Look back over the past, with its changing empires that rose and fell, and you can foresee the future, too. Marcus Aurelius
Only yesterday, I quoted a Jewish mayor making a mysterious reference to “acts that are better not told” which is the translation of a Hebrew idiom meaning “crimes.” Not all crimes amount to robbery by the state; some of them are much subtler, their victims often remain unaware that they have been violated. This is the sad story of one of the new Sick man of Europe,* as defined in April 2007 by The Economist, who in early April 2013 faced economic death. On April 11, the British Telegraph published an article by Bruno Waterfield, entitled “Debt spiral could push Portugal into new bail-out, admits EU-IMF.” I won’t quote anything from it since its title is self explanatory, and it became obsolete shortly after the ink dried on its printed version
Protests in Portugal – April 2013 Lonely Planet Portugal
On April 15, Portugal and Ireland were awarded an IMF-EU Bailout extension; they got seven more years to repay their bailout loans. Portugal loans were about to expire in 2014; now the country will be able to get better terms from private lenders. This was the result of an hostile decision by Portugal’s Constitutional Court, which last week overturned part of the government’s austerity programme. The latter had been agreed in exchange for a 78 billion euros bailout from the European Union and IMF in 2010. If Portugal strays from the programme, it may not remain eligible for additional bailout money. The government’s answer was to call the current repayment schedule “impossible” and ask for an extension, which was awarded.
“Ultimately it is the combination of growth-enhancing structural reforms and consistent fiscal consolidation that will firmly re-establish investor confidence and ensure that the Irish and Portuguese people can put this very hard crisis behind them and move on,” said Olli Rehn, the European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs. Apparently not only I read these words with skepticism. Portugal is in a disastrous economic situation; Portuguese people know that, European people know that, and now it is obvious that also the Portuguese Government knows that. The latter wants also Mr. Rothschild to be aware; thus it took an extraordinarily odd step.
Remembering the Inquiry on Heretical Perversity
The Portuguese Inquisition took place between 1536 and 1821; formally the Inquiry on Heretical Perversity was a group of institutions within the judicial system of the Roman Catholic Church whose aim was to “fight against heretics,” its origins were French. In Portugal, it was closely related to the Spanish Inquisition. After Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, many moved to Portugal, but eventually left also this country, together with 400,000 Portuguese Jews. Nowadays, only between 1,000 and 1,500 Jews live in Portugal.
Against all odds, Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho addressed the issue in Lisbon’s Parliament, on April 3, 2013. It wasn’t during a commemorative event, but while amending the “Law on Nationality.”
When was the last time a law was approved unanimously in your country? If you happen to be Portuguese, the answer is simple: April 3, 2013. The motion had been submitted the day before by the Socialist and Center Right parties and approved unanimously as an amendment to Portugal’s Law on Nationality. The event was described as an attempt to “make amends” for a dark chapter in the history of Portugal.
The amendment allows descendants of Jews who were expelled in the 16th century to become citizens if they “belong to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin with ties to Portugal,” if they use “Sephardic names,” and if at home they speak Portuguese or Ladino. Applicants need not to reside in Portugal, an exception to the requirement of six years of consecutive residency in Portugal for any other applicant; hence this was an act of discrimination by the Portuguese Government.
Jose Oulman Carp, leader of the local Jewish community who had lobbied for the law reacted: “I expect that the amendment will attract some interest from members of the Jewish community of Turkey, a country which absorbed many Portuguese immigrants.” With these few words, he provided an invaluable link with the original Sick man of Europe.* The specific mention of Ladino (medieval Spanish spoken by Jews descendants from those expelled in 1492) alludes mainly to the Turkish Jewish community. “The next step is the creation of a bureaucratic framework for reviewing applications, which will probably involve the Jewish community of Lisbon and government officials,” he added. Yet, this step is unlikely to be the real reason. The few jobs to be created for the Jewish Community in Lisbon are insubstantial. They will remain as hungry as the remnant of the Portuguese people.
The amendment was an indirect call to rich Jews to invest in Portugal and save it from collapse. On April 16, Israeli newspaper Haaretz commented on the issue: “the law would attract investments by Jews seeking to settle in Portugal, one of the European Union’s most vulnerable economies.” Can you spare a dime, Mr. Rothschild?
* The “Sick man of Europe” is a phrase coined by Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, referring to the Ottoman Empire, which was falling under the financial control of the European powers and was losing territories. Letters from the British ambassador to St. Petersburg, Sir George Hamilton Seymour, to Lord John Russell, in 1853, quote Nicholas I of Russia as saying that the Ottoman Empire was “a sick man—a very sick man,” a “man” who “has fallen into a state of decrepitude”, or a “sick man … gravely ill.” The Ottoman Empire lost one of the WWI losers, giving way to the creation of modern Turkey. Since then, the phrase is used to denote a time of economic difficulty.
The caricature is from the London’s Punch Magazine, published on November 28, 1896. Sultan Abdul Hamid II looks at a poster announcing the reorganisation of the Ottoman Empire. The empire’s value is estimated at 5 million pounds. Russia, France and England are listed as directors of the enterprise. The Sultan says: “BISMILLAH! [For God’s sake!] Make me into a limited company? M’M – AH – S’pose [I suppose] they’ll allow me to join the board after allotment.”
Sick man of Europe Punch Magazine 1896
Roi Tov is a graduate—among others—of Tel Aviv University and the Weizmann Institute of Science. In addition to his memoir, Tov is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Molecular Physics and other scientific journals. He won various travel writing and photography awards.
In his writings, he tries to reveal life in Israel as a Christian Israel Defense Force (IDF) officer—from human rights violations to the use of an extensive network of underground agents. He was recognized first as a refugee and subsequently as political prisoner of Bolivia.