The last Jews of Spain


I was in Spain the day before Simchat Torah when my Israeli friend suggested we honor the holiday by walking through Sevilla’s Jewish quarter – La Juderia de Sevilla.

It was a terrible way to celebrate.

Sevilla’s Jewish quarter – or, rather, what once functioned as Sevilla’s Jewish quarter, before pogroms, massacres and expulsions – is bring-your-meds depressing.

A map outlining places of interest lists several sinagogas (synagogues), abruptly followed by the explanation, “actually,” this is now Iglesia [church] de Santa Maria la Blanca or Convento de Madre de Dios. On one side of the map is a quaint little reconstruction of an enclosed area that was once home to the second largest Jewish community in the Kingdom of Castilla. Today, all that remains are a few dinky pieces of the wall that delineated the quarter, and I probably don’t have to tell you what’s left of the Jewish cemetery.

The story of Spanish Jewry is now a story of remnants. It is the story of much of Jewish Europe, defined mostly by what is missing, by exclusions and absences.

Sevilla’s Jewish museum, if one could call it that, is but a room with few artifacts and some text on the walls. It is a poor testament to the rich history of Spanish Jewish life, a once-thriving medieval culture that produced some of Jewish history’s most honored philosophers and poets — Maimonides, Nachmanides, Yehuda Halevi and Solomon ibn Gabirol, among them. Oddly, more wall space is devoted to Susona Ben Suson, the reputedly beautiful daughter of a wealthy merchant and Jewish converso (convert) who fell in love with a Christian nobleman and then betrayed her father and her people.

The dirty little secret about the Spanish Inquisition is that even after Jews converted to Christianity to save themselves, they were subject to “estatutos de limpieza de sangre,” discrimination and reprisals resulting from their lack of pure Christian blood. When a group of Sevillan conversos hatched a plot to take back their city and halt these reprisals, the pretty Susona Ben Suson told her lover, who then dumped her and had everyone else killed. According to one legend, Susona died a recluse, having asked that her skull be nailed to the doorpost of her house in order to remind others of the consequences of betrayal. Another legend says the Inquisitioners burned her alive.

The story Spain tells about Sephardic Jewry can sometimes seem schizophrenic, oscillating from the glories of the Golden Age to the ignominious Inquisition. It carves Spanish Jewish history into distinct chapters, suggesting one period was good, and the other, bad. 

But Moisés Hassán-Amsélem, a Sevillan native of Moroccan and Algerian Jewish descent, tells another story. “Life for the Jews in Spain was never that great, as some historians would say,” Hassán-Amsélem told me during an interview.

The 48-year-old educator (and a non-practicing attorney) is Sevilla’s go-to tour guide for the Jewish quarter; he is a Jewish history autodidact and lives in an apartment of wall-to-wall books. He also lectures on Holocaust studies and anti-Semitism at the local public university, Pablo de Olavide. He scoffs at the notion that there ever was a Spanish Jewish “Golden Age” when Jews prospered and three religions co-existed in peace and harmony – “This is a myth,” he said.

Hassán-Amsélem became a tour guide because he wanted to introduce visitors to a different perspective than that of official Spain. In the 1990s, eight cities decided to work together to create a network of Jewish quarters – Red de Juderías de España – in order to encourage and promote tourism. “Jews became an attraction,” he said wryly. And it worked: Today, there are 24 cities in this network, and Hassán-Amsélem said he conducted more than 220 tours last year.

“But how many of these cities have something to show? Hassán-Amsélem asked. “Not many.”

Hassán-Amsélem is bothered by how the official record romanticizes the past. “You realize there’s not that much to see [in these quarters] because after 500 years, so much has been destroyed.” In Barcelona, for example, a Jewish cemetery was turned into a quarry – a cheap place to buy stone, which then became the building blocks of the city. “You can still see a façade with Hebrew letters carved into it,” Hassán-Amsélem said of one of Barcelona’s Jewish-tour stops.

Today, official statistics suggest that where once there was a Jewish community of 200,000, only 40,000 remain. But even that census, Hassán-Amsélem told me, is probably exaggerated: “I don’t see it,” he said, suggesting the actual population is probably somewhere between 18,000 and 20,000, with the biggest communities in Barcelona and Madrid.

After generations of living in exile in North Africa, Hassán-Amsélem’s parents decided to return to their ancestral home in Sevilla. In 1963, his father organized all the Jewish émigrés into the “Israelite Community of Sevilla,” which today claims between 100 and 120 families – the size of one very small synagogue in Los Angeles.

“I am not very optimistic,” Hassán-Amsélem said of the future of Spanish Jewry.  “The number of Jews in Spain is not growing. I don’t know for how long the communities will survive. Places like Sevilla? I am quite pessimistic. I don’t think there are enough Jews to be able to go forward.”

Spain’s recent repatriation efforts – an offer of citizenship to Jews whose ancestors might have been expelled – are a lovely gesture, but the requirements of new potential citizens are not demanding enough to tip the scales of Spain’s Jewish future. 

Spain is also, after all, a Catholic country. And the continuing weakening of its Jewish presence is akin to the general languishing of the Jewish presence throughout Europe.  “There is still a lot of prejudice,” Hassán-Amsélem said. “People are still very ignorant of what being a Jew means – a lot of people [still] think that Jews killed Jesus, and that the Jewish expulsion from Spain happened because Jews were controlling all the finances.”

So the Spanish-Jewish homeland was never totally glorious or golden. And now, when the Jews have their promised land, Israel, even there peace continues to evade them. In every iteration of Jewish history, bounty and blessing are punctuated by violence and loss: Loss of cities, quarters, whole communities, countless artifacts and millions of lives.

“Sometimes I feel myself like a dinosaur, like I should be in a museum from 500 years ago,” Hassán-Amsélem said. “I don’t know if there is any future, but there is a present. And I try to open the eyes of the people; it’s like ‘You see? I’m Jewish. I look like any other person. I have no horns.’”

But he also said that even his very best efforts as an educator are challenged by the situation in Israel.

“Nobody cares that every day a Jew is stabbed in Israel – that doesn’t count, that’s not part of the news. The problem will be when [days from] now, Israel will bomb spaces in Gaza and the whole world will say ‘Jews are all like the Nazis.’ And Spain is part of that, unfortunately.

“This is what Europe has become.”

Madrid’s chief rabbi: Gays are ‘deviants’ who need re-educating


Madrid’s chief rabbi, Moshe Bendahan, called gays “deviants” who should be re-educated and said same-sex marriages are “monstrous.”

“Homosexuality is a deviation from nature,” Bendahan is quoted as telling the online news site Religion Digital in an interview published Wednesday. “It’s an anti-natural tendency and a sin. Contemplating allowing, consenting to what is known as ‘gay marriages’ would be a monstrosity.”

Over the last few years, several senior rabbis in Western Europe have gotten into trouble for their remarks on gays.

In January 2012, Amsterdam’s chief rabbi, Aryeh Ralbag, was briefly suspended by the board of the Jewish community for having co-signed a statement that described homosexuality as an inclination from which one can be “healed.”

Gilles Bernheim, France’s former chief rabbi, criticized the social effects of same-sex unions in a controversial document from 2012 and wrote that the “biblical view on romantic partnerships” is “exclusively between men and women.” But he also condemned “physical and verbal attacks on gays with the same intensity as I condemn anti-Semitic attacks.”

In the interview with Religion Digitial, Bendahan is also quoted as saying, “The plan of God knows no other pairing besides that of a woman and man. The pastoral duties with regards to homosexuals are focused on re-educating them about their tendencies to return them to normal.”

If techniques to “cure” gays of their sexual tendencies fail, he said “We don’t excommunicate the homosexuals from our communities but we continue to believe in their conversion. The Bible is and always had been for us our protocol, our point of reference.”

Israel’s political cycle not stuck on the right


With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu poised to win re-election later this month, some critics of Israel’s peace and security policies worry out loud that Israel’s political cycle — its pattern of cycling alternately between the political left and right — is stuck on the right.

“This is the Israeli reality of 2013, enabled in part by American politicians and staunch supporters in this country … as the two-state solution slips through our fingers,” asserts J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami in the Washington Post.

Anyone who has ever taken a course in economics is familiar with the concept of the business cycle, the observation that our economic fortunes expand and contract in distinct phases. Politics, similarly, has its own natural cycle. One political party becomes strong, thinks it has a lock on the electorate, purges its own ranks of political moderates, enunciates policy positions at odds with mainstream sensibilities and alienates the very middle-of-the-road voters that brought it to power. Republicans and Democrats have been vulnerable to its vicissitudes.

Israel, to be sure, is no stranger to the political cycle. Just like Americans, Israelis tend to lean left or right for a period until the ideological camp in power overreaches or external conditions dictate otherwise, sending the pendulum swinging in the opposite direction. Since the onset of the peace process with the Palestinians in the early 1990s, the Israeli public has ousted Israeli prime ministers whenever the prime minister has appeared resistant to opportunities for peace or appeared too eager for peace in the face of intransigence on the other side.

In 1992, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir lost the election for being perceived as inflexible in the Madrid peace talks; in 1996, Shimon Peres lost for being too forthcoming in the Oslo process; in 1999, Netanyahu lost for being too hawkish; and in 2001, Ehud Barak lost for being too dovish. Since that time, two prime ministers — Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert — left office for reasons other than their stances on peace and security. Elected for a second time in the spring of 2009, Netanyahu is on track to win another term in office.

If the political cycle holds true, sooner or later there will be a perceived opening for peace, at which time either the right-leaning government will move to the center (e.g. Begin’s peace with Egypt or Sharon’s disengagement from Gaza) or will be defeated by a left-leaning challenger.

Some critics of current Israeli government policy are troubled that Israelis haven’t punished Netanyahu for a lack of progress in the peace process. They surmise that the growth of the Israeli religious nationalist camp and right-leaning Jews from the former Soviet Union has moved the electorate decidedly to the right. Israelis, they fulminate, may permanently forsake the possibility of a two-state solution.

But in a recent poll of Israeli attitudes toward peace, a full two-thirds of the respondents said they would support a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, with land swaps and a demilitarized Palestinian state. Even a majority of Likud voters supported such a deal.

The issue, then, is not that Israeli attitudes have hardened against making painful compromises for peace — quite the contrary — it’s that most Israelis don’t believe that peace is a realistic option at the moment.

It’s not hard to see why. Given the massive unrest sweeping through the Arab world and the ascendance of the Muslim Brotherhood, many wonder how a fledgling Palestinian state could stave off such radical forces or survive a Hamas onslaught.

The results of Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, Hamas’ subsequent takeover and the unremitting rocket fire aimed at Israeli population centers do not inspire confidence. Rather than setting a precedent for neighborly relations and sound governance, it gave Israelis a glimpse into a possible mess on its eastern border in the event of a peace deal in the West Bank.

“There will be those who say, “If you didn’t like the book [in Gaza], why would you see the movie [in the West Bank]?” observed Middle East analyst David Makovsky.

And while some critics of Israel’s peace policies point to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ recent statements indicating that he would be willing to come to terms with a Jewish state, fresh on the mind of many Israelis is Abbas’ refusal to negotiate for 10 months during Israel’s 2010 settlement freeze, the recent unilateral move for statehood at the United Nations and various statements denying the Jewish connection to the land.

Most Israelis don’t believe enough has changed in the Palestinian camp or in regional conditions to justify a shift in approach.

Do critics of Israeli policy expect that no matter what the Arab world dishes out, Israelis will continue to elect governments with a predilection for making comprehensive peace offers to the Palestinians? Do they expect Israel to be on a permanent peace footing?

If so, then they want Israel to be a country not made up of diverse people with diverse attitudes subject to political swings, but of people just like them who will make concessions at any time and at all costs. They want Israel to be a country like no other — that cannot exist — because all democratic polities are, in their own way, beholden to the inexorable logic of the political cycle.

David Bernstein is the executive director of the David Project.

Spain reaches out to American Jewish tourists


Unless you can read artistically distorted Hebrew, you might not realize that the logo of a program by Spain’s tourism board spells out the four letters of “Sepharad,” the Hebrew word for Spain. And unless you know European geography, you might not realize that the distorted Hebrew letters represent the outline — the national borders — of Spain.

On June 11, this Hebrew logo was on display as Spanish tourism officials — and city mayors — met with Southern California tour operators and travel writers to present a wide-ranging effort by the Spanish government to urge American Jews to visit Spanish sites important in Jewish history.

Called Network of Spanish Jewish Quarters, Routes of Sepharad (in Spanish: Red de Juderías de España, Caminos de Sefarad), this concerted push includes 24 Spanish cities that have restored and highlighted medieval areas that — more than 500 years ago — were home to thriving Jewish communities that produced Moses Maimonides, Solomon Ibn Gabirol and Benjamin of Tudela, among other luminaries. Spanish officials hope these renovated Jewish quarters will become must-visit destinations for American Jewish tourists.

Officials made their pitch at the stately Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel in Westwood, where the sanctuary design, décor and picturesque patio are reminiscent of classical Spain and where some prayers are still recited in Ladino, the medieval Iberian language Jewish exiles took with them to various lands after 1492, when they were expelled from Spain.

When asked about the expulsion, Ferran Bel Accensi, president of the Network of Spanish Jewish Quarters and mayor of Tortosa, told The Journal, “What happened 500 years ago should never have happened, of course. We recognize that. At the same time, we realize that the descendants of those Jews who were forced to leave retain a love and esteem for Spain. What happened in 1492 is part of our history, and we don’t want to ignore it. We talk about it when we are at those sites. While acknowledging the past, the 24 cities involved in this program have embraced the positive aspects of those cities’ Jewish heritage, and they celebrate our shared history, art, gastronomy and culture.”

Assumpció Hosta Rebés, secretary-general of the Network of Jewish Quarters, pointed out that an excursion into the history of Jewish life in Spain can be divided up in various ways: by regions of the country or by cultural focus.

Rebés added that the network is guided by the RASGO program (an acronym representing Restaurants, Accommodations, Signposting, Guides, and Cultural Offerings), which ensures the availability of kosher food, good hotels and knowledgeable guides at all the historical sites, as well as good street signs and a variety of Jewish cultural events, such as music, art and literature.

“This program focuses on the Jewish community and emphasizes the Jewish roots they can find in Spain,” Rebés said. “We are trying to connect with American Jews, to let them know that Spain is an important part of their heritage. We want visitors to the Jewish quarters to come not just once, but again and again.”

Madrid protesters attack Israeli businessmen


Pro-Palestinian protesters atttacked several Israeli businessmen at a conference at a Madrid university.

One of the Israelis was injured Monday at the start of the Spain-Israel Chamber of Commerce’s conference at Madrid’s Autonomous University.

About 200 students threw stones at the Israelis, chanted “Murderers,” and broke the window of the police car that they took refuge in, according to reports.

The students were protesting the deaths of nine activists on a Gaza-bound flotilla that was intercepted by Israeli naval commandos.

Following the violence, the university called off the conference.

Police said most of the rioters were Muslim, Ynet reported. No arrests have been made in the assaults.

Museum-hopping in Madrid, sans ham


What is the best museum town in the world?

Paris comes to mind, as does New York.

But as a certified art museum lover, I put my money on Madrid.

Madrid, the proud and stately capital of Spain, is home to three of the finest collections of art anywhere: the Museo del Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, each of which would be the standout attraction in a city with less to offer, and a reason to visit in its own right. The three museums form a triangle of sorts around the Paseo del Prado, allowing visitors to walk easily between them.

Madrid has lately receded into the shadow of showy Barcelona, which gets all the buzz for being a European capital of style. And indeed, with its spectacular Mediterranean setting, whimsical, unique architecture and international fashion scene, Barcelona deserves its stylish accolades. But its museums are limited to small, idiosyncratic or single-artist collections; the greatest visual thrill is walking its streets.

Madrid is arguably less glamorous, more conservative, more closely associated with Spain’s troubled past than its exhilarating future. It is also the guardian of Spain’s wonderful aesthetic legacy, and serious lovers of art could easily get lost inside its museums for a week at a time.

Jewish travelers will find a flourishing community in today’s Madrid. The freedoms of post-Franco Spain, combined with an influx of Argentine Jews who settled here in the wake of political and economic crises over the past 30 years, have contributed to an active, if small, Jewish community.

Observant travelers will want to acquaint themselves with the Jewish Community of Madrid (Comunidad Judia de Madrid), a nexus of Jewish life here for nearly 100 years. The community provides information, both online and in person, about Orthodox worship services, activities and Jewish resources throughout Madrid.

Bet El Synagogue is affiliated with the Masorti, or Conservative, movement and has a helpful Web site; there is also a Chabad center in Madrid.

On to the art: The Prado is a surprisingly small museum that can hold your attention longer than the encyclopedic Louvre. Rather than being vast and comprehensive, the Prado contains only the most exciting works by a small number of wonderful artists.

In one room you’ll find virtually all of the greatest works of 15th- and 16th-century Flemish painter Hieronymus Bosch, including his famous “Garden of Earthly Delights.” Even if you’re jaded by endless Madonnas, the soft, glowing religious portraits of Raphael will force you to stop and stare in admiration. Upstairs, many of Goya’s most famous works — from his “Maja” series to his controversial “black” paintings — are grouped together, inviting contemplation. The collection also includes major works by the Spanish giants Velazquez and El Greco.

When it opened a decade ago, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum was a major event on the international art scene: the acquisition by the Spanish government of the personal collection of Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, comprising some seven centuries of European and American painting, with emphasis on the Italian primitives and Renaissance, Dutch and Flemish masters, German expressionism, French impressionists and 19th- and 20th-century Americans like Hopper and Rauschenberg.

In 2004, the museum made waves again when it added the collection of the baron’s widow, Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. Together the two collections represent more than 1,000 works of art, mostly paintings, which have been called the 20th century’s most significant private collection.

As with the Prado, nearly every work is stunning. But more importantly, the Thyssen-Bornemisza represents a perfect pan-Western complement to the Prado’s smaller, more focused collection, and the more contemporary Reina Sofia. In fact, it was the availability of space in such close proximity to these other collections that motivated the Thyssen-Bornemisza family to choose Spain to house its legacy.

On view through Jan. 7 is “Sargent/Sorolla,” an exhibition that looks at the parallel careers of John Singer Sargent, who is having a big year in the United States, and Joaquin Sorolla, his Spanish contemporary.

It’s also a Rauschenberg year. On the heels of the fabulous Rauschenberg “Combines” show at Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art this past year comes “Rauschenberg:Express,” an exhibition of 1960s silkscreen print collages from the Thyssen-Bornemisza’s permanent collection.

An apt metaphor for today’s Spain, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia unites the aesthetic cutting edge — modern and contemporary art, including some daring conceptualism and Picasso’s famous “Guernica” — with a historic 16th century formal national hospital building.

A very Madrid counterpoint to all this art is an evening of zarzuela, Spain’s answer to opera. Culturally distant from the main currents of Western Europe for much of the last few centuries, Spain developed its own distinctive idioms, of which zarzuela, which is closer to what we think of as operetta, is one. (If you have ever wondered why there are no Spanish operas at the Met, this is why.)

The Teatro Lirico Nacional de la Zarzuela, on Jovellanes Street, presents a regular schedule of faithfully presented classics. Join the elegant evening crowd, draped in fringed shawls and diamonds, and go out afterward for a glass of sherry at one of the nearby tapas bars. If awards were handed out for cities least hospitable to kosher eating, Madrid would certainly be in the running. As in most of Spain, the main ingredients on Madrid restaurant and cafe menus are ham, shrimp, ham, calamari, ham, octopus — and ham. Madrid even boasts a “Museo del Jamon,” which feels less like a curated collection and more like a temple, with shrines and icons of hanging pork.

For advice on a ham- and shellfish-free visit, a friend recommended the Madrid listings on Kosher Delight’s Web site.

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum: ” target=”_blank”>museoprado.mcu.es

Reina Sofia Museum:

March 11 Attack Hit All Europe


This time it was Spain, one of the principal European allies of the U.S.-led war in Iraq and a strong supporter of Israel’s efforts against Palestinian terrorism.

Following the suicide bombings in Madrid, which left more than 200 people dead and some 1,400 wounded, even countries opposed to the Iraq war feel exposed to the threat of Islamic terrorism.

Within hours of the bombings, which struck trains in the center and suburbs of the Spanish capital on March 11, security was beefed up in cities across the Continent as news of the carnage left Europe as shell-shocked as the United States was on Sept. 11, 2001.

European leaders called for increased security patrols at major sites, and most countries immediately drafted extra troops and police to guard airports and train stations.

Most poignantly, a whole Continent stood at silence for three minutes Monday in memory of those who lost their lives in the worst terror attack on European soil since the end of World War II.

Across the Continent, Jewish communities wondered how the attacks would affect European attitudes toward the Middle East and the war on terrorism.

Some feared that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — and by extension, local Jews — would be blamed for bringing terrorism to a European capital. Others said the attacks would make Europe more vigilant against the Islamic terrorist threat that Israeli leaders have been warning about for years.

Even as the European Union hastily announced that it would push for stricter measures to combat terrorism — including demands that all member states accept Europe-wide arrest warrants — there was substantial political fallout from the Madrid attacks.

The fallout was felt principally in Spain, one of the most vociferous supporters of the war in Iraq. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar saw his Popular Party upset by the opposition Socialists in Sunday’s general election.

Aznar’s support for the war, and his alignment with a whole range of Bush administration policies in the Middle East — including strong support for Israel — had come despite widespread public opposition.

However, some analysts believed the defeat stemmed more from Aznar’s initial attempts to shift blame for the Madrid attacks onto the Basque terrorist group ETA, despite mounting evidence showing that the more likely perpetrators were Islamist terrorists.

In recent days, links have been established between the attacks in Madrid and bombings last year in Casablanca and Istanbul that targeted Jewish sites.

Plaudits for the Socialist victory — as well as the announcement that the new Spanish government is set to withdraw its troops from Iraq — came from many sources in Western Europe.

As a first stage, though, European leaders are setting about reorganizing how the European Union coordinates the battle against terrorism.

The European Union’s Irish president has called for an extraordinary meeting of European justice ministers for Friday with the aim of agreeing on a joint response to the Madrid attacks. The meeting is expected to result in a package of anti-terrorism measures to be approved by European heads of state at a March 25-26 summit.

Also expected is a proposal for the creation of a European commissioner with a specific anti-terrorism portfolio, when the commission is expanded in November as a result of E.U. enlargement.

More controversial is a joint proposal by Belgium, the Netherlands and Austria to revamp the European Union’s crime-fighting unit, Europol, to split off anti-terror actions from regular policing of organized crime.

European terrorism experts also will gather Friday for an emergency workshop on "the lessons of Madrid" at the American Jewish Committee’s (AJCommittee) new Brussels institute. Experts from Spain, Germany, France and Belgium are expected at the Transatlantic Institute, said Deidre Berger, head of the AJCommittee’s Berlin office.

European Jewish leaders told JTA they are adopting a wait-and-see approach on new anti-terrorism measures, saying Friday’s meeting of E.U. justice ministers was critical.

However, one senior Jewish leader remarked that he was "already concerned at the reaction of the Europeans, as if they have suddenly discovered that terrorism can strike anywhere and they’re completely naked to deal with it."

In Italy, Andrea Jarach, president of the Federation of Italy-Israel Associations, told JTA he was pessimistic about how fallout from the Madrid attacks would impact Israel and Jews.

On the popular level in Europe, "they will say even more than they do now that if the ‘Jewish problem’ did not exist, there would not be terrorist attacks," he said. "It’s terrible, but I fear that the expansion of Al Qaeda activities into Europe will be a further step that cannot but harm the Jews of the world and Israel in particular."

But that same notion — that the festering Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one reason terrorism has come to the heart of Europe — could produce some positive results, Berger said.

"I think this could create a dynamic where there will be more interest in Europe in helping to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because many here in Europe see that as one of the critical incitements to terror," she said. "It is a faulty analysis, but we can perhaps use the emotions of the moment to create a new dynamic toward pressuring Arab countries to create a more peaceful climate, engendering a long-term peaceful solution."

Some commentators, though, doubt that the Madrid attacks will lead to major changes in the European Union’s Middle East policy.

According to Jean-Luc Marret, a leading expert in terrorism at the Paris-based Strategic Research Foundation, "Europe does not have a security strategy for the Middle East" but would rather pursue its political goals through "incentives to the region in aid and development."

The Spanish election results were "the quickest and most concrete results I have ever seen after a terror attack," Marret said, though he added that he didn’t believe that states that opposed the war in Iraq were necessarily exempt from Islamic terrorism.

In Spain, maverick left-wing commentator Pilar Rahola said that the Socialists victors would be wrong to think that an anti-American and anti-Zionist stance would provide insurance against Islamic terrorism.

In Britain, perhaps Washington’s closest ally in the Iraq war, insiders predicted that the Madrid attacks and their political aftermath would not change the government’s course.

Lord Greville Janner, a veteran politician with the governing Labor Party, told JTA that Cabinet ministers already assume that the United Kingdom is a target for Islamist terrorists.

David Mencer, chairman of the Labor Friends of Israel lobbying group, agreed.

"There is no doubt that the U.K. is a target," he said, noting that London police officials say that "it’s not a question of if, but when terrorists strike."

But Prime Minister Tony Blair will not alter the government’s course in hopes of lessening the risk of terrorist attack because of his strong personal commitment on matters from Israel to the war in Iraq, Mencer said.

And London has long been quietly supportive of Israel’s hard line against terrorists, sources say.

In fact, much of the new policy set for the European Union is likely to please supporters of Israel — provided it doesn’t include nuances distancing Europe from Israel in the hope of reducing the terrorist threat.

Jerusalem likely would warmly receive proposals expected to be presented by the Irish E.U. presidency calling for clearer definitions of terrorist organizations.

That could mean that Hezbollah would immediately be included on proscribed lists in every state in the European Union. Unlike the main Palestinian Islamist groups, the Lebanese Shi’ite organization is not on certain countries’ terrorist lists — but now it’s likely that even secondary or charity support groups based in Europe will be banned.

One senior Israeli diplomatic source in Europe said the Jewish state might gain both sympathy and empathy in Europe following the Madrid attacks.

"It’s like after Sept. 11, when Americans started to realize what Israelis face everyday," the source told JTA on condition of anonymity.

Nevertheless, he said it was too early to tell if that would translate into a more pro-Israel policy in Europe.

However, the shock of the attacks in the heart of a major European capital has led some countries to issue the kind of statements more commonly heard from Israeli spokesmen.

Visiting a main rail station in central Paris on Sunday, French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said it was necessary to be "particularly vigilant" but "one should not be overtaken by fear, because that would already give a victory to terrorism."

Similarly, the French press, which almost unanimously opposed military intervention in Iraq, described the attacks in Madrid as an attack on all European democracies rather than direct retribution for Spain’s support for the war or for U.S. policy in the Middle East.

In Germany, which fiercely opposed the Iraq war, editorialists wrote that giving in to terrorism wouldn’t stop the terrorists’ demands.

"The withdrawal from Iraq, as the designated Spanish prime minister now has announced, will have an effect comparable to what was produced by the withdrawal of the Israelis from Lebanon," Die Welt said in one editorial.

That resulted in a "bloody increase in Hezbollah attacks and the belief that the Jews ‘hang on to life in a cowardly way, while we are prepared to fight and die’ — as it was said at the time, and today again," the paper said.

While some Jewish leaders felt the attacks would further strain trans-Atlantic ties, European Muslim leaders were worried about a backlash similar to the one they felt after Sept. 11.

Haj Thai. Braze, head of the Union of French Islamic Organizations, the leading group on France’s recently created Muslim Council and an organization with strong ties to the international Muslim Brotherhood, said European states previously had been careful but now would come closer to U.S. policy.

The United States "is going to say, ‘Watch out — you should support the U.S.A. You’ve had your March 11 like we had our Sept. 11,’" he said. "I fear for a crusade against Islam and Muslims."

Marret dismissed that argument.

"Ultimately, the Madrid attacks will not have a marked effect on the European conscience like Sept. 11," he told JTA. "We have had catastrophic events on our soil. [World War I and II] marked Europe and changed policy, but not Madrid."

JTA Correspondents Ruth Gruber in Rome, Richard Allen Greene in London, Jerome Socolovsky in Madrid and Toby Axelrod in Berlin contributed to this article.