Berlusconi win means seat for pro-Israel J'lem-based journalist

Fiamma Nirenstein was demonized for her Israel support by political opponents during election campaign.

fiamma nirenstein 224 88 (photo credit:
fiamma nirenstein 224 88
(photo credit:
The results of Monday's Italian election - placing media magnate Silvio Berlusconi back in power for a third run as prime minister, this time after two years of Romano Prodi rule - have one unexpected outcome: Jewish journalist, author and global terrorism expert Fiamma Nirenstein will be in the next Parliament. Nirenstein, the long-time Israel correspondent for the liberal daily La Stampa, and more recently for the Berlusconi-owned, right-wing Il Giornale, is famous in Italy for her unapologetic support of Israel and the United States, and for her vocal opposition to Islamic fundamentalism. Indeed, her most recent book, Israele Siamo Noi (Israel Is Us), was a huge best-seller. She also backed the war in Iraq, from where the previous Prodi-led government withdrew Italian troops as soon as it took office. In Israel, Nirenstein is best known for her association with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, where she is a fellow, and for being one of the few European journalists whose reportage on the Middle East portrays Israel and the IDF in a positive light. She has spent nearly two decades dividing her time between Rome and Jerusalem, where she lives with her Israeli husband, news photographer Ofer Eshed. That Nirenstein was asked to join Berlusconi's joint list with Gianfranco Fini, and was placed in the No. 4 slot to guarantee her seat, is a statement on the part of the People of Freedom Party, whose victory indicates a swing back to the pro-Western platform that the previous Berlusconi government espoused, before it was replaced by Prodi. "This pro-American, pro-Israel worldview is connected to a strong identification, on the part of at least one major sector of the Italian people, with the same values of freedom and democracy," Nirenstein said in a phone interview from her Rome apartment, where she watched the election results on TV with her family. Nirenstein pointed to the massive wave of illegal immigration into Europe as one possible explanation for the public's having reinstated Berlusconi. "It is a desire to restore the sense of identity which Italians feel has been affected by the influx of other cultures, most notably Muslim," said Nirenstein. Nirenstein's celebrity in Italy - both for her writings and for her now-defunct television show on global politics - made her the target, during the period leading up to the election, of a smear campaign from the ranks of the extreme Left. An anti-Semitic cartoon that appeared in the Communist paper Il Manifesto, which depicts "Fiamma Frankenstein" wearing a star of David on one lapel and the symbol of the fascist regime in Italy on the other, was circulated widely on the Internet. After being condemned by the Anti-Defamation League and other groups, the Italian press association suspended the membership of the cartoonist for three months. "It was a frightening example of how anti-Semitism has not only reemerged, but has crept into the mainstream of European discourse," asserted Nirenstein. Asked how she sees her parliamentary role as a Jew with an Israeli residence, Nirenstein said she "wants to strengthen Italy's ties with Israel, because both countries have a lot to learn from one another." To this end, she said, she was certain to be visiting Israel regularly in the framework of her new position. In fact, she added, "Berlusconi himself announced that his first state visit will be to Israel. I hope to be able to accompany him on that trip. I even told him that he will be the first Italian prime minister to have a parliament member who speaks fluent Hebrew." This kind of bonding is crucial, she explained, "because a country defines itself by its foreign policy. A democracy has to decide whether to stick to its values or to adopt the appeasement of nations that prepare atomic bombs and espouse hatred as their cultural, political and ideological raison d'etre - nations which despise and abuse women and anyone who opposes their medieval laws and ways."