Italian Jews grappling over attitudes on Israel, Middle East

ROME (JTA) — Italian Jewry will hold special meetings to discuss the increasingly sharp political tensions within the community centered on differing attitudes toward Israel and the Middle East.

The meetings scheduled for this week were called in the wake of an incident on Jan. 14 in which Jewish protesters disrupted a panel discussion of a book on the left wing and Israel, “The Left and Israel: The Moral Frontier of the West.”

The event was organized at a Rome Jewish center by the liberal Jewish group JCall and the Hans Jonas Association Jewish cultural organization.

Amid what a report in the local Jewish media called “heavy intimidation,” the protesters prevented JCall spokesman Giorgio Gomel from speaking. Gomel, who has been vocal in his criticism of Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians and has come under fire frequently from opposing Jewish factions, and another organizer had to be escorted from the premises by Jewish community security.

Reports said the protesters on Jan. 14 unfurled a banner saying “Gomel, go back to Gaza.”

Expressing “alarm and concern,” Renzo Gattegna, the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, called an extraordinary meeting of the umbrella group’s council to clarify the “limits, procedures and rules” to be followed at Jewish community venues.

At the same time, Rome Jewish community leaders convened a meeting open to all members of the community.

“Beyond the image of Italian Jewry as a whole, what is at play is the security of our members,” Rome Jewish community President Riccardo Pacifici was quoted as saying by the Jewish media.

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