Brothers of Italy party chief Georgia Meloni, who is poised to become the first far-right Italian leader since World War II, previously praised Iran, the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah and other allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad. She also decried “another massacre of children in Gaza” in 2014.
Speaking to reporters in December 2018, Meloni said that if not for Hezbollah and the rest of the pro-Assad front — which includes Iran and Russia — Christians in Syria would no longer be able to display the nativity scene depicting Jesus Christ’s birth during Christmas.
Assad has championed himself as a defender of Christians and other religious minorities against the predominantly Sunni rebels fighting to topple him since the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011. Among the rebel ranks were jihadist groups such as Islamic State and an al-Qaeda-linked faction.
Meloni’s comments came after then-Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini, who is now part of the Meloni-led right-wing coalition on pace to secure majorities in both Italian houses of parliament, denounced Hezbollah as a terrorist organization while visiting Israel, prompting criticism in Italy.
Meloni’s remarks did not address Israel, whose destruction Iran and its proxies such as Hezbollah regularly call for.
In an unrelated tweet from 2014, Meloni decried “another massacre of children in Gaza” amid the war between Israel and Palestinian terrorists in the Hamas-run enclave. The Twitter post appeared to be in response to deadly strikes on a hospital and playground in a Gaza City refugee camp that Israel attributed to misfired rockets by Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Those past comments appeared to contrast with Meloni’s recent vows of support for Israel and her efforts to distance the Brothers of Italy from its fascist roots.
Israel, which has previously boycotted far-right European parties that have come to power, has yet to officially respond to the Italian election results which were announced as the country marked the Jewish new year.
Brothers of Italy, which Meloni founded in 2012, is a political descendant of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), formed by supporters of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini after WWII. Soaring in popularity — up from just 4% four years ago — the party uses a symbol featuring a tri-colored flame that had been an icon of MSI.
“We have handed fascism over to history for decades now, firmly condemning the loss of democracy, the outrageous anti-Jewish laws, and the tragedy of World War II,” Meloni said in a recent interview with the Israel Hayom newspaper.
She was answering a question about accusations that her party is neo-fascist, and stressed that while the claim was “ridiculous… coming from a desperate Left,” she did not want to “dodge the question, because I know how delicate it can be to [Israeli] readers.”
Meloni also spoke of previous visits to Israel, including to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, which she described as “a conscience-shaking experience.” She told the Israeli daily she planned to return to Israel soon, hoping to focus on joint collaborations and strategies, starting with those for the supply of natural gas through the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
However, she appeared to break with other right-wing leaders, including Salvini, indicating she would not likely move Italy’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.