World view: This Spanish initiative should be a lesson to us all

Diasporas are a terrible menace, as the Israelis know to their cost

Share

Last month, Spain launched an extraordinary initiative: its Justice Minister announced a new law granting the right of return to Spain with Spanish (and, therefore, European) citizenship to anyone able to demonstrate blood connections to the Sephardic Jewish community expelled in 1492. The new version of the law, unlike the version trailed in 2012, does not require applicants to renounce their existing nationality. It has been enthusiastically received: one Israeli lawyer specialising in European citizenship applications reports around 1,000 enquiries. Spain’s Justice Ministry has received 3,000 applications so far.

In a mean and jealous world, Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon’s initiative shines like a light in the darkness. Burma’s reforming government should waste no time in laying out the welcome mat for the hundreds of thousands of ethnic Indians thrown out by the dictator General Ne Win in the 1960s.

Greece should do the same for the Turks expelled after the Ottoman Empire’s dissolution – and Turkey should welcome back its ethnic Greeks. As all these communities are characterised by enterprise, economic dynamism and familiarity with risk-taking, such a policy would have a singularly dynamic impact on the struggling economies of the countries to which they returned.

The Sri Lankan government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa would find no surer way of convincing the world of its good intentions than by inducing the huge Tamil diaspora to head home.

Exiled Palestinians are more of a challenge, given that their homes, towns and lands have been very substantially expropriated. A really imaginative general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party would even now be thrashing out the minimum necessary to lure Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, back to Tibet.

Diasporas are a terrible menace, as the Chinese, the Sinhalese and the Israelis know to their cost. Being wrenched away from your home is a trauma that never heals. Of course, merely to list these cases of mass exile and to name the obvious remedy – repatriation – is to appreciate how unlikely such policies are to be pursued. And to be impressed all over again by Mr Ruiz-Gallardon’s political boldness.

Critics say that his real reason is not the marvellous culture to which Sephardic Jews contributed, nor their persistent attachment to “their country, their language and their traditions”, as the minister put it, but the economic vitality they would bring to stagnant Spain. But that doesn’t negate the moral dimension.

And how about extending the gesture to the Muslims, booted out of Spain about 100 years after the Jews?

It is argued that the cases are different: the Jews were merely persecuted, while the Muslims were conquerors and invaders whose invasion was eventually repelled. Inviting them back would be like inviting the Germans back into Poland, the Italians into Albania, the British back into Bengal.

Yet if we are talking about culture, Islam was just as much a part of the old Iberian culture as the Jews were – arguably more so.

It could be said that Mr Ruiz-Gallardon would receive scant domestic applause for throwing down the welcome mat to people whose co-religionists brought bloody mayhem into the heart of Madrid in 2004, and whose growing presence is a political issue in many parts of Europe.

But if the problem with the Muslims is that many of them in the Middle East have shown little aptitude for co-existing peacefully with other communities, Israel’s appalling treatment of Palestinians opens them to the same objection. Mr Ruiz-Gallardon’s initiative is a bright light in a nasty world. But he is going to have a debate on his hands before it’s all over.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Direct Mail Machine Operative

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an i...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: a duchess by any other name is just wrong

Guy Keleny
A teenage girl uses her smartphone in bed.  

Remove smartphones from the hands of under-18s and maybe they will grow up to be less dumb

Janet Street-Porter
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Today's pre-school child costs £35,000, according to Aviva. And that's but the tip of an iceberg, says DJ Taylor
Fifa corruption: The officials are caught in the web of US legal imperialism - where double standards don't get in the way

Caught in the web of legal imperialism

The Fifa officials ensnared by America's extraterritorial authority are only the latest examples of this fearsome power, says Rupert Cornwell
Bruce Robinson: Creator of Withnail and I on his new book about Jack the Ripper

'Jack the Ripper has accrued a heroic aura. But I'm going after the bastard'

The deaths of London prostitutes are commonly pinned on a toff in a top hat. But Bruce Robinson, creator of Withnail and I, has a new theory about the killer's identity
Simon Stephens interview: The playwright on red-blooded rehearsals, disappointing his children - and why plays are like turtles

Simon Stephens interview

The playwright on red-blooded rehearsals, disappointing his children - and why plays are like turtles
Holidaying with a bike nut: Cycling obsessive Rob Penn convinces his wife to saddle up

Holidaying with a bike nut

Cycling obsessive Rob Penn convinces his wife to saddle up
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef pays homage to South-east Asia's palate-refreshing desserts

Bill Granger's fruity Asian desserts

Our chef's refreshing desserts are a perfect ending to a spicy, soy-rich meal
Fifa presidential election: What is the best way to see off Sepp Blatter and end this farce?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

What is the best way to see off Sepp Blatter and end this farce?
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison