It happened in Rome only last week: at the entrance of a bakery, the owner hanged a sign that read: “The entrance is forbidden to gypsies.”
This hideous act was soon noticed and denounced by activists belonging to Associazione 21 Luglio, a charity that promotes the rights of the Roma and Sinti communities in Italy. Straight away the media picked up the story and images of Nazis and Fascists hanging their “No Jews Allowed” signs were evoked together with references to Apartheid South Africa.
Renzo Gattegna, the president of the Union of the Jewish Communities of Italy (UCEI), came out strongly against this racist episode that, in his words, “evokes in a worrying way, the darkest pages of our history. […] As Italian Jews we can’t keep silent in front of these acts of racism.”
Totaling around 180.000 people, the Roma and Sinti communities in Italy are often victims of intolerance and discrimination. Casual racism against these communities is not frowned upon and it’s generally accepted.
A report published by the Associazione 21 Luglio shows an average of 1.43 recorded cases of hate incitement and discrimination against Roma and Sinti taking place every day in Italy: the majority of them being statements from politicians reported unfiltered throughout the media and the social network platforms. Stereotypes on these communities are spread daily by an average number of 1.86 episodes of unfair news coverage by local and national media outlets.
Would the existence of a hypothetical Roma state help this community fight its battles against racism the way the State of Israel supports Jews around the world in the war against anti-Semitism?
When another Roma camp will be cleared, which embassy will object? Which representative at the UN will file a complaint? Where will the persecuted find shelter?
The guarantee that Israel represents for the safety of Diaspora Jews becomes evident when reading of episodes like the one that happened in Rome only a week ago.