Colosseum lights shut for Schalit

4000 Romans mark Schalit's fourth year in Gaza and demand his freedom.

By LISA PALMIERI-BILLIG
June 26, 2010 18:30
2 minute read.
Colosseum Schalit protest

311_Colosseum Schalit. (photo credit: Associated Press)

About 4000 Romans including Jewish citizens, members of interfaith organizations, Christian, Muslim and other friends of Israel, called for Gilad Shalit’s release in a ceremony at Rome’s Colosseum on Thursday.  In a symbolic act, the reflectors on this ancient monument were turned off at 11 p.m. – coinciding with midnight commemorations in Tel Aviv.

Simultaneously, similar events all organized by Italian Jewish youth groups and municipal authorities took place in Milan,  Florence, Varese and Turin. 

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Gilad’s photo was projected in front of the Colosseum while government and Jewish community authorities made eloquent appeals.

Andrea Ronchi, Italy’s Minister for European Relations, repeated loudly, “Israel will never, never be alone.  Israel’s right to exist is beyond questioning.” Nicola Zingaretti, President of the Region of Rome (of the opposition PD - Democratic Party) and Renata Spolverini, President of the Province (of the governing PdL - Liberty Party) each made strong demands for Gilad’s freedom.

Mayor, Gianni Alemanno, (PdL) announced that Rome has named Gilad Shalit an honorary citizen. Now “hypocrites and one-sided pacifists” are “keeping their distance from city hall” he said, adding that “Gilad’s face must never cease to disturb our consciences.”

Mayor Alemanno recalled that once before, in 2008,  the Colosseum’s lights had been switched off in protest against President Ahmadenijad  speech to the FAO in Rome.  “A threat to Israel is a danger to the entire world”,  he said.

Gilad’s father, in Rome for the occasion, made a moving appeal, and a video was shown featuring Italian Jewish elementary school children reading Gilad’s story about “The little fish and the shark”.

Giuliano Ferrara, editor of Il Foglio publicly predicted that “the little fish will eat the shark.”

Riccardo Pacifici, President of the Rome Jewish Community recalled that Human Rights Watch has defined Gilad’s continued forced isolation a case of torture now lasting 4 years. He noted the “significant absence” of Amnesty International and Emergency organizational representatives, among others.

On their way back to the ghetto area, Jewish participants clashed with supporters of the “Free Gaza” group who had lit candles on the steps of City Hall to commemorate the “11,000 Palestinians confined in Israeli prisons without cause.”

The Rome Jewish Community accused the pro-Palestinians of being armed with chains and knives, while the Palestinians stated they were victims of an attack. Two pro-Palestinians activists, respectively diagnosed with a brain concussion and a broken jaw, were hospitalized.

The Italian police are examining televised records of the clashes to ascertain the truth behind the two conflicting versions of the facts.

In a conciliatory gesture, Riccardo Pacifici offered to visit Gaza together with Yousef Salman, the Palestinian representative of the Red Crescent in Rome “provided he will accept the presence of a representative of Israel’s Red Magen David.”

Gianpiero Gioffredi, a leader of the Democratic Party, observed that “ever more frequently, legitimate criticism of Israeli political decisions degenerates into a delegitimization of the Israeli state and anti-Semitism disguised as anti-Zionism.”


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