ADL Dir. Abe Foxman
ADL Dir. Abe FoxmanYoni Kempinski

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reacted with "anger, shock and disbelief" at a decision by a Rome judge to fine an Italian journalist who had the courage to speak out against an anti-Semitic cartoon.

In a ruling last week, Judge Emanuela Attura ordered journalist Peppino Caldarola to pay a fine of 25,000 euros for slandering extreme-leftist writer Vauro Senesi, whose caricature of Italian Jewish politician Fiamma Nirenstein was published in 2008 in the communist newspaper Il Manifesto and has been widely condemned as anti-Semitic.

The cartoon, titled "Fiamma Frankenstein," depicted the Italian Jewish candidate for parliament as monster-like, with a hook-nose, fascist insignia and a Star of David emblazoned on her chest.  The cartoon was widely ciriticsized at the time of its publication.

"My reaction to this, like that of the Jewish community in Italy, is anger, shock and disbelief," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director.  "We are completely bewildered at this hypocritical judgment which turns the world upside down and punishes free speech while protecting anti-Semitic and bigoted speech.  Peppino Caldarola had the courage to stand up and say 'no' to anti-Semitism and bigotry. And for this he gets fined?"

Mr. Foxman, who is currently in Rome for a series of meetings with Italian government officials, said he was pleased that a fund has been established to help Mr. Caldarola pay the fine.  "We encourage Italians to make even a small donation to protest this ruling and support Mr. Caldarola for having the courage to speak out against anti-Semitism," he said.

ADL said it was particularly disturbed at reports that Judge Attura excused the anti-Semitism because Senesi had helped deliver medical aid to Pakistan.