An Italian court has declared that a controversial cartoonist could not be publicly accused of anti-Semitism because of his “profound commitment to humanitarian causes” in third world countries.
The ruling, published earlier this month, is the latest development in a libel case that started in 2008. Cartoonist Vauro Senesi sued journalist Giuseppe Caldarola for calling him an anti-Semite in a newspaper column.
The accusation came after Senesi published a caricature of an Italian Jewish politician, Fiamma Nirenstein, depicting her as a hook-nosed monster wearing a Star of David and fascist symbols. The cartoon appeared in the left-wing publication Manifesto.
In January the judge, Emanuela Attura, imposed a 25,000 euro fine (nearly $33,000) on the journalist for libeling the cartoonist. The full verdict was published this month.
In the verdict, the judge cites Senesi’s work with Emergency, an Italian NGO offering medical aid in Pakistan and Afghanistan, as an indication that he is not an anti-Semite.
The judge also wrote that depicting the Jewish politician as a fascist was not libelous because some of the members of her party belonged to the extreme right. Fiamma Nirenstein is a member of the party of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, the center-right People of Freedom party.
The president of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald Lauder, has expressed “outrage” at the fine imposed on Caldarola.