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August 20, 2014 / 24 Av, 5774
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Portugal to Award Citizenship to Descendants of Expelled Jews

By: JTA

The parliament of Portugal is scheduled to vote on whether to naturalize descendants of 16th-century Jews who fled the country because of religious persecution.

The motion will be brought to a first reading on Thursday by Portugal’s Socialist Party and is expected to pass, as it has the support of the ruling Social Democratic Party, according to Jose Oulman Carp, president of Portugal’s Jewish community. Together the parties hold 80 percent of the Portuguese parliament’s 230 seats.

Carp called the motion “a huge development” and told JTA it proposes to give Portuguese citizenship to descendants of the Portuguese Inquisition, which began in 1536 and resulted in the expulsion of tens of thousands of people and the forced conversion into Christianity of countless others.

Portugal had a Jewish population of about 400,000, many of them refugees from neighboring Spain, where the Inquisition started in 1492. Spanish lawmakers are said to be drafting a similar motion.

“There is no way of knowing for certain how many people would become eligible for Portuguese citizenship if the law passes, and there is no bureaucratic system yet for vetting applications — all of that will have to come later,” said Carp, who has lobbied for the bill for several years.

Carp is hoping the measure will help attract new members to the country’s Jewish community of 1,000 to 1,500. The community would be involved in reviewing applications, he said. Many Portuguese refugees of the Inquisition settled in Turkey.

Popular support for the motion stems from a desire to “make amends” for a dark historical chapter in Portugal – a country that Carp describes as being “virtually free of anti-Semitism.” Some also hope the law would attract investments by Jews seeking to settle in Portugal, one of the European Union’s most vulnerable economies.

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One Response to “Portugal to Award Citizenship to Descendants of Expelled Jews”

  1. Colin Craig says:

    This is probabl.y one of the most stupid ideas that I have heard of for for some time. To much water has passed under the bridge and is of no value at all. The expalsions and forced conversions were a terrible part of Portuguese history and did Portugal little service in the future. Torkey benefited very much from the expulsions and made the most of the situation. I also have to say that I similar situation efected some of my ancestors in France as they were Hugenouts and they had the choice of conversion, expulsionand if they stayed certain death, as they said on the night of St. Bartholamew's day the streets run with blood of the slaughtered Hugenots.If I was offered French nationality I would refuse as it ios no value to me.

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