The Jewish Chronicle

Italy wants Shoah compensati­on back

- BY JULIE CARBONARA

THE ITALIAN authoritie­s have demanded that the 98-year-old widower of an Italian-Libyan Jewish woman pay back the 76,000 compensati­on his late wife was awarded as a victim of the fascist regime during World War II.

Like many Italian-Libyan Jews, Messauda Fadlun was given compensati­on by the Italian government, only to be told in 2013 to return it because of her part-Libyan heritage. In Mrs Fadlun’s case, however, even her death two years ago did not stop the pursuit. Her elderly husband, Alberto Finzi, has received demands to pay back the large sum.

Mrs Fadlun’s son, Ariel Finzi, the rabbi of Naples, has been leading the fight on behalf of other Italian-Libyan Jews.

The government’s claim is that Mrs Fadlun’s Italian-Libyan citizenshi­p (she was born and brought up in Libya, at the time an Italian colony) was “inferior” to proper Italian citizenshi­p.

Her lawyer had argued that fascist Italy’s Racial Laws did not differenti­ate between Italian

Libyan Jews were noted for their strong sense of ‘Italiannes­s’

and Italian-Libyan Jews so the distinctio­n did not make sense. But the court ruled against her. Libyan Jews were noted for their strong sense of ‘Italiannes­s’ and even if they had never set foot in the ‘mother country’ felt a strong connection with Italy, which was seen as having brought developmen­t and culture to Libya. Tripoli (home to 25% of all Libyan Jews as late as 1941) even looked like an Italian seaside town with its promenade, public gardens and fountains.

The 1938 Italian Racial Laws, which restricted the civil rights of Jews, excluding them from public office and higher education, were felt as a terrible betrayal by the 30,000-strong Jewish community in Libya.

In 1955, Italy passed legislatio­n to provide pensions for Italian citizens

persecuted during the fascist regime. A 1980 law also granted pensions to those who survived concentrat­ion camps. A commission reviews all cases before approving or rejecting them. But, even when a case is approved and compensati­on awarded, the state can — and will — try to claw the money back.

IT HAD been a long time coming. Nearly five years ago, in the final months of his presidency, Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland, a highly respected federal appeals court judge, to fill a vacant seat on the Supreme Court. The then-Republican controlled Senate refused to even schedule Mr Garland a hearing, allowing Donald Trump to pick his own nominee soon after entering the Oval Office.

This week, Mr Garland, the grandson of Jewish immigrants to the United States, finally got his chance to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee. While he’s no longer in line for the Supreme Court — Joe Biden has already pledged that he will nominate a black woman if a seat comes up — the president has offered Mr Garland a solid consolatio­n prize: a position as America’s top lawenforce­ment officer.

Despite the Democrats’ wafer-thin majority, enough Republican­s have indicated their support for him that Mr Garland is expected to easily win confirmati­on as Attorney General. His strong centrist credential­s have already earned him the public backing of over 150 former Justice Department officials hailing from both parties.

Once in post, however, Mr Garland faces taking on one of the toughest jobs in Washington. Top of his in-tray, as Mr Garland told Senators this week, is the threat posed by violent extremism and the massive investigat­ion into last month’s assault on the US Capitol. It is a challenge he is perhaps uniquely qualified to undertake, having overseen a number of investigat­ions into domestic terrorism — including the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the hunt for “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski — as a senior member of Bill Clinton’s Justice Department in the 1990s.

Making explicit the parallel, Mr Garland

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warned that America is now confrontin­g “a more dangerous period than we faced in Oklahoma City at that time”.

The bombing, he reminded Americans, also “sought to spark a revolution that would topple the federal government”. The investigat­ion into the attack – in which 168 people including 19 children were murdered – was a personally searing one. Mr

Garland later called it “the most significan­t thing” he ever worked on.

But the rise of white nationalis­m isn’t the only legacy of the Trump administra­tion that Mr Garland will have to confront. The former president is widely seen as having attempted to abandon the long-standing armslength relationsh­ip between the Justice Department and White House.

Mr Biden has made clear he wants

WORLD NEWS his Attorney General to re-establish it. “Your loyalty is not to me. It’s to the law, the Constituti­on, the people of this nation,” the President said when he nominated Mr Garland last month.

Mr Garland will, however, still have to navigate a series of tricky Justice Department investigat­ions, including into the tax affairs of the president’s son, Hunter, and how the FBI probed Russian links with Mr Trump’s 2016 campaign. He may even end up overseeing criminal investigat­ions into the former president himself.

Mr Garland must also help Mr Biden deliver his campaign pledges to tackle racism, especially in the criminal justice system. It’s an area where he can expect attacks from all directions. Republican senators used the hearings to pepper him with questions about “defunding the police” and racial-awareness training, while some on the left have questioned whether, as a judge, he too often sided with law enforcemen­t.

Nonetheles­s, Mr Garland’s performanc­e this week was, as the Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin put it, “the model of judicial deportment, precision and character”. That character was most evident when he was asked about his commitment to tackling hate and discrimina­tion. “I come from a family where my grandparen­ts fled antisemiti­sm and persecutio­n. The country took us in and protected us,” Mr Garland said in a rare moment of emotion. “I feel an obligation to the country, to pay back.”

His centrist credential­s have won him backing from both sides’

In tackling racism, he can expect attacks from all directions’

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 ??  ?? This photo: Libyan Jews during WW2. Left: Messauda Fadlun
This photo: Libyan Jews during WW2. Left: Messauda Fadlun
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 ?? PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES ?? Merrick Garland
PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES Merrick Garland

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