Anti-Semitism: an underestimated phenomenon in Italy

Anti-Semitism is once again being discussed in Europe: following the conflict between Israel and Hamas, which has rekindled the fuse of tension in the Middle East, numerous acts of intolerance are being recorded. France, Austria and Russia have been the scene of violent anti-Semitic gestures reminiscent of a past that is suddenly becoming close. Even in Rome, there have been clearly anti-Semitic gestures: in Trastevere, a number of stumbling stones commemorating the rounding up of Roman Jews in October 1943 were defaced. Other episodes followed in Bologna and Milan. However, the gestures we are witnessing nowadays, in relation to today’s conflict, actually have deeper roots, linked to the scepticism and conspiracy that is rampant in the present and also looks back to the past. This is what emerged in the study conducted by Eurispes back in 2020, which focused on the problem of anti-Semitism and all related phenomena. The opinions collected showed that a minority but not underestimated part of Italians did not believe in the Holocaust and embraced certain stereotypes linked to the Jewish people.

In the 2020 Italy Report by Eurispes, it emerged that 15.6% of Italians deny the Holocaust, compared to 84.4% who disagree. In contrast, the assertion that the Holocaust did not produce as many victims, as is claimed, finds a slightly higher percentage of agreement: 16.1%, while disagreement reaches 83.8% of Italians. Moreover, according to 23.9% of Italians, Jews controlled economic and financial power and, according to more than a fifth of Italians surveyed (22.2%), they controlled the media. The thesis that Jews determine American political choices meets with the highest percentage of support, although it remains in the minority: 26.4%, compared to 73.6% against.

Conspiracists and negationists are as much on the right as on the left, and indeed, contrary to what one might believe, negationism is very much rooted in the centre-left.

The thesis that Jews control economic and financial power finds above-average agreement among respondents who are politically positioned on the centre-right (33.3%) and right (31%), less so among those on the centre (7.7%) and left (17.2%). Similar results are found regarding the alleged control of the media by Jews. As for the decisive influence of Jews on American political decisions, the thesis finds support especially among voters of the 5 Star Movement (33.5%) and among those on the right (31.8%) and centre-right (31.8%). The belief that the Shoah never took place sees the highest percentage of those in agreement among centre-left voters (23.5%). Revisionists are more numerous than average on the left – for 23.3% the Holocaust of the Jews really happened, but produced fewer victims than is usually claimed – and in the centre (23%).

The Eurispes survey also questioned the value of hate crimes against Jews in today’s society. According to the majority of Italians, episodes of anti-Semitism are isolated cases, which do not indicate a real problem of anti-Semitism in our country (61.7%). At the same time, 60.6% believe that these episodes are the consequence of widespread hate and racist language. For less than half of the sample (47.5%), acts of anti-Semitism occurring in Italy are a sign of a dangerous resurgence of the phenomenon. For 37.2%, on the other hand, they are shenanigans carried out as provocation or a joke.

According to the analysis of the Eurispes data, it can be said that anti-Semitism and the denial of crimes against Jews are creeping and present themes, not just today, in our social structure. The current conflict has done nothing but rehabilitate old and notorious crimes of hatred and intolerance, indeed, it has perhaps exacerbated them.


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