Maria de Belem Roseira, president of the Socialist Party, presented a bill that aims to attribute Portuguese nationality to the descendants of Sephardic Jews once forced to leave Portugal, which was then felt as a “second expulsion from Jerusalem.”
Ms. President, Messrs. and Mmes. Deputies,
The bill that the Parliamentary Group of the Socialist Party presents here today aims to allow the acquisition of Portuguese nationality by naturalization, to the decedents of Portuguese Sephardic Jews through the demonstration of the tradition and allegiance to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origins, based in the attestation of the objective requirements of Portuguese origins.
This solution follows the one that was adopted by our neighbor, Spain, in a democratic environment. I take this opportunity to salute Mr. Ambassador of Spain and the Jewish communities present here.
In the day that we celebrate 50 years of “Pacem in Terris”, I think it’s symbolically important for us to believe in peace and tolerance among peoples. But this bill is more than the definition of its objective. It is, actually, a reunion with the History of Portugal. And the statement of reasons, to which I refer, is the abundant justification of its righteousness and justice.
Although the Jewish diaspora in Iberian territories, according to Inácio Steinhardt, be hard to date accurately, the existing historic resources will make it possible for us to locate it before the birth of Jesus, being reinforced and extended with the facility of communication that the vastness of the Roman Empire allowed.
But what is very important to point out is the relevance of the roll that Jewish people played in the foundation of the Portuguese kingdom, right with D. Afonso Henriques and the Conquest of Santarém – Strategically indispensable for the conquest of Lisbon – and also during the Revolution of 1383, that allowed the consolidation of nationality, and later, in the Restoration War.
The centrality of the roll that the Jewish people plays in Portugal while owners of political and economic power, of the relationship with Europe, and also their knowledge in humanity and exact sciences was determining to the development of our history and expansion.
The recently created Rede Judiarias de Portugal (Jewish Neighborhoods Network of Portugal) introduces itself as having the special objective to allow the discovery of history of Jews in the history of Portugal. That’s a key work, since only by knowing our history we can know ourselves and project our collective future.
The establishment of the Inquisition in Portugal, imposed by Christian kings as a trade currency to the marriage of D. Manuel I and D. Isabel, who wasn’t an heir apparent, in a time when Jews represented one-fifth of the Portuguese population and the “Edict of Expulsion of Heretics”, in 1496, were taken as a “Second expulsion of Jerusalem”, according to the poetry at the time.
Many authors point out the degree difference between the appliance of the Inquisition
in Portugal and Spain. But such considerations, if true, neither can erase the ignominy caused by the abominable crimes committed by this institution, nor can they erase the expulsion or the condemnation of great characters of the Portuguese society, figures that were spreading their legacy across Europe, and the world of their time, represented the decapitation of national resources, in many expressions, both immaterial and material.
To prove it, there is the great stamp printed by those who were expelled or escaped, in the countries where they ran to, in the mastery of thinking, knowing and entrepreneurship.
These ignominies express the ethical, intellectual, economic and social impoverishment that fanaticism, intolerance and the obscurantism, all together, always generate, by producing monstrosities that embarrass us and that compromise not only the age that they’re produced, but also the ones ahead.
It meant, by anticipation, the practical translation to the concept of “Banality of Evil”, developed in our contemporaneity, aiming for the Holocaust. Of all those who fought against the Inquisition, an important one was Father António Vieira. For that, he was constantly pursued and even arrested. Many and reporting were the speeches he wrote. The lobbying he practiced over D. João IV, “not asking a favor, but justice”, or affirming that “if the judge hates, no matter how justified is the innocence of the accused, the sentence will never be fair.”
Repeatedly quoted by Anita Novinsky, Vieira argues, considering “the New-Christians, martyrs of the Catholicism itself, and subjected to a criminal court.”, “This is a place where innocents perish and perpetrators triumph because these have the medicine in the mouth and poison in the heart.”
Many authors describe masterfully what the Inquisition represented, as well as the persecutions that targeted the Jews in Portugal, expressing the deep feeling of the Portuguese-population feel. I address, only as examples, Oliveira Martins, in his “História de Portugal”, or Camilo Castelo Branco in “The Jew”. Antero de Quental considered the expulsion of the Jews as one of the causes for the decline of peninsular peoples. Practiced in the name of God or the purity of blood, its actual objective was to keep Jews from acquiring power, as well as get appropriation of their goods. The fanaticism, the intolerance and the blindness that the Inquisition represented only came closer to an end with the powerful Marquis of Pombal.
I recall the fact described by Cecil Roth, that in the sequence of orders dictated by the king D. José, that every Portuguese who had Jewish blood should use a yellow hat, the Marquis went to the court with three hats under the arms. Questioned by the king about what he wanted to do with them, the Marquis answered that following the orders, one was for he himself, another for the inquisitor and the last one, for the majesty.
This diploma to be approved is a practical demonstration of “The Idea of Justice”, by Amertya Sen: We not only need just Institutions and Persons, but also just realizations.
What the Parliamentary Group of the Socialist Party truthfully intends, after the apologies given to the Jewish people, in name of the Portuguese State, by the ex-President Mário Soares, in 1989, and paying tribute to our patrimony of tolerance, universalism and miscegenation, is that, within the existing possibilities, the sole of the Jews feet with Portuguese roots, here find rest, if so they wish.