Italy’s Meloni meets Jewish groups, decries antisemitism

Italian Premier Presents Economic Measures On Energy, Family
Gregorio Borgia - staff, AP

Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni talks to journalists during a press conference to present the 2023 proposed budget in Rome, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022.

ROME (AP) — Premier Giorgia Meloni insisted on the “essential importance” of Italy’s Jewish community for the nation and Europe during a meeting Wednesday with the head of the World Jewish Congress and Italian Jewish groups.

Meloni’s office issued a readout of the meeting as the premier seeks to distance her far-right Brothers of Italy party, which has its roots in a post-World War II neofascist movement, from Italy’s anti-Jewish racial laws and the suppression of democracy under Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

The statement said that during the meeting “there emerged full agreement on the need for a strong and more incisive common commitment to combat every form of antisemitism, a phenomenon in worrisome growth including on the web and social networks.”

It said Meloni “underlined the essential importance of Jewish communities for the Italian and European national identity.”

The Brothers of Italy has its origins in the Italian Social Movement, or MSI, which was founded in 1946 by former Mussolini officials and drew fascist sympathizers into its ranks. It remained a small far-right party until the 1990s, when it became the National Alliance and worked to distance itself from its neo-fascist past.

Meloni was a member of the youth branches of MSI and the National Alliance, and founded Brothers of Italy in 2012, keeping the tricolor flame symbol of the MSI in her party logo.

During the campaign, amid Democratic Party warnings that she represented a danger to democracy, Meloni insisted that the Italian right had “handed fascism over to history for decades now,” and had condemned racial laws and the suppression of democracy.

The World Jewish Congress didn’t respond when asked to comment about the meeting with Meloni. In addition to WJC president Ronald Lauder, participants also included the head of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, Noemi Di Segni, and the head of Rome’s Jewish Community, Ruth Dureghello.