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The Italian sub-committee interviewed a long line of experts. Minister of Foreign Affairs Franco Frattini spoke of “a new insidious form of anti-Semitism…based on apathy and uncritical acquiescence to claims asserting Jewish ‘control’ over politics, the media and the economy.” Renzo Gattegna, head of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, suggested that anti-Semitism “is being fuelled today by anti-Israeli arguments, encouraged by various media that are prejudiced against the Jewish State and hostile to it.” And Rabbi Benedetto Carucci of the Rome Jewish School expressed concern “that events focusing solely on remembrance of the Shoah might create the impression that Judaism was all about extermination.”
Admirably, the role of European Muslims was not obscured (as is so often the case): “Incidents of anti-Semitic intolerance are spreading in the Islamic communities in Europe, with murders and physical attacks on Jews….In Sweden, which has one of the largest Muslim communities in Europe, the Jewish communities spend 25 per cent of their funds on security measures.” Riccardo Pacifici, the president of the Rome Jewish Community, noted “the close connection which exists between certain Muslim organisations and neo-Nazi groups and which underpins attacks on Jewish communities, synagogues, schools and cemeteries and also underlies the boycotts of sports events.” Professor Dina Porat, director of the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University, spoke to the sub-committee about the emergence in Europe in recent years of “an Islamist form of anti-Semitism” that is marked “by a tendency to attack Jewish communities outside Israel because of their association with that country.” And Professor Gert Weisskirchen of the Steering Committee of the Interparliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism (ICCA) “emphasised the risks of an Islamic fundamentalist insurgency which might have dangerous repercussions for Jews.”
The report makes certain recommendations, most of them about beefing up education at all levels about Judaism, Israel, and Jewish life and history. This solution may seem self-evident, but on a continent where schools are increasingly timid about teaching about (for example) the Holocaust for fear of arousing Muslims pupils’ wrath, it counts as pretty gutsy.
To be sure, for those of us who have been noticing the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe for years, nothing in the Italian report really qualifies as headline news. But it’s encouraging nonetheless that a leading Western European government considered this subject important enough to commission a major inquiry into it. In Norway, where breathtakingly ugly public expressions of anti-Semitism by leading members of the cultural elite are well-nigh routine, one can hardly imagine the government ordering such a study. (If it did, the resulting report would almost certainly blame European anti-Semitism mostly on actions by Israel, including its treatment of the Palestinians.) That the government of Italy, where anti-Semitism is considerably less virulent than in many other Western European countries, saw fit to address this issue head-on, and to produce a genuinely honest and searching report, is immensely admirable. Hats off to the Berlusconi government. And may every other country in Europe learn a lesson from this: get some cojones, face up to the evil within, and do what’s right before it’s too late.
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