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Italian Jews fighting over Jewish candidate for parliament

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ROME (JTA) – Italian Jews are squabbling over a Jewish candidate for the country’s parliament.

Sharon Nizza, an Italian Israeli who is running in the Feb. 24-25 general elections, is a candidate for former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right People of Freedom Party.

Fiamma Nirenstein, a Jewish member of the parliament, in a statement issued Tuesday accused the online news site of Italy’s umbrella Jewish organization of pandering to the left and waging a “disgusting campaign of delegitimization” against the 29-year-old Nizza.

Nizza, a Milan native who has lived in Israel since 2002, is one of several candidates seeking to represent Italian citizens who live abroad. She has worked as a political aide to Nirenstein, a journalist who was elected on Berlusconi’s ticket five years ago but is not running for reelection. Nirenstein plans to move to Israel and continue writing.

In her statement, Nirenstein attacked the L’Unione Informa news service of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, which in recent days has run Op-Eds by several regular columnists critical of Nizza’s support for Berlusconi, the former prime minister who outraged many Jews last month by praising some of the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini’s policies.

Nirenstein criticized what she called a group of leftist “crusaders” and singled out the historian Anna Foa, whom she accused of “arrogance” in writing Feb. 10 that for any Jew who runs “as a Jew,” backing Berlusconi’s People of Freedom Party “today enters in conflict with the deepest values of Judaism.” 

Two other commentators, including the Italian-Israeli demographer Sergio Della Pergola, also had written columns critical of Nizza, and Nizza herself had responded with her own Op-Ed. 

Nirenstein wrote that she had “always had the sensation” that l’Unione Informa “was an instrument of disinformation that has nothing to do with journalism.” Her attack was echoed by a column on the right-wing Jewish website Informazione Corretta by commentator Ugo Volli.

On Feb. 11, l’Unione Informa published a brief comment by Nizza, who responded to criticism by saying that for her, “to delegitimize a political party as a whole is always wrong in a democratic system.” Afterward, the editor of l’Unione Informa said the website would not publish any further articles on Nizza ahead of the election.

In Israel, meanwhile, dozens of Italian residents signed a letter urging Italians living abroad not to vote for Nizza.
 

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