Two of the people who had the greatest influence on teaching me the skill to communicate where both Jewish. One was from New York the other from North London. Same difference. What they both taught me was that it was vital to get your message across in the first few words as the majority of readers would not stay with you to the end. Of course such rules are made to be broken. This article is 779 long. Please bear with me.
For a number of years Peter was a close friend. He died a few years ago well in to his 80s. That means around a quarter of century divided us but as true connoisseurs of friendship will know age is not a factor.
Peter was Jewish and grew up in Germany during the 1930s. His parents decided to send his brother and himself to safety overseas, Peter working for a while in British colonial Africa before enlisting at the start of the war. Both of his parents and his family perished in the holocaust.
Peter’s brother became the headmaster of a minor English public school and anglicised his name. He, however, maintained his German identity and Jewish faith to the day he died. He was an artist, a number of his works adorn my walls. He resided in Spain from the 1960s, felt very at home in Gibraltar with its distinctive Jewish history and in 1996 appeared as the narrator in a play that I’d written for the drama festival.
We did discuss Nazi Germany but I never had the courage to raise the issue of his parents. However it was clear from his painful descriptions of his early life that he and his family became non-people in their native country – as the Jews did in Poland, Holland, Belgium, and France – wherever the Nazi jackboot descended. He was a proud Jew but not a supporter of Israel because he felt it had committed the same injustices on others as had been suffered by Jews for generations. He felt Israel had learnt nothing as the non-people of Gaza can attest.
This week I wrote about the former Israeli ambassador to Spain, Raphael Schultz, who has now returned to his country after a four-year term in office. On his departure he spoke of having had to live with the “hate and anti-Semitism that exists in Spanish society”.
Schultz spoke out in an article published on the Madrid Embassy’s own website to mark his leaving of his post. He even went on to say that since arriving in Spain in July 2007 he had experienced few happy moments.
I have to say that some of the ex-ambassador’s comments relate to protests against Israel’s actions rather than anti-Semitism per se. Yet you also have to recognize that in matters of anti-Semitism Spain has form, going back to the Reyes Católicos.
Now if a Jewish team of youngsters had turned up at a soccer tournament and were denied their birthright and identity – it would be condemned as anti-Semitism.
If Jewish sportsmen and women were continuously banned from raising their flag or telling people where they were from – it would be condemned as anti-Semitism.
If a Jewish community was denied a place at the table to discuss their own future – it would be condemned as anti-Semitism.
If Jewish people were said to have no right to determine their own future because they have no voice – it would be condemned as anti-Semitism.
Yet all the four examples I have given above are actively and continuously enacted against Gibraltarians yet little is said. No angry or indignant protests from the government – instead it is left to the opposition parties and the PDP to speak up for Gibraltar.
Shadow Minister for Sport Steven Linares said: “The Opposition considers that the treatment of our young sportsmen has been absolutely appalling and there can be no excuse for the pertinent authorities in Spain to have done this to schoolchildren.
“It is obvious that there are people in Spain who still have much to learn about democracy and about mutual respect. The incident in Benidorm shows that nothing has changed and that Gibraltar’s footballers and other sportsmen and women will continue to endure discriminatory treatment when they participate in sporting events in Spain.”
The key point here is that Gibraltarians should not be treated by Spain as Jews were by Nazi Germany before the holocaust. Gibraltarians are no more non-people than Jews were or are. All Gibraltarians, regardless of age or sex, are fully entitled to the same rights and levels of respect as any other people. It is shameful that Spain should believe otherwise. It is even more shameful that the Gibraltar Government has done nothing to protect or stand up for its own.