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Antisemitism and the Media in Italy

Surveys show that traditional prejudice still exists

Emanuele Ottolenghi

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In Italy, open antisemitism is frowned on, and isolated through both social condemnation and legal means today. Nevertheless, its traditional imagery occasionally becomes conflated with rhetoric about the ongoing Israeli–Palestinian dispute, which is the main source of anti-Jewish sentiments in Italy. This phenomenon appears in the mainstream press of all political persuasions, as well as among extremists. It cuts across the ideological spectrum, uniting the anti-global left, the xenophobic and Fascist right, pre-Vatican II Catholics, along with more mainstream segments of society. It is not so much the criticism of Israel per se, in other words, that constitutes antisemitism, but the confluence of antisemitic imagery and stereotypes with criticism of Israel.

Across Europe – Italy is no exception – Israel’s advocates protest that behind criticism of Israel there sometimes lurks a more sinister agenda dangerously bordering on antisemitism. Critics disagree. In their view, public attacks on Israel are not misplaced. Nor is the source of anti-Jewish sentiment: Israel’s behaviour is reprehensible and so are those Jews who defend it. Still, the intensity of this debate shows the difficulty in agreeing on a proper definition. The lack of a precise boundary is both cause and effect of the way public opinion defines, understands and identifies antisemitism and the current spate of anti-Jewish hostility.

Surveys show that traditional prejudice still exists, mainly on the fringes; but most animosity derives from the public perception of the Arab–Israeli conflict, itself a result of its coverage. Furthermore, polls show that such sentiments are not confined to fringe extremist groups.

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Emanuele Ottolenghi

Emanuele Ottolenghi

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