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Spanish Jews resisted oppression in tunnels and, exiled, clutched their keys

Israel/Palestine
on 83 Comments

Following May Day celebrations yesterday in Seville, where the BirthWrong tour joined the anarchist oriented union Confederation General del Trabajo at a plaza for revolutionary song, speeches and cheap beer, we set out for the Centro de Interpretation Juderia de Sevilla, the local museum of Jewish history in the former Jewish quarter known as Barrio Santa Cruz. Our guide, Virginia, set the backdrop for the tour with a short summary of Jewish history in Islamic Spain, explaining how cultural cross-pollination flourished beneath religious segregation. Among the best known byproducts of the so-called Golden Age is flamenco, a blend of Indian and Arabic music and Andalusian rabbinical hyms.

By 1248, Ferdinand III’s Christian army had stormed through southern Spain and conquered Seville. The city’s Jewish and Arab authorities conceded defeat by offering Ferdinand the symbolic keys to the city. The Jews of Seville were soon confined to a walled-in ghetto, subjected to a regime of discrimination and placed under close surveillance. After nightfall, residents of the Jewish quarter were forbidden from passing through the walls that confined them. When the Black Death hit Spain in the mid-14th century, conspiracy theories spread among the Christian population of Seville that Jews were poisoning the city’s water supply. This incitement led straight to the pogrom of 1381 in which 80 percent of the city’s Jewish population was butchered. The rest were pressured to convert as the vice of surveillance and suspicion tightened all around them. Distrust of the Conversos prompted the institution of Purity of Blood statutes that forbade anyone with Jewish ancestry from holding public office. The laws were eventually applied to Muslims, who were also deemed a “stained race” by southern Spain’s Christian authorities.

Our guide, Virginia, details a map of the ghetto where the Jews of Seville were confined under Christian rule

Our guide, Virginia, details a map of the ghetto where the Jews of Seville were confined under Christian rule

Despite the all-encompassing regime of repression, the Conversos resisted. A group of local Jews led by a wealthy merchant named Diego Ben Suson hatched a failed conspiracy to carry out an armed insurrection against local Catholic power brokers. Secret ceremonies took place on Yom Kippur as sentries kept watch for Christians through narrow slits barely visible from the outside. Beneath homes and businesses, Jews constructed an elaborate network of tunnels stretching as far as the Guadalquivir river that offered an escape route during Christian attacks. This morning, I passed through an unmarked door in the lobby of Seville’s Hotel Las Casas de la Juderia, descended a winding stone staircase into the hotel’s basement, and walked a fifty meter stretch of what had been a secret Jewish tunnel.

image2

In March, 1492, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella issued a formal order of expulsion to Spain’s Jewish community. The Jews who fled to safety in places like Tunisia and the provinces of the Ottoman Empire held onto the keys to their homes along with the hope that they would someday return. 522 years later, the Spanish government issued a draft law granting Spanish citizenship to descendants of Jews exiled under the infamous expulsion order.

Unfortunately, Muslims are not eligible. Many Arab Muslim families, especially in North Africa, trace their ancestry directly to Spain– for instance some members of my friend Ali Abunimah’s family say their ancestors came to Palestine from Spain in 1492. Yet Muslims are treated increasingly as part of a civilization that is alien to Europe.

Keys dangle from the ceiling of an eerily lit room in the Centro de Interpretation Juderia, symbolizing the tragedy of expulsion and exile. As Virginia led us through the narrow lands of Barrio Santa Cruz, I heard some murmuring from the group about undeniable connections to the present.

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About Max Blumenthal

Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author.

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83 Responses

  1. JLewisDickerson
    JLewisDickerson
    May 2, 2015, 5:03 pm

    Thanks Max. Some very interesting (albeit regrettable) European history.

    • Krauss
      Krauss
      May 3, 2015, 5:14 am

      Yes, seconded.

      Although I don’t see why the muslims should be allowed citizenship. They came there as invaders and colonizers. The Jews didn’t.

      It’s like giving honorary citizenship to people whose families were expelled as crusaders. That the muslims had a cultural production that was significant is beside the point. The “our culture is/was superior” argument is a colonial argument, whether used in Spain or in colonial America.

      They came there with the intent of conquest and it was right that the colonizers were expelled.

      • jamalabd
        jamalabd
        May 3, 2015, 11:05 am

        That’s nonsense, Krauss. The Muslims of Spain were no more “invaders and colonizers” than the Christians of Spain, or any other people anywhere in the world. The number of Arab and Berber soldiers who invaded Iberia was minuscule compared to the number of native converts to Islam and their descendants.

        Arguing that it was legitimate that the Muslims of Spain be expelled as “invaders and colonizers” is exactly the same as arguing that the Palestinians be expelled from Palestine.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        May 3, 2015, 11:53 am

        “Although I don’t see why the muslims should be allowed citizenship. They came there as invaders and colonizers.”

        Gosh, maybe we could do some ‘invading and colonizing ‘caps’ trading, with them. You know, like trading pollution credits.

      • Marco
        Marco
        May 3, 2015, 1:01 pm

        Your comment implies that there were no native Iberian converts to Islam or that there was no intermingling of indigenous and and North African populations over centuries of Islamic polities in Al Andalus – both of which are false.

        In addition, I find it ironic that Muslims are being cast in an unedifying light here when it was the Ottoman Empire under Sultan Bayezid II who deployed his naval forces to evacuate both Muslims and Jews from Spain, declaring edicts welcoming the latter group to settle in his domains.

      • tree
        tree
        May 3, 2015, 2:25 pm

        They came there with the intent of conquest and it was right that the colonizers were expelled.

        So are you likewise advocating that European Americans should be expelled from the US, and that Israeli Jews should be expelled from Israel?

        Seven hundred years after the fact its OK to expel people based on their ancient heritage or their religious preference?

      • just
        just
        May 3, 2015, 2:49 pm

        +1, tree!

      • Abuadam
        Abuadam
        May 3, 2015, 3:02 pm

        You’re wrong on this one Krauss.
        The Jews of Spain came in with the Berber/Arab Muslims. There was a Berber Kingdom in what is today Libya, who had converted to Judaism (I believe even Shlomo Sand mentions in one of his books). These Berber Jews are the forefathers of the Sephardim Jews.
        Just like the Palestinian Druze suck up to the Jewish Israelis to make their lives more comfortable than the other non-Jewish Israelis, the Sephardim sucked up to the Moors of Spain to make their lives more comfortable than the other non-Moors of Spain. At a minimum as the Druze enable Apartheid Israel so did the Sephardim of the Moors.
        Nothing is black and white Krauss.

      • Abuadam
        Abuadam
        May 3, 2015, 3:20 pm

        One additional point Krauss;
        the Spaniards are not the original Iberian residents, they are decedents of the Visigoths who had arrived from Eastern Europe, should they go back to where ever?

      • seafoid
        seafoid
        May 3, 2015, 6:28 pm

        The Spaniards are mongrels like every other nation. There is no purity. It’s everyone who ever passed through. Visigoths raped and slept with locals and widened the gene pool. Same as the previous wave of visitors. And the one after.

        Spain went in for pork products in a big way post Reconquista. So much jamon. Just to put a point on it. We are not Muslim. We are not Jewish.

      • aiman
        aiman
        May 4, 2015, 7:01 am

        Krauss, are you aware that originally the Jews didn’t belong to Europe? Or that all humans came from Africa? Also if we follow your train of thought and look at the US where certain Jews enjoy immense monopoly/mutual congratulations, pats on each other’s backs/networking etc. over the media/movie industry/publishing at the expense of the Native Americans or even the Europeans, it’s not going to end well for anyone.

      • MRW
        MRW
        May 4, 2015, 11:01 am
      • Misterioso
        Misterioso
        May 4, 2015, 11:30 am

        Such appalling and inexcusable ignorance!!

        To wit:

        Perhaps the most outstanding example of the harmony that existed between Muslims, Christians and Jews was the magnificent and legendary kingdom known as al-Andalus (Andalusia) established in the southern two-thirds of the Iberian Peninsula (part of present day Spain) by Arab Muslims following their defeat of the Visigoths and conquest of the city of Cordova (which became their capital) in circa 711. They treated the defeated Christians with clemency and were welcomed as liberators by the Jews of Spain. Although the Muslims made no concerted effort to convert Christians and Jews, by the tenth century Islam became the dominant faith.

        The Golden Age of this province of the Islamic Empire (established in 756 by the exiled Syrian Prince Abd al-Rahman) lasted for well over 400 years. During these centuries under Muslim rule the three Abrahamic faiths lived in friendship and developed the world’s most advanced centre of learning and the arts, challenged only by Baghdad.

        “[By] laying the foundations of their power in a system of wise and equitable laws, diligently cultivating the arts and sciences, and promoting agriculture, manufactures and commerce, [the Muslim Arabs] gradually formed an empire unrivalled for its prosperity by any of the empires of Christendom…. The cities of Arabian Spain became the resort of Christian artisans, to instruct themselves in the useful art. The Universities of Toledo, Cordova, Seville, and Granada, were sought by the pale student from other lands to acquaint himself with the sciences of the Arabs and the treasure lore of antiquity.” (Washington Irving, Tales of the Alhambra.)

        Andalusia’s first caliph, Abd al-Rahman III, who ruled Andalusia from 912-961, appointed Hasdai ibn Shabrut, leader of the kingdom’s Jewish community and one of history’s most outstanding Jews as his foreign secretary, chief advisor, and closest confidant. In this tradition, Samuel Hanagid, a Jew, who later commanded a great army in the mid-eleventh century, was made a prince under the Arab caliphate.

        Jewish business people, artists and intellectuals thrived in Andalusia (and elsewhere in the Arab world). Among them were the poet Judah Halevi, the influential philosopher Moses Maimonides, and writers Rebi Isaac Hacohen and Sayed Alfassi, who was published under the nom de plume Harif.

        It was in Andalusia (known in Hebrew as Sefarad) “that the profoundly Arabized Jews rediscovered and reinvented Hebrew; there that Christians embraced nearly every aspect of Arabic style – from the intellectual of philosophy to the architectural styles of mosques….”

        “Here the Jewish community rose from the ashes of an abysmal existence under the Visigoths to the point that the emir who proclaimed himself caliph in the tenth century had a Jew as his foreign minister….” (.” (Maria Rosa Menocal, Ornament of the World, 2002)

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        May 5, 2015, 2:59 pm

        “The Spaniards are mongrels like every other nation.”

        Seafoid, don’t I know it! My dog has a better pedigree than I do. I wish she wouldn’t lord it over me, considering I feed her.

      • alen
        alen
        June 12, 2015, 10:38 pm

        Krauss, that is a common myth about how Muslims “invaded” Spain. It is not true at all. Here is a really great documentary about Muslim Spain that sets some things right.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtCj0NvhYyI

        In fact, El Cid and other famous people in Spain (for fighting Muslims) were hired by Muslims themselves, even the name is Arabic in origin.

      • Walid
        Walid
        June 13, 2015, 1:20 am

        Great historical video, Alen, in the first few minutes at the beginning, you could see the parallel between the ethnic cleansing of the Moslem vestiges in Spain by the Inquisition and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian ones by the Zionists. Seems the Zionists copied everything that’s evil in history.

        As to El Cid, the Sayyid whose actual name was Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar (1043-1099), contrary to the gallant and chivalrous knight portrayed by Pierre Corneille, the guy was actually a ruffian despised by the Moslems. It was only after he had been banished by Alphonso VI that a Moslem ruler hired him to fight other Moslems for him. He’s actually a hero in the eyes of the Spanish only.

  2. Kay24
    Kay24
    May 2, 2015, 5:06 pm

    Thank you Max for writing about this very interesting piece of history. There is no doubt, oppressed people, INCLUDING JEWS, will try to get the better of their oppressors, by using tunnels to defy them…..and the keys are so telling.

    If only the Jews in Israel had the ability to look into history of their own people,who were oppressed, or treated cruelly, to identify with those they now oppressed or treat cruelly. It seems these very important times in their history is mentioned ONLY when it benefits them, or highlights their suffering. What about those they are now accused of oppressing being compared to those times too?

    ” “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

    • Laurent Weppe
      Laurent Weppe
      May 3, 2015, 7:05 am

      “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

      Here lies the problem, unfortunately: the likud-led far-right coalition’s voters aren’t ignorant about their coreligionists’ history, but they reached the worst possible conclusion: that the world is divided between the oppressed and the oppressors, that no alternative exists, and that therefore the smart thing is to “Do unto others before the fuckers become strong enough to do unto you“. Like the Bourbon dynasty, they neither forgot nor learned.

      • W.Jones
        W.Jones
        May 3, 2015, 2:08 pm

        I have a hard time arguing against you. Herzl’s idea was that Jews were oppressed in Europe as a national minority by nationalist governments. So his answer was for them to go and make a nationalist state of their own, ignoring whatever people lived in the territory he claimed.

        For the Europeans I suppose the Zionists were refugees who didn’t like Europe, but for the Arabs, they were colonizers who came to conquer and rule as a governing religious community.

      • Kay24
        Kay24
        May 3, 2015, 5:28 pm

        Somehow I cannot see the Palestinians ever get as strong, or close to being strong, as the US supported Israel. So that that excuse does not fly. That also does not justify the atrocities, the massacres, and the brutal occupation of the Palestinian territories. No other nation has agreed to the occupation, or recognized the illegal settlements, although they do nothing about it.

        No Israeli supporter should realistically expect the Arabs to smile and welcome transgressors who have a record of violence, stolen resources, and use deadly force on their unarmed civilians.

      • Laurent Weppe
        Laurent Weppe
        May 3, 2015, 7:00 pm

        Somehow I cannot see the Palestinians ever get as strong, or close to being strong, as the US supported Israel.

        Here’s the first rule of world politics: might is transient (otherwise Israel would still be an autonomous iranian satrapy). Sooner or later, Israel will stop being the region’s strongest bully: we can spend hours upon hours speculating about how it will happen (will Israel lose its US subsidies? will the UE become more politically united and proactive, pulling its weight in the regional balance of power? will the arabic states finally succeed in building their own continental polity and become once again the middle-east dominant force? will the flight of Israel’s intellectuals bring the country down as it cease to have enough competent personnel to handle its day to day administration? will the increasing wealth gap push the israeli jewish plebs into an open rebellion against the local patricians?) but regardless of the cause, one day the Israeli ruling class will lose the superior firepower that allowed it to bully and oppress the Palestinians.

      • Kay24
        Kay24
        May 3, 2015, 10:17 pm

        “but regardless of the cause, one day the Israeli ruling class will lose the superior firepower that allowed it to bully and oppress the Palestinians”

        The sooner the better. It has been long overdue, and the Palestinians have lost too much.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        May 5, 2015, 3:05 pm

        “Herzl’s idea was that Jews were oppressed in Europe as a national minority by nationalist governments.”

        Okay, so it’s the oppression which made Jews a “nation”. Absolutely, if the reigning power says you are a nation apart, you don’t get much choice in the matter.
        But once the oppression is gone, what happens to the nationhood? Could we answer that question by looking at the actions of Jews where no outside power makes them a people imposes grouphood on them? Do they go on acting like a “nation”?

    • Steve Grover
      Steve Grover
      May 3, 2015, 5:22 pm

      “If only the Jews in Israel had the ability to look into history of their own people,who were oppressed”
      They have and they said never fucking again! And that is exactly why the IDF is strong and Netanyahu is the Prime Minister. That is also why Judea and Sameria will be annexed.

      • Laurent Weppe
        Laurent Weppe
        May 4, 2015, 7:07 am

        that is exactly why the IDF is strong and Netanyahu is the Prime Minister. That is also why Judea and Sameria will be annexed.

        And that is why Europe will one day have to deal millions of israeli refugees running away from revanchist Palestinians after their unsustainable jingoistic state collapse, and why 22nd and 23rd History student will scratch their heads, asking their teachers “Seriously: they didn’t see it coming?“, to which their teachers will answer: “Some did

      • Misterioso
        Misterioso
        May 4, 2015, 11:40 am

        Dream on.

        Israel’s “star” is setting. People all over the world, including the all important U.S. and Jews everywhere (especially youth), are growing evermore disgusted and enraged at Israel.
        Israel is America’s number one geopolitical liability, a millstone around its neck. The ugly truth of Zionism, both past and present, will no longer be ignored or tolerated.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        May 4, 2015, 1:34 pm

        “They have and they said never fucking again! And that is exactly why the IDF is strong and Netanyahu is the Prime Minister. That is also why Judea and Sameria (sic) will be annexed.”

        Ah, so now we know the reason you live in the US, and not Israel, Grover!
        What’s your plan, Grover, to encourage Israel’s intransigence so you can watch the blow-up from a safe distance, and maybe pick up the pieces at a bargain?

      • Kay24
        Kay24
        May 4, 2015, 4:08 pm

        Israel is a nation totally depended on the pity and aid of other nations. They can say never again as much as they like, but somehow that old refrain has begun to wear thin, when the world sees those who were once hounded and massacred, do the same to unarmed civilians once again.
        Those who adhere to the never again excuse cannot be excused for the slaughter of innocent women and children in Gaza. Those who say never again, have blatantly stolen the lands and other resources of those they occupy, and keep doing it for no reasons despite the condemnation of the only nation that keeps sending them the aid and weapons.
        As a US tax payer I wish we could NEVER AGAIN send those parasites our money.

      • Steve Grover
        Steve Grover
        May 5, 2015, 1:31 pm

        @Mooser
        “What’s your plan”
        I don’t have a plan. However, Caroline Glick has written an excellent plan in her book, “The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East”. I look forward to hearing your thoughts after you have read this book.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        May 5, 2015, 3:07 pm

        ” However, Caroline Glick….”

        I’m sorry, could you repeat that? I started laughing so hard at “Glick” I didn’t hear the rest.

        I guess that’s “Grober’s” concealed weapon, he always carries his Glick.

        ” I look forward to hearing your thoughts after you have read this book.”

        Don’t need to “Gruber”. I learned my Zionism in Temple, and everything I* learned back in oh, ’62- ’68 has held true, and I’ve never seen any need to modify my views.

      • Steve Grover
        Steve Grover
        May 5, 2015, 5:14 pm

        @mooser,
        I feel laugh the same way you do when I read Gideon Levy, Mondoweiss or Tikkun. Fortunately, Glick let me say her name louder
        G L I C K ! in case you didn’t hear it who comes from the same neighborhood as POTUS solution will prevail.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        May 7, 2015, 10:18 pm

        “Fortunately, Glick let me say her name louder GLICK!”

        Oy “Grobilla”, “Grobilla”, you are hurting my ears! Ouch! Oh gosh, how brave and implacable you are, shouting over the internet. And how convincing.

        “grober”, do you drink? You are really coming off a little, well, wet-brained, ya’ know?

    • RockyMissouri
      RockyMissouri
      May 4, 2015, 10:26 am

      THANK YOU! Heroically stated!!

    • ziusudra
      ziusudra
      May 5, 2015, 3:38 am

      Greetings Misterioso,
      ….Spain…..
      Spain was not Spain in the 8thC AD. Spain was not Christianized either. There were many Indo-Euro Tribes staking out territory for themselves. Those with Religion were the Jews & Muslims. The Spanish Reconquista begins ca 1025AD. The first Christian King was in 1095AD. Christianity followed slowly. The Islamic conquest, like the Roman Empire for Europe, was very progressive for Spain. It helped them to be ready for the 15thC AD in their conquest of the new world.
      The Islamic conquest of North Africa, Levant, ME, Mediterranian was finalized by 733AD leaving Europe in a much better position for all after the demise of the Roman Empire in 476AD. No one could have been a more progressive influence. Had the Sarazens not planted themselves in that Position, my Catholic Church could have enslaved Europe much earlier hence, much longer. So Europe & all its People thank the Romans, the Sarazens, Martin Luther, the Enlightenment, Capitalism in giving us leverage against the all encroaching Catholic Church filling up the vacuum with the fall of the Roman Empire.
      ziusudra

      • lysias
        lysias
        May 5, 2015, 11:44 am

        Certainly Spain before the Arab Conquest was both Romanized and Christian. Why do you think Spaniards today speak a form of Latin that is much closer to ancient Latin (and to Italian) than French is? Why do you think Spain is called España (just the Spanish descendant of the Latin word for the whole Iberian Peninsula, Hispania)? Several Roman emperors (e.g., Trajan and Hadrian) were born in Spain. Why do you think Isidore of Seville was so prominent a figure in the early Church? Have you never read that Spain’s Visigothic conquerors originally adopted the Arian variant of Christianity but later converted to Catholicism to be closer to the population that they ruled?

      • lysias
        lysias
        May 5, 2015, 12:34 pm

        Information on how the Christian population of Spain only very gradually converted to Islam after the Arab Conquest is contained in the Wikipedia entry on Mozarabs.

  3. Kris
    Kris
    May 2, 2015, 5:21 pm

    So interesting and so timely! Many thanks for this excellent report!

  4. Spring Renouncer
    Spring Renouncer
    May 2, 2015, 5:26 pm

    Thanks for this subtle and touching piece Max.

    By the way, did I see you shopping at the Union Square Wholefoods on Thursday? I wanted a selfie, but I wasn’t sure it was you ;)

  5. pabelmont
    pabelmont
    May 2, 2015, 5:29 pm

    Great story!

    “522 years later, the Spanish government issued a draft law granting Spanish citizenship to descendants of Jews exiled under the infamous expulsion order”

    It’s a pattern: Where Christians, Muslims, and Jews are concerned, laws of return (so far) seem always for Jews and not Muslims.

  6. catalan
    catalan
    May 2, 2015, 6:17 pm

    It’s a pattern: Where Christians, Muslims, and Jews are concerned, laws of return (so far) seem always for Jews and not Muslims. – Pabelmont
    But to be fair, Ladino, or old Spanish, was the language of Sephardic Jews. Their cuisine was Spanish, as well as their religious rituals. I can attest to that. My grandparents spoke Spanish at home. My grandmother still thinks of it as her native language, at 97. That’s 550 years after the expulsion.
    The heart of Sepharadic culture in Europe was Thesalonikki. All Jews there were killed. That must warm your heart, a place emptied of Jews. The joy you and Giles must feel.

    • Leahj
      Leahj
      May 2, 2015, 11:35 pm

      Catalan, “The heart of Sepharadic culture in Europe was Thesalonikki. All Jews there were killed. That must warm your heart, a place emptied of Jews. The joy you and Giles must feel. ”

      I’ve never seen anyone here call for the killing of Jews ( in Israel or the diaspora), Palestinians, or anybody else. That’s a pretty nasty straw man you’ve created.

      Btw, if you’re referring to the wish for removal of the half million or so Israeli Jews who are squatting in the Palestinian Occupied Territories, they have no legal right to be there in the 1st place. Plus, those settlements are clearly meant to steal other people’s land & water by aggressively establishing ‘facts on the ground’. So they’re not only illegal, they’re also unethical & immoral.

    • Keith
      Keith
      May 3, 2015, 6:02 pm

      CATALAN- “The heart of Sepharadic culture in Europe was Thesalonikki. All Jews there were killed. That must warm your heart, a place emptied of Jews. The joy you and Giles must feel.”

      I assume that you are referring to the Greek Jews who died in the Holocaust when Nazi Germany conquered Thessalonikki (Greece) and deported the local Jews to the camps? One can only wonder why you would make this comment other than to confuse the issue, implying universal anti-Semitism and ongoing pogroms everywhere, rather than part of World War II. And then you display your complete lack of moral and intellectual integrity by smearing Peter and Giles as Jew haters who relish the death of Jews. Based upon your comments I can only assume you think that there is “meritocracy” in Gentile hatred. Yet, you insist that as a hiring manager your decisions are bias free. Who could disagree?

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        May 4, 2015, 1:40 pm

        “Yet, you insist that as a hiring manager your decisions are bias free.”

        And in the very next sentence, “catalan” says: “he would never hire a conspiracy nut”. Gee, that sounds like a personal bias to me, one he intends to put into effect.

  7. W.Jones
    W.Jones
    May 2, 2015, 7:51 pm

    “. The Jews who fled to safety in places like Tunisia and the provinces of the Ottoman Empire held onto the keys to their homes along with the hope that they would someday return” – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2015/05/resisted-oppression-clutched/comment-page-1#comment-764927

    One of the staples of rightwing Israeli cuisine is that the Muslims and Arabs always persecuted Jews. I suppose this example serves as a counterpoint, when Muslims and Arabs provided tolerance.

    • ziusudra
      ziusudra
      May 6, 2015, 4:40 am

      Greetings W.Jones,
      …Muslims & Arabs persecuting Jews….

      Of all the enemies that ancient Jewry had.
      It was the Sarazen conquest after ca 636AD
      that allowed Jews back into Jersualem till 1099AD.
      Then both were removed for 200 yrs by the Crusaders!
      Know thy friends.
      ziusudra

  8. Blaine Coleman
    Blaine Coleman
    May 2, 2015, 8:05 pm

    Max,

    I guess if you have a craving for history, that drives you as far as Spain, go ahead and indulge that craving. But don’t pretend that this junket has anything to do with freeing Palestine.

    The Palestine solidarity “movement” is still tiny and fragile and terrified. That means you.

    That “movement” still runs a millions miles, to Spain and beyond, to avoid simply standing in your own city council, or your own university, and demanding a total break with “Israel”. What is so hard about openly campaigning for a boycott resolution in your home town, week after week? A divestment resolution, if you prefer that.

    A few years ago, I begged you, in Ann Arbor to please mention boycotting Israel in your presentation. You simply could not do it. Now it’s fashionable — so you do speak favorably of BDS, to those who invite you. A good time is had by all — and it never appears in the mass media.

    If the abolitionists had insisted on touring Spain, Germany, and the globe– rather than loudly confronting their own government and demanding an immediate end to slavery– then you can be sure slavery would continue today.

    Enjoy your junket, lubricated with the tears of 15th-century European exiles. It would have been timely and important 600 years ago.

    But today, if you’re not marching into the big city councils of the United States, demanding a total boycott against “Israel”, you are no more than coffee-table chatter for those few who read Mondoweiss.

    • just
      just
      May 2, 2015, 8:20 pm

      I guess you’re one of “those few who read Mondoweiss”, Blaine.

      You are a scold, and it’s totally off- putting.

      • Blaine Coleman
        Blaine Coleman
        May 2, 2015, 8:37 pm

        To “Just”,

        Absolutely right, on both counts. So why bother with Mondoweiss? Because it’s an extremely valuable resource for boycott-Israel activists on campus — what’s missing is the activists. There is no student on any campus campaigning for boycott of Israel. They are terrified to even be accused of that.

        So the very few, honorable students pushing for “BDS” spend one month a year pushing to form committees to consider divesting from a few companies that contribute to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Israeli bombardment of Gaza.

        Does that sound convoluted? Yes — the BDS crew has designed it to be really hard to understand. This is how they protect themselves from accusations that they seek to boycott Israel itself. Yet they really should demand total boycott of Israel itself.

        So we get one month of weak divestment resolutions each year, and a menu of tasty Mondoweiss articles — but that is all we get. Better than nothing, but not enough to protect Gaza from regular incineration by “Israel”.

        Where is the booming voice of total boycott and total liberation? What student will make that happen, on what campus?

      • just
        just
        May 3, 2015, 12:10 am

        Blaine~ I remember your passion from your other visits here. I appreciate your passion now. There are frequent articles here on BDS and other activism, as well as the good news about the burgeoning of JVP and the advent of Open Hillel. I want it to burst forth, too! I want a complete end to the Occupation, full accountability for Israel’s crimes, and so much more…

        Sometimes you are extremely provocative, and perhaps it would be better if Max was actually here to address the post that you addressed to him and his activities, though. I think that he’s doing herculean work wherever he goes.

        Peace.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        May 3, 2015, 11:56 am

        “what’s missing is the activists. There is no student on any campus campaigning for boycott of Israel. They are terrified to even be accused of that.”

        Mr. Coleman, it’s a ‘contest of wills’ you know. Sometimes a contest of wills is won by patience.

    • ckg
      ckg
      May 2, 2015, 10:35 pm

      Blaine, you may have more success in city council meetings–although we all know ultra-conservative Ann Arbor is an uphill battle–if you don’t put double quotes around Israel. They will probably think you really mean Zionist entity. Take it from Max.

  9. ckg
    ckg
    May 2, 2015, 9:27 pm

    If the abolitionists had insisted on touring Spain, Germany, and the globe– rather than loudly confronting their own government and demanding an immediate end to slavery– then you can be sure slavery would continue today.

    Blaine, are you asking if Max’s efforts to turn the tide on injustice for the Palestinians are as effective as your own?

  10. anne-marie
    anne-marie
    May 2, 2015, 9:33 pm

    Thank you Max, and to continue the analogy with the present, in addition to the keys that Palestinians keep of their long lost homes in present-day Israel, and to the tunnels that the Gazans have built to fight the blockade imposed on them, there is also a fascinating BDS story that was masterminded by an amazing Jewish woman in the 16th century to fight against the persecutions the Jews were victims of: Doña Gracia was born in Portugal in the early sixteenth century, to the noble family of Benveniste, which had come there from Spain after the flight from the Inquisition. Herself from a rich home, she had married the even richer Francisco Mendes-Nasi, member of one of the largest international trade and banks of that time. To make a long and fascinating story short, in 1556, soon after Doña Gracia arrived in Constantinople, the Pope sentenced a group of conversos in Ancona to the stake, claiming they were still practicing Jewish rites. In response, Dona Gracia, thanks to her wealth and connections, mobilized all the Jewish and Muslim merchants in Istanbul, and with the blessings of the Sultan, organized a trade embargo of the port of Ancona in the Papal States… Isn’t it fascinating how history repeats itself?

    • just
      just
      May 2, 2015, 11:52 pm

      Thank you for sharing that great story, anne- marie.

    • jon s
      jon s
      May 4, 2015, 7:55 am

      I should point out that Dona Gracia is considered something of a proto-Zionist, because of her involvement in an audacious endeavor regarding Tiberias:

      “Finally secure in Turkey, with close ties to the sultan’s court, Dona Gracia sought to acquire some place of safety for other Jews. With that goal in mind, she leased land in Tiberius, a town in Palestine, then under Ottoman control.

      Her hope was to encourage a self sufficient Jewish community there. For a short time, Jewish settlement in the Galilee was increased and Tiberius became a successful city. Although a mansion was prepared there for La Signora herself, she died before she could occupy it. This settlement, one of the earliest to attract Jews to return to Zion, has usually been credited to Gracia’s nephew, Don Joseph Nasi, conceding only that she was at his right hand, serving as his inspiration. However, the idea was first envisioned by Gracia, who, taking advantage of her influence at court, conceived of the plan, leased the land for a high yearly rental that she paid herself, and briefly turned Tiberius into a thriving Jewish city.”

      source:
      http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/dona-gracia-nasi/

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        May 4, 2015, 1:44 pm

        “I should point out that Dona Gracia is considered something of a proto-Zionist”

        “who, taking advantage of her influence at court, conceived of the plan, leased the land for a high yearly rental that she paid herself, and briefly turned Tiberius into a thriving Jewish city.”

        So what? A lot of stupid ideas go back a ways. But thanks for reminding us that Zionism has always been Judaism’s remittance-man.

  11. Kris
    Kris
    May 2, 2015, 9:43 pm

    Whatever, Blaine.

    Marching into city councils and demanding a boycott of Israel is one tactic, and if you feel that would help the Palestinians, please get on with it. It seems to me that the last time the media actually reported on the concerns of demonstrators was at the WTO in Seattle, 1999.

    I guess you don’t usually read mondoweiss, so maybe you missed this excellent article about BirthWrong: http://mondoweiss.net/2015/05/birthwrong-southern-repudiate

    And you missed the letter that the Jewdas presented to Britain’s equivalent of AIPAC as they disrupted the meeting: http://jewdas.org/letter-to-the-zionist-federation-and-british-jewry/

    Being clever, funny, and entertaining is a great way to get a message across, so I’m not sure why you are annoyed by this new Jewish movement that will no doubt attract disillusioned Jewish youth to the Palestinian (and Jewish!!!!) cause and help discredit the idea that criticizing Israel is antisemitic. (By Jewish, I mean someone who actually believes in Judaism.)

    The Jewdas sometimes use this chant: “Not in our name, Not in anyone’s name!” You could use that at the city council meeting you march into.

    • Kris
      Kris
      May 2, 2015, 10:47 pm

      @Blaine, I do apologize for saying “Whatever.” That wasn’t very nice, and I’m sorry!

      • Blaine Coleman
        Blaine Coleman
        May 3, 2015, 12:24 am

        Kris:

        No problem. Let everyone speak as they please, including Max. Let them be funny or serious, as they wish. The problem is that there is nothing yet that resembles a movement.

        The Civil Rights Movement was a movement, as were the Black Panther Party. They made sharp, clear, loud demands, and they won important victories. Until the “BDS” movement acts like that, Israel will continue bombing Gaza.

        Fun tours of Spain might be insufficient to save Gaza. Loud boycotts (against Israel) will do the job. Loud marches demanding boycott, too.

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        May 3, 2015, 7:01 pm

        But the fun tours of Spain may well help to confirm British Jews in their opposition to Zionism.

  12. Citizen
    Citizen
    May 3, 2015, 12:36 am

    @ Blaine
    Well, there is Code Pink. Did Americans march in the streets against apartheid South Africa? Did they interrupt city & state & university councils? MLK would have supported that if he had lived.

    Most Arab Americans, unlike US blacks, are pretty new immigrants. They are trying to have a voice but Islamophobia has been driven deep in our culture by the US elite. Our mainstream media is totally complicit and never reports on BDS, even when that movement has protesters in the street.

  13. LA PLAYA
    LA PLAYA
    May 3, 2015, 6:46 am

    As an American who first lived in Seville as a schoolgirl, and now a part-time resident there, I am encouraged to see these articles about Sephardic Andalucia.
    This current Andalucia ‘tour’ may be a part of a rollicking very-left-wing sun-and-sangria jolly for most of the participants, but there are many unlikely paths to enlightenment.
    Max’s reporting is excellent: the parallels – tunnels (like Gaza), and the keys to their homes (treasured today by exiled Palestinians).
    Well done Mondoweiss for continuing to give the news and historical perspective that’s ignored by mainstream media.

  14. Jackdaw
    Jackdaw
    May 3, 2015, 8:17 am

    Maybe Spain is inviting back Jews, but not Muslims, because Jews didn’t enter Iberia as conquerors.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_Muslim_presence_in_the_Iberian_Peninsula

    • jamalabd
      jamalabd
      May 3, 2015, 11:09 am

      Neither did the vast majority of Spain’s Muslims: they were the descendants of the local population who converted over the years to Islam. Just like Muslims everywhere in the world.

      • ckg
        ckg
        May 3, 2015, 1:51 pm

        they were the descendants of the local population who converted over the years to Islam. Just like Muslims everywhere in the world.

        Including the indigenous Muslims of Palestine. And the indigenous Christians of Palestine.

    • ckg
      ckg
      May 3, 2015, 1:03 pm

      Maybe Spain is inviting back Jews, but not Muslims, because Jews didn’t enter Iberia as conquerors.

      Thanks for the link, Jackdaw. I see that Muslims entered Iberia as conquerors in 710, finished in 756, were expelled in 1492, and denied equal right of return in 2014. And I thought Joan Rivers could hold a grudge for a long time, but this is ridiculous.

      • Jackdaw
        Jackdaw
        May 3, 2015, 4:04 pm

        @ckg

        “Muslims entered Iberia as conquerors in 710, finished in 756, were expelled in 1492 ”

        I don’t read the timeline the same as you do. I read several hundred bloody years from the time of the conquest until the expulsion.

    • eljay
      eljay
      May 4, 2015, 8:13 am

      || Jackdaw: Maybe Spain is inviting back Jews, but not Muslims, because Jews didn’t enter Iberia as conquerors. ||

      In which case Israel should be inviting back all its refugees and their descendants because they, being the indigenous population, most definitely did not enter Israel as conquerors.

  15. W.Jones
    W.Jones
    May 3, 2015, 2:21 pm

    I thought it was an interesting article with some good pictures and I liked the allusion to keys and mention of Ali Abunimah. But I worry about what Laurent Weppe mentioned above: merely showing the history of Jewish past persecution is insufficient, because as Laurent mentioned in his comment above, Israeli nationalists are aware of that history and drew the opposite conclusion: that one must oppress in order to avoid oppression. Indeed, the story of past Jewish oppression, while important to remember, is also a key staple of conservative Israeli ideology. Netanyahu’s father even wrote a book on Spanish persecution of Jews. It’s necessary to explain in such articles and flesh out all the analogies in order for people to make the right, ultimately humanitarian conclusions. I understand that the story has a lot of personal meaning, but without the full fleshing out of analogies, it can easily become a reinforcement of the Israeli nationalist narrative that we are feed with movies and news reports ranging from Netanyahu’s father’s book, all the way to movies portraying Muslims as villains.

    • Citizen
      Citizen
      May 4, 2015, 6:00 pm

      @ W.Jones
      Yes, it’s all about “Never Again” devoted solely to Jewish survival v “Never Again” as a universal principle. Hannah Arendt anyone?

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        May 5, 2015, 3:12 pm

        “Never Again” as a universal principle.”

        You know, for a while, I thought it was. Heard it after every date.

  16. Keith
    Keith
    May 3, 2015, 6:37 pm

    The Birthright tours take young impressionable Jews to Auschwitz to indoctrinate them with a sense of eternal and irrational anti-Semitism, the mother’s milk of Zionism. Max Blumenthal goes to Spain where the emphasis is on historical anti-Semitism. See the difference?

    For those interested in a more balanced account of Jewish life in Christian Spain, I, once again, recommend “Jewish History, Jewish Religion,” by Israel Shahak. One brief quote: “Politically, the position of Jews in the Christian Spanish kingdoms was the highest ever attained by Jews in any country…before the 19th century. Many Jews served officially as Treasurers General to the kings of Castile, regional and general tax collectors, diplomats (representing their king in foreign courts, both Muslim and Christian, even outside Spain), courtiers and advisers to rulers and great noblemen.” (p59-60) He also indicates that the Rabbis had considerable authority over the local Jewish population including capital punishment.

    And once again we seem to be drifting into the never ending narrative of anti-Semitism.

    • Citizen
      Citizen
      May 4, 2015, 6:09 pm

      LOL
      U need to get with the setimental zionist program– I suggest U watch the Jewish milkman from Hollywood; after all, there’s no competion from the noble prize winner because his last Noble Prize entry, published in 2003, 200 Years Together, has yet to get English translation

  17. Kay24
    Kay24
    May 3, 2015, 7:18 pm

    Scott Pelley of Sixty Minutes (CBS) is covering the children in Gaza and their suffering. Unbelievable.
    They refer to the blockade etc. I would like to see this in its entirety is someone could get it for us. Thank you.

    • just
      just
      May 3, 2015, 8:13 pm

      Here Kay24:

      “The Lesson of War
      Scott Pelley explores the effects on children in the age-old conflict that reached another boiling point in last summer’s war between Gaza and Israel”

      http://www.cbsnews.com/news/effect-of-war-on-israeli-and-arab-children-60-minutes/

      Some regular grains of salt needed, imho. But it is good to see it covered.

      • Kay24
        Kay24
        May 3, 2015, 9:47 pm

        Thanks so much Just. You are such a joy to have around, :))

        It seems this coverage is surprising. It will bring some focus on the victims of the occupation, especially the little children. If the MSM really wanted something new to investigate and cover, they only have to look at the situation in Gaza and the Palestinian territories. There is so much of pain and suffering over there, that the people in the US would be shocked about. After all it is our money that enables the occupier to keep going

  18. LA PLAYA
    LA PLAYA
    May 4, 2015, 6:14 am

    Guess who settled in Spain before the Jewish and Muslim communities? You could call them proto-Palestinians: the levantine Phoenicians arriving in Andalucia in 1100BC. Yes, that’s 1100 BC, when they founded the city of Cadiz.
    (Geographic note to Max and the touring group: just head south of Seville to to find Cadiz).

    Could some of those Phoenicians have sailed from Gaza? (No Israeli gunboats to blow them out of the water for straying more than three miles offshore in those days..)

    The Phoenicians came to Andalucia as traders, not armed conquerers. Interesting current DNA research establishing links: ngm.nationalgeographic.com/features/world/asia/lebanon/phoenicians-text.html

  19. eusebio
    eusebio
    May 4, 2015, 9:04 am

    Thanks for the very interesting European history people will not give up the richness and citizenship rights freedoms

  20. MHughes976
    MHughes976
    May 4, 2015, 4:48 pm

    The Spanish proposal is rather strange, in that the numbers of those who are descended from at least one Jewish person expelled in 1492 would be huge and would include many not considering themselves Jewish.
    The rules seem to be that expelled persons and refugees and their descendants do have a right of return until they accept citizenship elsewhere, since this citizenship must surely be on the same terms as for the previous people of the new polity. If a Palestinian refugee becomes a UK citizen I think (s)he has in morality exactly the same rights as I do, neither more nor less – which do not include a right to move to and be enfranchised in Palestine.
    An act of generosity by the former expelling state is possible, of course, giving the opportunity of return to those not morally entitled to it because of full citizenship in another place. But this should not prejudice the position of those who might, in the circumstances of these days, have a better right to immigrate.
    Former marauders and conquerors and indeed people who join with the conquerors to the detriment of their neighbours do not, if they are eventually expelled, have the same rights as former peaceful residents who become refugees. This is because might never creates rights.
    It can be that the conquerors are eventually accepted by a genuine agreement or treaty – and this was what happened to the Muslims of Granada, who were offered peaceful acceptance in the newly state by the Spanish Crown – by the ‘Catholic Kings’, more exactly – in the 1491 Treaty of Granada. Both the breach of this agreement and the previous expulsion of the Jews were acts of treachery by King Ferdinand. But then he had his historic mission, not unlike that of Zionists now: there was no other way to re-create the united Catholic Kingdom of Spain and to make it a real force in the world.

    • jamalabd
      jamalabd
      May 4, 2015, 11:42 pm

      It was Isabela who expelled the Muslims, not Ferdinand. The Muslims were initially only expelled from Isabela’s Castile – Ferdinand refused to expel the Muslims from his own Crown of Aragon, and it was not until Ferdinand’s death and the ascension of the Austrian Charles V to the throne of a united Spain that the Muslims were finally expelled from Aragon, Catalonia, and Valencia, Ferdinand’s old kingdom.

      Furthermore, this whole paradigm of Spanish Muslims remaining “conquerors” for over 700 years is utterly nonsensical. Spanish Muslims were the descendants of Iberians who had converted to Islam with only a minor admixture of Arab and Berber ancestry.

      • MHughes976
        MHughes976
        May 6, 2015, 5:47 pm

        My impression is that modern studies don’t regard Ferdinand as all that innocent – LP Harvey on Muslims of Spain from 1500 for example. Still, thanks for pointing out that he often seems to have been a nicer guy than was Isabella or than were the clerics, seemingly often of converso families, who were so keen to inflict the same humiliations that their ancestors had suffered on others. Mind you, Machiavelli (as I remember) thought Ferdinand was the supreme example of a foxy politician.
        I’m sure that the Muslim population of Spain was various in many ways and I expect you know more about them than I do. I think that the various changes of fortune were about disunity on the losing side.
        But whatever may be true of them I think that there are such things as conquests and conquering groups and resulting oppression. The original conquering group may be joined in their ideology by some of the conquered and oppressed, who may even have invited them in in the first place. Those who join a conquering group become, whatever their ancestry, part of that group, for good or ill, in moral rights and responsibilities.

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