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La España racista: La lucha en defensa de las víctimas del odio (Racist Spain: The fight in defense of the victims of hatred) Esteban Ibarra March 15, 2011

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The hidden face of society.

The most striking cases of neo-Nazi violence, skinheads, and xenophobia that have occurred in Spain within recent years.

A neo-fascist tsunami is sweeping the world. It reaches social networks on the Internet, soccer stadiums, and even democratic political parties and institutions. With it travels hatred of what is different, of what is vulnerable, and its attempt to demolish historic democratic gains. From this detritus emerges neo-Nazi violence, which is not simply reflective of thugs, nor gangs, nor specific outbreaks. What emerges are the threats of a return to that Europe of horror that we believed we had buried forever.

Are we witnessing the emergence of a new islamophobic, anti-Semitic, ultra-right wing? Is there a secret language of neo-Nazism? Is a civil and religious war in store for Europe? How should we approach the fight against cyberhate? What are its roots and its seeds? What role do institutions and mediums of communication play with regard to the advance of xenophobic populism?

Esteban Ibarra, president of the Movimiento Contra la Intolerancia (The Movement Against Intolerance), has been threatened with death as a result of his demands for renewed activism against barbarity. In his book, La España racista (Racist Spain), he addresses the motives of international alarm, the myth of identity, the offensive xenophobia in the context of crisis, the role of the Internet in the spread of neo-fascism, several pioneer judicial rulings, and well known, significant cases of victims of the most criminal fanaticism…Hatred of diversity puts us all in danger, discovering its origin and its strategy is a first step toward winning the decisive battle against intolerance.

EXCERPT FROM THE PROLOGUE OF LA ESPAÑA RACISTA (RACIST SPAIN):

It is forbidden to not smile at problems, to not fight for what you want, to abandon everything out of fear, to not turn your dreams into reality.” PABLO NERUDA, Chilean poet

The story of this book begins on November 19, 2009, at the doors of the Juzgado de Navalcarnero (the Navan Courthouse) in Madrid. They had just received my testimony in response to a retaliation charge that had been filed against me by José David Fuertes, alias el Tocho, assasin for the black adolescent group Ndombele. From prison, once his conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court, he filed a criminal complaint against me for mentioning him in certain paragraphs of my previous book, Los crímenes del odio (Hate Crimes); precisely the chapter in which I recounted the murder which resulted in his imprisonment.

It didn´t stop there. El Toche submitted his claim to Ediciones Temas de Hoy (Current Affairs Publications), which had published it, and to the company that had created the cover design, and even to the printer. After this perverse use of the law, in which the loser in the courts prevails, the publishing company invited me to recount the development of the case with all of its substance —which you can consult by reading the chapter dedicated to it in this new book— and, incidentally, to reflect on the events that took place over the last few years, as the “denounced book” dates back to 2003, and since then, many events have occurred in relation to the advance of intolerance; especially, the most grave of them all, new hate crimes.

Logically, these pages focus on the victims of racism and hatred and alongside them, the battle that we fight against acts of criminal intolerance. But we also wonder why, until now, racism and the harm motivated by neo-Nazi hatred have not been a public issue taken on by the State; given its responsibility in preventing it, it should have implemented a rigorous and serious criminal policy, aimed at eradicating or at least effectively impeding its development, and above all, it should have made efforts to compensate and properly treat victims. One cannot consent to racism, nor to xenophobia, nor to antisemitism, nor to islamophobia, nor to neo-fascism, nor to homophobia, nor to any other demonstration associated with intolerance that denies dignity and rights to people who are different. One cannot trivialize hate crimes. A democratic state has the duty to act consistently against the problem. And it is not doing that. It is not thoroughly attacking the causes and roots, nor is it assuming the consequences.

That is the State´s responsibility. In the rest of Europe, in the United States, and in other countries, it at least recognizes its existence, while in Spain, it continues trivializing it. The crimes and incidents motivated by hatred are crimes that have immense impacts in comparison to the common crime. Therefore, the State is sending a terrible message to entire communities: “We deny your right to be part of society,” terrifying all those who belong to or identify with that group. By attacking one person they are attacking all who are similar, because neither the victim nor the group in general can or wants to change the aspects that characterize them.

Any criminal offense motivated by prejudice and hostility toward the victim due to his or her connection, membership, or relation to a social group that is vulnerable to intolerance indicates that it is a hate crime. They are not common crimes, they are crimes motivated by prejudices or phobias that harm people, their properties, and the group with which they identify. It is not simply a matter of discrimination, which can also be a hate crime; it goes further because there are so many criminal offenses that they cannot be reduced to one discriminatory act.

The disruptive power of the fear that causes hate crimes extends much further than State boundaries and has the potential capacity to intensify and induce conflicts on a grander scale, as history has demonstrated. Hence the importance of advancing criminal legislation against these crimes and confronting the racist propaganda that seeks to blur the distinction between common crimes and hate crimes in its intent to hide its true nature.

The first warning that we must give to those who downplay the importance of the existence of hate crimes in Spain is that we are not different, and like in the rest of the European countries, more in some and less in the others, the problem exists and feeds the fire of the circumstances of globalization that allow for its expansion. Therefore, a first piece of advice: our political leaders should abandon the trivializing discourse that minimizes hate crimes to the existence of “urban gangs,” to a problem that is qualified as “worrisome but not alarming.” We invite them to ask the victims about the alarm that hate crimes cause them, and after listening to them, they will learn what it is to fear for your life. Our country is not racist, but there is a racist Spain that we must not only stop hiding, but eradicate.

The second warning relates to the danger that results from wasting the time that we have to react against the problem. Racist intolerance and xenophobia, antisemitism and islamophobia, neo-fascism and homophobia, have brought the three European institutions, through their specialized bodies in the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), the Council of Europe and the European Union, together with the UN, to show its alarm at the upsurge of violent attacks against immigrants and minorities such as gypsies, incidentally reminding us that the history of Europe demonstrates how an economic depression can tragically lead to increased social exclusion and genocidal persecution. And to execute those plans there is no lack of neo-Nazis, who have already made themselves visible over recent years in their exhibition parades in Dresden, where several thousands of people arrived from all of the gutters of the continent, among them a hearty group from our country. This mob instigated hatred of what is different in a massive way, practicing diffused violence and attacking democratic values.

Meanwhile, democratic institutional action to impede the growth of xenophobia throughout Europe is not only weak, but sometimes solely aesthetic, and its policies for prevention, insufficient; in many cases, the various governments are influenced or have in their midst leaders of the new ultra-right starring in treacherous acts against human rights, admitting and emitting discourse of fear, hatred, and the construction of scapegoats, as is occurring with the gypsies in France, Italy, and other countries where they are condemning them to exclusion or deportation.

Spain lacks the most essential of State accords, such as integration policies —with special emphasis on the education of the descendants of immigrants to increase their participation in society and avoid their marginalization— and housing policies to address the mortgage policies at the root of the economic crisis. It also lacks policies for cultural and religious pluralism to guarantee spaces for places of worship and impede campaigns of religious intolerance, and policies for participation in democratic processes, that visibly integrate representatives and municipal and autonomous candidatures, extending voting rights. In general, Spain lacks social policies that facilitate coexistence, citizenship, and family reunification and more affordable regularization policies in response to the personal and familiar crises of those living in situations of unemployment and illegality, and of course, policies for the prevention of xenophobia and intolerance and aid for victims of hate crimes.

THE AUTHOR

Esteban Ibarra is the president of the Movimiento Contra la Intolerancia (the Movement Against Intolerance), an NGO that was founded at the beginning of the 1990s in reaction to episodes of racist violence and other manifestations of intolerance that occurred throughout Spain. His primary work has been to direct the Oficina de Solidaridad con las Víctimas del Odio (The Office of Solidarity with the Victims of Hatred), the Informe Raxen (The Raxen Report), and the educational programs about values of tolerance and human rights promoted by the association. He is the author of several books and monographs in which he specifies his thoughts and actions, such as Los crímenes del odio (Hate Crimes), Tiempos de solidaridad (Times of Solidarity), Intolerancia, no, gracias (Intolerance, no thanks, among others.

A pioneer in the mobilization of solidarity and pacifism against manifestations of intolerance, he has received, together with the association, the recognition of many public and private institutions, among them, the Manuel Broseta Foundation, the Government of the Community of Madrid (which awarded him the Gold Medal), the Ministry of Social Affairs (which awarded him the Silver Cross of Social Solidarity), and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (which awarded him the Cross of the Order of Isabella the Catholic).

TECHNICAL INFORMATION:

Title: La España Racista (Racist Spain)

Subtitle: La lucha en defensa de las víctimas del odio (The fight in defense of the victims of hatred)

Author: Esteban Ibarra

Pages: 320

Date of  Publication: February 15, 2011

 

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