Two Great Spanish Artists, Living under Suspicion of Jewish and Muslim Ancestry

The name of the 17th-century Spanish artist Juan de Pareja is forever associated with that of another great Spanish painter of the same period, Diego Velázquez, who painted a celebrated portrait of Pareja and also seems to have provided him with artistic training. But the connection between the two is more complicated than that: Pareja was born a slave, was purchased by Velázquez as a young man, and set free by Velázquez about twenty years later. A new exhibit about Pareja at the Metropolitan Museum reveals something else about the two, as Diane Cole writes:

Although Velázquez and Pareja were both practicing Catholics, they lived in a country where the judicial office known as the Spanish Inquisition investigated and persecuted any and all whom they suspected of religious heresy—in other words, any faith aside from devout Catholicism.

Particularly suspect were those whose ancestry was not considered “pure”—a group that included those with Jewish or Moorish ancestors. These people were often known as “New Christians,” a legal label passed from one generation to the next to ensure the continued control and authority of the powerful “Old Christian” aristocracy. No matter that such a conversion might have taken place a century or more before. “New” was an automatic disqualification for anyone seeking elevation from the royal court or acknowledgement of special merit.

Pareja was probably at least partially of Morisco, or Islamic, heritage. And Velázquez himself was possibly descended from Jewish conversos.

Read more at Forward

More about: Anti-Semitism, Conversos, Islam, Spanish Inquisition

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy