Jewish Shops in Rome Vandalized
Pope Repeats Call for Immediate Cease-Fire in Middle East
Associated PressThursday, August 3, 2006; Page A22
ROME, Aug. 2 -- Jewish shops across Rome were vandalized and defaced with swastikas in an apparent neofascist attack linked to fighting in the Middle East, officials said, while Pope Benedict XVI issued an impassioned call from Vatican City for an immediate cease-fire in the Middle East, saying that "nothing can justify the spilling of innocent blood."
Owners of about 20 shops in the center and outskirts of the Italian capital found door locks filled with glue, shutters nailed closed and swastikas on nearby walls Tuesday morning, said Riccardo Pacifici, a spokesman for Rome's Jewish community.
Although not all the shops targeted were owned by Jews, the vandalism was apparently a reaction to the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, Pacifici said. Fliers signed by a group calling itself Armed Revolutionary Fascists were left at the shops. They denounced "the Zionist economy" and included pro-Hezbollah slogans, Pacifici said. "There are still anti-Semites in Italy," Pacifici said. He said Italian Jewish organizations have been flooded with dozens of e-mails blaming Jews for violence in the Middle East. Mayor Walter Veltroni condemned the vandalism.
Police officials declined to comment on the investigation.
Last month, swastikas were spray-painted on walls in the Old Ghetto -- Rome's ancient Jewish neighborhood -- while hundreds of thousands gathered in the nearby Circus Maximus to celebrate Italy's victory in the World Cup.
The pope, speaking Wednesday to 50,000 pilgrims in sun-drenched St. Peter's Square, said, "Our eyes are filled with the chilling images of torn bodies of so many people, especially children -- I am thinking in particular of Qana." Benedict was referring to the Israeli attack Sunday in the southern Lebanese town of Qana that killed more than 50 civilians, mostly women and children.
It was the latest in a half-dozen peace appeals by the pontiff that have consistently included calls for an immediate cease-fire. He has spoken out on every public occasion since the fighting began three weeks ago, reminiscent of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, who became a rallying point for critics of the Iraq war.
But Benedict has made clear that attempts to reach a settlement should be left to diplomats "because we don't enter politics. . . . Our goal is simply peace, and we will do everything to help attain peace." (my emphasis)
The German-born pope has repeatedly stressed his interest in good relations with Jews, and last year visited a German synagogue destroyed by the Nazis. The Vatican is also concerned about the large Maronite Catholic community in Lebanon.