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Op-Ed: The Italian Anti-Semitism Report

Forget la dolce vita, even though Italy and Israel have held joint air drills recently.
Published: Wednesday, November 09, 2011 5:25 PM


In October 2009 Italian Parliament voted to commission a study of anti-Semitism in the country.

Now the committee’s report has been released, and its findings are well worth attending to.

Another study recently published by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, a think-tank affiliated with Germany’s Social Democratic Party confirms the high levels of anti-Semitism in Italy.

Fully 22% of Italians between the ages of 18 and 29 are hostile to Jews, and the figure is even higher among males in northern Italy.

One-fourth of Italians surveyed agreed with the statement: “Considering Israel’s policy, I can understand why people do not like Jews”.

One-third of Italians regard Jews as “not very nice,” and one-fourth don’t consider them “fully Italian”.

Among Italians between the ages of 18 and 34, 22% are anti-Semitic, even though 71% of them “had never had any direct contact with Jews”.

In recent years, Italy witnessed a horrible wave of attacks on Israel and the Jews. The city of Turin hosted a “cultural festival” where the image of Shimon Peres was used as a shoe-throwing target. For one euro, the students had the chance to hit the face of Israel’s president, who was fitted with a Nazi-style Jewish nose.

Jewish politicians, journalists and jurists have been named on a hit-list as “slaves of the Jewish mafia” by a website Holywar.org, illustrated by pictures of handcuffs made in the shape of a Magen David. The author of this article is also listed in that black list.

In July 2011 a website called for the “blacklisting” of more than 160 Jewish professors who teach at Italian universities.

Violent attacks on the Jews are also on the rise. On the day of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit to Rome last June, an elderly Jewish man, Raffi Cohen, was found stabbed to death in the doorway of his home in Rome’s Nomentano quarter.

An Israeli student at the University of Genoa has been harassed and threatened with death by Muslim students shouting at him “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is great) and “Itbach el Yahud” (slaughter the Jews.) Another Israeli student at the University of Turin, Amit Peer, confessed that “the Jews here are hiding their own identity because they risk becoming a target”.

Israeli attaché Shai Cohen was prevented from speaking at Pisa University after a violent attack by students, who called out “butcher, fascist, assassin.” The Israeli ambassador, Ehud Gol, fled Florence University after a similar “protest.”

Last year, a large group of public figures from across the political spectrum signed a petition titled “Hands Off Iran” which referred to the “so-called Holocaust” and argued that “international democracy is violated by Israel in the name of a racist biblical right”.

Demonization of the Jews is spreading in the newspapers. Leftist daily “Il Manifesto” published a caricature of a Jewish candidate for parliament, Fiamma Nirenstein, with Fascist insignia, a campaign button and a Star of David. L’Unità, the newspaper of the liberal Democratic Party, published an interview with anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes, where she claimed that Israel is a world leader in organ trafficking. Some mainstream newspapers accepted to run an ad by Ucoii, the largest Islamic organization in Italy, entitled “Nazi Bloodshed Yesterday, Israeli Bloodshed Today.”

An Italian court ruled that the Nazification of Israel came under “freedom of expression” and was not a case of incitement to hatred. Meanwhile, the Riccione city council sponsored a meeting against “the militarism of Israel,” explaining that “Israeli governments don’t represent the Jewish people”.

In the Italian newspaper world, not being anti-Israel is highly costly.

The Coop and Conad, two of the largest supermarket chains, for some weeks removed Israeli products from their shelves in the name of a boycott of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria. Flaica, a trade union with 8,000 members working in large-scale retail, promoted the boycott of “all Rome shops managed by Jews” and drew up lists of Jewish-owned shops to be avoided, because of “what is happening in Gaza”.

In Rome, a new pro-Hamas Freedom Flotilla has been presented last summer in the official buildings of the Professional Order of the Journalists, a body financed by the Italian government. Some members of Turkish terror group IHH were also on hand.

Antisemitism is fashionable among intellectuals, journalists and academicians. The phenomenon goes back to Giorgio Forattini, Italy’s leading political cartoonist, who in a 1982’s caricature showed a suited Menachem Begin dead, hanging from a cedar of Lebanon with twenty coins falling off his body. The reference is to Judas Iscariot’s thirty shekels.

Actress Sabina Guzzanti attacked the “Jewish race” in a primetime television program.

Literary guru Alberto Asor Rosa wrote in a book on the transformation of the Jews from “a persecuted race” to “a warrior persecutor race.”

Renowned leftist philosopher Gianni Vattimo declared that he had “re-evaluated” “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and now felt they largely reflect the truth about the Jews.

Pro-Palestinian groups just recently marched into the ghetto, shouting “Fascist” and “Assassins” to the Jews, some of them Holocaust survivors.

Italy is no more la dolce vita. The street that I walk on every day is close to Rome’s largest synagogue and Jewish school. The temple looks like a military outpost: private guards, metal detectors, cameras and policemen at every corner. Whene there is a religious ceremony, the police always close the entire neighbourhood. All school windows are covered with iron grates against the throwing of firebombs.

I saw the same in the Jewish homes of Hebron and in the schools of Sderot.