(JTA) — Italy’s Jewish community is taking legal action against a television talk show for running an interview this week with a right-wing extremist who extolled fascism.
Renzo Gattegna, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, or UCEI, said in a statement that the group had lodged a formal legal complaint against the talk show, Le Iene, and also against Roberto Jonghi Lavarin of the far-right National Project movement.
Le Iene ran the interview with Lavarini late Wednesday night, calling him a “European Fascist.” Among other things, Lavarini praised the regime of Italy’s World War II fascist dictator Benito Mussolini as “a splendid era” during which, “aside from some healthy beatings with a truncheon and a few little drinks of castor oil, nothing ever happened.”
In his view, he said, Mussolini’s “only mistake was to be too good to his political opponents.” The six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust, he said, died because the Nazis were “precise” and “well organized.”
In addition, he said there was an air of “secret services, lobbies and international interests” around last week’s attack in Brussels on the Jewish Museum of Belgium, which left four dead.
In his statement, the UCEI’s Gattegna said that in the face of these and other comments, Italian Jews had to take firm action.
“To react,” he said, “by taking before the judiciary not only those who spread anti-Semitic hatred and glorification of fascism and Nazism, but also whoever, in order to increase visibility and to arouse feeling, cynically takes advantage of delusions and ramblings by irresponsibly spreading these words.”
The producer of Le Iene rejected this criticism, saying that the program had been doing its job in showing what right-wing extremists actually believe, following far-right success in recent European elections in some countries.
“If someone wants to take us to court for doing our job well, then we will defend ourselves,” the producer told the Adnkronos news agency.