On Jan. 17, 1986, Spain recognized Israel for the first time, marking a hopeful new chapter in a long and turbulent history between Spain and Jews.
While there is an active and growing Jewish community in Spain, the Israel-Spanish diplomatic relationship has proven increasingly troubling. But there have also been some positive developments.
The Spanish government has vehemently denied reports that it sponsored a new ad running on Palestinian TV calling for a boycott of Israeli products. Despite the fact that at the end the message indicates it was sponsored by the Spanish government, in an interview with the Jerusalem Post, the Spanish foreign minister said Spain absolutely did not sponsor the ad and disagrees with its message: “The substance of the advertisement is in frontal opposition to the government’s opposition to any boycott of Israeli goods, much less a blanket boycott like the one insinuated in the video,” he told the Post. He also said the Spanish government is absolutely not behind the ad and they were the victims of a “hoax.”
We welcome this clarification and prompt response by Spanish officials.
This could be seen as a positive step in light of unfavorable Spanish attitudes toward Jews.
The Pew Research Center’s 2008 Global Attitudes Project presents a disturbing look at attitudes in Spain. According to the results, 46 percent of Spain’s residents held an unfavorable view of Jews, more than double the rate from Pew’s 2005 study.
If there is to be any hope of regaining the positive traction started 25 years ago, these two developments should be viewed as an opportunity to recognize critical problems in the relationship, and to determine solutions for them. One move in that regard was the 2007 creation of Casa Sefarad-Israel, which is a Madrid-based educational facility to teach the public about Jewish culture and explain how the Sephardic culture is intertwined with Spanish culture. The program also aims to promote ties between Spain and Israel.
B’nai B’rith has had a branch in Spain since 1979.