Jewish leaders in Rome have spoken out against a cartoon depicting Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy, who is Jewish, with a hooked nose, which is a classic antisemitic stereotype.
The image, by satirical cartoonist Vauro Senesi, shows profiles of Mr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin side-by-side surrounded by the words “No alla guerra…senza ze e sensa vla!” (“No to war without Zes and Vlas”, a pun on the phrase ‘No ifs or buts’). While Mr Putin is represented with a stern, square visage, Mr Vauro’s representation of the Ukrainian President gives him a very prominent hooked nose.
In a tweet, President of the Comunità Ebraica di Roma (Jewish Community of Rome), Ruth Dureghello, said that “It is not a coincidence, but a habit that a certain gentleman depicts Jews with hooked noses in the style of the Defence of the Race. Not for this reason is it less serious and no one can get used to shame.”
Ms Dureghello was referring to the fortnightly Italian publication Difesa della razza (Defence of the Race) that ran from 1938 to 1943. It is widely regarded as the main tool for promoting antisemitism by the Italian fascist regime headed by Benito Mussolini, which ended in 1945 with the Allied victory in World War Two. Difesa began publication shortly after the 1938 Manifesto della razza (Manifesto of Race), which stripped Italian Jews of their citizenship and Government and professional positions.
This is not the first time that Mr Senesi has been accused of drawing inflammatory cartoons. In 2012, an Italian court fined Italian journalist Peppino Caldarola €25,000 for allegedly slandering Mr Senesi, after Mr Caldarola produced a satirical version of one of Mr Senesi’s cartoons that allegedly depicted Jewish Italian politician Fiamma Nirenstein in a classic antisemitic form. The President of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald S. Lauder, called the ruling “a travesty”.
Mr Senesi has denied any allegations of antisemitism, describing himself as an “anti-Nazi communist”. He said: “In this drawing there is no reference to the Jewishness of Zelenskyy, something which is wholly meaningless to me. If I draw a caricature (it’s called that because it ‘charges’ the facial features) it is obvious that I exaggerate his features so that it resembles him: Zelenskyy has a major nose not because he is Jewish but because it is his nose. I have never thought that Jews necessarily have a hooked nose, also because I know very many who have noses of various kinds. I would have preferred not to answer all those cretins who have commented on Zelenskyy’s nose. I’m only doing so because it is bad faith unless it is imbecility.”
Italian Senator Andrea Marcucci took to Twitter to denounce Mr Senesi, writing: “Re-proposing Nazi propaganda on the Jews to draw President Zelenskyy is literally a disgusting operation.”