Government of Spain Adopts IHRA Definition
July 24, 2020
This week, the government of Spain officially adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism. Spain’s decision to adopt this definition comes amidst an alarming rise of anti-Semitism across Europe and the rest of the world.
According to the Jerusalem Post, the Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain issued a statement officially welcoming the resolution and thanking the Spanish government for its decision to adopt IHRA. The IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism describes the various forms of discrimination against Jews and Holocaust denial.
Spain is currently one of IHRA’s 34 member countries and has been a member of IHRA since 2008. This past June, the parliament of Spain’s Balearic Islands adopted the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism and also classified the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) as anti-Semitic.
The country has a centuries-long history with both Jews and anti-Semitism. For over 2000 years, Spain had a flourishing Jewish community which produced leaders of Jewish thought, philosophers, scientists and diplomats. However, in 1492 King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella united Spain under Christian rule and issued the Alhambra Decree mandating the expulsion of all Jews from the country.
In 2015, the Spanish Parliament approved a measure aimed at restoring citizenship to the descendants of Sephardic Jews who were expelled by the Alhambra Decree. The law allowed those individuals to apply for citizenship during a 3-year window, highlighting that citizenship would be granted after being tested in basic Spanish and Spanish History.
The measure offered a practical and symbolic bridge to reconnect Jews with their Sephardic roots and Spain. In October 2019, Spain’s Justice Ministry reported that they received over 130,000 applications from Sephardim attempting to reclaim the citizenship of their ancestors. According to the World Jewish Congress, the present-day Jewish population of Spain is roughly 50,000.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, Spain has seen an uptick in modern anti-Semitism. During the years of the Second Intifada, anti-Semitism in Spain began to manifest itself through anti-Israel and anti-Zionist activity. Classical medieval tropes about Jewish control began to emerge in reference to the Israeli-Arab conflict in the media. Spanish newspapers published vicious anti-Semitic cartoons depicting Jews and Israelis as killers, many echoing age-old anti-Semitic stereotypes.
In 2014, when Israeli’s basketball team ‘Maccabi Tel Aviv’ won the Euro league championship, Spanish supporters of the opposing team created an explicit anti-Semitic hashtag, ‘#putosjudios’ which translates to ‘#f***ingJews” and took to Twitter posting nearly 18,000 anti-Semitic messages regarding Maccabi’s win.
This past February, Spain faced public scrutiny again after Holocaust-themed Carnival participants marched through the streets of the village of Campo de Criptana dressed as Nazis and Jewish Holocaust victims. A few weeks later, Spanish Carnival dancers in Badajos dressed as Nazis, marched alongside Auschwitz and Holocaust-themed floats in a similar anti-Semitic incident. The parades took place just months after UNESCO removed a Belgian carnival parade, the Aalst Carnival , from its Intangible Cultural Heritage list after the parade repeatedly featured anti-Semitic imagery.
These parade floats were just one of the many instances that highlighted rising anti-Semitism. In November 2019, the Anti-Defamation League published a study that revealed that 40% of people in Spain believe Jews are more loyal to the State of Israel than their home country.
Spain’s official adoption of the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism shows a large step forward in the country’s battle against anti-Semitism. Hopefully, Spain’s adoption of the definition and its examples will make it clear that anti-Semitism holds no place in Spain, or the rest of the world.