May 28, 2024 MEMRI Daily Brief No. 604

Anti-Spain Is In Power In Madrid

May 28, 2024 | By Amb. Alberto M. Fernandez*
Palestinians, Spain | MEMRI Daily Brief No. 604

The news that Norway, Ireland, and Spain would recognize a Palestinian state on May 28, 2024 certainly caught the world's attention. Both Hamas and the Taliban, among others, congratulated the European countries. But while there was reaction about all three countries, much of the public ire and bitterness – in both directions – focused on Spain.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz responded on May 27 by accusing Spain of "rewarding terrorism" and added that "the days of the Inquisition are over."[1] Earlier, he had lamented statements by Spanish officials by mentioning that to "understand what radical Islam truly seeks, she should study the 700 years of Islamic rule in Al-Andalus – today's Spain."[2] Other, unofficial, pro-Israel voices focused on the expulsion of Jews by the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492, or called for the recognition of an independent Catalonia.

Still others denigrated Spanish history or culture, dragging in mocking references to flamenco dancing or bullfighting. American conservative Dennis Prager ignorantly commented in a podcast that "when Spain kicked out the Jews in 1492, it was one of the greatest powers on earth. After 1492, people said, 'Where is Spain?' It went from gigantic to nothing overnight with its expulsion of the Jews in 1492."[3]

The criticism, whether clever or stupid, showed a basic misunderstanding about Spain today, Spanish politics, and the nature of antisemitism and anti-Israel rhetoric. For what happened with Spain and Israel is not some recurrence of atavistic Castilian Catholic "Jew hatred," but something rather more common. It is as if the malevolent children – part communist, part Islamist in motivation – who are seen protesting for Palestine on the university campuses of the West actually ruled a country.

Responding to Spain's patronage of a Palestinian state by bringing up the Inquisition or 1492 or Catholicism or bullfighting might be superficially satisfying in some quarters, but is actually ludicrous, because Spain's current political rulers despise all these things. The ruling leftist-far left-Catalan/Basque separatist coalition in Spain is in favor of Catalan independence, is soft on Islamic rule in Spain, and is reliably anti-Catholic. It is the left in Spain that wants to allow Islamic prayers in the Cathedral-Mosque in Cordoba. It is the left in Spain that encourages illegal immigration from Muslim countries into Spain, a kind of counter "Reconquista." They would rather erase all in Spain that is old or distinctive or "Spanish." The separatist rulers in Catalonia have welcomed Islamic migration, and even the spread of Salafism in their region, as long as the new arrivals don't commit the cardinal sin of speaking Spanish.

Spain has the most left-wing government in Europe, the only one with actual hardcore communists in it. Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez would not be in power today without the vote of his communist allies (the rival far-left Sumar and Podemos parties), along with the approval of Catalan and Basque separatists, most of whom also lean left. While much ink has been spent in the Anglophone media about the supposed dangers of right-wingers in countries like Hungary, Poland or Italy, the leftist, corrupt and increasingly authoritarian regime in Madrid has flown under the radar. This is probably because the EU bureaucracy itself leans left. And the EU's foreign policy chief since 2019, Josep Borrell, is a Spanish Catalan Socialist. His old comrades in Madrid are open allies of Venezuela and Cuba, and their views on Israel are closer to the hardcore Latin American left than they are of even social democratic parties in Western Europe. Sanchez himself has steadily moved the Spanish Socialists (PSOE) to the left from where they were in the days of Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez.

Spain declared an arms embargo on Israel on October 7, 2023 just as Jews were being massacred and before any invasion in Gaza.[4] The greatest stridency against Israel – the calls for "From the River to the Sea" and accusing Israel of genocide, began on the Spanish far left long ago and then steadily migrated throughout the ruling left/far-left coalition. Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Diaz (Sumar) and former Equality Minister Irene Montero (Podemos) used it first, and then it eventually was heard from the lips of the Socialists when Defense Minister Margarita Robles, on May 25, said that what Israel was doing in Gaza was "an authentic genocide."[5]

In Spain, it is the political right that is pro-Israel. This is the same political right which is monarchist, conservative, mostly Catholic, and against Catalan independence, which is also against the leftist regimes in Latin America like Cuba and Venezuela, and which is against the massive wave of illegal immigration into Spain that is abetted by the ruling left. By far, the most consistent pro-Israel political voice in Spain is the conservative Vox party (often – falsely – described by the left and the media as "far-right' or "ultra-right"), the third largest party in the country. The center-right Popular Party (PP) also leans towards being more pro-Israel than the Spanish left.

The increasing closeness of Western left-of-center parties with Islamic and imported "anti-colonial/anti-imperialist" ideologies is a widespread phenomenon. Spain is important in this equation because the left is already in power and it is perhaps a model for "progressive" foreign policy that we may see more often in the West as demographics change and as the left is pressured by both its own far-left wing and by a rising populist right.

Spain today is as if "the Squad" in the U.S. House of Representatives or France's LFI-NUPES ruled a country. There is not one trendy notion of the American and European far-left that has not been embraced by or at least talked about by the current rulers in Madrid. When it comes to Gaza, immigration, abortion, euthanasia, and fourth-wave feminism, they are nothing if not predictable.

Politics in Spain seems increasingly Venezuelanized. The country is beset by very serious economic problems and high unemployment, by the burning question of Catalan and Basque separatism, by poor governance and a catastrophic decline in births – but today in the country, the hottest issues of the moment – promoted by Sanchez's Socialists and his communist allies – are being anti-Israel, a running war of words with Argentina's libertarian President Javier Milei, and the evergreen Spanish leftist campaign against the long-gone late Caudillo Francisco Franco (d. 1975) and all his works. If you can constantly talk about Gaza, Milei, and Franco, you can avoid questions about government corruption or about violating the constitution with crooked pacts with Basque terrorist sympathizers and Catalan separatists or about unemployment, incompetence, and increasingly heavy-handed state authoritarianism. You can do so especially when much of the media is in your pocket because of government subsidies.

*Alberto M. Fernandez is Vice President of MEMRI.


[1], May 27, 2024.

[2], May 24, 2024.

[3], December 6, 2023.

[4], May 26, 2024.

[5], May 25, 2024.

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