Among the Xuetas of Majorca

The Mediterranean island of Majorca, which has been under Spanish rule since the 13th century, has only a small Jewish population. But about 20,000 of its residents are Xuetas—a special term for Majorcans of Jewish dissent—although only a small percentage of these actively identify as such. Ari Blaff tells their story:

Violent pogroms in the 14th century devastated the Majorcan Jewish community, which traced its roots back a millennium. Fearing for their survival, in 1435 the entire community underwent a mass conversion. Henceforth, no one among these “New Christians” practiced their Judaism publicly, although a smaller subgroup of crypto-Jews did in private.

Still, the conversions didn’t satisfy everyone. The Spanish Inquisition conducted periodic autos-da-fé (public burnings) singling out New Christians thought to have remained faithful to their Judaism. Suspected crypto-Jews persecuted by the Inquisition had their names written on sanbenitos [sackcloth caps or cloaks] that were publicly displayed in the Church of Santo Domingo in Palma (which is no longer existent).

By some estimates, the lists included hundreds of names. However, burgeoning renovation costs (alongside speculations of bribery to have one’s name removed) led authorities in the mid-1700s to preserve only fifteen surnames that persisted over the coming centuries on Majorca as a sign of forbidden Jewish roots. Descendants of these families came to be known as “Xuetas,” which some believe stems from combining the Catalan words xulla (bacon or pork) and Jueu (Jew). Although the surviving members of these Xueta families of crypto-Jews were spared the worst aspects of the Inquisition, their surnames were tainted by association.

For centuries, these fifteen families were effectively barred from marrying any other Majorcans and were forced to look for spouses within their small community.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Marranos, Sephardim, Spanish Inquisition

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict