During the year of the attack on the Great Synagogue, PLO chief Yasser Arafat addressed the Italian Chamber of Deputies armed with a pistol. Andreotti, the godfather of the parliament’s pro-Arab policy, had allowed him to do so; and only Giovanni Spadolini of Italy’s Republican Party opposed the event.
And well he should have, since the terrorist fury of the Palestinians was already an established fact, highlighted by the slaughter of athletes (the massacre at the Munich Olympics in 1972, in which 11 were killed), children (the 1974 mass murder at the Ma’alot in Israel, which left 31 dead) and innumerable other episodes of plane hijackings, bus bombings, random explosions and shootings.
In those years, however, an absolutist and unctuous policy made the Palestinian world — with all its antisemitic ferocity, dishonesty and human-rights violations — an untouchable sacred cow in the eyes not only of Italy, but throughout Western Europe. Fear, along with the need for Arab oil, were the basic reasons for this “dhimmitude” that Egyptian-born British scholar Bat Ye’or has denounced in so many of her works, and that today, thanks to the signing of the historic Abraham Accords, seems to have ceased.
Yet yesterday, as today, allowing, acquiescing to and negotiating over the aggression against and killing of Jews is a classic aspect of antisemitism. As in the case of the underground agreement exposed by Il Riformista, there is still the secret belief that Jewish lives are not worth as much as those of others.
When I covered the countless suicide attacks in Israel during the second Palestinian intifada, which resulted in thousands of deaths, I discovered how much indifference and silence could surround the annihilation of Jews. It goes without saying now, but I felt deeply at the time that this was antisemitism.
When Israel is denied the right to self-defense — a right that is granted to any other country — it’s nothing other than antisemitism. When a toddler like Stefano Tachè was shot on the steps of the Great Synagogue of Rome, it is dual antisemitism: that of the one who shot him and that of those who negotiated in order to leave him naked, without protection, in his very tender existence as a Jewish child.
Jewish lives matter.
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.