberman. On Thursday, August 5, the American Sephardi Federation is hosting an online webinar featuring Rep. Leger Fernandez focused on explaining the current controversy to the Jewish community.