Fiamma Nirenstein

The UN and UNESCO are worse than a few idiots

It’s difficult for a Jew to write yet again about anti-semitism. Although it’s widely known that attacks against Jews have multiplied throughout the world in recent years, it’s a bit like talking about hurricanes. What can we do about them? I know readers, for the most part, won’t know, or rather they don’t want to hear what we’re talking about, although it’s worth taking into account efforts such as trips to Auschwitz or reading Anne Frank’s diary. It took Shakespeare to inform us in The Merchant of Venice that if you prick a Jew, he bleeds as any other.

Then, over the centuries, this has once again been forgotten. The most renowned scholar on the subject, the late Robert S. Wistrich, explained that anti-Semitism has never fully separated itself from the stigma attached to Hitler’s genocide, but that it’s actually a monster with many heads: it’s on the rise due to the resurgence of the radical right and largely because of the increase of Muslim minorities, but also quite simply because of the general anti-Israel attitude found within most international institutions.

However, a Jew today has no desire to cry and he doesn’t want to ask for help or protection. While I sincerely welcome the new initiative that 200 Lazio fans a year will go to visit Auschwitz, I must say that it doesn’t necessarily offer any guarantees in the future. Remembrance education doesn’t correspond with a sense of truth about the present, and prejudices are repeatedly practised not only because of forgetfulness but also out of ignorance. It would probably matter to Lazio fans if they were kicked out of stadiums, but then they might, for example, accuse the Jewish lobby of their misfortune and before long they’d find a way to get back into them. Anyway, one by one, they’d do something else that again reveals what they are: anti-Semites.

They may choose to go to an anti-Israel demonstration in which they cry death to Israel (as in Berlin a few weeks ago), they can post a comment against me or against the Jewish community on social media; they can say crude things or write on walls; they may pretend to be deaf when Khamenei or Hamas calls for Israel’s destruction. Anti-Semitism adjusts to the sensitivity of the society to which it belongs: Ms Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian who preaches the destruction of the State of Israel in the United States, appears on stage with a terrorist who has committed two attacks on civilians and has raised funds for the reconstruction of a vandalized cemetery… Is she less anti-Semitic because of this? Of course not, but she’s liked nonetheless. Among the supporters of the Lazio soccer team, there are also refined gentlemen, not solely proletarian idiots: they’ll a way to blame the “Jewish lobby,” perhaps they’ll laugh at some Jewish woman with blue eyes, similar to those of Carlo Emilio Gadda… Who knows.

There’s an entire literature about the Jewish woman, whole libraries about nefarious Israeli soldiers, UNESCO’s “files” on Jerusalem, all Islamic as everybody knows; a theological summation about Jesus Christ who wasn’t Jew, no, he was Palestinian…. and there are those who say that Israel is a “shitty little country,” which was reiterated by none other than Mikis Theodorakis, or sketch a cartoon of Ariel Sharon like a monster in one of Goya’s grotesque paintings, where he’s eating the heads of Palestinian babies whose blood is dripping upon his bare chest…

It’s just another hiatus in a sequence that also includes yours truly, when Vauro drew a cartoon of me with a Star of David and the Fascio Littorio – the original symbol of Mussolini’s fascists – on my chest, he called me Frankenstein by giving me a hooked nose, and not only did the judges side with him, but the leftist newspapers were particularly determined to insist upon the following: it wasn’t anti-Semitism, but political criticism. Why define anti-Semitism in our time, it’s so difficult, elusive, and newspapers, intellectuals, as well as common sense always take a step backwards when one realizes that it’s not solely present on the right, as in this case, but also runs rampant throughout the Muslim world, and the left, very old and well-established, has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths, but that’s something they always prefer to ignore.

Today when a Jew is forced to gaze at little Anne Frank like that, he thinks about so many other situations, and feels that he wants to deal with them only if they serve a particular political cause: for example, the notion that Trump is to blame for the rise of anti-Semitic incidents in America is preposterous, as is the ever-growing concern that the rise of right-wing parties, from Austria and Germany to Holland, may lead to the resurgence of anti-Semitism. It’s right to be concerned, even if the majority of the parties of the new European right continue to strenuously repudiate it. Yet at least they do so: instead, why doesn’t the UN, UNESCO, groups that promote BDS and Muslim organizations on the continent deny it?

I have never before heard insistent calls to combat hatred in relation to the Jews or promises of going to visit Auschwitz. After Ilan Halimi’s assassination, the attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, the massacre at a Jewish school in Toulouse, Hamas and Erdogan’s genocidal statements, and Iran’s promise to wipe Israel off the map, where’s the movement that opposes anti-Semitism until death? Why isn’t the Italy’s President or any of its leading political figures speaking up? The newspapers that declare they’re Anne Frank? I’m sorry; it’s me who is Anne Frank, only that today beyond the urge to publicly denounce this despicable act I greatly desire to slap some faces as well.

Translation by Amy Rosenthal

This article originally appeared in slightly different form in Italian in Il Giornale (October 25, 2017)

About the Author
Fiamma Nirenstein is a journalist, author, former Deputy President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, and member of the Italian delegation at the Council of Europe.
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