Friday, January 16, 2009

The new anti-Euskarism

Picasso's "Guernica," an allegory of the destruction perpetrated by the Nazi Air Force on the Basque town of Gernika in 1937.

The actual destruction.

The word Euskara means "Basque language" in the Basque language. And anti-Euskarism is prejudice against or hostility toward Basques.

Once upon a time anti-Euskarism was characterized by violent physical and cultural repression of the Basque people. During the Spanish civil war, Euskal Herria, or the Basque country, was ruthlessly razed by Generalísimo Francisco Franco's National Movement, as well as his Nazi and Fascist allies. Particularly gruesome was the levelling of the town of Gernika by the German air force on 26 April 1937. Also, Basque prisoners suffered unspeakable torture in Franco's jails. And, once the Basques were defeated, the cultural persecution began. Euskara was not allowed in public, and any children who were caught talking in it at school were made to kiss the ground. Basque dances and music were forbidden as well.

Spain is a democracy now, but anti-Euskarism is by no means gone. Only, it now takes a subtler form. Basques are no longer attacked or tortured, and Euskara is taught at school. But the new anti-Euskarism consists of the notion that, of all the peoples in the world, the Basques, and only the Basques, have no right to a State of their own. While Europe has been creating statelets like crazy in the last decade, many of them less populated and less viable than the economically robust Euskal Herria, the European Union upholds the Spanish constitutional prohibition of a Basque state. Peoples around the world have been given an independent country -- the Slovaks, the Timorese, the Armenians, even the Jews, despite their frequent moaning that they're denied one. But not the Basques.

This goes hand in hand with their demonization. Granted, the fight for independence has been carried out by the Basques through in some cases objectionable means, such as ETA's terrorism. But, curiously, it attracts an attention from the media absolutely disproportionate to the real harm it causes. For instance, in all its history ETA has caused some 900 deaths. In the same period, the Lord's Resistance Army has killed tens of thousands in Uganda. However, when you search the New York Times for ETA you find some 6,000 stories, against some 1,500 much shorter ones in the case of the LRA.

The media's bias is evident if we consider that whenever ETA kills a Spanish politician it makes headlines all over the world. However, not a word was said about the Second Congo War, in which 5.5 million people died and the Pygmies were hunted down and eaten by both warring factions!

It is depressing just to compare the enormous amount of coverage devoted to Basque terrorism in relation to that dedicated to the African wars. And we’re talking about people who at most kill 2 or 3 Spaniards a year.

The world is obsessed with the Basques! Why so much prejudice? Why this wave of new anti-Euskarism?


Anonymous said...

You failed to mention perhaps the most shameful episode in anti-Euskarist history: the lies peddled by the then-government regarding the terrorist atrocities in Madrid, which attempted to whip up the Basque haters into a frenzy of hate that would distract them from realising that the government was deceiving them to save face.

In this fashion, European politicians attempted to use prejudice against a minority group for their own electoral gain. Who could miss the historical pungency of that foulness? Nobody save the media, clearly!

Anonymous said...

Peoples around the world have been given an independent country -- the Slovaks, the Timorese, the Armenians, even the Jews, despite their frequent moaning that they're denied one. But not the Basques.

What separates 'the Jews' from other peoples is that they come from all over the globe and there is no consistent criteria of what makes a person Jewish.

Three scenarios, all contradictory, are possible under a literal reading of Israel's 'Law of Return':
-Atheist, yet Jewish by blood
-Jewish by conversion, not by blood
-Jewish by religion, still not Jewish

The 'Law of Return' rules out people from intermarriage, even if they are religiously Jewish. Israel can not tell me who is a Jew. Its legal definition of a Jewish identity is totally meaningless. That of course is because the ideology that Jews must have their own state developed in the context of secularizing Jewish identity and prejudices against Jews. Zionism did not attempt to refute the idea that Jews are strangers wherever they live. It took the idea at face value.

Israel is the homeland for people with an ancient connection to this land even if they are atheist. It's paradoxes like this that make me ask, when it's said the Jews must have their own state, who are 'the Jews'? Neither Zionists nor Nazis can answer the question.

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

No, Andrew, you're wrong.

The Law of Return does not rule out people from intermarriage. In fact it's more inclusive than the Orthodox definition of "Jewish". Under the LoR, any Jew, spouse of a Jew, child of a Jew or grandchild of a Jew may immigrate to Israel. On the other hand, a Jew who converted to another religion may not. It's all very complicated and illogical.

On another note -- why are you people being so serious about this post? Am I so bad at satire and irony?

Anonymous said...

I made that a bit ambiguous. You can immigrate to Israel but you still don't fall under the state's definition of who is Jewish.

I guess it's just hard to make the subject funny.

Anonymous said...

Idk, but since I too was trying to be satirical I must be even worse than you...

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

Hahaha, James... I'm the stupid here!

I actually know so little about the Spanish Civil War that I thought you were talking about things that really happened!

Your satire is excellent!

(And I'm not being ironic.)

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, a Jew who converted to another religion may not.

And then there are religions that do not require conversions. Though in the grand scheme of things it does not matter as we have already established that Israel does not accept freedom of religion as a founding principle.


Anonymous said...

I was talking about the Madrid bombings and the response of the 'Populars'.

Anonymous said...


Out of curiosity, were you in favour of Kosovo's independence?

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

I'm not well acquainted with the Kosovo case, but I know that Spain is opposed to its independence -- and it may have to do with its similarities with the Basque case.

That said, Kosovo is a very poor region and the Basque Country has one of the highest per capita GDPs of all European regions. In terms of reasonability, the case for Basque independence holds much more water than that for Kosovo's. said...

I believe everyone must look at this.