After 89-year-old Holocaust survivor and senator for life Liliana Segre was given police protection this week after receiving death threats, Salvini was widely criticised for seemingly equating his own experiences with hers.
Matteo Salvini (R) said he wasn't 'minimising' death threats made against Liliana Segre (L). Photos: AFP
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 minimise anything,” Salvini told journalists in Florence, the day after he said, “I get threats too, every day.”
Salvini, a divisive and high-profile public figure in Italy who frequently highlights threats made against him on social media, asked why threats against Segre were given more attention.
Social media users in Italy were quick to respond, widely criticising Salvini's comments and pointing out that the League party leader is not an 89-year-old Holocaust survivor.
Anche Salvini riceve minacce ed insulti. Non c'è dubbio. Ogni capo politico soffre di una siffatta esposizione mediatica. Ma non capire la specificità delle minacce che vengono rivolte alla Segre non fa onore ad un capo politico.#Segre #Auschwitz
— Giovanni Ieda' (@giovanniieda) November 8, 2019
Salvini says hate messages received by Life Senator Liliana Serge (now under police protection) are “no different from what I get”. Sorry Salvini, they are different because
1. You aren't Jewish
2. You aren't a holocaust survivor
3. You aren't a woman
4. You aren't 89 years old.
— Nicholas Whithorn (@NickWhithorn) November 8, 2019
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.
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,” read the headline in Italian newspaper Repubblica.
The Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem tweeted that “this is what the world has come to: Holocaust survivor in Italy needs police protection to protect from threats.”
On Friday, Italian President Sergio Mattarella stated that “Solidarity, coexistence, a sense of responsibility must counter intolerance, hatred, opposition.”
He added: “When a woman like Liliana Segre he needs an escort, we understand that these are not abstract or rhetorical questions.”