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Friday, 14 August 2015

Fiamma Nirenstein's appointment as Israel's ambassador to Italy raises concerns among Italian Jews

Fiamma Nirenstein defended the state of Israel and fought against anti-Semitism in her writing and in several other initiatives.

ROME (EJP)---The decision to appoint former member of the Italian parliament Fiamma Nirenstein and long-time journalist as next Israel's ambassador to Rome is raising concerns among leaders of Italy's Jewish community.
Many fear that this appointment will be used by those who claim that Italian Jews are more loyal to Israel than to their own country. Once an outspoken member of Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom Party, Nirenstein made aliyah in 2013 but recently vied for the leadership of Rome's Jewish community and her son works in the Italian intelligence service, raising fears in the Jewish community that accusations of dual loyalties will be made.
Although Nirenstein will have to give up her Italian citizenship, if the appointment is approved, many questioned whether the Jews would represent Rome or Israel.
The announcement of Nirenstein's appointment by Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took the Jewish community by surprise.
She defended Israel strongly in the Italian media every time the Israeli government's policies were criticized.
Rome’s Chief Rabbi Riccardo di Segni said in a short interview to the Italian news agency ANSA that ‘’she's a very good journalist.But I fear there may be problems due to the appointment … just read what's already on the social networks about her dual citizenship."
"It's problematic," another unnamed senior figure in the community was quoted as saying, adding :"If they appointed her as Israel's envoy in the UN or in another capital it would be alright. But appointing her as ambassador to Rome could make people ask if Italy's Jews are Israeli or Italian. It could even harm other Jews' chance of being elected to the Italian parliament, or to senior government posts in the future."
Another member of the Jewish community, who also remained anonymous told daily La Stampa : “Over the years, the Jew is always suspected of being a traitor to his country. Placing her in Italy, on the other side of the table, could harm Italian Jews' identity. The absolute majority of them are Zionists, but they're also citizens with all the rights and duties. It's not something to be trifled with," he said.
Nirenstein will take up the role when the mission of Israel's current ambassador to When he announced her appointment, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said : "I am convinced that Nirenstein will have success in deepening relations between Israel and Italy, a country that is our close friend," Netanyahu said.
Born to a Jewish family in Florence in 1945, Nirenstein has spent her life between Italy and Israel. She defended the state of Israel and fought against anti-Semitism in her writing and in several other initiatives. She was director of the Italian Cultural Institute in Tel Aviv from 1993-1994 and worked as a Middle East correspondent for Italian newspapers La Stampa and Il Giornale, writing reports, interviews and opinion pieces on peace negotiations and inter-religious dynamics from Jerusalem.
She often appeared in the Italian and European television debate with other politicians or personalities who criticized Israel. She was also a member of the Friends of Israel initiative founded several years ago by several European politicians, including former Spanish Prime Minister José Maria Aznar.
About 30,000 Jews live in Italy, mainly in Rome and Milan.

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