Newly Appointed Spanish Official Steps Down After Antisemitic Tweets Resurface
A newly appointed Spanish official in Madrid stepped down on Monday after antisemitic messages the activist politician sent out in 2011 surfaced amid his appointment.
Though he issued an apology for offensive comments he made during a purported discussion on the “limits of humor” in 2011, Guillermo Zapata stepped down from the role of Madrid cultural councilor amid a public outcry over his antisemitic “jokes.”
His resignation also follows a massive social media campaign mobilized under the hashtag #ZapataDimision (Resign, Zapata), just a day after Spain’s local elections were swept by left-wing parties that grew out of the indignados (Outaged) protest movement of 2011. Two Spanish left-wing leaders became mayors in Madrid and Barcelona.
A recent poll by Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia showed that 88 percent of Spaniards thought Zapata should step down.
Jewish human rights group, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, meanwhile, called on the newly elected Mayor of Madrid Manuela Carmena and another left-wing leader to resign together with Zapata.
SWC Director for International Relations Dr. Shimon Samuels welcomed Zapata’s resignation as “an encouraging sign that public opinion may realize that the language of fascism and antisemitism threatens the integrity of Spain.”
“Otherwise, the new Parliamentary law granting citizenship to Sephardi Jews as ‘mea culpa‘ for their expulsion in 1492 would have been seriously compromised,” said Samuels, referring to a bill in Spain that would allow Jews claiming Spanish ancestry to apply for citizenship.
Zapata made the remark that came to haunt his political career back in 2011, as intense protests erupted around Spain over a faltering economy and mass unemployment.
“How would you fit five million Jews in a (SEAT) 600 [a locally made small car]? In the ashtray,” Zapata wrote on Twitter, according to the Times of Israel. According to Spain’s English-language The Local, Zapata had also sent out a Tweet insulting the victim of an attack by a separatist Basque group.
Left-wing political leader Juan Carlos Monedero defended Zapata, saying his comments were taken out of context.
Zapata took to another social media site on Sunday, this time Tumblr, apologizing for the remarks and saying they were made within the bounds of a discussion on humor.
“Now some of those tweets, which were written within the context of a conversation on black humor, have been recovered with the goal of presenting them as though they represented my ideas — while in fact I do not defend them at all,” said Zapata, adding that the discussion was prompted by the firing of a Spanish journalist at a major newspaper over Holocaust denial.
“I firmly condemn all forms of racism, and, of course, anti-Semitism,” Zapata wrote.