In November, the Spanish government made what at the time seemed a remarkable offer to restore citizenship to any Jew tracing his or her heritage back to those who were expelled during the Spanish Inquisition in 1492. It was a brave, courageous act of expiation by Spain for a national crime. It was, of course, long overdue. But better late than never.
It turns out that there is some fine print that restricts those who may benefit from the offer. Some news reports said Spain offered “automatic” citizenship. That’s far from true. Spain will only accept Jews into this program. They will not accept those who were forcibly converted to Christianity (conversos or Marranos) unless they undergo formal conversion to Judaism. On the one hand, one might understand how a government bureaucrat might feel the need to create rules and accountability in running this program; on the other, it’s ridiculous for a nation which offered a choice of expulsion or conversion to all its Jews to penalize those who stayed behind and converted.
But that wasn’t the main theme of this post. This act of national reconciliation proffered by Spain to its former Jewish citizens immediately called to mind the Right of Return. One hopes that it will not take over 500 years for Israel to make amends for its own act of national shame, the expulsion of nearly 1-million Palestinian residents. Right now, most Israelis remain deaf and dumb to the issue (no doubt similar to the way Spaniards reacted over the past 500 years). The primary fear is that the return of millions of refugees would flood Israel with Palestinians and destroy its Jewish identity.
Most surveys estimate that if offered a choice of financial compensation or return, several hundred thousand would return. Though many pro-Israel readers have bellyached here about this meaning the demise of Israel, nothing could be farther from the truth. Israel has absorbed millions of refugees over the years, some of whom were not Jewish. The nation will have to decide whether maintaining Jewish ethnic superiority outweighs rectifying a deep moral wound that has poisoned the State since its founding.
One can hope…