Mara Carfagna
Mara Carfagna Reuters

Mara Carfagna, who served as Italy’s Minister for Equal Opportunity between 2008 and 2011, gave an interview in February to Italian pro-Israel website L’Informale, The interview has been picked up by the Jihad Watch blog and Hebrew-language media in recent days.

Carfagna, who was chosen by Silvio Berlusconi to head the civil and human rights section of his party, told the website she does not think Israel’s case is very hard to understand, “if you look at reality, not through the lenses of anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish prejudice.”

“I have faith in the history, traditions, and culture of Israel,” she explained. “But above all, I believe in the rights of the Jewish people. The right to claim a homeland, to live in security, not to suffer discrimination of any kind. I believe that myopic refusal to recognize the right of Israel to exist as the state of the Jews is very often linked more to prejudices than to political arguments.

“The West cannot abandon Israel, because that would mean abandoning itself,” she pressed on. “Israel is the West’s bridgehead in an area where democracy, freedom and human rights are still struggling to establish themselves... Our fundamental values ​​cannot be overshadowed or pushed aside by economic interests.”

Carfagna noted that she publicly opposed the EU decision to mark products made in Judea and Samaria. “There are many territorial disputes in the world and I do not understand what prompted the European Union to act against Israel. I saw it as discrimination, and I am notoriously against all forms of discrimination.”

Carfagna credited erstwhile leader Berlusconi with radically changing the perception of the Jewish state in Italy, abandoning the “neutral” position of his predecessors. He was the first Italian prime minister to speak to the Israeli parliament, she noted, and “on that occasion, using the beautiful term coined by Pope John Paul II on his visit to the Rome Synagogue on April 13, 1986, he referred to the Israelis as ‘our elder brothers' and called Netanyahu an 'apostle of peace.'”

Asked about anti-Semitism in Italy, she insisted that it continues to be a place where Jewish citizens feel welcome. “Our police forces and intelligence forces do great work to prevent and combat all forms of intolerance, xenophobia and anti-Semitism,” she said. “They fight every day to make us feel safe. The invaluable work they do every day, and we must constantly thank them, has made Italy into an example that is followed worldwide.”

However, she conceded, this is not the case elsewhere in Europe. “It makes me angry to know that there are European Jewish citizens who do not feel safe wearing the kippah, or that many are making Aliyah. That there are Jewish children who are afraid to go to school and Jewish institutions that are under attack. There have been several attacks in recent years, from Paris to Brussels, from Toulouse to Copenhagen. We have a duty to fight against all this and against a form of terrorism that claims to kill in God's name. There cannot be any kind of tolerance. All countries must apply the principle of zero tolerance and combat ignorance and indifference before they turn into hatred and anti-Semitism.”