Beppe Grillo, the founder of Italy’s third-largest party, the Five Star Movement (M5S), sparked an outcry on Monday morning when he published a blog post titled ‘If this is a country’, a play on the opening verses of Primo Levi’s book ‘If this is a man’, an account of his experiences at Auschwitz.
Under a doctored image of the entrance to Auschwitz with the slogan “P2 Macht Frei” superimposed on the gates, Grillo describes Italy as a country controlled by the mafia and the Propaganda Due (P2) masonic lodge. President Giorgio Napolitano is described as “a frightened old man” and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi a “buffoon from the provinces”.
The post was strongly condemned by Italy’s Jewish community with Renzo Gattegna, from the Union for Italian Jewish Communities describing the post as “an obscenity that cannot be ignored”.
Reacting to the criticism at a press conference on Tuesday, the comedian was quoted by news agency Ansa as saying: “I didn’t mean to be sarcastic or make jokes. I’m not apologizing to anyone because I don’t think I disrespected anyone".
"The Jewish community should change their stupid and ignorant spokesperson," he added.
“Thanks to the Italian media, I was dubbed a fuhrer by German papers,” the comedian continued, adding that “newspapers are living on borrowed time”.
During the press conference he also urged Italians to dodge taxes, pointing out that Berlusconi, who will spend the remainder of his four-year suspended sentence doing community service, dodged millions.
“I tell everyone: go ahead and dodge as much as you can, it’s a good investment,” he said.