The rising trend in antisemitism observed in the year 2000
continued into 2001/2. About one hundred antisemitic incidents were reported,
including two violent acts in 2001 and one in early 2002. The impact of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a leading cause in the escalation of
antisemitism. Right-wing extremists exploited the anti-Israel/anti-Jewish
atmosphere to intensify their antisemitic activity, while extreme left-wingers
and anti-globalization activists radicalized their anti-Israel/anti-Zionist and
sometimes explicitly antisemitic rhetoric and participated in violently
Some 30,000 Jews live in Italy
out of a total population of 57 million. The largest communities are in Rome (15,000) and Milan
(10,000); smaller communities exist in Turin,
Florence, Livorno, Trieste, Genoa
and several other cities. Jews have been present in Italy for over two thousand years and have developed unique
customs and traditions
The Unione delle Comunità
Ebraiche Italiane (UCEI) is the roof organization of Italian Jewry. It
represents the community in official matters and provides religious, cultural
and educational services. There are Jewish schools in the main communities. The
Jews of Rome publish a monthly journal, Shalom, and the Milan community puts out the monthly Bollettino. In
March 2002 Dr. Riccardo Di Segni was formally invested as chief rabbi,
replacing Rabbi Elio Toaff who had occupied the post for 50 years.
PARTIES AND EXTRA-PARLIAMENTARY GROUPS
Right and Extreme Right Political Parties
Alleanza Nazionale (National Alliance – AN)
is led by Gianfranco Fini, currently deputy prime minister in the Berlusconi government.
In the May 2001 national elections the AN obtained 96 seats (out of 630) in the
Chamber of Deputies and 46 seats (out of 324) in the Senate. The AN political
program emphasizes traditional Catholicism (i.e., Catholicism that opposes the
“neo-modernist” position of the Church but accepts its hierarchy) and law and
order, especially laws aimed at controlling immigration. In the latter respect,
the AN competes for voters with the other traditionalist governmental party,
Lega Nord (see below).
Since its foundation in 1995 Fini has
tried to gloss over AN’s origins in the neo-fascist Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI),
portraying it as a democratic conservative party which rejects racism and
antisemitism and supports Israel. The
position of the UCEI toward the AN is twofold. On the one hand, it accepts Fini’s
position as a democratically elected party leader and government representative
and admits that his relations with the State of Israel can only be decided by Israel itself (see ASW 2000/1).
On the other hand, the UCEI demands that the party and its leader issue a
declaration acknowledging the responsibility of the Repubblica Sociale Italiana
(RSI; 1943–45), which arrested and deported Jews in collaboration with Nazi
Germany. While he considered a series of statements made by the AN leader a
substantial change in the right direction, UCEI president Amos Luzzatto noted
that “the party’s intermediate ranks” seemed to think differently. Fini, for
his part, continued to reiterate that the 1995 AN founding congress declaration,
which repudiated racism and antisemitism (see ASW 1995/6), clearly
formulated the party’s stand on this issue.
On 24 January, during a Holocaust memorial
ceremony organized by the Memory Dialogue and Peace Foundation, Fini declared before
about thirty deputies and senators from all parties: “It is important to
remember … so that such atrocities will never be repeated.”
At the same time, Fini is always
careful to follow the party line of equating the horrors of Nazism to those of
communism. Thus, during an official visit to Trieste in June 2001, Fini paid homage to both the concentration
camp in the rice fields of San Sabba and to the victims of the foiba (ravines)
of Basovizza, where hundreds of Italians were killed by Tito’s partisans.
Within the party there are many examples
of a desire to keep alive the myths of the fascist and the neo-fascist period. These
include continuous attempts by mayors aligned with the AN to rename streets and
squares in towns and cities under their administration after fascist figures
(for example, Via Nicola Pende in Pesche, Isernia, and Via Benito Mussolini in
Tremestieri, Catania); a website run by an AN-affiliated Bergamo town councilor
Enzo De Canio, which disseminates images of the Belgian Nazi Leon Degrelle; and
publication in the party organ Il Secolo d’Italia of articles that favorably
re-evaluate collaborationist intellectuals or events in fascist history, such
as the colonial period in Libya.
In keeping with the party line to
rewrite history so that RSI fascist fighters and partisans are given equal
treatment as patriots, a mass was held in 2001 on the 13th anniversary of the
death of veteran MSI leader Giorgio Almirante. Along with news of the event, Il
Secolo d’Italia published a eulogy by Fini. It should be stressed that the
trend to glorify RSI fighters and to advance other themes professed by the
neo-fascist right are considered by some center-right supporters as options no
less legitimate that those of the democratic left. According to Il Secolo
d’Italia, one delegate declared during the party national assembly (June
2001) that many figures who had made MSI history were part of the current
government and that “the party’s ties to its roots will never be forgotten.”
In an interview on 26 January 2002 to
the press agency AGR (Agenzia Giornalistica Radio Televisiva), journalist Enzo
Palmesano, a delegate to the AN assembly and author of the antisemitism amendment
approved at the first AN congress in 1995, reiterated that anti-Jewish bias was
still present in the party. He also said that Fini himself harbored many stereotypical
prejudices, such as believing that the Jews considered themselves first Jewish
and then Italian, and that an omnipotent Jewish lobby actually existed. In
September 2001, Palmesano pointed out that part of the amendment condemning the
1938 racial laws had been omitted from the list of founding congress resolutions
published on the AN home page.
It should be noted, too,
that some peripheral party associations disseminate antisemitic propaganda on
their websites. The website of Azione Giovani, the youth party organization in
Sardegna, for instance, published a suggested reading list including works by Nazi
authors, neo-fascist cult books, texts arguing against the 1993
anti-discrimination Mancino law and Holocaust denial tracts. It also has links to
the bookstore of Fronte Nazionale founder Franco Freda, to a Holocaust denial site
and to a skinhead home page. The website of the Cagliari cultural association Vico San Lucifero, associated with the
AN, offers links to Forza Nuova and other neo-fascist and antisemitic home
Lega Nord (Northern League – LN) is led by Umberto
Bossi, currently minister of devolution in the Berlusconi government. After the
May 2001 national elections, the LN obtained 30 seats in the Chamber of
Deputies and 17 seats in the Senate. The LN appears to have abandoned its
secessionist program, but continues to underline and build a so-called Padanian
identity, dating back to the ancient Celts. Like the AN, its political platform
focuses on law, order and security, including closing Italy’s borders to immigrants from less developed,
particularly Muslim, countries. Despite links to fundamental (Lefebvrist) Catholicism,
the official line is to embrace traditional Catholicism and its values as an
indispensable component of the “original” Italian culture. A few members have an
extreme right-wing history, including Mario Borghezio, a European Parliament representative.
While the LN position toward the Jews
and Israel is basically friendly, the
anti-foreigner atmosphere and the exploitation of themes such as the revival of
cultural purity and ethnicity and the concept of Catholicism as the state
religion could be turned against the Jewish public. Moreover, in members’ speeches
and articles in the party newspaper La Padania and elsewhere, the
phenomenon of globalization and immigration are viewed as a conspiracy
propagated by “hidden powers,” Freemasonry and international finance. La
Padania also publishes articles criticizing the openness of the Church
toward the Jewish people, evoking “Jewish power,” or condemning the “liberty-destroying
and uncivilized” laws which forbid denial of the Holocaust in France and Germany.
Movimento Sociale–Fiamma Tricolore (Social Movement–Tricolor Flame – MS-FT;
president, Pino Rauti; national chairman, Luca Romagnoli), founded in 1995,
returned only one senator, Lino Caruso, in the May 2001 election and has 14
town councilors. Despite its loyalty to the memory of the fascist regime and
the RSI, and a program close to that of other extreme right-wing groups, it has
no antisemitic history, and themes related to Jews and Judaism are not usually discussed.
Reports of antisemitism in local clubs have not been proven. It should be borne
in mind that, despite their poor electoral showing, organizations such as MS-FT
(as well as Forza Nuova and Fronte Sociale Nazionale, discussed below) are in
close contact with the main right parties and have the money and means to
influence election results in marginal constituencies.
The largest and most active extreme right group is Forza
Nuova, founded and led by Roberto Fiore. Forza Nuova has 76 clubs and
information booths throughout Italy. Anchored
in fundamental Catholicism and nationalist populism, Forza Nuova’s political
line is extremely anti-Israel, anti-Zionist and anti-globalization, with Holocaust
denial as a central motif. Although some individual members express their antisemitic
opinions openly, the group prefers to use the term “Zionists” in order to avoid
prosecution under the Mancino law, which it wants repealed.
Its political activity is open and
includes rallies (often cancelled by the police for reasons of public order)
and meetings on topical subjects: globalization, immigration, abortion,
homosexuality, and solidarity with the “Palestinian holocaust” and against the
“Zionists.” Forza Nuova appears to be gaining strength in schools and among
soccer hooligans in Verona, as well as in Rome, where it has been regrouping after a period of
stagnation. They appear to have put out only one issue of their newsletter Foglio
di Lotta in 2002, on their website forzanuova.net in October.
The Fronte Sociale Nazionale,
led by Adriano Tilgher, resulted from a merger of the Fronte Nazionale and a part
of the MS-FT. Its home page, which reveals a conspiracy theory interpretation
of history, includes texts condemning the Giornata della Memoria, the official
Holocaust memorial day in Italy.
Comunità Politica Di Avanguardia, a minor organization based in Trapani, is linked to the monthly journal Avanguardia,
the mouthpiece of its antisemitic, Holocaust denying and generally neo-fascist
Movimento Cattolico Militia Christi (The Army of Christ), led by Filippo
Lastei, was founded in 1992 in order to restore traditional Catholicism to
Italian society, which is allegedly ruled and corrupted by a liberal-Masonic
regime. Numbering about one hundred members, most of them in Rome, it counts Zionism and Freemasonry among its main enemies.
Fraternità Sacerdotale San Pio X, based in Rimini, with branches in Rome and Torino, was
founded by Marcel Lefebvre, who caused a schism in 1988 in the Catholic Church
when he rejected the reforms of the 1965 Second Vatican Council. Although preoccupied
less with Jewish themes than in the past, its view of relations with Judaism is
inspired by the anti-Jewish policy of Pope Pius X. Negotiations between the
Fraternity and the Holy See aimed at healing the schism are in progress. The
Fraternity publishes the periodical Tradizione Cattolica and Si Si No
No (Rome). Another magazine close to the
Fraternity and sharing the same line is the bi-monthly Chiesa Viva (Brescia).
Although similar in outlook, the Fraternity and the Mater
Boni Consilii Institute are in conflict. Based in Torino, with a new branch in Rimini, the institute holds religious services according to the
pre-Council ritual and publishes the periodical Sodalitium and various
antisemitic books through the Centro Librario Sodalitium publishing house.
Extreme Left and Anti-globalization Organizations
The traditional extreme left/communist position
on the Middle East conflict as a battle between exploited and exploiter
radicalized with the outbreak of the intifada in September/October 2000, reaching
a peak in March–April 2002. During this period, all political parties,
periodicals and intellectuals of the far left repeatedly charged the State of
Israel and Zionism with genocide, apartheid/racism, Nazism, a final solution,
ethnic cleansing, colonialism, expansionism, terrorism, war crimes and crimes
Since the May 2001 elections, the Partito
della Rifondazione Comunista (PRC), led by Fausto Bertinotti, has
eleven deputies and four senators in the Italian parliament. Although Bertinotti
has underlined his disagreement “in the most radical way with any slogan that
puts not only the Jews but even the State of Israel on the same level as a Nazi
organization or country” (ANSA press agency, 6 April 2002), he himself has
frequently accused the Israeli government of “pursuing a ‘final solution’ of
the Palestinian problem” and carrying out “genocide” of the Palestinian people
(see, for example, La Rivista del Manifesto, Jan. 2002). Giovanni Russo
Spena, PRC vice-president of the Chamber of Deputies has also accused Israeli
leaders of practicing a “final solution” (ANSA press agency, 23 Jan. 2002; 29 March 2002).
Liberazione, the PRC official mouthpiece,
wrote that the Jews wanted “a territory in spite of international law,” and
that “later terrorism became part of the ... structure of the Israeli state,
which is not a secular state, since it took the Old Testament as its
The Partito dei Comunisti Italiani
(PdCI), led by Armando Cossutta and Oliviero Diliberto, has nine deputies and
three senators. While Cossutta accused Sharon of perpetrating “a new Holocaust” against the Palestinians (ANSA press
agency, 21 Jan. 2002), Diliberto repeatedly described him
as a “bloodsucker butcher” (ANSA press agency, 13 March 2002), accused the State of Israel of “profaning the [Christian
and Muslim] Holy Places.”
In the communist Il Manifesto
(founded 1969) Arab victims of the conflict all have a first name, a family
name, age, gender and aspirations, the Israeli casualties are just numbers – “settlers,”
“soldiers,” “immigrants” – victims of the Palestinian “partisans” (a trend
observable also in Liberazione).
Sometimes Il Manifesto uses antisemitic
argumentation. Its 10
June 2002 issue, for
instance, underlined the alleged power of the American Jewish lobby, while on 6 March 2002 it repeated the conspiracy theory according to which
the Mossad knew in advance about the attack on the World Trade Center and did nothing to prevent it. It
should be noted that the “omnipotence” of the North American Jewish lobby (and
of the Israeli secret service) is a theme that appears (although infrequently
and with different nuances) in all Italian publications (see, for example:
Ennio Caretto, “In America la lobby ebraica oscura la presenza araba” [In
America the Jewish Lobby Obscures the Arab Presence], Il Corriere della Sera,
10 April 2002).
It should be noted too that while Il Manifesto
devotes special attention to any episode of extreme right antisemitism or
racism, it practically ignores anti-Jewish acts carried out by Arabs/Muslims.
Consequently, it hardly mentioned the violent antisemitic wave that swept Europe in 2001/2.
While all the extreme left wing
publications (including La Fucina, La Rivista del Manifesto and Spartaco)
are characterized by extreme hostility to the State of Israel and radical
anti-Zionism (as well as radical anti-Americanism), Che Fare – Il Giornale
dell’Organizzazione Comunista Internazionale goes even further. This
journal (published thrice yearly) has repeatedly called for “the destruction of
the State of Israel” (Feb./March 2001; June/July 2001), which it believes will
be hastened by intensifying terrorist activity. In contrast to other radical
movements and periodicals whose defense of Palestinian terrorism stems from
their communist ideology, Che Fare enthusiastically backs the Islamic
militant movement, believing that it is the only one in a position to destroy
the “Israeli terrorist state.” Hence, supporters of this journal participated
in a demonstration “in support of the fight of the Palestinian people,”
organized by the UCOII (Union of Islamic Communities and Organizations in Italy), the main Islamic organization in Italy. (There are about 700,000 Muslims in Italy, of whom 50,000 have Italian citizenship.)
The anti-globalization movement
is made up of a multiplicity of groups (anarchists, dissident Catholics,
Leninists, Stalinists, Maoists, animal rights supporters and Third World
solidarity groups), which despite opposing views on some issues are unanimously
anti-Israel and anti-Zionist, and sometimes explicitly antisemitic. For
example, a leaflet circulated by the Bologna Social Forum in April 2002 claimed
that “the powerful Jewish lobby … directs Middle-East geo-politics.”
Like the communist parties, the anti-globalization
movement accuses Israel of being a Nazi, racist, bloodsucker
and illegitimate state. Action for Peace, which organized a “Caravan for peace
in Palestine” from 27 March to 4 April 2002, branded the Israeli government “criminal and racist”
and Sharon’s policy making as “genuine
The anti-globalization movement is so staunchly
pro-Arab and anti-Israel that it sympathizes with Palestinian suicide bombers.
For example, during a demonstration organized in Milan on 25 April 2002 by the
non-aligned trade unions organization and some Islamic groups to celebrate “a
25 April for Palestine” (25 April is the Italian “V” Day), several banners
praising suicide bombers (“We are all suicide bombers”) were displayed as well
as slogans honoring the shahidin (martyrs).
The trend toward a rise in antisemitism observed in the year
2000 continued into 2001. Antisemitic manifestations increased in Italy as of autumn 2001 to a peak that has continued into
2002. About one hundred antisemitic incidents were reported, including violent
acts and propaganda (in printed articles and on websites, graffiti on city
walls, e-mail sent to websites dealing with Judaism, letters sent to Jewish
institutions or individuals and leaflets). The escalation in antisemitism may
be explained by several factors: the impact of the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict; the association made by the Italian public between the September 11
attacks and bin Ladin’s implication that Israel had caused “the birth of Middle
East terrorism”; and the exploitation of this atmosphere by right-wing
antisemites to intensify their antisemitic activity.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict was
a leading issue in the media, in politicians’ statements, in the mobilization
of political and public organizations, and in public opinion. Mobilization was
directed mainly toward solidarity with the Palestinian people; for example, in radical
anti-Israel demonstrations held throughout Italy
(see below). Media information was characterized by bias: the attacks suffered
by the Israeli civilian population were considered merely as a painful, but natural
reaction to attempts at “genocide” perpetuated by the “arrogant” Israeli
government and by its “all-powerful” army. From the outset the most vocal
organizations supporting the Palestinian side (although the more moderate ones
proclaimed Israel’s “right to security”) belonged to left-wing and
anti-globalization groups and the Catholic camp, who were joined later by
extreme right groups.
In articles and letters to the editor
in mainstream papers, and especially in the extreme left press, many
politically aware Italians equated Israel with Nazi Germany, and the Palestinians with the Jews of that era, and
often used expressions such as “genocide” and “concentration camps” to describe
events in the conflict.
While the Catholic Church did not
condemn the Palestinians’ occupation of the Church of the Nativity in April–May
2002, it did denounce the Israeli army siege. The Israeli occupation of
locations symbolic to the Christian world resulted not only in the Vatican’s adoption of extremely harsh
positions but also the inclusion in commentaries and cartoons in the mainstream
press of traditional theological antisemitic themes, reinterpreted in the light
of current events.
Violence, Vandalism, Threats and Insults
The increased aggressiveness of antisemitic expressions (for
example, death threats against Jews have become more common in graffiti on city
walls) was translated into violence in only two cases in 2001, and one in early
2002. In the first, a 15-year-old Jewish boy was accosted and punched in front
of Mifgash, a Jewish club in Milan, by a
group of 18-year-old skinheads in January 2001. In November 2001 an attempt was
made to set fire to the main door of Siena's
synagogue, but caused little damage. A 19-year-old Siena youth was questioned about the incident, and was
subsequently arrested on other charges. In January 2002 two skinheads entered
the offices of a Roman Jewish lawyer, who had participated in several trials on
behalf of the Jewish community (such as the Priebke case – see ASW 1997/8; the Forza Nuova case – see ASW 2000/1). They tied up his assistant
and hit the lawyer with a blunt metal instrument, wounding him on the head and
face. The attackers have not been caught.
A fake bomb threat was received in
January by a theater in Novara, where a play by the Jewish writer
Moni Ovadia was being staged. The caller stated: “We do not want Jews on the
Many e-mails, letters and phone calls
containing insults and threats were received by Jewish institutions or Jewish
individuals. Slogans such as “Jews to the ovens” and “Jews go home” reappeared
on city walls and close to Jewish buildings after a relative absence of five or
six years; and anti-Jewish jokes were heard in public places. Dozens of
violently anti-Israel – but also anti-Jewish – e-mails were sent to Jewish
journalists who dealt with the Middle East.
Similar letters were sent to Jewish websites.
Several magazines regularly host anti-Jewish debates or
contain articles with anti-Jewish motifs and Holocaust denial. Extreme right
publications include L’Uomo Libero (published two to three times a year;
circulation, several thousand); the nationalist Bolshevik Orion (monthly
of the Società Editrice Barbarossa; largest circulation periodical of
the extreme right);.and the radical but small circulation Avanguardia;
which admires the RSI and has links to Iranian Muslims.
Besides the usual anti-Jewish
themes, there was a revival, in traditional and integralist Catholic
publications as well as in some periodicals of the extreme right, of motifs
that characterized anti-Jewish literature of the 1930s and early 1940s. These
included the alleged link between Freemasonry and Judaism and the accusation
that the Jews exploited their belief of being a chosen race to act outside the law.
Further, the anti-globalization message was used by the extreme right to
elaborate anti-Jewish conspiracy theories. Formerly confined to books and
magazines with limited circulation, these antisemitic themes are now
disseminated freely on the Internet (see Giorgio Bongiovanni, “Nuovo Ordine Mondiale:
I Signori del Mondo, www.disinformazione.it).
After the initial shock of the September 11 attacks,
anti-Americanism was manifested not only by right- and left-wing extremists
(including a minority in AN), but also by some radical parties (the communist
parties, the Greens, Movimento Sociale–Fiamma
Tricolore) and intellectuals (such as the writer Aldo Busi, the historian
Franco Cardini). Moreover, it seemed that at least one-quarter of the Italian
public, representing both left and right, were sympathetic to, or understanding
of, bin Ladin’s position (see results of opinion poll in Corriere della Sera,
22 Oct. 2001).
On 28 October 2001, following the assassination of Israeli Minister Rehavam
Ze’evi and the Israeli army’s entry into Bethlehem and Beit Jalla, an article by the well-known progressive journalist
Barbara Spinelli appeared in the Torino
paper La Stampa. Under the title “Ebraismo senza ‘mea culpa’” (Judaism
without “mea culpa”), Spinelli claimed that the dangers of Islamic terrorism
could be reduced if Israel were to ask forgiveness from the
Muslims for the wrongs it had done the Palestinians, as the Pope did to the
Jews. Spinelli further stated that the time had come for Diaspora Jews to
abandon their dual loyalties and break their “blood ties” to Israel. The Jewish people, she contended,
put their alleged religious-historical rights ahead of the rights of other
peoples and behaved as if God allowed them to live in a state of absolute
freedom while the rest of humanity lived in the “harsh kingdom of necessity.”
The article provoked a lengthy debate on the newspaper’s website, with many
supporting Spinelli’s arguments.
One of the consequences of this radical
anti-Israel/anti-Jewish atmosphere was pointed out by the conductor of a klezmer
(Jewish musical) group. He declared to a Jewish newspaper that they had had to
cancel shows for fear of appearing “politically incorrect” and because “it does
not seem appropriate to stage a concert of Jewish music with all that it is
going on in Israel.” This same argument was used in April 2002 in a different
context. A well-known Bologna professor of Church history decided
to cancel his participation in a meeting on the reinstatement of Jewish
professors to positions from which they had been expelled by the 1938 racial
laws, because of “what is happening in Palestine.”
Since April 2002, a change of tone has
appeared in the Italian media. Many articles and letters by readers reflect
concern with the rise of antisemitism. Moreover, leading journalists (such as
Paolo Mieli, Piero Ostellino and Ernesto Galli della Loggia of Italy’s main
national newspaper Corriere della Sera and Giuliano Ferrara, editor of Il
Foglio), as well as politicians (chairman of the Senate and Forza Italia
party member Marcello Pera and Piero Fassino, leader of the left-wing
Democratic Party), denounced the simplistic portrayal of the conflict. These
statements were followed by the withdrawal of Democratici di Sinistra (left) party
representatives and trade union delegates from a national demonstration in Rome, on 6 April, under the slogan “For Peace in the Middle East.” This rally, organized by the
radical left and anti-globalization groups, turned out to be violently
anti-Israel, with young men dressed as suicide bombers.
On 18 April 2002 the formerly extreme left-wing journalist Oriana Fallaci
published a scathing denunciation (“Io trovo vergognoso”) of the “new
antisemitism” in the weekly Panorama. She blamed anti-Zionist and
anti-Israel motifs in Italian culture and politics for fostering an atmosphere
which permitted demonstrators to dress as Palestinian suicide bombers, a
bishop, Hilaryon Capucci to define these bombers as martyrs, Osservatore
Romano, the Pope’s official mouthpiece to side with the terrorists, and
state television to sympathize only with dead Palestinians. According to an
opinion poll held by Panorama, a week later, 63.2 percent shared her
views completely or more or less, and 22.1 percent partially disagreed.
There has been renewed right-wing interest in the antisemite
and doyen of Italian fascism Julius Evola. In 2001 three collections of his
articles were published.
Claudio Mutti’s La contesa di Parma. Processo al professore (The Parma Dispute: A Professor on
Trial – Centro per la libertà della scuola/Asefi Editore, Milano),
concerns a row which broke out in the Romagnosi high school in Parma in 2000
following antisemitic and homophobic remarks by Mutti’s son, Solimano. In the
book Mutti defends his son’s actions in the name of freedom of expression.
Mutti teaches in the same institution and runs a small publishing house
(Edizioni all’insegna del Veltro), which has issued numerous anti-Jewish and
Holocaust denial tracts.
In 2001 an Italian reprint of I.B.
Pranaitis’ book, I segreti della dottrina rabbinica. Cristo e i cristiani
nel Talmud (Secrets of the Rabbinical Teachings. Christ and the Christians
in the Talmud), was published anonymously. The original volume was printed in Saint Petersburg in 1892. The text has appeared on
antisemitic websites such as Holywar, Radio Islam and Nuovo
Ordine Nazionale (see below).
In 2002 the extreme right
Società Editrice Barbarossa, which issues the periodical Orion (see
below), published a collection of articles by the well-known Catholic integralist
Curzio Nitoglia, Per padre il diavolo. Un’introduzione al problema ebraico
secondo la tradizione cattolica (The Devil as Father. An Introduction to
the Jewish Problem according to the Catholic Tradition). Nitoglia is a member
of the editorial staff of Sodalitium, the periodical of Verrua Savoia
Various websites deal regularly or occasionally with themes
related to Judaism. Like the books and articles mentioned above, these sites,
apart from three Islamist ones, are mainly ultra-rightist or integralist
The two most virulently antisemitic
sites are Holywar and until recently Radio Islam (see Sweden), which contain, or contained, pages
in Italian. The Italo-Norwegian Catholic integralist Alfred Olsen is
responsible for the first, which covers antisemitic themes from Holocaust
denial to ritual murder.
Two extreme right-wing, antisemitic
sites were closed as of early 2002. These were Crimini, Terrore e
Repressione dei Regimi Totalitari Comunisti and Nuovo Ordine Nazionale.
The former re-opened after a brief period.
Italian sites dedicated to Holocaust
denial include Revisionismo.com – Archivio di Revisionismo storico and Associazione
per il Revisionismo Storico. Non-Italian sites with pages in Italian are Russ
Granata and L’Association des Anciens Amateurs de Récites de
Guerres et d’Holocaustes.
Islamist sites containing anti-Jewish
and Holocaust denial material include Islam Islam and Informazione di
cultura araba ed islamica in Italia.
Among the online discussion forums, the
most virulently antisemitic are Politica’s Tradizione Cattolica and Forzanuova.net,
linked to Forza Nuova, and the anarchist Contropotere.
In May 2001, a watchdog group
monitoring the extreme right linked to the PRC lodged complaints to the police
concerning the content of 17 home-pages which defended Nazism or were
The use of racist/antisemitic slogans and banners during
soccer games continues to be a problem in Italian stadiums. This phenomenon is
part of the general climate of violence and intolerance which characterizes
soccer fanaticism. The most serious offenders tend to be rival supporters from
the city of Rome teams, Roma and Lazio (see ASW 2000/1).
In June 2001 a magistrate of Verona held for
questioning nine youths from Piacenza for
racist and antisemitic calls during a match between Chievo and Piacenza. Supporters from other teams reportedly
protested to their team’s management about hiring colored players.
public opinion and the jews
In October 2001, and again in April 2002, a poll gauging the
extent of Italian prejudice and hostility toward Jews was conducted on a sample
of 5,000 Italian citizens. The research, carried out by the ISPO institute in Milan, replicated a previous poll held in December 2000, as
well as a 1992 survey. In the October 2001 one over one-third of persons
questioned (37.4 percent in October and 36 percent in April), compared with 26
percent in December 2000, agreed with the statement that Jews displayed
cultural, social and political differences from Italians. A series of
questions, which dealt with classical antisemitic biases, were then put to
those who had answered positively.
Compared to the December 2000 results,
there was rise in October 2001 and a slight fall in April 2002, in the
percentages of positive answers to statements relating to Jewish stereotypes.
Sixty-two percent in October 2001, compared to 49 percent in December 2000 (54
percent in April 2002), concurred that Jews had a special relationship with
money. Almost forty-four (43.7) percent, compared to 31 percent in December
2000 (37 percent in April 2002), agreed that Jews should stop behaving like
victims because of the Holocaust. Twelve percent, compared to 8 percent in
December 2000 (10 percent in April 2002), were of the opinion that Jews were
lying about the Holocaust. Finally, 23 percent, compared to 14 percent in
December 2000 (19 percent in April 2002), declared they disliked Jews, and 11
percent, compared to 5.5 percent in December 2000 (9 percent in April 2002),
thought they should leave Italy. It should
be noted that this last October finding (11 percent) represents 4.3 percent of
the Italian population.
The Catholic Church
While mainstream Catholicism rarely displays anti-Jewish
prejudice, signs of impatience with the pontificate of John Paul II among some
elements have become increasingly evident. In addition to his “requests for
forgiveness” (from, among others, the Jewish people – see ASW 1999/2000), the pope has been
criticized for excessive ecumenism toward other religions (including visits to
synagogues and mosques), and his refusal to beatify Queen Isabelle the Catholic,
who drove the Jewish people out of Spain
in 1492. Until recently open criticism was confined to the schismatic
toward the Holocaust and the nazi era
For some years now commemoration of the Holocaust has been officially
integrated into Italian culture and is accepted by a large segment of the
Italian population. Significant dates, such as 16 October, when the Roman
Jewish community was rounded up for deportation, are marked in schools and at the
local, provincial, regional and national level. Parliamentary discussions on
the erection of a state Holocaust museum in Ferrara began in early 2002.
On 27 January 2002, Italy marked its second Holocaust memorial
day, commemorating both the extermination and persecution of the Jewish people
and the deportation of Italian soldiers and politicians to Nazi camps. Events
included school activities, student tours to Auschwitz, plays, photo exhibitions, meetings and public
demonstrations, as well as lengthy programs on radio and on two national TV channels.
The second memorial day, however, was
more modest in scale than the first one. Less than three weeks before the date,
UCEI president Amos Luzzatto complained about the lack of government
initiatives and the silence of the minister of education. Preparations for the
day itself caused arguments among the center-right parties, particularly within
the AN, with some members claiming that victims of communism and the millions
of people killed in the Soviet gulags should also be remembered.
Holocaust denial is a theme shared by the entire far right. It
appears on websites (see above), in leaflets, in interviews with skinhead
activists, in journals such as Orion, Avanguardia, Sentinella
d’Italia and Rinascita, as well as in e-mail messages and letters. Occasionally,
the case of a high school history teacher who propagates Holocaust denial
theories in the classroom comes to public attention (see ASW 2000/1). Since
early 2002, Holocaust denial arguments have been widely used to support
anti-Israel, anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish claims.
The cultural association Nuovo Ordine
Nazionale organized a conference on the subject “Revisionism and the Dignity of
Defeated Countries,” in Trieste, in October 2001, chaired by two
members of the Movimento Fascismo e Libertà. The program listed lectures
by Holocaust deniers J.L. Berger, Russ Granata, Ahmed Rami, Vincent Reynouard
and Fredrick Toben. Another such meeting was held in Trieste in May 2002 by Nuovo Ordine Europeo,
entitled “La storia non raccontata.” The program listed contributions by deniers
G.A. Amaudruz, Carlo Mattogno (who represented Russ Granata), Ahmed. Rami,
Vincent Reynouard, and Adriano Tilgher, among others.
Two new “revisionist” books were
published: Carlo Mottogno, “Sonderbehandlung” ad Auschwitz. Genesi e significato (Edizioni Ar, June 2001) and Franco
Deana, Studi revisionistici (Graphos, Jan. 2002).
to racism and antisemitism
At the beginning of June 2002, a
police operation extending from Venezia to Treviso led to one arrest, a detainment and six house searches of extreme right-wing
sympathizers. The investigation began after racist and anti-Jewish graffiti had
appeared on the walls of a few towns. During a house searches, the police found
a map of Venice, on which three red dots marked the
On 14 November 2001, the First Court of Assizes in Milan acquitted Nicola Cucullo, mayor of Chieti, of the charges of defending genocide
and fascism. In December 1993, during a lunch with 44 other mayors affiliated
with the MSI party, Cucullo (now listed as a MS-FT member) shouted: “Hitler was
the most intelligent person in the world. But the Germans made a mistake. They
should have fried all the Jews.” The case was dismissed because of the right of
freedom of thought guaranteed by the constitution, and because, according to
the judge, the circumstances did not justify a conviction.
On 22 October 2001, Francesco Ciapanna, editor of the
monthly magazine Fotografare, was sentenced to 13 months in prison for
racial discrimination because of an article he published in 1998. Ciapanna had
published many violently anti-Jewish articles in the past.
The Nazi criminal Michael
Seifert, aka Misha, was arrested in April 2002 in his home in Vancouver. In November 2000, he had been
sentenced to life imprisonment by a military tribunal in Verona. He was found guilty on 9 out of 15
charges, including the execution of 18 people. Italy had asked Canada for his extradition.
Due to his age and health, an appeals court in Ottawa granted Seifert a conditional release.
At the end of May 2002,
ex-SS officer Eric Priebke requested a provisional pardon from the military
court in Napoli. Priebke was sentenced to life imprisonment
for his role in the 1944 Ardeatine Caves
massacre. The provisional pardon would reduce the sentence to ten years in
prison. The court’s verdict was pending. Priebke is currently serving his life
sentence under house arrest.
On 4 July 2002, a Hamburg tribunal sentenced Friederich Engel,
former SS head in Genoa, to seven years in prison for his
role in the execution of 59 Italian war prisoners (the Turchino massacre).
Engel had already been sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment by an Italian
military tribunal for several massacres, which cost the lives of 248 people.