US report slams Italy over anti-Semitism

The Jewish community in Italy faces persistent anti-Semitism, while other prejudices continue to be a problem in the country, according to a US government report published on Friday.

US report slams Italy over anti-Semitism
The synagogue in Rome's Jewish quarter. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Italy’s 30,000 Jews continue to be subjected to discrimination in Italy, such as vandalism and online hate speech, the US State Department’s Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2013 said.

“Anti-Semitic societal prejudices persisted,” the report said, naming “prominent individuals and extremist fringe groups” responsible for attacks against the Jewish community.

Twenty-six percent of Jews in Italy experienced anti-Semitic harassment in the 12 months up to November 2013, according to a survey quoted by the State Department.

SEE ALSO: Pig heads sent to Israeli embassy in Rome

Looking back over the past year, the US government highlighted a number of cases where the Italian authorities had intervened.

They include the April conviction of four members of the anti-Semitic group Stormfront, for posting lists of Jews and Jewish-run businesses on a neo-Nazi website, and authorities shutting down two websites for posting anti-Semitic material.

The report also highlighted the Italian education ministry’s efforts to combat prejudice, by funding training courses for teachers and launching an anti-Semitism course at Rome’s La Sapienza University.

While there is progress is some areas, the State Department report also drew attention to other groups which face discrimination and violence in Italy.

Citing gay parenting association AGEDO, the report said Italian teenagers were “sexually abused by relatives, confined to their homes, banished from their homes, or referred to ‘sorcerers’ to help them ‘fix’ their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

More broadly, 42 percent of gay students told the Rome-based Gay Center that they were victims of discrimination at home. They also faced prejudice in school, restaurants and bars, online and in the mass media.

In Rome alone, an 11-year-old boy and three men committed suicide in 2013 after being targeted for their sexual orientation.

SEE ALSO: Suicide prompts candle-lit vigil for gay rights

Societal prejudice permeates every level of society, with the US government focusing on discrimination against Italian Integration Minister Cecile Kyenge as an example of racism in Italy.

“Northern League (Lega Nord) representatives and supporters repeatedly targeted Minister Kyenge with racial slurs,” the report said of prejudice faced by Italy’s first black minister.

In June an Italian court handed down a jail sentence to one Northern League member, who in a Facebook post called for Kyenge to be raped.

SEE ALSO: Italy to tackle online racism

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