Journo fined for satire of anti-Semitic cartoon

Italian court fines journalist for satirizing derogatory cartoon of Jewish politician.

VAURO SENESI 370 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
BERLIN – An Italian court moved forward last week with its decision to compel an Italian journalist to pay a 25,000- euro fine because he satirized a cartoon by Vauro Senesi, which depicted the Jewish Italian politician Fiamma Nirenstein in classic anti-Semitic terms, according to critics in Italy and the US-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
The new legal proceeding issued by Italian Judge Emanuela Attura to collect the fine triggered sharp criticism from Italy’s Jewish community on Friday.
The Rome-based judge Emanuela Attura imposed the fine in January on Peppino Caldarola for allegedly slandering extreme leftist writer Vauro Senesi, who published the cartoon attacking Nirenstein in the communist daily Il Manifesto.
In a statement to The Jerusalem Post on Friday, Italy’s Jewish community wrote by e-mail, “We were bewildered and disgusted but in the rule of law, we have the duty to respect the verdicts but Vauro deserves none. Satire is the salt and the thermometer of a democracy, as long as it doesn’t offend but in this case, our sensitivity has been put to the test. This case has exceeded all limits and the verdict is likely to open the way and give strength to anti-Semites by profession to dare more.”
The Jewish community added, “For this reason, we are alongside Caldarola and Nirenstein. We as the Jewish community in Italy are starting a fund-raising effort to pay the fine but feel we have the right to dissent from the judgment in accordance with the law.”
Senesi’s cartoon shows a monster-like hook-nosed Nirenstein with a Star of David posted on her chest and the caricature is entitled “Fiamma Frankenstein.”
The cartoon has prompted international criticism of Italy’s court system and the country’s left-wing media.
“We are outraged that Il Manifesto published an indisputably anti-Semitic cartoon,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL’s national director, in 2008 when the cartoon first appeared in the paper.
“Whether intentional or not, the clear effect of the cartoon was to associate Jews with the Fascists who persecuted them, denigrate the People of Freedom Party by associating it with Jews, and highlight the presence of an Italian Jew on the party electoral list,” Foxman added.
In an email to the Post, Peppino Caldarola, a former editor of L’Unita’ who slammed Senesi’s cartoon in Italy’s press and is the subject of the court fine, wrote, “I think that the cartoon is horrible because it draws Fiamma Nirenstein with a hooked nose according to anti-Semitic stereotypes.”
Caldarola, a former left-wing deputy in Italy’s parliament, added in his email, “I will ask for a new court’s sentence because I have confidence that other judges will accept my right to criticize the stereotypes against Jewish people and the right for the Jewish citizens to vote for the political party they like.”
Judge Emanuela Attura refused to comment on her ruling. She justified her verdict against Caldarola because Senesi had performed relief work with the Italian NGO Emergency, which delivers medical aid to Pakistan and Afghanistan. According to her ruling, Senesi’s charity work proved that he was not anti-Semitic.
Senesi was slated to participate in a 2012 “Flytilla” event, in which activists protested Israeli policies by flying en masse to Israel, but he was barred from boarding a plane to Tel Aviv.
In an email to the Post last week, Fiamma Nirenstein wrote, “Giuseppe Caldarola has been the only journalist who had the courage to call with its real name what has been represented in Vauro’s cartoon, depicting myself as an hook-nosed monster wearing a Star of David and fascist symbols: anti- Semitism. That cartoon reminds [people] of Israeli soldiers portrayed with the Star of David and the swastika.”
“Caldarola is forced to pay a fine of 25,000 [euros] and people of good will and reason are now initiating a campaign to collect money to face this unfair decision,” she concluded.