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Spanish-israeli Relations Suffer from Media Bashing

January 29, 1988
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Fears are growing here that the recent improvement in Israeli-Spanish relations will fall victim to what observers see as one of the strongest anti-Israel campaigns ever in the Spanish media.

The negative portrayal of Israel seen lately in most Western capitals goes far beyond harsh criticism in Spain. Even the most respected, mass circulation newspapers such as El Pais and Diario 16 routinely equate Israelis and Nazis.

According to observers here, the situation in the administered territories seems to confirm some negative traditional Spanish stereotypes of the Jews. The Israelis, though still respected, are presented as the children of Hitler.

Spanish writers and leaders feel free to condemn Israel as a state that, in addition to its present ugly behavior, was built on expulsion and killing of Arabs in the first place. A Spanish paper recently published a cartoon showing a Hasidic Jew with two Arab children hanging in his locks of hair.

And trade union leaders who organized anti-Israel demonstrations referred to the situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a new Holocaust perpetuated by the Israelis.


All this came in the middle of a dramatic resurgence of Spanish solidarity with the Jews. Spaniards have been giving increasing attention to the history of close Spanish-Jewish cultural ties. However, Spain still is planning major events to perpetuate the memory of the old Jewish community in this country.

Friends of Israel in this country are keeping a low profile for now. “It is hardly possible to defend Israel’s handling of the Gaza and West Bank riots anywhere in the world,” one of them said, “and there is certainly no way you can do it here.

“We can just sit down and wait for better times.”

The Israeli ambassador here, Shlomo Ben-Ami, went twice on television to try to put things in a somewhat more balanced perspective. His appearance drew a wave of protests from Arab organizations, whose supporters have easy access to television.

Israel’s minister of energy, Moshe Shahal, was shown a cold shoulder during his recent visit to the national convention of the ruling Socialist Party.

The party adopted a sharp condemnation of Israel, which Shahal described as “not evenhanded.”


Not that Shahal’s efforts were expected to yield immediate results. “Spaniards are certainly interested in energy projects in Israel,” one official said privately, “but this is certainly not the right time to go public with any kind of cooperation with Israel.”

Spain is eager to draw on the Israeli experience in using solar energy for heating and other purposes. But politically, an observer added, Spain would be wise to avoid any announcements on starting or advancing projects in Israel.

The Israelis who are competing with the French here for a $200 million deal to modernize Spanish fighter planes display the same kind of attitude.

They have not raised the matter publicly since the unrest in the territories began last month, and they certainly hope Spain will postpone making its decision.

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