‘44% of Italians have negative views of Jews’

Study finds varying degrees of hostility toward Jews, ranging from traditional stereotypes to "pure anti-Semites."

October 25, 2011 23:40
3 minute read.

FIAMMA NIRENSTEIN 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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BERLIN – Forty-four percent of Italians are prejudiced or hostile toward Jews, according to a study issued last week.

The report was issued by Italian Chamber of Deputies’s Committee for the Inquiry into Anti-Semitism.

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Deputy Fiamma Nirenstein, the committee’s chairwoman, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that the findings were “very disturbing.” It was a “shock for everybody how much anti-Semitism in Italy and Europe” exists, she said.

“Some 44% of the Italian population harbor some prejudice or have a hostile attitude toward Jews. They can be broken down into four subgroups,” according to the report.

“The first group (10%) holds the ‘traditional’ anti-Jewish stereotypical views, such as that ‘Jews are not fully Italian,’ ‘you can never really trust them,’ and ‘when it comes down to it, they have always lived at the expense of others,’ but reject the ‘contingent’ prejudices (toward Israel and the Shoah).”

The report continued that “the second group (11% of the population) only approve of the ‘modern’ stereotypical views, rejecting the ‘traditional’ and ‘contingent’ ones. They consider that ‘the Jews are rich and powerful,’ ‘they control and direct politics, the media and the banks,’ and moreover ‘they are more faithful to Israel than to the country of their birth.’” A “third group (12%) maintains ‘contingent’ convictions (‘all Jews use the Shoah to justify Israeli policy’), ‘they talk too much about their own tragedies disregarding other people’s,’ ‘Jews behave like Nazis with the Palestinians’), but they do not share the ‘traditional’ prejudices.”

Lastly, the report cites a fourth groups as the “pure anti- Semites” (12% of Italians). This group holds all the elements of the previous three forms of Italian anti-Semitism.

Nirenstein said the 39-page report was the culmination of “two-and-half years” of parliamentary hearings and intensive work.

Though there were “some disagreements on what is anti- Semitism and what is anti- Zionism” during the committee discussions, “we recognized” when “criticisms of Israel become anti-Semitism,” she said.

According to the report, for example, “... anti-Semitism can be observed in international political debate: the biased criticism of what Israel is doing in the developing situation in the Middle East. The process began with the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action in 2001. This provided the basis for the pronouncements of international leaders – and first and foremost the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is allowed to speak out...

and even from the podium at the United Nations General Assembly – denying the genocide [the Holocaust] and advocating the annihilation of the State of Israel, in blatant violation of the UN Charter.”

The Italian deputies recommended that “thought should also be given to the advisability of supporting initiatives at international level to refer the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ahmadinejad, to the International Criminal Court for the crime of incitement to genocide.”

Nirenstein told the Post the committee invited Ruth Halimi, the mother of Ilan Halimi, “to Rome for the work of committee.

She said police did not believe it was anti-Semitism” that motivated the murder of her son by a gang of French Muslim immigrants in 2006.

French authorities failed to look “into right direction” and examine “who perpetrates anti- Semitism” in France, Nirenstein said.

Speaking from New Haven, Connecticut, Dr. Charles Small, a leading expert on modern anti-Semitism who attended the presentation of the Italian report’s results last week, told the Post it “is an excellent document that examines the scourge of contemporary anti- Semitism in a comprehensive manner.”

“The Italian parliament is the third nation, after the UK and Canada, to carry out such an inquiry and to produce a report,” Small said.

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