First Ayaan, Now Fiamma

When she walks down the streets in Italy, passersby shout greetings to her, addressing her as onorevole. “In a few days,” Italian Parliamentarian Fiamma Nirenstein said to me the other day in a long, energetic, and remarkably openhearted phone call from Rome, “I will not be onorevole anymore.”

Nirenstein, one of the most prominent members of the Italian Parliament, has chosen not to run for office again. More than that, she has chosen to leave Italy for Israel. She is Jewish. She is making aliyah.  And she is leaving politics to return to journalism.

She has mixed feelings about the change. “As a journalist, you’re read. By some. But when you’re an onorevole, all you have to say is that you’re angry about something and a whole lot of people in the press will write about it. And you can write a law, and spread the word, and win support, and get it passed.” In many regards, Fiamma is like former Dutch parliamentarian Ayaan Hirsi Ali, not only because both women have made use of their political positions to vigorously challenge Islam and defend its victims, but because both ended up having to be accompanied everywhere by armed guards – and also because Fiamma, like Ayaan before her, is a top-rank European hero of our time who has decided that she has no alternative other than to leave Europe.

Fiamma has stood up for Jews in Italy, for gays and Christians in the Middle East, for the anathematization of Hezbollah. That’s different from just being a journalist. Still, journalism is calling. “A journalist is a journalist, and you have to go back to it.”

There were, to be sure, doubts. “I had to decide. Do I stay or go? If I could have stayed a little more I would have stayed.” But at some point, she wanted to make aliyah. Which is another issue: “When you’re in Parliament, you don’t want to be accused of double loyalties” – of caring more about Israel than about Italy. For her, there’s no conflict. She remains devoted to Italy – its culture, its roots. But she sees, as some Italians don’t, that if they fail to stand up for Israel, Italy is over. “They’re dead. They’re done. They’re destroyed. This is how I feel about Europe.”

She recalls meeting another female senator in the street who introduced Fiamma to her daughter by saying: “This is Fiamma, who has been given the honor to defend Israel in the Parliament.” Indeed she’s done many positive things with her time in politics. I first met her at a 2007 Rome conference she organized on women in the Islamic world. We were reunited two years later, in the same city, at a conference on violence against women. More recently, she brought together a small army of Arab woman to blow the cover, once and for all, on the liberatory pretensions of the so-called Arab Spring. For three years, moreover, she ran a commission on anti-Semitism in Italy, whose explosive report I outlined here.

Yet, she admits, “I didn’t feel much help from the Italian community in all this work. From the elite,” she hastens to add. When she announced her plans to make aliya, “I had a revolution of people writing me to stay, telling me please stay. But the elite didn’t say a word.” Frankly, they prefer for the Jew to leave the scene – just as so many Dutch movers and shakers were relieved to see Ayaan’s back. Fiamma’s absence, quite simply, will make things easier.  Certainly it’s been no picnic for her.  The personal attacks have mounted. “I am threatened every day.” European Jews, she underscores, need to realize they’re “living in an anti-Semitic continent. It’s coming back again.” All of which propels her to move to Israel.  Not to escape – but to fight.  Yes, “I want to be defended psychologically and physically” by Israel. But she wants it to work the other way, too: “I want to defend it.  I want to be there to defend it.” She laughs at what she apparently considers the absurdity of “a woman of sixty” wanting to defend a country. But on the other hand she insists “I still have strength. I want to help.  Israel is threatened by Iran, by all these Muslims from the Middle East. There are many more reasons now to be in Israel than some years ago.” Israel is certainly more directly, urgently, and immediately threatened than Italy.

And yet, in a remarkable and instructive paradox, life is more comfortable for a Jew in Israel than in Italy. “It’s a place where the sense of communality, patriotism, happiness, and the secure life is so beautiful. I have a lot of problems, of course, moving there.” But the “compensation,” she says, more than makes up for it.  The problem: in Italy “I feel very alone.  That’s the worst thing that can happen in the life of a man. When you are there [Israel], you are never alone. There’s something there that doesn’t exist in Europe anymore, or anyplace – a people that still are trying to survive. Still trying to stand up. An incredibly vibrant democracy and economy and science and culture.”

Still, “it’s very mysterious. This sense of life, democracy, modernity, war. It’s something I’ve always thought about. The main thing is identity. Nobody knows what he is today. What is Europe nowadays?  Day after day what you see is the clash between Germany and France, Italy and Germany – the desperate attempt to create a communal sense. It doesn’t work. In Israel you ask yourself who you are, and you find the answer.  You’re somebody who tries to survive with the enormous responsibility of saving a thousand-year-old culture that founded all of the values of modernity from the Ten Commandments up to the invention of democracy. And it’s all on the shoulders of this tiny little country, which, if it does not survive, then everything will die.” That’s the bottom line. Not so very long ago, “there were no trees, there was no cultivation, there were no high-tech buildings, no start-ups. And now there is all of this.” Yes, Israelis fight amongst one another – harshly. “But at the same time they’re so close to each other, so cozy,” so that the whole society is “an exercise in democracy.” The current political scene, certainly, seems to be one of stark antitheses – but, she thinks, not really. The opposing parties and candidates “have a lot in common. They are alive, modern, witty kind of people that think. I want to see them in the same government. I want to see what these crazy people are able to do together, so different and yet at the same time so close to each other.”

I remember my first visit to Rome, when I had dinner with Fiamma and a group of her Italian Jewish supporters, one of whom explained to me that she was their community’s fiamma (flame). What of them? Should they, I ask, also high-tail it to Israel? “I understand how important it is that the Jewish community stay in Europe,” she says. “To win this terrible race with history. I appreciate that. What I don’t appreciate is that they don’t understand that the main key to their survival is Israel.  They will be destroyed by history if there is no Israel.” The Italian Jews, she underscores, “are wonderful.” But they must learn to “be strong again. You are no longer just the community of the Italian Jews. You are the most ancient community in Europe. Stand up and tell them who you are.”

Indeed, some things about Italian Jews explicitly anger her. At present, for example, the Italian Jewish media are savaging “a young fantastic woman” politician who dares to belong to the center-right People of Freedom (PdL) Party, and who despite her fierce support of Israel is being accused by them of “not representing real Jewish values.” (Alas, this is standard issue these days for European Jewish communities, which live under the folly that if only they sell out Israel they will be left alone.)  Fiamma is candid about her anger on this topic. Too many European Jews, she knows, are ready to bad-mouth Israel in the illusion that this will save them. She recognizes this for the illusion that it is. If Israel falls, Europe is next. Then North America.

“My idea of going to Israel, then, is not so personal after all,” she says. “At the end of the day you must do what you think. I am a Zionist. You must do what you are.” Several times the Council of Europe refused to give her a copy of a certain sensitive report on the Middle East for no other reason, she suspects, than that she is Jewish. “There are many such things that annoy me. I don’t want to feel that feeling anymore. And I feel it so deeply.” She admits that she “never felt integrated into the Jewish Italian community”: she found it too riddled with ignorance about, among other things, the Arab countries – their killing of everybody from Christians to “little girls who want to go to school.” For her, what sets Israel apart is that it’s “a sincere country.  When it has to make a war, it makes a war – and it calls it a war.” She doesn’t want to live in Obama’s kind of society, dominated by political correctness and the “sense of ‘I want to be good and I want to be even better than you expect from me.’”

So she will go to Israel.  And she will write. “First I will continue writing. And my dream is to be able to put my experience and my energies, as long as I have them – because I am beginning to be old – at the service of the country that I love.” And, by extension, at the service of all of us in the Free West.  As I said to her at the end of our conversation: “Buona fortuna” – and mazel tov.

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  • http://www.adinakutnicki.com AdinaK

    Welcome HOME Fiamma…especially good news, as she is an associate of a close associate, Dr. Martin Sherman – http://www.martinsherman.net/313/fiamma-nirenstei

    Great news!!

    And it is not for nothing. She sees the handwriting on the wall…and it is a DISASTER in the making for Jews, and then for the rest. History repeats.

    Adina Kutnicki, Israel – http://adinakutnicki.com/about/

  • Herb Benty

    What an amazing lady! God bless her and all her endevours as she apparently loves the Truth. Lefty Jews are as mentaly hobbeled as lefty non- Jews. Socialism must be mind destroying.

  • maletarget

    Sadly a lot of people in Israel are no better than the Italian Jews.

    • Andy Lewis

      Not "a lot of people," just much of their leadership.

  • ross1948

    I had never heard much about this lady, but if she's another Hirsi Ayaan Ali, she can't be bad!
    The left-lib animosity towards Hirsi and her like is much more disturbing than the predictable hogwash hate-stuff from Islamists.
    We get this garbage here in Indonesia too, a notorious leftist scribbler named Julia Suryakusuma, who inexplicably is given frequent space in the Englsih-language jakarta Post to vent her prejudices, had a go at Hirsi a while back, which some of us did our best to expose and rebut. http://rossrightangle.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/an

  • AnOrdinaryMan

    If Bruce Bawer says she's a hero, then Fiamma Nirenstein is a hero. But good luck in Israel; where a lot of employers won't hire anyone over age 40. She might wind up driving a cab.

    • http://twitter.com/newclasstraitor @newclasstraitor

      Sadly, age discrimination is a major problem all over Europe too, Italy included. The US phenomenon of middle-aged women returning to the workforce after her children reach college age was essentially unknown over there and here (I live and work in Israel part of the year) until very recently.
      But she is 67 in any case, so may be ready to retire.
      My guess is she will have no problem getting a byline at either the Jerusalem Post or the Times of Israel (she's probably not enough of a 'fellow traveler' for the despicable Haaretz). In terms of income, probably just an extra small enough not to jeopardize her pension.

  • Loyal Achates

    If she's a hero, wouldn't she choose to stay in Italy where she has more influence and can do more good?

  • Cat K

    I love Fiamma. I receive her emails – links to her writings on her website. I'll try to post the link later but you can search for it. There is English translation available. I want to give her a hug. Buona Fortuna and Mazel Tov indeed!

  • WilliamJamesWard

    The home is where the heart is and aliyah is right for her at this time, she has served and
    done her part in life, now Israel where she may work and live amongst her peers is fitting
    as courage and strength seeks out it's own, Shalom Fiamma……………….William

  • Jim

    One should point out to the Italians that one of the forces behind the Islamic anti Israel thinking is that they identify Israel as European invaders. Not just Jewish invaders but actually European invaders.

    I lived in Saudi Arabia and have talked with a lot of Arabs. They are as anti European as they are anti Israel.
    The Saudis contend that the Jews are really Germans. They contend that the ending "man" on some Jewish
    names proves the to be Germans. Other endings prove them to be Slavic.

    They should also know the Islam immigrants into Italy hold no sympathy for Italians and consider Italy a land to be conquered . The Italians should consider them selves as future targets of Islamic intolerance.

  • Piera Prister

    Dear Bruce Bauer
    You forgot Oriana Fallaci, an other great Italian journalist and writer. She left Italy to come to America and live in exile. Fiamma Nirenstein did a great job defending not only Israel, but also the universal values of Democracy, These stories remind me of a great and incorruptible poet, Dante Alighieri who left his beloved Florence for his ideals. -Provo' come sa di sale lo pane altrui e come e' duro calle lo scender e il salir per le altrui scale"- It is not easy to say Farewell to our own country! It is vey arduous!
    Piera Prister
    Piera Prister

    • Bruce Bawer

      I will never forget Oriana Fallaci.

  • LindaRivera

    Brave lady, you are a heroine! Thank you for everything you have done! Tragically, because of massive Muslim colonization of Europe and Britain, these nations are now very dangerous places for all Europeans and Brits.

    “Buona fortuna” and mazel tov!

  • Barakus abomidas

    I will continue to support the american people and move forward to prosperity for all. Just dont hold your breathe.

    • Andy Lewis

      Does that mean we all get a pony after all?

      • wolf

        what do you need a pony for? you're already a horse's ass!

  • http://twitter.com/AmanecerY @AmanecerY

    Reading this, I thank God because we don't have many islamists in Latin America. Islam endanger the human race.

    • Tracy scanlon

      don't be so sure

  • Tracy scanlon

    women have much to fear now then ever before and she is moving ever so close to the enemy

  • DansDaMan

    English Composition for Dummies. "onorevole" Maybe someday the writer (or the editor) will learn that when you use an arcane or foreign idiom without immediate definition or explanation, you stop the readers in their tracks and quickly lose them.

    • Lyle

      With my tiny bit of Italian I know, "onorevole" means honorable.