Spain’s Economy: Crisis? Disaster? Chance for Renewal?

The story of Spain’s economy is a long and complex one, and has always involved meta-global factors. Here is but the latest chapter.

Bailout Of Spain Could Spell Trouble For Euro

The New York Times (Nov 24, 2010)

MADRID — Europe so far has survived the bailout of Greece. The financial rescue of Ireland also is manageable. Even if Portugal becomes the third country to succumb and seek aid, as many people widely predict, it is unlikely to push Europe to the financial brink.

But any bailout of Spain — with an economy twice the size of the other three combined — could severely stress the ability of Europe’s stronger countries to help the financially weaker ones, and spell deep trouble for the euro, Europe’s common currency. Even though Spain, like Ireland, has adopted an austerity plan to help it avoid the need for a bailout, it still could need aid if its banking system proves frailer than the government thinks it is, as was the case in Ireland.

This troubling possibility has unnerved lenders, with Spain’s borrowing costs rising even though Madrid has cut its deficit and the country’s banks maintain they have sufficient strength to absorb their bad real estate loans. “Europe can afford the collapse of Ireland, even perhaps that of Portugal, but not that of Spain, so Spain’s ultimate line of defense is in fact this knowledge that it’s too big to fail and that it represents a systemic risk for the euro,” said Pablo Vázquez, an economist at the Fundación de Estudios de Economía Aplicada, a research institute here. Continue reading

Subliminal: Mizrachi poster-child for the contradictory mess that is Israeli “political culture”

“In the past, critics have viewed Subliminal’s mass appeal with an elitist suspicion that led them to dismiss him as a populist rightwing extremist. But with such broad strokes, critics also forfeit the chance to explore the complexity, contradiction, and outright confusion that characterizes Subliminal’s music, lyrics, and public persona, and the problematic political culture that he represents. For anyone seeking to understand Israel’s right turn in recent years—a trend exemplified by the government’s decision to require loyalty oaths from its non-Jewish population—Subliminal’s music seems like a good place to start…

“How does a nice Jewish boy from the Tel Aviv suburbs appropriate a cultural form of protest once reserved for inner-city black youths? I sat with Subliminalone evening this August, drinking coffee in a quiet bistro in the modest northern Tel Aviv neighborhood where he grew up and still lives, just a few houses down from the home of Kadima party leader Tzipi Livni. He is dark skinned and wide bodied, with a trim beard and black clothes, and the first impression he gives off—by his own admission—is the air of an Arab. If not for his Cheshire-cat smile, he could easily be mistaken for an intimidating figure. (“When I go abroad people are always surprised to meet me,” he said. “No one believes Jews could look like me.”)

“The son of immigrant parents—his father fled Tunisia and his mother Iran—Subliminal, 31, came of age during the chronically unstable days after the Oslo peace accords. Like many teenagers at the time, he listened to American rappers like Public Enemy, N.W.A, and Notorious B.I.G. Like other youth around the world, Subliminal found a message to which he could relate in those rappers’ dissident culture and protest lyrics. “I have always been a proud Zionist,” he explained. “But when I was growing up, being a Zionist was tantamount to being the outcast. The prevailing vibe around me was more in tune with the anarchic messages of [popular Israeli rock artist] Aviv Geffen and his motto that we were ‘a fucked-up generation.’”

Read more at Tablet Magazine…

Cadiz, Spain: The Oldest Living City in Western Europe?

Cadiz is a city and port in southwestern Spain. It is the capital of the Cadiz Province, one of eight which make up the autonomous community of Andalusia.

Cadiz, the oldest continuously-inhabited city in the Iberian Peninsula and possibly of all southwestern Europe,[1] has been a principal home port of the Spanish Navy since the accession of the Spanish Bourbons in the 18th century. It is also the site of the University of Cádiz.

Despite its unique site — on a narrow spit of land surrounded by the sea — Cadiz is, in most respects, a typically Andalusian city with a wealth of attractive vistas and well-preserved historical landmarks. The older part of Cadiz, within the remnants of the city walls, is commonly referred to as the Old City (in SpanishCasco Antiguo). It is characterized by the antiquity of its various quarters (barrios), among them El Populo, La Viña, and Santa Maria, which present a marked contrast to the newer areas of town. While the Old City’s street plan consists largely of narrow winding alleys connecting large plazas, newer areas of Cádiz typically have wide avenues and more modern buildings. In addition, the city is dotted by numerous parks where exotic plants, including giant trees supposedly brought to Spain by Columbus, flourish.

The city was originally founded as Gadir (Phoenician גדר“walled city”) by the Phoenicians, who used it in their trade with Tartessos, a city-state believed by archaeologists to be somewhere near the mouth of the Guadalquivir River, about thirty kilometres northwest of Cadiz. (Its exact location has never been firmly established.)

Cadiz is the most ancient city still standing in Western Europe.[1] Traditionally, its founding is dated to 1104 BC[4] although no archaeological strata on the site can be dated earlier than the 9th century BC. One resolution for this discrepancy has been to assume that Gadir was merely a small seasonal trading post in its earliest days. Continue reading

Yehuda al-Harizi: The Medieval Jewish “Aristotle” + “Chaucer”?

Woe to the fools like wild asses they bray,
Beside fountains of Eden yet thirst they all day,
Manna before their eyes but their eyes are blind,
They go forth to gather but none do they find.
-Yehuda al-Harizi

al-Harizi’s decision to translate the most popular Arabic work of the age, move back to the East, and span the full generic range available to him in his own work, also indicates an acute and often very moving awareness of the need to document a past about to be lost.  His position, then, for the Hebrew/Jewish culture of the Levant is analogous to that of Aristotle’s in the Hellenic world and Chaucer’s in medieval Europe.  All three gather paradigms in an attempt to fend off the sweeping effects of changing orders without realizing the overarching trajectory of their gestures, the fact that their work would go on to reanimate the life of forms by sustaining the specific knowledge contained within them.
-Ammiel Alcalay, After Jews and Arabs: Remaking Levantine Culture

Yehuda Alharizi, also Judah ben Solomon Harizi or al-Harizi (Hebrewיהודה בן שלמה אלחריזי‎, Yehudah ben Shelomo al-HariziArabicيحيا بن سليمان بن شاؤل أبو زكريا الحريزي اليهودي من أهل طليطلة‎, Yahya bin Sulaiman bin Sha’ul abu Zakaria al-Harizi al-Yahudi min ahl Tulaitila) was a rabbi, translator, poet and traveller active in Spain in the Middle Ages (in Toledo? – 1165, in Aleppo – 1225). He was supported by wealthy patrons, to whom he wrote poems and dedicated compositions.

He was a rationalist, conveying the works of Maimonides and his approach to rationalistic Judaism. He translated Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed and some of his Commentary on the Mishnah, as well as theMahbarot Iti’el of the Arab poet al-Hariri, from the Arabic to Hebrew.

Alharizi’s poetic translation of the Guide for the Perplexed is considered by many to be more readable than that of Samuel ben Judah ibn Tibbon. However, it has not been very widely used in Jewish scholarship, perhaps because it is less precise. It had some influence in the Christian world due to its translation into Latin.[1]

Alharizi’s own works include the “Tahkemoni”, composed between 1218 and 1220, in the Arabic form known as maqama. This is written in Hebrew in unmetrical rhymes, in what is commonly termed rhymed prose. It is a series of humorous episodes, witty verses, and quaint applications of Scriptural texts. The episodes are bound together by the presence of the hero and of the narrator, who is also the author. Another collection of his poetry was devoted to preaching ethical self-discipline and fear of heaven.

Harizi undertook long journeys in the lands of the Middle East. His works are suffused with his impressions from these journeys.

He not only brought to perfection the art of applying Hebrew to secular satire, but he was also a brilliant literary critic and his maqama on the Andalusian Hebrew poets is a fruitful source of information.[2]

[Source: Wikipedia]

PAPER: “Miracle-Making Christians, Undead Muslims and Superseded Jews”

“Miracle-Making Christians, Undead Muslims and Superseded Jews”

by Jesse Brenner

In her essay “Dead Neighbors Archive: Jews, Muslims and the Enemy’s Two Bodies,” Kathleen Biddick attempts to show how essentialist and reductionist medieval Christian theological portrayals of the Jew and the Muslim still haunt the field of political theology today.  At the same time, she opens the discussion to some of the ways in which Jewish historians and theologians of the twentieth century have internalized and expressed these portrayals to validate their own political legitimacy within a Christian European historical narrative.  Susannah Heschel’s “Jesus as Theological Transvestite” expands the field of inquiry on politically and theologically motivated essentialized notions of The Jew to encompass gendered depictions.  She  problematizes the tropes of “feminized” depictions of Paulian Christianity’s “mastery” over Judaism as an inferior and subservient religion.  She accomplishes this by showing how nineteenth century Protestant theologians used notions of the “historical Jesus” to create a horrifying “transvestite” Jew that represented the most abohorrent qualities of both male and female while, at the same time, transferring to Christianity the higher qualities that have historically beenassociated with each gender.

The iconography of the Mystic Mill from the abbey of Cluny in Vézelay is the visual representation of the transformative moves made by Christian theologianslike Peter the Venerable during the twelfth century.  Peter deployed the semiotic power of this iconography to foreclose Judaism’s claims to legitimacy, authority, and meaning.  The Mystic Mill depicts the grain of Moses’s hands (i.e. Judaism) being transformed into the refined flour (i.e. true revelation) in the hands of Paul.  This single image communicates the “fulfillment” of Mosaic Law in Christianity by way of the the Eucharist, which both “literally” and “figuratively” represent this process.

Indeed, the great fear of typological relationships for medieval Christianity was that the three-sided figure of the literal-figurative-truth relationship is always potentially reversible, and thus “the figura, the Christian, is always at excarnating risk of becoming Jewish (again), becoming the littera, the Jew.”[1] The historical knowledge that Jesus (and the Disciples) were Jews – officially acknowledged by liberal Protestant theologians of the nineteenth century “historical Jesus” movement, but also implicit in the theology of Peter the Venerable – supplies the “grain” of authority that Jesus through Paul and the Church have “refined” and “fulfilled” as Christianity.  Yet contained within this premise is not only the suppressed horror of the potentiality of reversion to Judaism, but the theological and historical ambiguity that always threatens “losing the boundaries that constitute [the] self-definition” of one’s Christian-ness.[2]

For Heschel’s nineteenth century Protestants, this “horror” was magnified through a heavily gendered lens.  Heschel makes use of the “idea of the transvestite” and the “sense of confusion and displacement that underlies the absence of a fixed referential to gender” that it invokes to help elucidate “the anxiety over the self-definition of the two religions” that informed both Paulian philosophy and more modern struggles for identity.[3] For example, Christian theology ascribes a certain unique and damnable brand of evil to the “Pharisaic religion” into which Jesus was both literally and figurative born.  First century Pharisaic Judaism is described using terms like “bondage,” “murder,” “abomination,” “shackles,” and “enraged frenzy.”[4] At the same time, the Jew is portrayed as needing punishment for her/his sins.  The combined effect is to “empty Jewish law of any authority, emasculating it even while describing its stereotypically masculine harshness, rigidity, and lack of mercy and sympathy.”[5]

In doing so, anti-Judaic proponents of Christian theology have been able to assign to Judaism the negative imagery of both masculine and feminine stereotypes, while simultaneously claiming the positively perceived aspects of each typology for itself.  Just as the twisted, demonic, and ungendered/multigendered creatures that inhabit horror films are meant to produce a feeling of terror,[6] so too is the threat of Judaism as both a masculinized monstrosity “manifesting the sinfulness of the Adamic nature of fallen humanity”[7] and the inferior, feminized relic that has given way to Christianity’s “eschatological ‘new Creation’” of a “new eternal world of the resurrection.”[8] Continue reading