Saadia Mascarini

(No) Pride with Antisemitism

Keshet Italia at Rome's Pride 2023. Courtesy of Keshet Italia.

Italian LGBTQ+ Jews Withdraw from Summer Prides Amid Rising Antisemitism

Keshet Italia, the organization representing Italian LGBTQ+ Jews, announced through a statement on social media last night that they will not participate in the Italian pride events this summer. The decision, as stated by the group, is due to the “growing fears of aggression and the climate of hostility and hatred that has developed around our participation.”

Since October 7, a challenging environment has emerged within the Italian LGBTQ+ community for Jews who, already marginalized within a marginalized group, have experienced a level of isolation similar to that seen in other progressive spheres, such as feminism and student politics. Italian queer Jews are being pressured to justify themselves, condemn Israel, dissociate from Zionism, and renounce other expressions of Jewish identity that are fundamental to the contemporary identity of the vast majority of Italian Jews.

In the months following the massacre on October 7, there were already ambiguous attitudes and statements, including accusations of genocide against Israel and conspiratorial fake news in the style of Al Jazeera, sometimes even justifying Hamas terrorism. However, over the months, these ambiguities—sometimes from Italian LGBTQ+ organizations—escalated into increasingly antisemitic comments, threatening and attacking the right of Italian queer Jews to participate in pride events with symbols of their Jewish identity. Faced with the risk of antisemitic hate and the fear of physical attacks, Italian queer Jews decided not to participate in the parades for their safety.

Among the comments highlighted by Keshet Italia, there are some resembling those from far-rights group: references to crematoriums, invitations not to attend, and expressions of pride in excluding queer Jews. This spectacle of hate provokes indignation before anger, given the level of animosity manifesting in a country like Italy, which, despite convenient post-war amnesia, remains responsible for the Holocaust and the oppression of its Jewish minority during the fascist era.

Furthermore, it appears that Italian LGBTQ+ organizations have not unequivocally and publicly condemned the surge of antisemitism in Italy since October. In recent instances, pride organizations have taken controversial stances, as seen with Bergamo Pride in northern Italy, which declared in a recent statement that “Israeli flags or symbols associated with the state of Israel would not be welcomed or tolerated.” Many interpreted this as an effort to censor the display of rainbow flags adorned with the Magen David, a symbol of queer Jewish pride. This stance led the Bergamo city administration to withdraw its support for the city’s pride event.

Expressions of solidarity from the political world came from Ivan Scalfarotto, senator and multiple-time undersecretary from 2014 to 2022, and the first openly gay member of an Italian government to marry his partner in a civil ceremony in 2017. Senator Scalfarotto stated on his X profile that he “finds it absurd that a community like ours, made up of people who experience discrimination, intolerance, and hate firsthand, can target a minority within it.” He added that “this climate is even more inexplicable considering that Israel is the only place in the entire Middle East where LGBTQ+ people live in full legality and security.” He also pledged to “attend the pride only if the friends from Keshet Italia decide to go, and in that case, he will march with them.”

Sinistra per Israele, a group comprising progressive political figures supporting Israel and its right to exist, also issued a strong condemnation of the antisemitism experienced by queer Jews. In a statement to the ANSA news agency, they denounced it as “a despicable form of antisemitic discrimination, diametrically opposed to the historical values of pride.”

Anna Paola Concia, a former parliamentarian of the Italian Democratic Party and a longstanding advocate for civil rights, also voiced her solidarity, highlighting the left’s indifference towards the issue of Jewish isolation within progressive circles. Meanwhile, Milan city councilor Daniele Nahum, a member of the Milan Jewish community and former president of the Italian Union of Jewish Youth, read Keshet’s statement at the city council meeting and announced that he will not attend this year’s pride event in Milan. From the Jewish community, Carlo Riva, president of the Italian Federation for Progressive Judaism representing Italian reform Jewish communities, stated, “The decision not to participate is justified as we are witnessing a characterization of pride events linked to the Middle East conflict, which now appears widespread and seems to exceed the boundaries of antisemitism. Intersectionality seems to have turned into a means of division rather than unity, and this climate of excluding Jews from civil rights movements, as we had already observed with feminist movements in March, is troubling.”

Finally, the Aglietta Radical Association of Turin, affiliated with the Italian Radicals movement, announced that this year, for the first time, it will not participate in pride in solidarity with Italian queer Jews, and has called a press conference on the decision.

Despite the solidarity shown to Keshet Italia, what is clear is the failure of the Italian LGBTQ+ community to protect the Jews within it and to combat antisemitism, despite claims to the contrary from within the queer movement: as per the concepts of Keshet Italia’s statement, the real defeat in the absence of Jews at Italian prides is that of LGBTQ+ rights and inclusivity in the queer world.

About the Author
Saadia Mascarini is a Jewish and Zionist activist and youth leader from Italy. He is currently chair of Tamar Italia, the young adults movement of Italian Reform Judaism.
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