Jewish community leaders in Rome expressed outrage over a trades union proposal to "identify and boycott" Jewish-owned shops in the Italian capital in protest of Israel's operation in Gaza, The Times reported Thursday.
The proposal was put forward by Giancarlo Desiderati, leader of the Flaica-Uniti-Cub union, which represents 8000 shop assistants in Rome, the report said.
According to the London-based newspaper, Gianni Alemanno, the mayor of Rome, condemned the boycott call, and Jewish leaders said it was reminiscent of the anti-Semitic racial laws adopted seventy years ago by the Fascist dictatorship of Benito Mussolini in imitation of Nazi Germany, under which only "Aryan" shops were allowed to open.
Asked if he was aware of the comparison, Desiderati was quoted by The Times as saying "we know we will have everyone against us, but we cannot pass over in silence what is happening in Gaza".
He said his union had already urged its members to boycott Israeli products, and boycotting Jewish-owned or Jewish-run stores was a logical next step, according to The Times.
Muslim leaders apologize
Desiderati added that he and his supporters were drawing up a list of Jewish shops, "though it might be better to publish a list of streets in which a majority of the shops are Jewish and ask people to avoid those streets when shopping".
"For fifty years we have been concerned for the Jews because of what they suffered in the Holocaust, but now it is time to be concerned for the Palestinians, who are the Jews of today", he was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
The Times further reported that Muslim leaders in Milan said they had apologized to Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, the archbishop of Milan, for an incident last weekend in which Muslim demonstrators burned Israeli flags during a mass protest against Israeli actions in Gaza which ended in unauthorized Islamic prayers in front of Milan cathedral.
The protesters broke through a police cordon to reach the square, the report said. The Times said Asfa Mahmoud, head of the Islamic Cultural Centre in Milan said he and other Muslim spokesmen had asked for a meeting with the cardinal to "clarify" what had happened and express regret.