Women’s group battles anti-Semitism in Italy
Binah is taking a stand against what it deems a renewed legitimization of Italy’s fascist past and anti-Semitism.
Tempio Maggiore: Rome's Great Synagogue Photo: Arthur Wolak
ROME – A new Jewish women’s group in Italy is taking a stand against what it
sees as a growing legitimization of fascism and anti-Semitism in the
The group, Binah, protested the latest event appearing to signal
renewed legitimization of Italy’s fascist past, when a mausoleum and park
honoring a fascist commander was inaugurated in Rome in August.
monument raised in the town of Affile to Rodolfo Graziani, once defense minister
of the Italian Socialist Republic of Salo, cost 127,000 euros from regional and
At the opening ceremony a priest performed a mass and gave
a sermon in Graziani’s memory, followed by a buffet and an evening of
The National Partisans Association (ANPI) lodged an
official protest and made known its intention to sue the town mayor for an
“apology for fascism [and related crimes].”
An open letter to Italian
Jewish leaders was written by the councillors of Binah, the new all-women’s
party elected to the National Board of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities
(UCEI) by 40 percent of Jewish voters in recent elections.
invites the UCEI “to interrupt a deafening silence” and take urgent measures
against this “shame on Italian soil” with special reference to responsibility
for “the new generations.”
Graziani, whose signature is on the 1938
Racial Laws – against Jews – was nicknamed the “butcher of Fezzan” and the
“butcher of Ethiopia” for his brutal executions of Libyans, his responsibility
for about 50,000 deaths in Africa, the use of poison gas and chemicals and his
ruthless massacres of Italian partisans.
Binah calls for Jewish
leadership to take action against a series of recent incidents of historic
revisionism and anti- Semitism, and supports a request to the UCEI by Carla Di
Veroli, councillor for Culture, Youth, Equal Opportunity and Memory of the 11th
Rome Municipal District.
Di Veroli has requested that the parliament be
pressured for ratification of the “Additional Protocol” to the 2001 Budapest
“Convention on Internet Crimes” related to “racist and xenophobic Internet
crimes” adopted by the Council of Europe in 2003. This protocol permits
signature states to black out internet activity regarding the denial of any
“The US plays a fundamental role in this,” says Di Veroli,
“since 70 percent of the world’s Internet servers of countries that ratified
only the Budapest Convention [and not the additional protocol] are housed
On September 30, Italy lost a national hero, Shlomo Venezia, 88,
a Holocaust survivor who since the 1980s had been speaking and writing
tirelessly about his nightmarish experiences, having been forced to serve in an
In a poignant speech to Venezia’s memory,
Riccardo Pacifici, president of the Rome Jewish Community, once again appealed
for the enactment of a law against Holocaust denial – a proposal espoused by
While Italian Jewish champions of free speech have long opposed
this, the proposal is finding more consensus following the appearance of
shocking comments and insults to Venezia on Stormfront, the neo-Nazi
Holocaust-denier Internet site which offers such comments as “one less liar in
the world”; “sooner or later all these fake survivors will die off”; “Pinocchio
is dead...long live Pinocchio! Not to worry – his stories, his ugly book, his
recorded tapes will keep him alive...”
However, municipal and national
government officials and inter-religious associations repeatedly organize
commemorations of Holocaust-related events. The Catholic community of St. Egidio
will once again lead a silent march to remember this year’s anniversary of the
Nazi round-up of Roman Jews on October 16, 1943.
Giorgio Napolitano is scheduled to speak at Rome’s Great Synagogue on October 10
in memory of victims of the Palestinian terrorist attack of October 9, 1982
which cost the life of a baby, Stefano Tache.
Holocaust memories and
Righteous Gentiles were recalled last week – and will be again later this month
– in commemorations of Raoul Wallenberg and Giorgio Perlasca.
was an Italian businessman who impersonated a Spanish diplomat in Budapest to
save the lives of 5,000 Hungarian Jews, supplying them with Sephardi identity
The Rome Holocaust Foundation and the mayor of Rome organize
regular trips to Auschwitz-Birkenau for high school students. January 27, the
anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation by the Russian army is a nationwide
However, despite all this activity, there is a growing tendency to
rewrite history by giving in to demands of “letting bygones be bygones” and
offering equal honor to the memory of fascists as to their victims’ for the sake
of national pacification.
Some time ago, Roman Mayor Gianni Alemanno –
justifiably praised for his remarkable campaign for the liberation of Gilad
Schalit and for sponsoring educational trips to Auschwitz – sponsored a meeting
of veterans of the hardline fascist “Decima Mas” association at a municipality
Partisan associations, political groups, and the women
of Binah are attempting to stem this tide.