The silence that screams

On the 40th anniversary of the attack on the Great Synagogue of Rome, let’s remember the true nature of terrorism.

A memorial service for the victims of the Oct. 9, 1982 terror attack on the Great Synagogue of Rome. Photo: Fiamma Nirenstein
A memorial service for the victims of the Oct. 9, 1982 terror attack on the Great Synagogue of Rome. Photo: Fiamma Nirenstein
Fiamma Nirenstein
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.

Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022 is the 40th anniversary of the 1982 Palestinian terror attack on the Great Synagogue of Rome, in which a two-year-old child, Stefano Tache, was killed and 37 others wounded. Stefano’s brother Gadiel, also wounded in the attack, has just published his memoir, The Shouting Silence, in which he deals with the Italian government’s complicity with the terrorists.

The whole of Italy must thank Gadiel for his strength and determination, and for telling the story of his suffering and that of his whole family, especially his courageous mother Daniela and his father Joseph. His story is a personal one of universal value. It teaches us that victims of terrorism face an emotional tsunami from which they can never completely recover. Their psychological and physical pain is unacknowledged and still far from being fully understood, defined and addressed.

In recent months, Israel has faced a wave of terror attacks and attempted attacks. Only the victims know the trauma they must endure, the family heartache, the legacy of physical wounds. During the second intifada, I saw the streets of Jerusalem literally covered in the blood of over 1,000 dead. Yet the aggressors were absolved and even exalted as princes of the world’s oppressed. The victims, however, were erased, and Israel and Jews libeled as oppressors.

Gadiel Tache’s account of his personal experience and the horrific political scandal that allowed the attack sheds light on the true nature of anti-Semitic terrorism and the suffering it causes. In his book, Gadiel makes it clear that anti-Semitic terrorism is simply the latest historical iteration of genocidal anti-Semitic violence, which culminated in the Holocaust. Anti-Semitic terror today uses political viciousness, media defamation, campus and social media hate and outright physical attacks on Jews around the world.

This terror is at its worst in Israel, where anyone, anywhere can fall prey to shooting, knife and car-ramming attacks. There is no family that does not have a relative or friend who has been a victim of terror. But there is also no place in the world that has not known anti-Semitic terrorism, from the 1972 Munich Olympics to Paris, Madrid, London, Toulouse, the Netherlands, New York and many American cities, as well as Mumbai, Kenya and, of course, Rome.

The global pandemic of terrorism, which reached its peak on 9/11, has never been rightly defined as immensely anti-Semitic, though the terrorists themselves never fail to scream out their hatred of Jews, as in the Rome attack whose anniversary we now solemnly observe. The incidents number in the tens of thousands, always accompanied by the demonization of Israel and cries of “death to the Jews” paired with “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

Anti-Semitic terrorism has the same purpose today as did in the past: the destruction of the Jewish people. Now, this is to be accomplished by the destruction of the only Jewish state in the world, which is also the only democracy in the Middle East. Indeed, the hatred of Israel that culminates in, as Robert Wistrich called it, the “Nazification” of the Jewish state has taken on frightening dimensions even in Italian public opinion. This ranges from an article by Valentino Parlato in which he compared Ariel Sharon to Kesserling and Goering to Lucio Lombardo Radice claiming that Israel was implementing the Nazi liquidation of the ghettos in Beirut.

Arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat, carrying a weapon, spoke to the Italian parliament, as Gadiel recalls in his book. Arafat was even then formulating the bloody strategy that would lead to the second intifada, with the training of the shahid martyrs and their sanctification, even as Arafat claimed to be searching for the peace he in reality always rejected.

Over my career as a journalist, I have met many terrorists. When you meet them, you realize that their upbringing and training have made them immovable, and that their hate has nothing to do with territorial issues. It is ideological and religious, and turns the “martyr” who kills Jews into a sanctified figure. At home, at school, on the walls of town squares and in summer camps, they learn to follow the road of rejection, hate and terrorism. As they boast, “We love death as much as they love life.”

This is the truth. The mothers who rejoice in the death of their shahid sons are the exact opposite of our mothers, the exact opposite of Daniela, who has fought alongside Gadiel ever since that terrible day 40 years ago. Today, she returns the memory of Stefano to us, alive, a child of us all.

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 and is the author of Jewish Lives Matter.

This is a translation of an article that originally appeared in the Italian Jewish publication Shalom.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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