Spain's 'Jewish Problem'

Many Spaniards thought Spain had solved its "Jewish problem" in 1492, when by the stroke of a pen, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella ordered the expulsion of an estimated 800,000 Jews from the country, and thus put an end to the largest and most distinguished Jewish community in Europe.

But now, more than 500 years later, Spanish anti-Semitism is on the rise once again. According to a recent study published by the Pew Research Center, nearly half of all Spaniards have negative views of Jews, a statistic that marks Spain as one of the most anti-Semitic countries in Europe. According to Pew, 46 percent of Spaniards hold negative opinions of Jews, up more than double from the 21 percent of Spaniards with such views in 2005.

Spain is also the only country in Europe where negative views of Jews outweigh positive views; only 37 percent of Spaniards think favorably about Jews. By comparison, 36 percent of Poles have negative views of Jews while 50 percent have positive views; in Germany, 25 percent negative versus 64 percent positive; in France, 20 percent negative versus 79 percent positive; and in Britain, 9 percent positive versus 73 percent favorable. (According to Pew, 77 percent of Americans have favorable views toward Jews, compared with 7 percent unfavorable.)

Pew's latest research about Spanish anti-Semitism corroborates the findings of other, similar surveys. For example, a report about European anti-Semitism published by the New York-based Anti-Defamation League says that 54 percent of Spaniards believe that "Jews have too much power in international markets." And 51 percent of Spaniards believe that "Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country."

The survey data on Spanish judeophobia raises many questions, including one that seems never to have been asked: How many contemporary Spaniards have actually ever met a Jew? Not very many, it would appear. In fact, Spain today has one of the smallest Jewish communities in Europe; the country has only 12,000 Jews out of a total Spanish population of 42 million, which works out to less than 0.05 percent.