JTA — A leading candidate for mayor in Rome has apologized to Italy’s Jewish community over an article he wrote last year in which he suggested that victims of mass murders other than the Holocaust gain less attention because they “didn’t own banks.”
Jewish community leaders and others had decried the comments by Enrico Michetti, a radio host who is the center-right coalition’s candidate in the October 17 and 18 mayoral election. He received more than 30 percent of votes in the election’s first round earlier this month, more than any other candidate.
“Each year, 40 Holocaust-related movies are shot, trips and cultural initiatives of all sorts are financed to commemorate that horrible persecution, and up to here, I have nothing to say,” Michetti wrote at the time on the website of the radio station where he is a host. “But I wonder, why the same pity and the same consideration are not given to the dead killed in the foibe massacres [of Italians by Yugoslav Partisans], in the refugee camps, and in the mass murders that still take place in the world?”
Among the answers he offered: “Perhaps because they did not own banks, perhaps because they did not belong to lobbies capable of deciding the destinies of the planet.”
The comments, which have gained widespread attention after being identified and reported on Saturday by Il Manifesto, a left-wing newspaper, echo the antisemitic trope that Jews control world financial systems.
Jewish leaders were quick to condemn Michetti.
“The thought that our city institutions may be led by people whose thinking is imbued with prejudice makes us tremble,” said Noemi Di Segni, the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities. “The culture of dialogue and the education on the memory of what fascism was are key points also at the basis of people’s electoral choices.”
The president of the Jewish community of Rome, Ruth Durughello, sent a tweet to condemn the mayoral candidate’s words: “When we ask to remember the Shoah, we don’t do it for us Jews, we do it because the Shoah is the paradigm of evil, and evil must be fought without any sort of ambiguity.”
“Michetti’s words,” Durughello continued, “are dangerous and hide a disturbing prejudice.”
Michetti did not immediately apologize for or comment on his Holocaust comments, although he did tell reporters at a campaign stop in Rome that he opposed antisemitism.
“The Shoah was unique in its inhumanity, it was the lowest point in history,” Michetti said. “We need the utmost alertness and unity of all against all forms of antisemitism.”
On Sunday, he went further.
“I sincerely apologize for hurting the feelings of the Jewish community, which, like all Italians, I appreciate,” Michetti said, according to La Repubblica, an Italian newspaper.