Report of the Inquiry into anti-Semitism (The report is available for download in pdf format; below, selected speeches given in the conference “The Parliament against anti-Semitism, 17 October 2011)
Italian MP Fiamma Nirenstein promoted the creation of the sub-Committee of Inquiry into anti-Semitism, appointed by the Chamber of Deputies and tasked with monitoring and analysing contemporary anti-Semitism, including its new expressions, with the goal of policy advice.
The urge for an inquiry stems from the surge of anti-Semitic episodes, including traditional and new forms of anti-Semitic expressions also related to the events in the Middle East.
This Italian initiative is part of an international context, in which international organizations, including the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency and the OSCE, are increasingly concerned with the surge of anti-Semitism.
New forms of anti-Semitism are associated with other expressions of hatred, including anti-Judaism and anti-Zionism.
Anti-Semitism Anti-Semitism has been defined by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency as follows:
Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.
In addition, such manifestations could also target the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. Anti-Semitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong.” It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.
Contemporary examples of anti-Semitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:
Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
Making mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
Examples of the ways in which anti-Semitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel taking into account the overall context could include:
Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.
Applying double standards by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterise Israel or Israelis.
Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.
However, criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.
Anti-Semitic acts are criminal when they are so defined by law (for example, denial of the Holocaust or distribution of anti-Semitic materials in some countries).
Criminal acts are anti-Semitic when the targets of attacks, whether they are people or property – such as buildings, schools, places of worship and cemeteries – are selected because they are, or are perceived to be, Jewish or linked to Jews.
Anti-Semitic discrimination is the denial to Jews of opportunities or services available to others and is illegal in many countries.
Anti-Judaism indicates an aversion to Jews backed up by a religious ideology, although the reasons for the hostility are not exclusively of a religious nature.
According to the anti-Judaic position, the only "remedy" is the religious conversion of the Jews.
Christian hostility towards Jews has ancient roots and is also linked to the dissemination of the “substitution doctrine” according to which the Jews were no longer the chosen people, because they were guilty of “deicide”, as demonstrated also by the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and the repression of the Jewish uprising in the following century.
Anti-Zionism is distinguished by its radical opposition to the Zionist movement which came into being at the end of the 19th century, based on the right of peoples to self-determination, with the object of establishing a State of Israel on the territory which became part of the British Mandate in Palestine.
Anti-Zionists reject the right of the Jewish people to self-determination; they therefore deny the right of return of the Jews of the Diaspora, and therefore have fundamental objections to the Jewish presence in Israel.
Contemporary anti-Zionism also falsely holds that the State of Israel was created in retaliation for the Shoah and as compensation to the Jewish people by Europe, to the detriment of the powerless Arab communities that had settled in Palestine, forgetting the magnitude and the far earlier origins of the Zionist movement.
The most convinced anti-Zionists often argue for the illegitimacy of Israeli statehood by drawing comparisons between Israel and apartheid South Africa, a State that was formerly sidelined by the international community.
Anti-Semitism in Italy: Numbers
Anti-Semitism in Italy is rooted in a certain Catholic tradition as well as in the intellectual tradition of the 19th and 20th centuries, including Fascist, neo-pagan ideologies and the political tradition of extreme Left and Right.
One Italian in three considers Jews to be “not very nice”;
One in four does not consider them to be fully Italian;
10 % have a more traditional anti-Jewish prejudice, religious in nature;
11 % accept a "modern", more xenophobic, prejudice;
12 % have a "contingent" prejudice often linked to their opinion of Israel.
Then there are a further 12 %, driven by pure anti-Jewish sentiment: these are the interviewees who declare their agreement with all the anti-Jewish statements in the questionnaire.
Anti-Semitism in Italy: facts
By and large, in Italy, anti-Semitism appears to be a cultural phenomenon, expressing itself in the political arena more than through violent actions or organisations.
The report reveals an “increase in anti-Jewish prejudice in far-left circles, irrespective of gender and across all age groups. This can be seen from the repeated arguments and analyses demonizing and delegitimising the State of Israel, defined as a state based on apartheid against the Palestinians. The underlying assumption is that the victims of the past have become today's executioners”.
The denial of the Shoah is in Italy marginal, “even though the comparison drawn between the extermination of the Jews and what is improperly defined as the "Palestinian Holocaust" can lead to relativisation of the genocide of the Jews”.
Religious anti-Semitism, i.e. anti-Judaism, “religious anti-Semitism or anti-Judaism would appear to be limited to a few Internet sites and extremely isolated episodes, however outrageous”.
The report reveals a dramatic increase of online anti-Semitism: in 1995, 5 anti-Semitic sites were identified, while in 2008 they increased to the number of 8,000.
Another form of anti-Semitism that is increasing in Italy and in the rest of Europe is Islamic anti-Semitism, whereby “incidents of anti-Semitic intolerance are spreading in the Islamic communities in Europe, with murders and physical attacks on Jews, of which the best-known case was the kidnap and killing of the young French Jew, Ilan Halimi”, born in 1982 and murdered by the Islamic fundamentalist group “the Gang of Barbarians”, which used to intimidate, assault, and kidnap Jews for ransom.
Dear friends, First of all, let me give my sincere thanks to the President of the Republic, the President of the Chamber of Deputies and the Minister of Foreign Affairs who sent us their good wishes, and to Undersecretary Gianni Letta, who honoured us with greetings. I would like to thank all of you who have participated in this event and I express my particular gratitude to the Vice-President of the Chamber, Antonio Leone, who has made the Sala della Lupa available to us. My thanks also to the Chairs of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Constitutional Affairs Committee, to the members of those two Committees who joined my Sub-Committee of Inquiry, and to the Bureau of the Sub-Committee. Allow me to thank all the ministers, witnesses and experts who gave evidence at our hearings, and, finally, to express my gratitude to the staff, especially that of the Foreign Affairs Committee, whose dedication and expertise helped us to do a good job and prepare this final document that marks the completion of our work. I am delighted to announce that we have just received a message from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the effect that the Government, as soon as it has finalised procedures, will sign the Additional Protocol to the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime, pursuant to a Resolution that was adopted unanimously by the Foreign Affairs Committee last December. The Protocol makes it possible to prosecute cybercrime with immediate effect and throughout all Europe, and will thereby help combat instances of anti-Semitism on the internet, a phenomenon to which our Sub-Committee dedicated several hearings, including one with Dr Domenico Vulpiani, who is here with us today. The Report is brimming with data and observations from four Government Ministers (Frattini, Gelmini, Meloni, Maroni), dozens of experts including the Chief of Police Domenico Vulpiani, web analysts Stefano Gatti and Andrè Oboler, representatives of the Jewish community, members of the Jewish Contemporary Documentation Center (CDEC), Professor Renato Mannheimer, Professor Dina Porat, the MP Weisskirchen and many others. We also organised many other initiatives including meetings with Professor Robert Wistrich, one of the world’s foremost experts in anti-Semitism; Irwin Cotler, Nelson Mandela’s legal counsellor who is also a former Government Minister in Canada and President of the World Organisation against anti-Semitism; and the Italian experts David Meghnagi and Marcello Pezzetti. I apologise for not mentioning all the others. They are all important and are all credited in the final document. I do not want to spend my speech listing illustrious names, but I am very honoured to be able to state that we fielded the very best opponents of anti-Semitism. Also today I am proud to say that this gathering is better placed than any other to highlight the significance of the work we have produced. I am satisfied with our work as are, I trust, all my Sub-Committee colleagues, though our findings are as alarming as our work was pioneering. Let us therefore hope that some use can be made of the voluminous testimony concerning the 44% of Italians and 22% of young people who declare their dislike for Jews, whose ranks include declared anti-Semites, a recognisable group, though one that does not like to show its face in public. In 1995, there were five internet sites worldwide inciting hatred against Israel; today there are more than 8,000. In 2008-09 an alarming and constant increase occurred in the number of racist websites and social networks in Italy: from 836 to 1,172, an increase of 40 percent. Apart from social networks, there are about fifty websites dedicated entirely to propagating hatred for Jews. Although taken down in the past, they have managed to evade Italian law by shifting to foreign-registered domains. The intolerance of the anti-Semitic faction of Italian youth manifests itself in typically racist attitudes, even though today’s anti-Semite tends to be unconsciously or covertly racist or in a state of denial. One in three Italians finds Jews unlikeable; one in four does not consider Jews to be entirely Italian. For 32%, Jews are thoroughly unlikeable. Ten percent of Italians subscribe to the classical religious prejudice against Jews, 11% are anti-Jewish via their prejudice concerning Israel and over 11% concur with both the modern and the ancient prejudices against the Jews. Israel is accused of being an expansionist and apartheid state. It is charged with Nazi-like attitudes to the Palestinians and wanting to commit, and I quote, “a Shoah against Gaza.” In Italy, 21.6% of people believe the Jews are doing to the Palestinians what the Nazis did to the Jews. The idea of a daughter marrying a Jew was repugnant to 51%, a figure that declines slightly when the converse idea of a son marrying a Jewish woman is posed. To find oneself in an office or a political organisation in which the chief is Jewish was an objectionable scenario for 38%. Having a Jew as a work colleague was a problem for 29%. The number of Italians who were unhappy at the idea of having a Jewish neighbour was 35%, and sharing a meal with a Jew was an unpleasant prospect for 29%. According to 27%, Jews have disproportionate power, and 30.3% feel they talk too much about their own tragedy while ignoring those of others. For 31.7%, they manipulate global finance to their own advantage. We hope that the solutions we propose, which involve getting the institutions of state to step up their legislative efforts and promote education and remembrance, can be useful. Personally, however, I feel like I am trying to empty the sea with a sieve – a dark and stormy sea at that. I want to communicate to you, my friends, some of the sense of foreboding I feel. I belong to that generation for whom the conviction that the Shoah had eliminated anti- Semitism for good was something we imbibed with our mother’s breast milk. It was a legitimate belief to have, because during my early childhood, the State of Israel was born, and Jews returned to live in homes lost under the Race Laws and deportations, as happened to my own family both in Florence and in Baranov in Poland. The democratic world had defeated a genocidal ideology that, though it arose in Christian lands, had effectively sought to supplant Christianity, the fundamental religion of the democratic West, Hitler’s enemy. The battle unleashed by Hitler’s ideology pitted the Aryan world against Judaism and became the cause of an unprecedented global armed conflict. Anti-Semitism was transformed into a means of re-fashioning not just Germany, but the entire international order – and here I am quoting from Wistrich. It is essential for us to recall this theory because we have now arrived at a time when the UN, built on the ashes of the Shoah, created to prevent history from repeating itself, is often host to negationist discourse and speakers who threaten the destruction of the collective Jew, namely Israel, a country under constant attack. Legitimate criticism of the Jewish State is one thing, and we reiterated this point many times. The many experts we heard from gave us much food for thought on the subject, and it was important for us to draw a dividing line between what anti-Semitism is and what it is not. The eruption of anti-Semitism is more than a current event; it is the pervasive resurgence of old stereotypes of blood libel, conspiracy theory and the like. We can see the tendency in newspaper cartoons, on television, in textbooks, in the wash of opinions on social networks and in online publications. Anti-Semitism has grown to alarming proportions without anyone raising a voice in protest. We also found quite unequivocal evidence that all Jews everywhere, apart from being tarred with the age-old stereotypes of selfishness, underhand cunning and avarice, are also targets for aggressive sentiments regarding the State of Israel. Extreme cases have occurred all over the world. Here in Italy in 1982, Stefano Gay Tache, a Jewish child of two years of age was killed by a terrorist group as he came out of synagogue and many others who were praying inside were also hit. The thirty-nine-year-old American Daniel Pearl, a journalist for the Wall Street Journal was beheaded and dismembered by the Taliban in February 2002, after being forced to say “My father’s a Jew, my mother’s a Jew.” In 2006, twenty-three-year-old Ilan Halimi, whose mother is our invited guest here today, was killed in Paris for being a Jew by a gang of Islamic extremists who tortured him for three weeks. The police did not follow the right leads, because anti-Semitism was not considered a likely motive. To find the hideout to which Halimi had been dragged away would have required going in a different investigative direction than that usually taken when a young man disappears in the city; it required going off the beaten path. And that is what we are about: with the work of our Sub-Committee we have tried to go off the beaten path. Anti-Semitism has a special power: it manages to infect one human being after another, one young man after another, and spreads house by house, nation by nation. For years, the awareness of this destructive potency was a mainstay for the survival of a civilized ideal. The Second World War eventually brought defeat to the regime that had carried out the extermination of the Jews, and ushered in democracy. The extermination was described in all its particulars to the general incredulity and horror of the public, until the incredulity for some turned into a refusal to believe, and for others into simple ignorance, so that among the Spanish (though we might cite other naFiamma tions), 35 per cent do not know when the Holocaust took place, while among Europeans as a whole, two thirds are unable to say how many Jews were killed in it. We are seeing a resurgence of anti-Semitism unprecedented since the eve of World War II. One year ago, violent incidents against Jews exceeded the number in the years preceding the Second World War. The data from the University of Tel Aviv that Professor Dina Porat reported to the Sub-Committee indicate that whereas in 1989 there were 78 anti-Semitic incidents in the world, in 2009 there were no fewer than 1,118. What we have, therefore, is a recent phenomenon, as evidenced by our work and by the stuff that pours into my computer daily from the sites of neo-Nazis in Europe. These include Italian groups that have accused our Sub-Committee of being part of the long arm of the Zionist conspiracy. There are also the American supremacists and groups in Scandinavian countries that we would never have imagined could become leading hives of anti-Semitism. Then there is the vast Islamic world, poisoned by conspiracy theories that accuse Jews, seen as the right-hand of American imperialism, of responsibility for the attack on the Twin Towers in 2001. No wonder, then, that a long-standing best seller in the Arab world is The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the false historical work that spreads the theory of an evil Jewish plan to take over the world, a book embraced by the Arab elites. But we live in tumultuous times. The Islamic world is changing every day thanks to the so-called “Arab Spring”, which is driven by the laudable aspirations for freedom of many young people. This offers us a window of opportunity that, once opened, may bring in a breath of fresh air, though tainted with the breath of dangerous fundamentalism. The Arab Spring may open a new front in which the battle against anti-Semitism will be fought through diplomacy and negotiation. It may even lead to a peace plan if we succeed in acting decisively against anti- Semitism wherever it occurs. For anti-Semitism is not a privilege of self-determination, it is a disease that kills its carrier and everything around. Europe, along with the rest of the world, has been hard hit by a very severe economic crisis, which risks causing a breakdown in morality and engendering crazy thoughts in ignorant and fragile minds, which often belong to young people. What a great responsibility we have taken on board by broaching this subject. The report includes a series of goals that give some idea of the size of the task we have set ourselves. We propose, for instance, implementing the United Nations Convention against genocide and the incitement thereof, and monitoring an international initiative to refer President Ahmadinejad of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the International Criminal Court for incitement to genocide. We hope to be able to continue our work, to add our pennyworth to the great debate and to do our small bit for the future.
I thank the Right Honourable Nirenstein, and salute all the authorities present here. My dear friends, in taking the floor I should like first of all to congratulate the authors of this highly significant report. I read the document with great interest, and focused on two points in particular, about which I should like to say a few words: relations with the Catholic Church and the question of young people and anti-Semitism.
Anti-Semitism and the Catholic Church At a personal level, when examining websites that declare themselves Catholic, I have found that at least one in ten contains anti-Semite traits, and I shall not feel at peace until this percentage has been brought to zero. Nor shall I feel at peace until I see the cancellation of all manifestations of discrimination, anti-Semitism and other forms of social and civil injustice. It is our misfortune to be living in a time of sweeping cultural transition. We are living on the cusp between the end of at least four centuries of culture and the beginning of a new form of culture whose true nature we are still unable to perceive. It is a cause of great regret that even as we enter this new epoch, the incidence of anti-Semitism should remain so alarmingly high. The intolerance that we see is directed not only at the Jewish religion and the state of Israel but also increasingly at Christianity. Only this morning another priest in the Philippines, a country with a deep Catholic tradition, was murdered. While it is true that every religion has known a period of persecution in its history, it is also surely true that this should no longer be happening at a time of burgeoning culture and progress. We find ourselves in this magnificent room today, and I see in front of me two beautiful antique tapestries depicting events from the story of Israel, a story that belongs to the Jewish people but also to us Christians. One of the tapestries contains the words: Moises ex aquis educitur super aquam refectionis populum educaturus. It refers to Moses leading his people across the Red Sea. The other tapestry contains the words: Pharao superbus ascendere cupiebat et in profundum descendit quasi lapis. I particularly relish this latter Latin inscription, which might be translated as follows: “The proud pharaoh desired to ascend, but sank like a stone to the bottom.” I think this holds a lesson for us today. There are those who think they are in the ascendant: they are assertive and quick to use expressions of violence, but fail to realise that sooner or later they are destined to collapse and fall because their actions are unworthy. It must, however, be acknowledged that the ten percent to which I alluded above, even though they profess themselves to be Catholic, are nothing of the sort. These are effectively splinter groups that do not even recognise the teachings of the Pope of Rome. Some of them, indeed, do not even recognise the Pope himself. It follows, then, that these anti-Semites cannot be considered to speak for the Catholic Church. With the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church embarked on an irreversible journey that is destined to continue. Progress along this path was advanced by the many symbolic acts of Pope John Paul II, who paid the first papal visit to the Synagogue of Rome, as well as by the many gestures of deep and personal friendship of Pope Benedict XVI, first as Prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith, and now even more so as Pope. During his trips throughout the world, Pope Benedict has actively sought and obtained many meetings with Jewish communities. His visit to the Synagogue of Rome with the Chief Rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni, was but the most recent manifestation of this reconciliation. We Catholics, especially here in Rome, can never forget that the Jewish community existed before we did. Christians arrived afterwards, and were embraced by the Jewish community. This memory must always remain alive in us, and never be forgotten. I fear that an inaccurate concept of “tolerance” has become pervasive which blinded us the extremely important notion of “respect”. Even at a linguistic level, we use the term “tolerance” in an ambiguous manner. If we “tolerate” others, we merely put up with them. Whereas may be true that John Locke did not have this meaning in mind, when we speak of tolerance we inevitably slide into this misunderstanding of the term. It should not be like this. We should embrace the deeper notion of respect. Respect is a much more ancient word, but also more appropriate for us Christians. Respect derives from the word respicere, which means: “to observe”. In other words, as I walk I observe that someone is walking beside me. I may not insult the person who walked beside me, for he is my companion. I see I am not alone; I realise that there are other people as well as me, people who are different from me. This does not mean that they and I are following the same path. Yet I must be conscious of their presence and respect it. Currently, we are following the one path in the direction of progress and development, which, ideally, should also lead towards greater humanity. Humanity should be our defining characteristic, and this is especially true for our religions, which have a special role to play. It would be a catastrophe if religions were to fail in their duty to humanise the progress and development of society. To fail in this would be to betray the very nature of religion, which is to provide answers to the yearning for meaning that resides deep in the heart of every man and woman.
Young people and anti-Semitism There is a second issue that needs looking at, and is a cause for particular concern. It has to do with young people. Young people are our future. As we build our future, we must be attentive to the needs of young people and help them embark upon a route which is not unilateral, but rather based on togetherness and participation. To find their bearings, young people need to be able to depend on the guidance of the family, which is where fundamental values are inculcated. They also need to be able to look to the institutions, especially schools, to point them in the right direction. Religious communities and the many different charitable organisations and groups also need to be involved in this process. In short, we adults need to join forces to provide that which young people need in their lives. I am particularly concerned at the fact that too many young people have no knowledge of or contact with the Jewish world. It is unthinkable that we should live in a society in which young people refuse to have dealings with a different culture, because to do so is tantamount to refusing to construct a future. It demonstrates an incapacity to conceive of societas in its true sense. Relativism, which we have always warned against for the harm it does to the very concept of civic and social community, derives from exasperated individualism in which people look out only for themselves, and consequently become increasingly trapped in an asphyxiating isolation. It is a noxious state to be in, because man can only live insofar as he lives with others. To be a human person means being open to knowledge. Where there is no desire to learn, there is no capacity to grow. I am reminded of two German verbs that have a bearing on our considerations here: erinnern and vergessen. Erinnern means “to remember” and vergessen means “to forget”, to lose hold of. I am afraid that we have gambled away everything on vergessen. Sadly, mankind today lives in a state of forgetfulness: it is a modern malady that affects us all, without exception. Yet on no account may we allow forgetting, vergessen, the search for oblivion, to become our life project. To do so invites catastrophe, the loss of everything. Man must live in a state of remembrance, of erinnern; he must keep his memories alive, conserve his memoria, that is to say, his capacity for memory. Memory in its fullest sense has a far greater significance than the mere act of recalling something to mind. To recall is an action that is limited to past events. Memory, on the other hand, is something that is constantly alive because it forms part of the very consciousness of a person. We must retain this consciousness and remain constantly vigilant, like the “watchmen for the morning” to recite the words of the psalm. We need to be constantly vigilant to ensure that memory forms part of basic education because we must learn the lessons of history and recognise its consequences. Education can be a warning against repeating the mistakes of the past, but must also be an occasion for human development. I should like to end my brief talk by once again acknowledging the value of the work that has been done. It is my hope that a similar initiative will be taken in regard to Christianity, because these studies and investigations can teach us how to deal with similar situations that, unfortunately, are occurring in many countries where the situation has become alarmingly xenophobic. I was chaplain of the Chamber of Deputies for 15 years and one of the great highlights of each year was the recurrence of the Day of Remembrance. Every year, the Chief Rabbi, Members of Parliament and we of the Church have celebrated this Day together. The Jewish and Catholic communities have come together and have grown increasingly close in friendship and reciprocal respect. Without knowledge and without the thirst for knowledge, the joy of living perishes. The ancient philosophers used to say that wonderment was the source of all knowledge. I hope that the experience of reading this text may generate a sense of wonderment, that is to say the desire for a deeper knowledge so that we may pass on the fruit of our efforts to the future generations. Thank you.
Your Excellencies, dear guests, I am greatly honoured to speak on behalf of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities (UCEI) at this public presentation of the final document of the Fact-Finding Inquiry into anti-Semitism that has been unanimously adopted by the Sub-Committee chaired by the Right Honourable Fiamma Nirenstein, who is also Deputy Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Deputies. This is both an alarming and a pioneering report: UCEI’s President, Renzo Gattegna, participated by contributing his testimony to the Sub-Committee. The Jewish Community of Rome was also involved through the testimony of its President Riccardo Pacifici and of Rabbi Benedetto Carucci. The Jewish Contemporary Documentation Centre and the Observatory on Anti-Semitism were also heard by the Sub-Committee. On behalf of all the Italian Jewish organisations involved in the work of the Sub-Committee, I should like to offer the Right Honourable Nirenstein and the entire Italian Parliament our warmest and most sincere congratulations. The steep rise in anti-Semitism, which in 2009 reached its highest point since World War II, is an established fact. Forty-four percent of all Italians declare a dislike of Jews, and 22 percent of young Italians feel varying degrees of hostility towards Jews. The worst forms of anti-Semitic stereotyping are levelled against the State of Israel. Holocaust denial, “the oldest hatred”, is a scourge that has to be fought every day with unflagging commitment. Only 70 years ago, Italian Jews were subjected to the Race Laws, which led to the complete exclusion of Jews from civil life, and formally sanctioned anti-Semitism in our country. For the Jews of the time, a small minority of the Italian populace that had identified itself with the Risorgimento and the national cause, the laws were a betrayal by a State whose gestation and birth they had assisted, and on whose behalf many had fought. The Race Laws were at the root of the discrimination and humiliation that transformed Italian Jews from citizens into a persecuted people. The memory of what happened during the dark years of Fascist Italy became a central element in the formation of the Republic of Italy, which is based on a Constitution that proclaims the importance of values such as freedom, equality, human dignity and social solidarity. However, to consider remembrance as the ultimate goal or an end in itself would be to devalue memory, especially when the memory is of such tragic events. I should like to say thank you, on behalf of Italian Jewry, to the Sub-Committee for its hard work. We are here today to recognise the value of the inquiry, which looks both backwards to the past and forwards to the future. The Jewish tradition is characterised by the categorical imperative zachor: remember. The verb zachar occurs in its various syntactical forms in the Bible 222 times and, in most cases, the subject of the verb is Israel or God. The notion of remembrance is complemented and completed by the opposite verb: to forget. The Jewish people is enjoined to remember and, at the same time, not to forget. The Torah - the Pentateuch – in the Book of Deuteronomy, 32.7 repeatedly urges the faithful to remember. In his final words of farewell, Moses tells his people: «Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations; ask thy father, and he will declare unto thee, thine elders, and they will tell thee...». So when we talk about the findings of the survey on anti-Semitism, we cannot do otherwise than look to our children, to the young people who are here today watching and listening to us. We must supply them with more powerful tools to combat iniquitous measures and prejudices, and make sure they do not find themselves incredulous and unprepared when they face the intimidation, discrimination, cynical betrayal, oppression and abuses that Jews have suffered in the past (but, we hope, shall suffer no more) for the sole crime of being born Jewish or Israeli, or for being, as declared by the law of 1938, a “race” that is biologically distinct from the rest of the Italian people. Primo Levi, asked by his students to explain what Nazi barbarism was and what it had brought into being, said that sometimes we should not try to understand, because to understand is almost to justify. To comprehend the behaviour of a human signifies, also in an etymological sense, to include him, to put oneself in his place and identify with him. Levi added, however, that comprehension is impossible, while knowledge is necessary: we need to understand what the causes were, because what happened can happen again. However, we must look forward with hope. Also in the Torah, in the Book of Deuteronomy Chapter 30, it is written: «See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil..... therefore choose life, that thou mayest live». Indeed, it came to pass that in Italy after the War, in the years of rebirth after the Fascist dictatorship, the Constituent Assembly was chaired by a Jew, Umberto Terracini, who had paid for his opposition to the regime with years of captivity. Today we are seated here next to our Jewish Members of the Italian Parliament who, along with their colleagues, represent the entire Italian nation. This is a fundamental victory. The victors of these battles have not been the Jews only, but the entire Italian people. Today our country is going through a historic period in which the protection and respect of fundamental human rights have been established and consolidated. Our Republican Constitution is a robust framework on which rests a system of rules guaranteeing freedom, equality and dignity for each of us. But we Jews are all too often required to raise our voice in protest at the racism against us, or in protest at indifference and prejudice. Both in Italy and in Europe we cannot lower our guard, and must make an effort day after day. Sadly, the survey demonstrates that in order to protect our right to exist, good intentions and institutionalised occasions, such as the Day of Remembrance and visits to the death camps, are simply not enough. In the next few days we shall pass the 29th anniversary of the attack on the Synagogue of Rome in which little Stefano Gay Taché was killed. Even 29 years after that massacre, there is a pervading sense of embarrassment and silence, so that it is up to me to speak out here today in memory of the brutally murdered child; the task of keeping him in our hearts and demanding justice for him falls to me. I would like to conclude my speech with some words of hope that were found written on the wall of a cellar in Cologne, where some Jews had hidden out for the entire duration of World War II: «I believe in the sun even when it is not shining; I believe in love, even when I do not feel it, I believe in God, even when he is silent». Thank you for coming here today to reflect and remember, but most of all thank you for the efforts you will make so that the many points raised by the inquiry may not go unheard.
Thank you very much Fiamma Nirenstein, it is really an honour to be here and to pay tribute to all those who worked on the inquiry on anti-Semitism and to the Constitutional and Foreign Affairs Committees of Italy. It is really an honour to be here. Clearly, Italy is at the forefront of confronting global anti-Semitists, and has emerged as a leading nation dealing with this issue. I am going to speak today about the report in relation to an article that I wrote and to some aspects of anti- Semitism. Looking at the tapestry, I am reminded of a story: I had an uncle who used to live in Israel and he came originally from Montreal, in Canada. He was visiting north America, he was in New York, and he decided to drive from New York city to Montreal, which is about a five hundred kilometer drive, and in the middle of his journey his car broke. He pulled into a small town in Upstate New York and he knocked on a farmer’s door and the farmer let him in. He said that his car had broken down and the people were very hospitable: they called a mechanic in the middle of the night and he repaired the car, they fed my uncle and gave him food. In a few hours the car was fixed and they sent him on his way. Just before my uncle left, this very kind people asked him if he could please do them a favour. My uncle was very indebted to their kindness and their food, and he said: “Of course, I would do anything for you”. The couple in the house – this was 15 years ago in Upstate New York – asked him if they can please touch his horns. I think cultural symbols and the power of symbols are very important in relation to ideas and values. What I would like to do is touch on different elements of anti-Semitism. I think anti-Semitism in very broad strokes went through three or four phases. The first phase of anti-Semitism was religious or theological, where the Jews were the wrong religion: they didn’t accept the Christian Messiah. Then we moved to an era in which the Jews were the wrong people, they were people in the wrong nation. In the biological determination of identity, the Jews were the wrong ethnic group and racial group, and they were in the wrong nation. What distinguishes anti-Semitism from other forms of discrimination in different societies and historically is an inherited genocidal tendency, and I choose my words very carefully. The notion that the Jews were the wrong religion was accompanied by an inherited belief in the societies that not only would the Jews be saved if they changed their religion but the world would be saved. When anti-Semitism was based on racial notions of identity and the Jews were the wrong race or the race that was somehow imperfecting the white Arian race, people believed that the race of the nation would be saved when only the Jews would leave. Today, according to contemporary forms of anti- Semitism with a focus on Israel, and holding Israel to different standards, Israel becomes the garbage can of the world’s problems. People believe today – just like the other forms of anti-Semitism – that if the Israelis would only change their policies, regardless of what’s happening in the context in which the Israelis exist, they would save themselves, they would save their region and perhaps they would even save the world. This is the same discourse at a social-theoretical level that connects the same forms of anti-Semitism, and these things are to be noted. In the Sub-Committee’s report, the notion that 44 percent of Italians exhibit discrimination or discriminatory attitudes toward Jews is a very important figure, made worse by the fact that 12 percent are more extreme in their anti-Semitism. In 2006 we interviewed five thousand people in ten European countries including Italy, five hundred people per European country, and our statistics and findings are similar. What we did though is that we measured old forms of anti-Semitism and we asked the five thousand people questions conserning traditional notions of anti- Semitism: that Jews only cared about their own kind, that Jews only cared about Jews, that Jews have unethical business practices, questions that bring up old notions of anti-Semitism. What we found is that the level of anti- Semitism in Europe was steady, Italy compared to the other nine European countries was in the middle. What our study did as well in terms of contemporary anti- Semitism is that we asked the five thousand respondents questions about Israel. We created an anti-Israel induct, and we asked questions regarding Israel. We asked questions along the lines of the Israelis treating Palestinians similarly to the way South-Africans treated black people during the apartheid era, that the Israelis military purposely shoot Palestinian children and so on. What we discovered was quite astounding: the level of anti-Israel tendencies in ten European countries was relatively low, that’s the good news, but what we found is that among the people who were considered Israel bashers – they only constituted 6 or 7 percent of the population depending on the country, so they were relatively low – 56 percent of them were also traditionally anti-Semitic. Of this group, they are 13 times more likely to be traditionally anti- Semitic than the average population. If you can imagine for a moment if a medicine in the pharmacy or a food product in a supermarket was 56 percent more likely to cause cancer or 13 times more likely to cause cancer than other products, there would be a national inquiry and the product would be removed from the shelves immediately. These statistics are quite shocking and off the charts. What is also important concerning the Italian report on anti-Semitism that found that 44 percent of Italians demonstrate a certain level of anti-Semitism, is that the P.U.R. research center in the United States recently did a survey on perceptions of Jews in the Arab world. If you think that 44 percent in Italy is bad, 95 percent of the Egyptians were considered to be anti-Semitic, 97 percent of Jordanians, 98 percent of Lebanese, 75 percent of the Turkish people were considered to be hostile towards the Jewish people. These statistics are indicative of the Middle East extraordinary problematic. In the Middle East today there is a rise of radical Islam. I am not speaking about Islam as a religion or about Muslims as a people, I am speaking about radical Islam or Islamism. We certainly see since 1979 that the Iranian revolutionary regime uses anti-Semitism as part of his discourse. If you look at the Hamas Freedom Charter, this is a social movement which is geared to remove western interests and western institutions from Palestine and from the Middle East. If you read the Charter, if you look at the Hamas and Iranian revolutionary regime rhetoric, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood, they are using anti-Semitism as a strategic weapon against western interest, not against the Jews, but the narrative of the Elders of Zion is once again pervading Middle Eastern societies and popular culture. This is not just something on the fringes of this society but it is now entering into the mainstream, into political culture, news coverage and even popular forms of music entertainment. If you go back to Hamas Charter, here is a social movement which is trying to rid the Middle East of European and Jewish influence. It uses the protocols of the Elders of Zion as the theme underpinning the entire founding document of the social movement, the Charter. We have to remember that the Shoah did not begin with the railroad trucks and the bricks to create the crematoriums: it started with ideas and it started with words. The protocols of the Elders of Zion played a very important role in demonizing, dehumanizing and separating the Jewish people from the European societies that they were destroyed from. It is the same ideology which has been permeating the Middle East but it is also expectable when Ahmadinejad or other representatives of other societies enter into the United Nations, they speak in the narrative of the protocols of the Elders of Zion. If you Google the speeches of Ahmadinejad at the United Nations in New York a few months ago or the year before that, you can see that he is actually speaking in this form of genocidal – I am using my words purposely – in a genocidal form of anti-Semitism in his speech. We need to understand and develop a new language. The protocols, in Turkey for example, have been published by twelve publishing houses. This narrative of anti- Semitism which has been used as a strategic weapon not only against Israel, not only against the Jewish people but against Western interests. I would say very strongly for those of us who are concerned about human rights, we know that this narrative of the protocols will continue to flush freely if policy makers and leading media experts don’t pick up on this. When Ahmadinejad was in the United States he was not challenged ever by anybody on his use of the protocols of Elders of Zion and he was interviewed by all the leading media while he was there. Recently when Ahmadinejad spoke at Columbia University, he made the statement that there were no gay people in Iran. The audience, consisting of professors and students from the Middle East, they all laughed because at one level this is an absurd statement. We understand that the Iranian revolutionary regime is not a laughing matter because to be gay in Iran is indecent, to be a modern Muslim fighting for democratic rights is indecent, to fight for religious pluralism in all these societies becomes a problem, and as the Arab spring evolves and the Muslim Brotherhood becomes more prominent in the struggles in Egypt, in Syria, we need to really understand the language and the discourse of this social movement and how to ensure not that anti-Semitism is not going to be used as a strategic weapon, but how the agenda of human rights and a strong citizenship guarantees equal rights for everybody – men and women, heterosexuals and gay people, religious minorities, Christians and Jews – in new emerging societies. We have to be mindful of how anti-Semitism has been used as a weapon. Professor Rootweiss has always said that anti-Semitism historically is almost like a game of prophecies. The dictators, the reactionary social movements say: look at Jews, look at Zionists, look at the Israelis, and they focus the attention of the people here. On the other hand the leaders are taking away the basic human rights of the citizens and we have to make sure that this does not occur again. Thank you very much.
I want to begin by thanking the Chamber of Deputies for the document being presented today. The fact the document was produced and unanimously approved is already important. Even more important is that this is a complete report, not one that limits itself to the stigmatisation of the Nazi-Fascist anti-Semitism of the past, but takes a hard look also at the new variety, which does not profess, at least not openly, hatred of Jews for belonging to an “inferior race”, for persisting with their religion rather than converting, for the their ancestors’ betrayal of Jesus or Muhammad, for being a cultural left-over that needs to be wiped away, or for representing the quintessence of the sort of capitalism that needs to be to be abolished. Rather, the new version of anti-Semitism hates Jews for being bound to Israel, which is described as an abusive, colonialist, murdering state, the founding of which was, in the words of President Ahmadinejad of Iran, “humanity’s greatest crime.” The Report of the Chamber of Deputies manages to include all these forms of anti-Semitism, categorising them, distinguishing between them and judiciously setting out examples. The Report does a great job and stands as a moral example of how parliamentary work based on bipartisan agreement can provide a lucid analysis of problems and propose remedies. I should like to add a few thoughts relating to my particular discipline, semiotics. Anti-Semitism is not so much a “prejudice”, in that a prejudice is also a belief, as a certain type of social discourse, specifically what the Americans call “hate speech”. It is a discourse that generates negative passions in members of society, which generates social hate. Anti-Semitism, as the Report says, is probably the oldest type of hate speech in the world; certainly, it is the most diffuse. There is no anti-African racism in Nigeria, of course, but anti-Semitism exists there; there is no fear of the yellow peril in Japan, but there is anti-Semitism, even in the absence of a Jewish community. There is anti-Semitism in Argentina, as shown by a recent report published on the web; there is public and institutionalised anti-Semitism in semi-dictatorships such as Venezuela and throughout the Islamic world, even though for fifty years it has been essentially Judenrein. Recently, there were reports on the internet that the last eight Jews of Iraq had to flee the country after Wikileaks revealed their identity, which they had kept hidden for decades, and are now being kept concealed in a secret hideaway by a present-day “Righteous among the nations”. This is how a continuous presence dating back at least to the Babylonian Exile 2600 years ago was brought to an end. Yet anti-Semitism persists in the country. Like all discourses, anti-Semitism does not occur in a vacuum. Every discourse has a grammatical predicate, consisting of the object of the discourse, and a social subject, consisting of the speaker. The discourse concerns Jews, but it requires a human subject to deliver it. Discourses replicate and spread, but they also have a source. In order to combat anti-Semitism, it is essential to trace and stem the source. Certain social agents produce anti- Semitism, whether they like it or not, whether they know it or not. First among these is the media, whose function is to disseminate what is said. For the most part, however, journalism is not the source of the social discourse it helps to spread, it is simply the medium, the intermediary between the sources and the targets. The same function is often carried out, though less visibly, by educational agencies - schools, in other words. A school is a complex environment, and no one can say our schools are pursuing an anti-Semitic syllabus, but some recent alarms relating to the content of textbooks remind us that we need to keep a close eye on this environment, too. Besides, the alarming statistics for anti-Semitism among young people suggests that the cause cannot be the transmission of prejudice within the family only. The Report points to certain types of discourse, and therefore implicitly points to certain sources. When it comes to religious anti-Judaism, for example, it is clear that the Church propagated anti-Semitic stereotypes, and did so with considerable intensity until about a century ago. Without doubt, during the twentieth century the Church progressively distanced itself from this discourse and repudiated it. Even so, discourses continue to proliferate long after their source have been terminated, and there are still echoes of this old hate speech, even in places that are not all that marginal to the ecclesiastic world. Just as there are echoes of the racism from the past century, so there are echoes of the old obloquy that accuses the Jews of having economic power and wanting to “conquer the world”. The document clearly shows this. Within the Islamic community, meanwhile, the anti- Semitic discourse continues almost unchallenged. The problem today has mainly to do with the anti- Semitism stemming from a hatred of Israel and disseminated through political and press agencies, with its pretence of innocence. The terrible history of the twentieth century did not eliminate anti-Semitism, but it did destroy the legitimacy of so-called “classic” arguments. Today, anybody who makes a slur in public about greedy Jews, about the Jewish plot for world conquest, about the Jews’ blood libel or the Jewish hatred for humanity, would be immediately shunned and, perhaps, even face criminal charges. But whoever attributes to the Israeli lobby or Mossad a dominion of America, if not of the entire world, and holds them responsible for horrible crimes such as the attack on the Twin Towers or the systematic murder of children and perhaps the use their organs, is not only free to do so, but feels blameless and may even believe he is acting for the good of humanity. Only in the Islamic world are these crimes directly attributed to the Jews. In the West, such accusations are kept at arm’s length by attributing the crimes to the “Israelis”, or perhaps to the “settlers” or the “Israeli Government”. All of whom are Jews, of course; indeed they are the most important contemporary historical expression of Judaism. In truth, the accusations are more or less the same. They are levelled, unfairly, at Israel, with the accusers applying the double standards that this Report does such a good job at identifying. As the Report correctly observes, the border between anti-Zionism, more or less legitimate criticism of Israeli policies and anti-Semitism is porous. This porous border, traversed also by people who consider themselves wellintentioned, whether they be clergy, politicians, members of NGOs, journalists or even in some cases Jews, is the true source of contemporary anti-Semitism. The bulk of anti-Semitic discourse in the world derives from (or hides behind) anti-Israeli militancy, which has ensured its survival beyond all reason. We need to exercise the utmost vigilance in this world of ours, not, of course, to prevent the free expression of thought and political action, but to censure political discourse at the moment it oversteps the confines of hate speech.
Fiamma, first I would like to thank you and the Sub-Committee for what you have done. It is unbelievable that you followed up the idea that has been debated on in several European Parliaments and in the Canadian Parliament, and you have established a distinguished Sub-Committee which has adopted a very brave attitude and we now have the chance to reconsider what is in your paper. I would like to reflect a bit on your paper, on your recommendations. At first, I would draw your attention on what is the real problem now. Whenever societies are living in turbulences growing from different sources, then patterns of prejudice could emerge again, and what I fear really is that we have seen the peak of anti-Semitism in 2009 and we are also seeing, as you mentioned, that there is a public discourse going on which is troubling. If you take the statistics, then you will find out that in European countries, and in fact in the USA and in Canada, too, there is a kind of anti-Semitism affecting roughly around between ten and fifteen percent of the population. Sometimes there is a peak to be seen especially then, when there is a kind of inter-mingling process between old Judaism, social anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. To be very frank, if you look into the problems of the Near or Middle East, then you could see that in the near future we, all of us – civil societies, parliamentarians and governments – should be aware of the fact that a new form of peak could emerge. In this regard, I do have a second problem or fear: the generational shift now will show that the remembrance, the personally linked remembrance of people who knew what in my part of the world – in Germany, for instance – has been defined as “nationalism”, as “Nazism”, that this remembrance and these people are going away. That means that individual remembrance is shifting. But what is then the answer of all of us, of the teachers, of the historians, of the parliamentarians? If this shift means that forgetting is the answer, then we are falling into a dark age again. What is now needed is a kind of cultural remembrance that should foster the attitudes, the actions against the new forms of anti-Semitism. We are now from several perspectives in a crucial time, and because of that we should be very thankful to the Italian Parliament for delivering this report. This is a new consensus worked out in a frank and hard debate inside the Parliament, and reflected by others coming from the outside. That means that that kind of new consensus should be the basis for new actions that will be needed when new forms of anti-Semitism emerge. This is a kind of basic element of what we need in Europe and why is this needed. I am not, as a protestant Christian, against anti-Semitism because anti-Semitism has to do with Jews alone, but I am against anti-Semitism because anti-Semitism is against European dignity, European democracy, European values. This is the reason why all of us, being Jewish, being Christian, being whatever and even being Muslim, we should keep our forces together and lay the foundations for a common battle against this new phenomenon that we are now seeing. I do hope that the foundations for this committed fighting in new forms against anti- Semitism are to be found in this report. Fiamma, thank you again for what you have done. My last paragraph is about what should we do now. Because of the fact that younger generations are feeling a lack of knowledge, we should foster any new form of cognitive education. That means at first that what we need is a new kind of rationality to deal with the problem. The second is: yes, you should know what has happened and you should know what is going on now, but secondly what we really need is empathy. Empathy to understand what the other is thinking, feeling and to share with him, if he is in danger, that kind of emotion that is needed. Third, be active. Activity should be the next and the last thing that we should create anew. What is needed then is at first rationality, secondly empathy and at last activity. Your report is a strong basis for looking for new actions, and this is a very good, a wonderful starting point, giving others, other parliamentarians all over Europe, a new empathy, a new chance to act. Thank you.