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Italian MP bemoans “Zionist influence” on Press, calls Zionism “synonymous with racism”

Manlio Di Stefano, the 36-year-old head of the Five Star Movement’s Foreign Affairs Committee, has made antisemitic comments about “Zionist influence” on the media.

Di Stefano posted the comments on his Facebook page, protesting Italy’s vote in favour of Israel at UNESCO.

The Five Star Movement is a populist and anti-establish political party in Italy.

Di Stefano claimed that in supporting Israel, Italy “became a partner of the damage that  Israel is causing to ancient monuments that UNESCO cannot protect because of the Israeli occupation and the blockade of Gaza that UNESCO has asked to remove”. He continued to say that Zionism is “synonymous with racism”. According to the Definition of Antisemitism, “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour” is antisemitic.

In his comments, he then listed the names of several Jewish journalists, citing them as being sources of “Zionist Influence in Italian Media”. The idea of “Zionists” influencing the media is an unapologetic use of a common antisemitic canard of Jews controlling the media, which is common in antisemitic conspiracy theories. According to the Definition of Antisemitism, it is antisemitic to use “the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g. claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterise Israel or Israelis”. However, beyond this, the targeting of individual Jewish journalists, as opposed to the general statement, is somewhat more insidious and more worrying, and provides an illustration of how the harbouring antisemitic views spills over into direct attacks against individual Jews.

Parliamentary sources have reportedly confirmed that this incident is likely to spoil Di Stefano’s chances of securing a more senior position.