Italian far-right leader denies downplaying threats to Holocaust survivor
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Italian far-right leader denies downplaying threats to Holocaust survivor

Matteo Salvini asks why death threats to Liliana Segre get more attention than those against him, calls being anti-Semitic ‘the stuff of the mentally ill’

Matteo Salvini, leader of the League party, speaks at the party's rally in Pontida, northern Italy, September 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Matteo Salvini, leader of the League party, speaks at the party's rally in Pontida, northern Italy, September 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

ROME — Italian far-right leader Matteo Salvini on Friday denied minimizing threats made to 89-year-old Holocaust survivor and senator for life Liliana Segre, which prompted her to be given police protection.

Auschwitz survivor Segre, born in Milan in 1930, was on Thursday given a police escort after receiving over 200 hate messages and anti-Semitic threats a day on social media.

“Being anti-Semitic in 2019 is the stuff of the mentally ill. I do not minimize anything,” Salvini told journalists in Florence, the day after he said, “I get threats too, every day.”

Salvini, who frequently highlights threats made against him on social media because of what critics see as his divisive anti-migrant rhetoric, asked why threats against Segre were given more attention.

Holocaust survivor Liliana Segre speaks with young students on the occasion of a Holocaust remembrance, at the Arcimboldi theatre in Milan, Italy, January 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

“It is surreal that there are Serie A and Serie B death threats,” Salvini said on Friday, referring to Italy’s top-two football leagues.

The Italian Senate last month voted to set up a commission to fight “intolerance, racism, anti-Semitism and hatred” after Segre called for such an enquiry.

But Salvini’s anti-migrant League party and other right-wing parties abstained from the vote, prompting criticism from anti-racism groups.

“Still today numerous far-right groups continue to celebrate the (1922) fascist march on Rome, to recall enthusiastically the stages of fascism, sometimes with the more or less explicit support of certain groups in parliament, without anyone declaring them illegal,” Segre told Friday’s Corriere della Sera.

The march on Rome led by Benito Mussolini, October 24, 1922 . (AP photo)

Corriere editorialist Pierluigi Battista wrote that “it is impossible to overcome the feeling of disgust at the news that Liliana Segre is forced to have protection because of threats from a group of anti-Semitic hooligans.”

“We are all the police escort,” headlined the left-leaning Repubblica.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem tweeted that “this is what the world has come to: Holocaust survivor in Italy needs police protection to protect from threats.”

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