Italian Foreign Minister Expresses Strong Support for Israel and Its Efforts To Make Peace
New York, NY, April 12, 2005 … A history of bias against the state of Israel has contributed to a climate in Europe in which unfair criticism of the Jewish State and anti-Semitism continues to flourish, the Italian Foreign Minister told an audience at a meeting hosted by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini told the audience of Jewish leaders gathered at ADL's National Headquarters today in New York that Italy has taken the lead "in trying to restore a sense of balance vis-à-vis the Middle East conflict.
"I strongly believe that for a long period of time, the European community has been biased," Mr. Fini said in English through an interpreter. "This unbalanced approach led many to assume that Israel was to blame for the situation, and that the Palestinians were the victims in the situation. And from that unbalanced stance it became that Israel was the enemy of peace, and that Jews were the enemies of peace."
In referring to anti-Semitism, the Foreign Minister said that while religious anti-Semitism has declined, the current surge of anti-Semitism in Europe is directly connected to "polemics against the state of Israel." Mr. Fini said that under the leadership of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Italy has attempted to change that calculus, and he hopes that this approach can serve as a model for the rest of Europe.
"The Italian government has attempted an honest, a true and not biased look at the situation," he said. "This honest approach has been enough for Israel to consider us a friendly government, because in the past, most of the blame was given to Israel, not to the Palestinians."
Adding that, "We must always bear in mind that Israel is the only democratic government in the Middle Eastern context," Mr. Fini said that he believes Europe, the U.S. and Israel have shared values as Western nations that cherish democracy and security as fundamental rights. "The State of Israel has the right to live peacefully and in security, and this right of Israel needs to be underlined by the European Union and the European community as a whole," he said.
Commenting on the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, Mr. Fini sounded a note of optimism and expressed strong confidence in the current Israeli government. "I am convinced that if peace is not achieved by Mr. Sharon, it will not be achieved by anyone else," he said.
Mr. Fini was introduced by Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, who presented him with a sculptor's representation of one of the gates to the ancient city of Jerusalem. Mr. Foxman thanked the Foreign Minister for his country's friendship with Israel and its efforts to combat anti-Semitism. "The relationship between the United States and Italy has been a special one," said Mr. Foxman. "It is a relationship between two allies who value freedom and human rights. So, too, do we appreciate the special relationships with Israel and the Jewish people that have flowered under the leadership of this government of Italy."
Among those in attendance were representatives of The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Hadassah, Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, Orthodox Union, World Jewish Congress, and The Appeal of Conscience Foundation.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.