BERLIN – An Italian court moved forward last week with its decision to compel an
Italian journalist to pay a 25,000- euro fine because he satirized a cartoon by
Vauro Senesi, which depicted the Jewish Italian politician Fiamma Nirenstein in
classic anti-Semitic terms, according to critics in Italy and the US-based
Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
The new legal proceeding issued by Italian
Judge Emanuela Attura to collect the fine triggered sharp criticism from Italy’s
Jewish community on Friday.
The Rome-based judge Emanuela Attura imposed
the fine in January on Peppino Caldarola for allegedly slandering extreme
leftist writer Vauro Senesi, who published the cartoon attacking Nirenstein in
the communist daily Il Manifesto.
In a statement to The Jerusalem Post on
Friday, Italy’s Jewish community wrote by e-mail, “We were bewildered and
disgusted but in the rule of law, we have the duty to respect the verdicts but
Vauro deserves none. Satire is the salt and the thermometer of a democracy, as
long as it doesn’t offend but in this case, our sensitivity has been put to the
test. This case has exceeded all limits and the verdict is likely to open
the way and give strength to anti-Semites by profession to dare
The Jewish community added, “For this reason, we are alongside
Caldarola and Nirenstein. We as the Jewish community in Italy are starting a
fund-raising effort to pay the fine but feel we have the right to dissent from
the judgment in accordance with the law.”
Senesi’s cartoon shows a
monster-like hook-nosed Nirenstein with a Star of David posted on her chest and
the caricature is entitled “Fiamma Frankenstein.”
The cartoon has
prompted international criticism of Italy’s court system and the country’s
“We are outraged that Il Manifesto published an
indisputably anti-Semitic cartoon,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL’s national
director, in 2008 when the cartoon first appeared in the paper.
intentional or not, the clear effect of the cartoon was to associate Jews with
the Fascists who persecuted them, denigrate the People of Freedom Party by
associating it with Jews, and highlight the presence of an Italian Jew on the
party electoral list,” Foxman added.
In an email to the Post, Peppino
Caldarola, a former editor of L’Unita’ who slammed Senesi’s cartoon in Italy’s
press and is the subject of the court fine, wrote, “I think that the cartoon is
horrible because it draws Fiamma Nirenstein with a hooked nose according to
Caldarola, a former left-wing deputy in
Italy’s parliament, added in his email, “I will ask for a new court’s sentence
because I have confidence that other judges will accept my right to criticize
the stereotypes against Jewish people and the right for the Jewish citizens to
vote for the political party they like.”
Judge Emanuela Attura refused to
comment on her ruling. She justified her verdict against Caldarola because
Senesi had performed relief work with the Italian NGO Emergency, which delivers
medical aid to Pakistan and Afghanistan. According to her ruling, Senesi’s
charity work proved that he was not anti-Semitic.
Senesi was slated to
participate in a 2012 “Flytilla” event, in which activists protested Israeli
policies by flying en masse to Israel, but he was barred from boarding a plane
to Tel Aviv.
In an email to the Post last week, Fiamma Nirenstein wrote,
“Giuseppe Caldarola has been the only journalist who had the courage to call
with its real name what has been represented in Vauro’s cartoon, depicting
myself as an hook-nosed monster wearing a Star of David and fascist symbols:
anti- Semitism. That cartoon reminds [people] of Israeli soldiers portrayed with
the Star of David and the swastika.”
“Caldarola is forced to pay a fine
of 25,000 [euros] and people of good will and reason are now initiating a
campaign to collect money to face this unfair decision,” she concluded.