(JTA) – Spanish Jews demanded the dismissal of Madrid’s alderman for culture because he posted a joke about the Holocaust on Twitter in 2011.
Guillermo Zapata, whose left wing party’s victory in last month’s municipal elections led to his assuming the post last week, four years ago wrote: “How do you fit five million Jews into a 600? In the ashtray.”
The figure 600 is a reference to the SEAT 600, an iconic Spain-made 1970s urban automobile that weighed less than 600 kilograms, or 1,200 lb. Bodies of murdered Jews and other victims of Nazism were regularly burned to ash in crematoria that the Nazis set up in extermination camps across Europe.
“In View of the anti-Semitic and repugnant joke by the alderman for culture of the municipal government of Madrid, Guillermo Zapata, the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain, FCJE, the organization that officially represents the Jewish communities in Spain, requests that mayor of Madrid, Manuela Carmena, ask for his resignation or that she dismiss him immediately,” FCJE wrote in a statement issued Sunday.
Zapata, a member of Carmena’s “Madrid Now,” or Ahora Madrid, a leftist party, apologized for any offense caused by his joke, but defended it as harmless.
Zapata wrote on Twitter Saturday that he was neither anti-Semitic, “nor a supporter of violence.” He added: “I apologize to all who may have been offended” by his statement.
But he also wrote that his joke was merely an expression of “black humour that helps reach catharsis.”
In its message, FCJE said Zapata was unfit to serve as an elected official.
“From a public official, we tolerate no racist, anti-Semitic, hate-inciting expressions that go against human dignity or the memory of the victims,” FCJE wrote. “Least of all from a representative of culture, who is neither educated nor cultured, nor versed in co-existence.” FCJE also called on municipal authorities to initiate legal action against Zapata.