Saturday, November 30, 2013

"Anti-Semitism and the Catalan left"

The entrance to the Auschwitz Birkenau death camp
Matthew Tree (author of the remarkable novel SNUG) writing in Catalan for with his usual clear sight and bravery...

"Before World War II , anti-Semitism - a toxic hybrid

of anti-Judaism and Christian European pseudo-

scientific racism - was fashionable throughout

Europe, especially among young people. From 1945,

when everyone realized that some 5.8 million people

had been executed, starved, beaten, gassed or - in

the case of many babies- impaled on bayonets or

smashed against walls, simply for having non-Gentile

surnames, anti-Semitism began to lose popularity.

According to Labour MP Denis MacShane ('The New

Anti-Semitism', 2008) during the 60s and 70s certain

European intellectuals helped to make anti-Semitism

a socially acceptable prejudice once again thanks to

the concept (also a hybrid) of “anti-Zionism”, which

denies the right of Israel to exist as a state (on the

grounds that it is fascist and colonialist) while hinting

that all Israelis (or all Jews, even) manipulate

international opinion (especially U.S. opinion) in favor

of the said state of Israel by means of powerful


In other words, rather than make specific

criticisms of certain undeniable crimes committed by

the Israeli state, anti-Zionists treat this country as if it

were the only beneficiary of a powerful and diabolical

conspiracy, against which everything from boycotts

to physical elimination is therefore justifiable.

In Catalonia this discourse has enjoyed huge success,

partly because it is often accompanied by an equally

huge ignorance of history: just look at the

incredulous face of almost any Catalan 'anti-Zionist' if

you tell him, for example, that in 1947, the

Palestinian Arabs were offered their own state, twice

as large as the current Occupied Territories; or that

the Gaza Strip and the West Bank were occupied

from 1948 up to Six Day War [in 1967] by Egypt and

Jordan respectively (though these states did not treat

the Palestinians any better than the Israelis have


And perhaps our anti-Zionist may not know –

accustomed as he is to qualifying the Israelis as Nazis

that an important part of the Palestinian national

movement had genuinely Hitlerian roots, having been

founded by Yasser Arafat 's mentor, Haj Amin el-

Husseini, a personal friend of Himmler and the

architect of a plan to exterminate all the Jews of

North Africa and the Middle East with an

einsatzkommando led by Walter Rauff, the inventor

of the gas trucks used in Chelmno.

What is more, after centuries of relative tolerance

by Muslims towards Jews, European anti-Semitism,

imported directly from the Third Reich by el-Husseini,

has thoroughly infected the doctrines of radical

Islamist organizations such as Hezbollah or Allah

Hamas, both funded by Iran, a country that denies

the Holocaust, and has repeated again and again

hat Israel should be wiped off the face of the planet.

Yet when these same countries and organizations do

things that are somewhat worse than anything Israel

has done (such as now sending military support to

the current Syrian regime, which is responsible for

more deaths of Arab civilians in the last three years

than in Israel in it's entire history) the Catalan anti-

Zionists don't mutter so much as a word of protest.

In a nutshell, anti-Semitism has taken on many

different guises over the years, and the Catalan

variety - a generic anti-Zionism, often poorly informed

and pseudo-progressive (because it implicitly supports

regimes that are homophobic, sexist and, of course,

anti-Semitic) - is yet another variation on an old

European theme. Having said which, that does

not deny anybody the right to crticise a cruel and

unjustifiable occupation on the part of the state of

Israel. But of course, that's so obvious it doesn't need

to be stressed. Or maybe it does."

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Claude Lanzmann and "The Last of the Unjust" in Seville

Lanzmann, left, with Benjamin Murmelstein in 1975, in a still from The Last of the Unjust
French producer-director Claude Lanzmann, author of the singularly penetrating memoir “The Patagonian Hare” visited Seville this week.

As the creator of Shoah, the 9-hour documentary (which was the result of over ten years of research and filming testimonies of survivors from the Nazi's extermination of Jews across Europe) Lanzmann was honoured yesterday at the Andalucian city's film festival.

His new movie is titled “The Last of the Unjust.” It is about Benjamin Murmelstein, the Jewish Council president in Theresienstadt ghetto, the concentration camp in the city of Terezín (in the modern-day Czech Republic.) who collaborated with the Nazis, a man who Lanzmann said he actually “grew to love.”

The Last of the Unjust” will be released in Spain on January 10.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

New prodidgy at Barcelona FC has family support

Barcelona scouts praise the field vision of Ben Lederman, center right, and his seemingly advanced ability to see passing lanes and openings during the run of play. [Photo: Lederman family.]

"More than six million Americans live abroad, according to recent estimates, so it was not altogether unusual when the Ledermans, a family of four from California, moved here in 2011. After all, one of them got a dream job.
For the Ledermans, though, the strange thing was not the move but the reason: The opportunity that brought them to Spain was not for Danny, the father and small-business owner, or Tammy, the mother and real estate agent. It was for Ben, their 11-year-old son.
Two years later, Ben Lederman, 13, is still working, still spending most days (and many evenings) training at La Masia, the famed youth soccer academy run by the global soccer juggernaut Barcelona
Ben is the first United States-born player invited to train at La Masia, and that distinction, while significant, means little to his overall quest: to work his way up through the Barcelona youth teams and someday, maybe, become the first American to play for Barcelona’s first team."

Read the rest of the article from the New York Times here.

Friday, November 8, 2013

"Is this how Spain should deal with foreign buyers of property?"

A guest post from Thomas Ekvall...

"My recent experience trying to buy property in Tenerife is rather puzzling for a country having millions of unsold houses. I started off with going to a bank in Santa Cruz to open an account. The bank considered my documentation sufficient, however I was informed that I needed a “NIE” to open an account; consequently I went to the national police in Santa Cruz to obtain this. At the police station I was asked to pay a small fee for the “NIE” that had to be paid through a bank (an inconvenient way to pay a negligible fee). Nevertheless I went back to the bank to pay the fee.
Back at the bank I was informed that I had to obtain the “NIE” number before I could pay the fee. Consequently I went back to the police just to be told rather forcefully – no I had to pay first. I went back to the bank again to tell them that I was now really stuck and asked them to call the police officer in question to try to solve the problem which they were not willing to do.
I went back again to the police and tried to explain the situation and asked them to call the bank which they most certainly were not going to do; consequently I could not open an account.
I told my property broker about my experience, he smiled and said these things happen in Spain. However, he offered to help and he asked me to come to Porto Cruz at 9 am the next day, which I did and we went together to the national police just to be told that they were closed for the day. I was instructed to come back before 7 am the next day.
The next day I left Santa Cruz before 5 am to make sure I would make my appointment. Just before 7am I was ushered into a waiting room rather rudely by uniformed police. Here I was kept waiting together with another dozen people from 7am until 8:30 am when a formidable police lady graced us with her presence surveying her day’s crop of intimidated “NIE” applicants. As they had no number system she tried to establish in which order we had arrived by asking us, this unsurprisingly ended in confusion.
By about 9 am we were given the forms to fill-in, all in Spanish, by definition none of us were Spanish. My broker helped me to fill-in the forms. It must be in Spain’s interest to have staff dealing with potential buyers of property to at least speak English and German and have the relevant forms in these two languages. The only things in the office in languages other than Spanish were large signs in English and German urging “NIE” applicants to keep quiet.
A lady applicant, next to me, noticed that I had help with my Spanish so she asked my broker if he could help her as well, which he agreed to do, however, our formidable police lady intervened to stop my broker from helping her, she said: she should have come with her own interpreter.
The time was now past 10 am and my case had as yet not been broached. Again our formidable police lady appears before us to deal with another applicant who had by now waited patiently for well over two hours. She asked him to go out and photocopy a document in a nearby shop and added brusquely: be quick.
My broker, who now sensed that I was getting irritated, told me things were in fact improving, she used to keep applicants waiting in the sun all day just to slam the door in their faces when she felt she had dealt with enough applicants for the day. He had observed one couple in their mid eighties being treated in this fashion.
Just before 11 am I was finally allowed to hand in my forms, but not without complications, the formidable lady noticed that the address I had given in Tenerife was a hotel in Santa Cruz and she wanted to send me back to Santa Cruz after a long discussion my broker managed to convince her to accept my case.
Just past 11 am I and my broker were allowed into the formidable police lady’s office. My broker who entered first sat down in one of two chairs in front of her desk just to be asked to stand up. We finished our business some 15 minutes past 11 am after having paid the fee. I was told to come back at 1 pm the following day to collect my “NIE”.
I and my broker went to a café near the police station to reflect on our experience; minutes after we had sat down the formidable police lady appears for a cup of coffee. She at this point had another eight applicants to deal with who by now had been waiting for her attention for close to five hours.
The next day at 15 minutes to 1 pm I arrived, as instructed, at the national police station in Porto Cruz. The uniformed police at the reception told me in no uncertain terms to go away saying they were closed. I tried to explain that I was asked to come there at this hour. We obviously did not understand each other so he asked me to come with him into the office to speak to a colleague of his who spoke English. He entered an inner office and said something to me that I did not understand and I followed him into the inner office, he then turned around and shouted at me and pushed me out.
At about 1pm I was finally ushered into the waiting room where I was, after an hour or so, given an audience with the formidable police lady and given my temporary “NIE” after six visits to the police, 12 days and US$ 5,000 for air tickets, food and hotel room. This inept and humiliating process has postponed indefinitely me buying any property in Spain."

Thomas Ekvall