No One Expects an Empty Apology

So Majorca has apologised to the Jews for the Spanish Inquisition.

Francesc Antich, the regional president of the Balearic Islands, issued an official condemnation of the killings in what was heralded by Jewish groups as the first of its kind in Spain.

“We have dared to gather here to recognise the grave injustice committed against those Majorcans who were accused, persecuted, charged and condemned to death for their faith and their beliefs,” Mr Antich said at a memorial service held in Palma de Majorca.

Much like the wailing guilt fest we have endured over the transatlantic slave trade. At the time that Bristol was being exhorted to apologies to a somewhat bemused young black population for something that the people apologising didn’t do to other people long dead, I was scathing, just as I am scathing now and for th same reason.

An apology, to be meaningful, has to be an act of contrition from the person who perpetrated the slight. The Spanish Inquisition’s activities in the 15th Century were carried out by people long dead against other people, who are also long dead. They don’t care very much either way, being dead. I’m not sure that modern Jews give it over much thought these days –  and if they do they need to get out more.

There is an arrogant egotism involved in accepting the guilt of someone else –  and there is another matter, that of revisionism. The events of the 15th Century in Spain need to be observed in the light of the preceding war against the Islamic invaders. Spain had rid itself of the conquerors and Christendom was again in charge of the peninsular. At that time, Judaism and Islam were viewed with mistrust and it was in the light of this that the Inquisition acted and flourished. That it was a malignant perversion of Christianity is pretty much a matter of record, but to apologise for that some six centuries later is absurd.

With modern eyes we have the luxury of looking back at such events with disdain. But, then, we hadn’t just fought a war against a conqueror. It is not up to us to judge those people with the sensibilities of our times. If we judge them it must be with the sensibilities of theirs. The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there. They believed differently, their experience was different, their society was different.

But, ultimately, those people alive today who have assumed the effrontery to apologise on their behalf did not commit the atrocities. The people in receipt did not suffer from them. Any apology therefore is hollow, meaningless gesture politics. The politics of self-hatred.

No apology is due and none should have been proffered.

5 comments for “No One Expects an Empty Apology

  1. dearieme
    May 7, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    When Spain signed over Gibraltar to Britain, they extracted a promise not to let Moors or Jews settle there. About a quarter century ago the Spanish government protested to Britain that the Gibraltar Chief Minister, Sir Joshua Hassan, was both a Moor and a Jew.

    • May 7, 2011 at 7:48 pm


      hmm, I’ll take your word for it. It makes me think of something: I don’t advocate this but imagine if the UK announced it was handing back Gibraltar… to Morocco.

  2. May 7, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    Can we look forward to an apology from Ankara for the forced Islamification of parts of the Balkans, the fallout of which is with us still? Not to mention the rape of Jerusalem, Constantinople and the burning of the Library of Alexandria which gives the lie to the claim that Islam preserved the knowledge of the ancients while Europe slumbered in the Dark Ages; no they didn’t, they willfully destroyed most of it, all we have left are the scraps.

    I’m eagerly awaiting an apology from Gaddafi for his ancestors slave raiding throughout the Mediterranean and as far afield as Ireland and Iceland.

    • May 8, 2011 at 3:37 am

      Or one from Sweden, Norway and Denmark for the Viking raids, or one from France for the Norman conquest, or one from Italy for the Roman invasion (what have they ever done for us? 😉 ). Why is the apology industry so one sided? Why does it consist almost entirely of developed nations’ leaders apologising to poorer nations (or who were much poorer at the time whatever it was happened)? What gives those leaders the right to decide that the sins of their fathers, and even their fathers’ fathers’ fathers’ fathers’ etc, are to be visited on the current generation? And with all these events in the distant past and with all the mixing of ancestries going on since what the hell difference does it make? Take Kevin Rudd’s apology to aborigines on behalf of white Australia or Tony Blair’s fake regret over the Irish Potato Famine. Many descendants of those on the receiving end actually have ancestry on both sides, which tends to suggest there might have been some personal and horizontal making up already, and at the least means some people are being apologised to on behalf of themselves. The whole bloody idea is patently ridiculous and is often a cop out used to put off doing something more meaningful for people today (not that I’d necessarily agree with that either).

  3. Lord T
    May 8, 2011 at 10:21 am

    Why don’t all these people even apologise for what they themselves actually do.

    They all like to apologise so why can’t we have Blair and Brown apologising for dragging the UK down to a third world country.

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