Italy’s Jewish community isn’t worried about new 'fascist' PM

The world media has been covering the Italian election and the victory of Giorgia Meloni as the first woman Prime Minister intensively.

 Leader of Brothers of Italy Giorgia Meloni holds a sign at the party's election night headquarters, in Rome, Italy September 26, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/GUGLIELMO MANGIAPANE)
Leader of Brothers of Italy Giorgia Meloni holds a sign at the party's election night headquarters, in Rome, Italy September 26, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/GUGLIELMO MANGIAPANE)

World media has been intensively covering the Italian election and the victory of right-winger Giorgia Meloni as Italy’s first female prime minister and also a politician who heads what used to be a fascist party. But according to a Jewish community leader who spoke with The Jerusalem Post, her election is “a lot less dramatic than what the world media or Israeli media portrays it to be.”

Meloni is president of the right-wing populist and national-conservative Brothers of Italy Party (FdI in Italian). FdI was the largest party in the 2022 Italian general election.

Sources in the Jewish community said right-wing parties have been part of the government in the past, and there is no comparison to France’s Marine Le Pen. Meloni has a relationship with the Jewish community and has been very positive toward Israel, one source said, adding: “The only problem may be with members of her party” who have been identified as fascists.

Nevertheless, according to all sources in the Jewish community who spoke with the Post, Meloni told Jewish leaders she knows she has a challenge to deal with within her party, and she intends to do so. A few years ago, a number of party members celebrated former prime minister Benito Mussolini, who established Italian fascism, with fascist and Nazi memorabilia in their regional headquarters.

Meloni supports Israel

Meloni supported Israel when Hamas fired missiles at it from Gaza. As minister of youth about a decade ago, she visited the Jewish community and had positive ties with it.

 Brothers of Italy party leader Giorgia Meloni attends a voting session to elect Italy's new president, at the Chamber of Deputies in Rome, Italy, January 27, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/Remo Casilli/Pool) Brothers of Italy party leader Giorgia Meloni attends a voting session to elect Italy's new president, at the Chamber of Deputies in Rome, Italy, January 27, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/Remo Casilli/Pool)

“Meloni has been courageous when she declared that you cannot use Fascist symbols and be a member of her party.”

Riccardo Pacifici, representative of the European Jewish Association in Italy and former president of the Rome Jewish community

“Meloni has been courageous when she declared that you cannot use fascist symbols and be a member of her party,” said Riccardo Pacifici, former president of the Rome Jewish community and current representative of the European Jewish Association in Italy.

“She promised me that she will find these people who are nostalgic for fascism and will ban them from the party,” he told the Post, adding that even though she told Jewish leaders of her intentions regarding fascism, she did not speak about it during her campaign.

According to Pacifici, one of the ways that Meloni displayed her attitude toward fascism was her support for Ester Mieli, a Jewish candidate for the Senate. Mieli used to be the spokeswoman for Rome’s Jewish community when Pacifici was president.

“The fact that Ester is a member of her party in the Senate shows that her actions are stronger than words,” he said, using the Yiddish word tachles to define Meloni, meaning she cares about the end goal and less about the talk.

“If you ask me if I think she is sincere, I hope the answer is yes,” he added.

But Pacifici said he was less worried about the new government that is expected to be formed in his country and more about the opposition.

“After the election, our problem isn’t with the new government but with the new opposition,” he said.

Pacifici mentioned one of the members of the progressive parties, Elly Schlein, the daughter of an American Ashkenazi Jew who is very critical of Israel. In 2014, she wrote on Twitter: “Enough, enough, enough. Gaza, death toll rises to 213 children killed on the beach from Israeli bombings.”

Schlein has been dubbed as the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) of Italy and is an independent candidate for parliament on the Democratic Party’s Progressive Italy list.

Schlein would be “left of Meretz” in Israeli political terms, Pacifici said, adding that the fact she has a Jewish father makes her criticism of Israeli policies complicated for the local Jewish community.

He emphasized that he was “not speaking for the Jewish community,” but rather giving his own opinions on the current political situation. “I told Meloni that I wouldn’t vote for her since she still needs to prove that she will make the changes that she has promised. I told her I wish I could have voted for her.”