25 Febbraio 2011

The Paradox of the Italian Jewish Experience in 1990-2010



There is a paradox to the Italian Jewish experience in the 2000s. Jews are more integrated than ever since 1945, and Israel has been relegitimized in important quarters after being in practice delegitimized by the Communists, Socialists, and those media close to the Christian Democrats in the late 1970s and 1980s, reaching the lowest point in the second half of 1982. Yet, because of various factors including the web as well as unwillingness to take things in stride any longer, the organized and individual voices of Italy’s Jews are now often blunt, harsh, and resentful in a way that would have been unthinkable previously.


While the Jews are indeed more accepted than ever, sporadic expressions of direct, incontrovertible anti-Semitism have occurred even in the circles of power, and even at the highest levels. The past twenty years have seen a confluence between Italy’s far Left and far Right in adopting anti-Israeli and sometimes anti-Semitic positions. In some cases this has involved tolerance of right-wing Holocaust denial by elements on the Left.


Italy’s severely anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic responses to the 1982 Lebanon war involved both global and local aspects. It both reflected Italy’s past and has partly shaped patterns of response to Middle Eastern and Jewish affairs by a sizable part of Italy’s media and public opinion.


For all the persistence, and sometimes transmogrification, of hostile attitudes toward Jews and Israel from some quarters, there is often sympathy from persons from different walks of life. And since the end of the First Republic in the early 1990s, also some of Italy’s politicians allow themselves to express sympathy for Israel.