Backlash Among Italian Jews Over New Israeli Envoy

Leaders of Italy's Jewish community fear appointment of fiercely pro-Israel Fiamma Nirenstein will prompt charges of dual loyalty.

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Cynthia Blank,

Fiamma Nienstein
Fiamma Nienstein
Prime Minister's Office

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's recent appointment of Fiamma Nirenstein as Israel's ambassador to Italy has raised a quiet backlash among the Italian Jewish community, Haaretz reports Thursday.  

The award-winning journalist and former Italian parliamentarian is best known by Italians for her fierce support for the Jewish state. She has been a staunch defender of Israel in Italian media every time its policies were challenged. 

But for Italian Jews, many of whom are also pro-Zionist and support Netanyahu's policies, fear has spread that Nirenstein's appointment will prompt accusations of dual loyalty. 

According to Haaretz, many of the Jewish community's leaders have already expressed criticism "privately or off the record."

Rome's Chief Rabbi Riccardo di Segni was one of the few who spoke out on the issue, telling Italian news agency ANSA: "she's a very good journalist. But I fear there may be problems… just read what's already on the social networks about her dual citizenship."

(Due to her appointment as ambassador, Nirenstein, who made aliyah in 2013, will have to renounce her Italian citizenship.)

Senior figures in the Jewish community say di Segni's remarks are reflective of the sentiment that has emerged in the wake of Nirenstein's appointment. 

"It's problematic," one senior member of the community told Haaretz. "If they appointed her as Israel's envoy in the UN or in another capital it would be alright. But appointing her as ambassador to Rome could make people ask if Italy's Jews are Israeli or Italian. It could even harm other Jews' chance of being elected to the Italian parliament, or to senior government posts in the future."

That scenario is not theoretical. Nirenstein's cousin is a parliamentarian currently making a bid in the Milan mayoral elections. Immediately after the announcement, he issued a statement declaring himself both proud to be an Italian and of his family's success. 

Furthermore, Nirenstein's son, who works in the Italian intelligence service, may be forced out of his job, due to a law that prevents someone with a nuclear family member serving as a foreign diplomat from working in Italian intelligence.   








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