1. "Italians say Jewish citizens aren't 'real Italians'" (AP, Nov. 10, 2003)
2. "Poll shows 17 percent of Italians oppose Israel's existence" (Ha'aretz, Nov. 11, 2003)
3. "Italian minister compares Iraq attack to Sept. 11" ( Reuters, Nov 13, 2003)
BERLUSCONI CALLED SHARON TO EXPRESS HIS "SURPRISE AND INDIGNATION"
[Note by Tom Gross]
These poll results are perhaps all the more surprising because the Italian government has been at the forefront of opposing the rest of the European Union's pro-Palestinian positions.
Italy's center-right government holds the European Union's six-month rotating presidency until the end of the year and has tried to use its term to tone down EU criticisms of Israeli policies.
On November 3, Italian Foreign Minister and acting President of the European Union Franco Frattini told Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom that the most recent European Commission-sponsored public opinion poll in which Europeans declared that Israel was the greatest threat to world peace, "distorted reality." (48 per cent of Italians questioned took this view of Israel – the lowest proportion among any of the EU's 15 member states, and well below the EU average of 59 per cent.)
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi called Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to express his "surprise and indignation" over the survey.
On November 4, Gianfranco Fini, Italy's deputy prime minister, defended Israel's right to build a security barrier with parts in the West Bank, in remarks that put the Italian government at odds with its European Union partners. He said: "It's necessary to put oneself in the shoes of everybody and understand the reasons why Israel thinks that, to defend itself, it should control its territory better."
Prime Minister Berlusconi took the lead in distancing Italy's Middle East policies from those of its EU partners when he visited the region before the start of the Italian EU presidency, and departed from EU practice by not meeting Yassir Arafat, the Palestinian Authority president.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini also said that Malaysian PM Mahathir "used expressions that were gravely offensive, very strongly anti-Semitic and ... strongly counter to principles of tolerance, dialogue and understanding between the Western world and the Islamic world."
I attach three pieces on Italy below.
-- Tom Gross
ITALIANS SAY JEWISH CITIZENS AREN'T "REAL ITALIANS"
Italians say Jewish citizens aren't 'real Italians'
The Associated Press
November 10, 2003
A poll published Monday showed that Italians have mixed feelings about Israel and Jews, with 22 percent of those polled saying fellow Jewish citizens are not "real Italians," and 51 percent saying Jews have a different mentality and way of life from the rest of Italians.
The poll, published in the Corriere della Sera newspaper, showed that 52 percent of Italians have little sympathy for the Jewish state, while 42 percent do. Seventy percent said Israel has a right to exist although its government makes mistakes, while 17 percent said it would be better if the Jewish state didn't exist.
The poll, carried out by the ISPO institute, was conducted on 700 people Nov. 6-7, and had a margin of error of 4 percent.
The Italian Jewish community now numbers about 30,000, mainly in Rome and Milan.
POLL SHOWS 17 PERCENT OF ITALIANS OPPOSE ISRAEL'S EXISTENCE
Poll shows 17 percent of Italians oppose Israel's existence
By Sharon Sadeh
November 11, 2003
Italians have mixed feelings toward Israel and the Jewish community in their country, according to a poll published Monday, which indicated there is stereotype-laden racism among one fifth of Italians.
In the national survey, which appeared in the daily Corriere della Sera, seventy percent of responders said Israel had a right to exist despite bad policies of the Israeli government, while 17 percent thought it would be best if Israel ceased to exist altogether.
Also, 22 percent of respondents said that Italian Jewish citizens "are not real Italians," while 51 percent of those polled expressed the belief that Jews had a different mentality and lifestyle to other Italians.
With regards to Israel, the poll showed that a majority of Italians – 52 percent – do not identify with Israel, while 42 percent of those questioned said that they do identify with the state.
The poll of 700 people was conducted last week by the ISPO research institute, and was performed by Professor Renato Mannheimer, a well known Italian sociologist.
The survey was ordered in the wake of the public debate in Italy following the publication of the European Union survey, which found that 59 percent of those polled believed Israel to be a threat to world peace.
The Italian debate centered on whether the Europe survey, which made no mention of the Palestinian Authority on the grounds that it is not a state, was biased or misleading.
Many public figures have since stated that those surveyed in the EU poll did not understand the question posed. Mannheimer sought to check whether this was indeed the case or if the poll did reflect the Italian street.
The stance reflected by the Italians surveyed in the latest poll runs contrary to the pro-Israel stance of their government. The Financial Times reported Monday that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has opposed an EU initiative to condemn Israel for boycotting the European body's Middle East envoy Mark Otte.
ITALIAN MINISTER COMPARES IRAQ ATTACK TO SEPT 11
Italian minister compares Iraq attack to Sept 11
November 13, 2003
Italy's defence minister on Thursday visited the scene of a suicide bombing that killed 18 Italians in Iraq and blamed it on the "same people" who had carried out the September 11 attacks on the United States.
Minister Antonio Martino told reporters in the southern Iraqi town of Nassiriya that Italy would not be intimidated by the "terrible experience" of Wednesday's blast.
"It reminded me that slightly over a month ago, I was in New York City at Ground Zero and I was struck by the similarity of the impression," he said, referring to the destruction of the World Trade Center in the suicide plane attacks of 2001.
"Then I realised why – because they are the same people. They are the people that we are fighting against and we shall not allow them to terrorise us," Martino said.
Martino did not further identify the attackers. In Rome on Wednesday, he said he believed fighters loyal to ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein were behind the attack. The September 11 attacks have been blamed on the al Qaeda Islamic militant network.
Martino denied there had been a lack of security at the military police base in Nassiriya where Wednesday's suicide attack killed 27 people, including 18 Italians.
The blast tore off the front of a three-storey concrete building on the Euphrates riverfront, killing 16 Italian police officers and two Italian civilians, Italy's highest military death toll in one incident since World War Two.
Hospital officials said at least nine Iraqis were killed and more than 80 wounded in the explosion.
About 2,300 Italian troops are in southern Iraq and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a staunch ally of the United States and Britain in Iraq, has said they will stay.