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Report: Jew-hatred ‘far higher’ in Italy in 2023 than prior year

There were 216 antisemitic incidents in the country between Oct. 7 and the end of the year, according to the Foundation Center for the Documentation of Contemporary Judaism.

Antisemitic protesters in Milan, Italy, on Nov. 11, 2023. Credit: Federico Fermeglia/Shutterstock.
Antisemitic protesters in Milan, Italy, on Nov. 11, 2023. Credit: Federico Fermeglia/Shutterstock.

The 454 antisemitic incidents recorded in Italy in 2023—216 of which occurred after Oct. 7—represent the largest ever such statistic, according to a new report.

The Observatory on Antisemitism of the Foundation Center for the Documentation of Contemporary Judaism (CDEC), which released the Feb. 9 report, received 923 reports during 2023. Its analysis excluded 469, which it didn’t consider antisemitic (270), found to be duplicates (86) or didn’t understand (113).

The more than 450 incidents it recorded is “far higher” than the 241 in 2022, it stated. “Never had such a high number of incidents been recorded over the course of 12 months.”

“After the terrorist acts committed by Hamas on Oct. 7, there was a radical shift back to a similar climate to that of 1982 during the First Lebanon War, when Italy experienced the most serious upsurge of antisemitism since the end of World War II,” including a bomb exploded at the foundation’s offices and a Palestinian terrorist attack at the Roman synagogue that killed a 2-year-old and injured 37 people, per the report.

Most of the Jew-hatred that the Observatory on Antisemitism documents are defamation and insults, including on social media or in public speeches.

“Since Oct. 7, there has been a clear break with the past, with about half of the acts against Jews taking place offline: death threats written on the interior walls of places frequented by Jews, mezuzah ripped from the door, threatening letters sent to Jewish communities, assaults (verbal and physical) on students in schools and universities, a sharp increase in the activity of BDS groups in some universities, harassment and pressure against Jewish students,” per the report.

It added that there has been “a general hardening of speech.”

Before October, the most antisemitic incidents recorded last year was 37 in March. There were 77 incidents of Jew-hatred in October; 72 in November; and 67 in December.

In 2023, the foundation found 259 antisemitic incidents online and 195 took place in person, including an assault and 40 threats. The online cases “are only those reported to the Observatory on Antisemitism by users and processed,” the group stated. “The Observatory directly monitors and processes infinitely more posts and incidents of antisemitism on the web throughout the year. In 2023, we directly analyzed about 3,500 of them.”

The largest number (96) was on Facebook, followed by X (54); TikTok and Instagram (19 each); YouTube (16); and Telegram (10).

Of the recorded instances of Jew-hatred, 350 discussed Jews collectively using “Judeophobic tropes,” per the report. Some of those terms were “Etruscan noses,” “Judeo-Nazis,” “Rothschilds,” “Rockefellers,” “Lubavitch noses,” “Kazars” and “Talmudists.”

Many antisemites also used the term “Ashkenazi” in a derogatory way, as in, “I do not harbor hostility toward Jews but only against the fake Ashkenazi Jews hated by the Jews themselves.”

Initial solidarity in Italy with the Jews whom Hamas terrorists murdered on Oct. 7 proved “short-lived” according to the report.

“As early as Oct. 10, demonstrations (which soon became weekly) against Israel began, promoted by Arab-Islamic organizations and associations of the antagonist left, with the participation of thousands of people,” per the report. “Islamism took to the streets and the web its antisemitism disguised as ‘anti-Zionism,’ with its agenda hoping for the erasure of the State of Israel and its people (from the river to the sea Palestine will be free).”

The report added that after the Israeli army took its first actions in its defensive war against Hamas, “the mainstream media started talking about Israel’s ‘revenge’ on the ‘defenseless Palestinian population,’ feeding the archaic anti-Jewish prejudice of the ‘law of retaliation.'”

“Daily updates of Palestinian deaths then began, reporting only on the elderly, women and, especially, children, with the latter referred to by one newspaper as ‘of the Jesuses killed by Israel,'” per the report.

The report also cited recent studies suggesting many Italians have distorted views of the country’s Jewish community.

Most Italians (64%) think that there are between 500,000 and two million Italian Jews, while the country’s true Jewish population is 30,000, according to a recent SWG poll.

Per an Ipsos poll, 36% of Italians report knowing “little or nothing” about what has occurred since Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack. Four in 10 self-report being pretty well in the know, while 24% believe they understand the matter in depth.

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