(JTA) – The prime minister of Italy and the mayor of Rome attended rallies staged by Rome’s Jewish community to mark the 73rd anniversary of Italy’s liberation from the Nazis.
The rallies Wednesday were held separately from the main Liberation Day march in Rome, which the Jewish community boycotted because of the presence of Palestinian and pro-Palestinian groups.
Meanwhile, the Jewish news website Moked reported that several Jewish leaders in Trieste, including the community’s rabbi, walked out of the commemoration held at a former Nazi concentration camp because of pro-Palestinian banners carried by leftist groups. Other Jewish representatives remained, according to Moked.
The April 25 Liberation Day is a national holiday in Italy, with marches and other commemorations held in towns and cities around the country.
On Tuesday, the Rome Jewish community announced it would boycott the march organized in Rome by the National Association of Italian Partisans, or ANPI, because it said ANPI had failed to honor agreements with Rome’s mayor and Jewish community leaders to limit pro-Palestinian banners and symbols at the march.
Local news reports said marchers Wednesday included pro-Palestinian activists wearing keffiyehs and carrying a banner reading “Jerusalem Open City; Peace and Justice in Palestine.”
The Jewish community instead organized separate observances at the site of the 1943 massacre of 335 Romans at the Ardeatine Caves south of Rome, and at the Liberation Museum in downtown Rome. Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi attended both events; Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni attended the Ardeatine Caves rally.
Pro-Palestinian groups began taking part in the Liberation Day marches decades ago, but in recent years tensions and sometimes violent confrontations have erupted, particularly linked to anti-Israel protests over marchers carrying the banner of the World War II Jewish Brigade whose banner resembles that of today’s Israeli flag. Part of the British Army, the Jewish Brigade included some 5,000 Jewish volunteers from British Mandate Palestine and fought in northern Italy in March and April 1945.
Jewish organizations participated in marches and rallies in Milan, Turin and other cities Wednesday without staging separate commemorations, even though pro-Palestinian groups took part. In Milan, the news agency ANSA reported, “as happens every year” pro-Palestinian marchers shouted slogans such as “Free Palestine” and “Israel Assassin State.”