Cartoonist cannot be an anti-Semite because he supports good causes, Italian judge says

30 April 2012

An Italian court has ruled that a controversial illustrator could not be publicly accused of anti-Semitism because of his actions on behalf of causes related to Third World countries. In 2008, the cartoonist Vauro Senesi did a caricature of Italian politician Fiamma Nirenstein, who is Jewish, wearing a Star of David and several fascist symbols (see below).

Following the publication of the cartoon in ‘Il Manifesto’, the journalist and parliamentarian Giuseppe Caldarola published an opinion piece in which he said that Senesi as an anti-Semite. Senesi promptly sued Caldarola for defamation of character. The court declared that Senesi "could not be publicly accused of anti-Semitism because of his profound commitment to humanitarian causes in third world countries."

Last January, Judge Emanuela Attura had imposed a fine of € 25,000 (US$ 33,000) on Caldarola for slander. In the verdict, she cited Senesi’s work with the Italian NGO Emergency that sends medical aid in Pakistan and Afghanistan as evidence that he was not an anti-Semite.

After the verdict, World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder had expressed his outrage over the fine imposed on Caldarola. “While the man who defends a Jewish woman is fined, the author of this blatantly anti-Semitic cartoon gets a free ride from the court to continue injecting venom into the political debate in Italy,” Lauder had said in reaction.

Vauro Senesi is an anti-Israel activist who wanted to part in this month’s ‘Flytilla’. However, he and six other activists were banned from boarding their flight to Tel Aviv.

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