Monday, March 30, 2015

Spain, Jews, and a Glimpse of the Future?

Return Home, Varmagari
We've discussed the expulsion of Jews from Spain on a couple of occasions. Once in the context of the Marranos and building up resilient communities within the nation-state, and more recently when briefly pondering the potential for mass transfers of ethnic and religious groups in the coming years, should we continue down this path of polarization and negative mood.

With that context I found the following headline very intriguing:
This Country is About to Offer Citizenship to 2.2 Million Jews
(TIME Alistair Dawber/Madrid)

Spain wants to make amends for expelling Jews from the country in 1492


Exactly 523 years ago on Tuesday, the Edict of Expulsion, which forced Spain’s Jewish community to convert to Catholicism or leave the country, was issued by monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella. It may have taken more than half a millennia, but Madrid is finally about to make amends for kicking out the Jews by offering citizenship to the estimated 2.2 million descendants of those expelled...
 The spin on the story is an attempt by Spain to "make amends" for "wrongs" committed over five centuries ago.

What if there is more to the story? Or what if a significant number of people of Jewish descent take Spain up on this offer and Spain decides they like this sort of targeted citizenship program?

What do I mean?  Well Spain, like many European countries has a problem with a stagnant economy, high debt load, and shrinking demographic base. Let's say at a minimum they pull in 90,000 new citizens from this effort. What is the marginal cost of adding a new citizen in Spain? People taking advantage of this program would already hold a passport in another country, such as Israel. If they are forward-thinking enough to get this second passport and citizenship, this new influx of citizens might also be skewed towards high incomes. They probably would consider an apartment in Spain, doing some banking there, etc. In other words, what's not to like?

And to answer the question that probably jumped out at you upon reading the story, where a "number of Muslim groups and academics have pointed out, both the Jews and Muslims were victims of Isabella and Ferdinand’s Spanish Inquisition, and so why are only the descendants of the Jewish victims now being offered reparation?"

Easy. The extremists in the Jewish population are focused on Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Creating a haven for Jewish communities in Spain would, at least for the foreseeable future, not pose the challenges faced by other European countries and their Muslim minorities. To hell with fair, this is geopolitics.

I find this fascinating. In the coming years I wonder if we'll see more of these kinds of programs where countries attempt to poach "good" citizens from other other countries the way football teams try and improve their team via free agency? 

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