‘The Jew is to blame’: young neo-fascists in Spain spark outrage
A tribute to the Blue Division highlights the growing radicalization among young Spaniards.
Dr Carmen Aguilera-Carnerero is Senior Lecturer in the Department of English and German Philology at the University of Granada (Spain) as well as Senior Researcher at the Center for Radical Law Analysis (CARR).
On February 13, an event honoring the soldiers of the División Azul (the Blue Division or the Spanish Division of Volunteers) took place at the Almudena Cemetery in Madrid. The winners, a group of 14,000 young men, both soldiers and Phalangists, fought for Hitler in World War II to restore the Führer’s previous support to Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War.
The event was organized by Juventud Patriótica (Patriotic Youth), a neo-Nazi group from Madrid and supported by España 2000 and La Phalange, two far-right Spanish groups. About 300 people attended the event, some of whom wore Nazi badges and carried neo-fascist flags while giving fascist salutes. Among them all, the presence of a young woman – not even 20 – holding a megaphone stands out from the crowd in her blue phalanx shirt.
Her name was Isabel Medina Peralta, a history student, and she was shouting anti-Semitic slogans never heard before, at least in democratic times. Isabel told the participants of the event “It is our supreme duty to fight for Spain and for a Europe now weakened and destroyed by the enemy” (“es nuestra suprema obligación luchar por España y por una Europa ahora debil y liquidada por el enemigo) as well as “the enemy will always be the same, even if he wears different masks: the Jew, because there is nothing more certain than this affirmation: the Jew is to blame” ( el “enemigo que siempre va a ser el mismo, aunque con distintas máscaras: el judío, porque nada hay más certero que esta afirmación: el judío es el guilty”).
These kinds of assertions shook Spanish public opinion to the point that Twitter closed her personal account two days later when she had been proclaiming the same kind of message for years. Yet she immediately opened a new one afterwards.
The Jewish community in Spain is really rare; barely 45,000 of them live in Spain, according to data provided by the Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain (FCJE). Although it is inevitable about the relevance of the Jews in the history of Spain (also known as Sephardic Jews), the historical event most relevant to them was probably the expulsion of the entire community by the Catholic Kings in 1492, the culmination of a tragic period in which the Inquisition relentlessly pursued them.
Franco’s attitude towards Jews has been discussed by historians and academics whose views oscillate between the dictator’s friendly attitude towards Jews during the Holocaust and deep anti-Semitism. In 2015, the Spanish government passed a law by which Sephardic Jews proved the connection to the country (via surnames or knowledge of the language, among other conditions) could return to Spain and obtain citizenship. By 2019, nearly 6,000 Jews had acquired Spanish citizenship, although they are still demographically distant from the nearly 2 million Muslims living in Spain.
Isabel Medina Peralta describes herself as a fascist and a national socialist. She rejects any affiliation or even distance connection or sympathy with VOX or any conservative party, which Isabel despises for seeing the nation as a symbol rather than focusing on her people, which she does not. The young history student accepts the potential effects of her words and believes that sooner or later they will lead her to prison, a time she plans to invest in writing a book. Indeed, the “new muse of Spanish fascism” has accused the Abascal party of favoritism and electoral propaganda since Rocío Monasterio, president of VOX in Madrid, wrote a tweet supporting the community and Jewish associations after the outrageous speech .
Isabel’s speech elicited mainly two types of reactions: either people thought that she was just a person in search of popularity, an anecdote that brought to life old ghosts from a past, totally disconnected from current problems. in Spain or cited it as a representative pledge of the growing polarization of discourse in Spanish society. Either way, Isabel’s speech brought out some key issues. On the one hand, he exposed a growing global problem of radicalization among young people, to which young Spaniards are no strangers. On the other hand, he brought back to the table the old debate on hate speech, the need to regulate it legally and the limits of free speech.
Regarding the first, Isabel belongs to the Phalange Española and the Bastión Frontal group. The latter is a radical organization born during the containment of COVID-19 with just over 100 members, most of whom come from other organizations like Hogar Social and have ties to other radical groups like San Blas Crew or the Conquista. del Estado. They shouted on the first day the leader of Unidas Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, as the official candidate for the Community of Madrid.
A study conducted by the SM Foundation launched in 2017 on the behaviors and attitudes of Spanish millennials revealed the growing ideological radicalization of this generation, as one in five young people (out of a total sample of 1,250) supported either the extreme left or the radical right. . The latest events in Spain, such as Isabel Medina’s speech or, conversely, the street violence that took place for several days after the imprisonment of rapper Hasél seem to be proof of this. Generation Z, to which Isabel belongs, seems to be following the same trend.
Regarding the need to regulate (or not) hate speech, some legal measures have been taken. The FCJE, the Movement against Intolerance and the Platform against Antisemitism have announced that they will use all legal means to bring this event to court. Similarly, the Madrid public prosecutor’s office has called for an investigation to determine whether the speech can actually qualify as a hate crime. Articles 510 and 570 of the Spanish Penal Code which regulate freedom of expression are formulated very loosely, hence the possibility of different interpretations.
Several academics and experts in the field have pointed out the dangers of a law that could restrict citizens’ freedom of expression. For example, they could lead to what is known as the ‘chilling effect’ – whereby citizens or groups are deterred from giving opinions or thoughts for fear of breaking the law and being used by governments to act as a deterrent. impose censorship in the name of protecting certain groups. or rights.
Although currently the Jewish community in Spain is small, they also suffer indiscriminate attacks duly reported by the FECJ and prosecuted when necessary. The same happens to Muslims and other minority groups. Due to the growing polarization of the younger generations that we talked about above, the need for a serious debate on hate speech in Spanish society seems indispensable. And even the desire to rethink the legislation on this subject.
Unfortunately, the history of the twentieth century is full of examples where hate speech has always been the prelude to genocides, wars or attacks of all kinds. The internet, while the easily named culprit, is not always to blame, hence the examples of the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide or the Balkans in the age of social media. This does not mean that the debate on Internet regulation is not another essential subject to be addressed. Nonetheless, this should not obscure other issues that Isabel’s speech exposed, such as the need to foster critical thinking learning among students. Whatever the outcome, this kind of debate should always be preventative rather than post-incident lamentation (however large).
This article is brought to you by the Center for Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR). Through its research, CARR intends to conduct discussions on the development of radical right-wing extremism around the world.