Menu JTA Search

Mediterranean Conflict with Britain Seen Behind Italian Anti-semitism

Italian anti-Semitism, increasing with the approach of the visit which Chancellor Adolf Hitler will pay to Premier Benito Mussolini in May, is nevertheless inspired by Anglo-Italian differences regarding Mediterranean problems, observers agreed here today.

It was pointed out that newspaper attacks on Jews are directed by Roberto Farinacci, a member of the Fascist Grand Council who has been active in criticism of British policy. Because of difficulties with Britain dating back to the Ethiopian war, Italy has supported the Arabs in their conflict with the Jews in Palestine.

Active anti-Semitism is a new thing in Italy, a country of 41,000,000 inhabitants of whom less than 60,000 are Jewish; and a country in which the Vatican, which opposes the racial theories of the German Nazis, enjoys wide influence. The intellectual anti-Semitism inspired by Giovanni Preziosi was held to have no real importance. More than two years ago publication of a book called “Jews in Italy” gave rise to a series of press polemics in which the Jews found defenders.

Official circles said at that time that anti-Semitism only represented one section of Italian opinion, and that it was carried out not only without the support of the Government, but against its will. The Grand Rabbi of Rome, received by Mussolini during the controversy, was given assurances that the Jews would be treated with justice.

When Jews began to leave Germany for Palestine, many of them were transported by Italian vessels sailing from Trieste. At that time official Fascism sought to distinguish itself from National Socialism, condemning the German racial idea as opposed to the Italian conception of the nation. That was also the period in which Italy was presented as a connecting link between the orient and the occident, with Rome serving as a sort of melting pot for all racial groups.

Since then the situation has changed, with increasingly numerous newspaper attacks on the Jews. The pro-Moslem Italian policy dates from Mussolini’s trip to Libya, during which he was presented with “the sword of Islam” by Moslem subjects.

For all these reasons the Jewish problem is held to be connected with a Mediterranean policy contrary to British interests. At the same time, it has become an internal problem for Italy because of the increasing influence of Nazi ideas. Surveillance of Jews has redoubled. Last Spring a relatively important number of them were arrested at Milan and in the autumn were tried before a special tribunal.

In contrast with the practice in Germany, however, no official steps have been taken here against the Jews on a racial basis. The prejudice felt against all “Intellectuals is simply stronger where Jews are concerned.

The anti-Semitic document known as the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” was recently republished by an Italian review. A special weekly has been founded to advance the policy of protection against the Jews. Three hundred students of the University of Bologna have signed a petition against their Jewish fellow-students.

The Vatican, meanwhile, continuing its opposition to German racial ideas, takes every opportunity to remind the world that all races have a role to play in the human harmony devised by the creator, and to recall to some theoreticians the fact that Christ was a Jew.