The president of Rome’s Jewish community, Riccardo Pacifici, has compared the leader of the 5 Star Movement (M5S), Beppe Grillo, to Hitler and said that Jews should start planning to leave Italy.
Mr Pacifici has agreed to meet Mr Grillo, who wants to address the community leader’s fears over the rise of MS5, which is seen by some in Italy as sympathetic to fascism.
Most Jewish leaders in Italy have been silent about M5S but, in an interview last week with Haaretz, Mr Pacifici said that the party — which captured about a quarter of the votes in last month’s Italian general elections — was one of the reasons he felt that Italian Jews should consider making aliyah.
“Grillo says that political parties are not important and that is exactly what Hitler was saying before he came to power,” said Mr Pacifici in the interview. “Grillo’s party is more dangerous than the fascists because they have no clear platform, we do not know what their limits are.
“We don’t know most people who are in the movement but we do know that there are extremists from both left and right there — fascists and radicals — and they are together against the constitution, together against democracy,” said Mr Pacifici.
Despite saying that “95 per cent of M5S voters do not share Grillo’s views on Jews and Israel”, Mr Pacifici warned: “If people in Italy do not have money and jobs, they will not want to have democracy either. That is why 25 per cent voted for Five Star.”
The 5 Star Movement has so far refused to join the right or left in a coalition.
Remarks in the past by Mr Grillo about Jewish control of the media and Hollywood, as well as anti-Israel comments, have also caused concern within Italy’s Jewish community.
Some of the members of M5S are known to have been former members of fascist and radical left parties.
The party’s parliamentary leader, Roberta Lombardi, also drew criticism recently when she praised some aspects of the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini.
Following the interview, Mr Grillo wrote angrily on his blog about “the gratuitous and unfounded insults”, but offered the leader of Rome’s Jewry a meeting in order to explain his party’s positions.
Mr Pacifici responded to the Italian media that he would be “pleased to meet Beppe Grillo … and discuss the issues that most concern us”.