Milan’s left-wing groups bash Israel celebration

Pro-Palestinian groups announce anti-Israel rally in response to exhibit in Italian city's central piazza.

milan duomo 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
milan duomo 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
MILAN – The Italian-Jewish community is bracing for “Unexpected Israel,” a multimedia exhibition that will take place from June 12 to 23, in the central piazza of Milan, right outside its main cathedral, “Il Duomo.”
Pro-Palestinian groups – mostly the extra-parliamentary Left – have unfurled anti-Israel propaganda, some of it bordering on slander. After protests from the Jewish community, Italian government authorities removed a booth at a Milan fair set up for customers to play a game based on shooting a dummy of President Shimon Peres, wearing a large Magen David.
Announcing a rally for this Thursday, anti-Israel protesters demanded a boycott of the celebrations, claiming the events were setting a stage for “Zionist imperialist propaganda.”
Local government authorities suggested moving the events to a “more secure,” less central locale, but this caused an outcry from Jewish community leaders Renzo Gattegna, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, and Roberto Jarach, president of the Milan Jewish community.
“Giving up under threat would be a political victory for the forces of prejudice and hatred,” the Jewish leaders said in a joint statement.
A Milanese-Jewish parliamentarian, Emanuele Fiano, son of an Auschwitz survivor, pointed out in an interview that boycotting any country’s cultural events was undemocratic, unacceptable and counterproductive for peace.
To the relief of the Jewish community, the newly elected mayor of Milan, Giuliano Pisapia, a member of the opposition Democratic Party, refused to move the event away from the center of the city, and was supported in his decision by the chief of police, Alessandro Marangoni.
Pisapio said, “Milan is a sister city of Tel Aviv and Bethlehem, and it must continue being a meeting point for cultures and peoples.”
Authorities stressed that the event was aimed at “strengthening friendship and collaboration between the two countries [Israel and Italy], and is about culture, progress, technologies and arts – themes that encourage coexistence and peace.”
The pro-Palestinian activists, however, insist they have the right “to peacefully question and expose this whitewashing operation of Israeli politics.”
Pro-Israel supporters are planning to respond through civilized dialogue.
“Unexpected Israel” will feature a large installation illustrating Israel’s diverse scientific and artistic scene. It will feature an Italian-Israeli business forum, and include guests such as writer David Grossman, singer Noa (Achinoam Nini), and exhibitions hosted in a 900-square-meter pavilion.
Italy’s Jewish community has been joined by over 250 scholars and “friends of Israel” in signing a letter sent to Italian locals, as well as its highest authorities, including Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and President Giorgio Napolitano.
“It is not acceptable for radical groups to stop the freedom of expression, to defy Italian hospitality and to deny relations with Israel in an apartheid style,” the letter states.
Anti-Israel groups have repeatedly attempted to block Israeli cultural events over the years in Italy, but Italian governments have steadfastly rejected such actions.