# 111 / Editorial

Why did Portugal and Spain, at the turn of the 2010s, wish to backtrack on the expulsion of their Jews by offering their descendants a right of return through renaturalization? Why did Dr. Jose Rebeiro o Castro, a Portuguese parliamentarian, take on the mission of bringing justice to the Jewish descendants of the Kingdom in this way? How did thousands of Jews around the world become eligible for this right of return? Quest for origins or quest for a passport: what were the motivations of those who took advantage of these laws? Tens of thousands of people from all over the world – from South America and Israel in particular – have applied for this right, either on their own or through law firms that have sensed a good opportunity. Requests to the point of saturation and suspicions of fraud that have raised new controversies difficult to untangle. This week, K. answers all these questions with a dossier on the so-called “law of return” for Portuguese Jews. It opens with an interview with the main promoter of the law in Portugal, former deputy Jose Rebeiro o Castro. Documentary filmmaker Juliette Senik goes to meet him and asks him about his intentions and the results, both symbolic and effective, of this historic initiative. Shortly after this meeting, the law in question was finally frozen. The Jewish community of Porto, having faced accusations about the validity of its certifications, is now accusing dark forces of plotting against Jews. Journalist Elie Petit looks back at the trajectory of a law that was passed unanimously, finally frozen, and which today retains a very bitter taste for some Portuguese Jews.

Following this dossier on the Portuguese case, we republish Juliette Senik’s report on the Spanish law which – 500 years after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in the name of “purity of blood” – also aimed to allow the descendants of yesterday’s victims to apply for naturalization today. This week’s package is a testament to the continuing concern and disruption of Jewish national sentiment in two European countries that have said they want to right a “historic wrong. And it is perhaps revealing that these laws, in Portugal as in Spain, first aroused such high hopes, before disappointment followed…

In the interview that documentary filmmaker Juliette Senik conducted for K. in the summer of 2022, Jose Rebeiro e Castro, the main initiator of the Law granting Portuguese nationality through naturalization to the descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews (often referred to as “the Law of Return”), the latter outlined his motives for doing so at that time. He also deplored the controversy caused by the alleged misuse of the Law of Return and the difficulties associated with the processing of an incredible number of applications. It appears that his fears were well founded since the law was frozen a few months later, at the end of a process described here by journalist Elie Petit.

After publishing a text in K. about her work as a documentary filmmaker on the issue of Jews regaining their Spanish nationality, the journalist Juliette Senik went to Lisbon to meet José Rebeiro e Castro, the policymaker behind the Law granting Portuguese nationality through naturalization to the descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews. Here is an opportunity to read an interview — conducted shortly before the Law was frozen — on the place of the Jews in Europe in the long history of their persecution and the attempts of a country to rewrite it.

More than 500 years after the expulsion of Spain’s Jews, and to everyone’s surprise, the Spanish parliament passed a law in 2015 to repair this “historic error” by allowing descendants of the expelled to apply for naturalization. Upon learning of this, documentary director Juliette Senik decided to set up her camera in the office of the Spanish consulate in Paris and follow the official in charge of processing naturalization applications…

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Thanks to the Paris office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation for their cooperation in the design of the magazine’s website.