Roman landmark Caffè Greco, which opened on the Via dei Condotti in 1760, is in crisis. It has to be sold, and there is talk of Jewish buyers. To readers not living in or familiar with Rome this may not seem like a particularly interesting story—but then came a Facebook post expressing concern that the cafe would end up in the hands of “Zionists.”
Responding to the post, the Italian branch of the BDS movement promised that if Zionists bought the cafe, they would lead a boycott campaign against it. At which the cafe’s current owners chimed in, reassuring everyone that the historic cafe wouldn’t end up in Zionist hands.
Unfortunately, this shocking public exchange is far from being an exception; an anti-Semitic post appears on Twitter and other social media every 83 seconds, according to a 2016 study by the World Jewish Congress.
And while it’s been said many times, it bears repeating: The explosion of anti-Semitism around the world in recent years—which has already cost many lives—is rooted in an organized campaign of hatred against the State of Israel. This hatred is the meeting point of left- and right-wing anti-Semitism, and its goal is the delegitimization and criminalization of the Jewish nation-state.
It is also right out in the open.
When Jewish Italian Democratic Party deputy Emanuele Fiano spoke in the Italian Parliament recently, for example, right-wing MPs shouted him down with cries of “Zionist.”
If the Jew-hatred of the past was based on Jews’ supposed wealth, lack of national solidarity, stinginess, greed, etc., today’s anti-Semite justifies his hatred with Israel’s supposed crimes. And too many Jews have allied themselves with the Israel haters, unable to face the truth.
Might it help, as Italian daily Il Foglio suggested on Saturday, to reexamine late Radical Party leader Marco Pannella’s noble wish that the European Union invite Israel to join? Unfortunately, the answer is that the European Union is currently not worthy of having Israel as a member.
As it has since the days of Olof Palme, Willy Brandt and Bruno Kreisky, Europe still views Israel through the Soviet lens, as an imperialist and colonialist state. This is why the European Union has historically supported—and still supports—the Arab nations in their wars against the Jewish state.
The European Union has persecuted Israel at every opportunity with resolutions of condemnations, going so far as to threaten Israel when it defends itself against the continuous attacks of Hamas and other terrorist groups. It labels products from the disputed territories, and indeed would have condemned the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital had it not been for the Visegrád countries.
Europe finances and supports a myriad of anti-Israel movements, including the financiers of terrorism, and supports the Palestinian culture of victimization that justifies incitement to terrorism.
The recent motion by Italian Sen. Liliana Segre, a Holocaust survivor, to create a parliamentary commission to counteract intolerance, racism, anti-Semitism and incitement to hatred and violence made headlines when the center-right parties abstained. Heated debate has ensued in Italy.
Had I still been an acting member of parliament I would have voted in favor of Sen. Segre’s proposal, not only because it seeks to address a real issue but also out of love and respect for the senator herself. However, her motion implicitly suggested that anti-Semitism is a right-wing phenomenon, and while this was largely the case in the past, it is simply not true today.
Anti-Semitism today is not confined to the right or left. It can be identified via Natan Sharansky’s “three Ds”: delegitimization, demonization and double standards vis-à-vis Israel—and the left is the undisputed champion when it comes to double standards. Glaring examples abound, from British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to American university campuses to Vermont senator and U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
Echoing the infamous “Zionism equals racism” resolution passed by the United Nations in 1975, Sanders has declared Israel to be a “racist” country. That shameful resolution was eventually done away with, but for today’s left nothing has changed. To it, Israel is merely a part of the collective enemy all oppressed groups of the world must form a common front against.
What folly to believe this of a people not only historically among the most persecuted in the world, but who are suffering from anti-Semitic bigotry and violence today.
If the Italian Parliament truly wants to fight anti-Semitism, it needs to start by teaching the true history of Israel, abolishing the labeling of Israeli products, adopting the Working Definition of Anti-Semitism and removing the stigma that has been attached to the collective Jew.
It’s about time Europe started to wake up and fight, and anti-Zionism should be its first target.
Journalist Fiamma Nirenstein was a member of the Italian Parliament (2008-13), where she served as vice president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Chamber of Deputies. She served in the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, and established and chaired the Committee for the Inquiry Into Anti-Semitism. A founding member of the international Friends of Israel Initiative, she has written 13 books, including “Israel Is Us” (2009). Currently, she is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Translated by Amy Rosenthal.