NEWS Addressing the Parliament, Senator for life Liliana Segre warns against hatred

lilianaBy Adam Smulevich

On September 10, 2019, the day of her 89th birthday, Liliana Segre, Shoah survivor and senator for life since January 2018, decided to give the vote of confidence to Giuseppe Conte’s second government. In order to do so, she attended the Senate session taking place at Palazzo Madama.

Well aware of her importance as a public figure, she wanted to show her commitment not only taking part in the session, but also showing her intention to support the new government. Her vote was a definite “Yes”, which she backed up saying: “I wish that this new government could be built not only on alliances based on legitimate political convenience, but also on the awareness of having averted a crisis. On that feeling of relief when you realise you pulled yourself back just one second before falling off the cliff”.

In her speech, she attacked violently the outgoing government, especially the former Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, although she never mentioned him openly. Moreover, she expressed her concern over the numerous episodes of the past year, which made her “fear a decline of our society” and over the racism cases whose perpetrators “were punished mildly, since these acts are now seemingly regarded as ordinary episodes in a civilised society”. She also expressed her shock at the exploitation of religious symbols, which she sees as an “absurd and dangerous revival of Gott mit uns”. She denounced the risks of a policy relying extensively on hatred and divisions, and quoted the Talmud’s famous principle “Whoever saves a life saves the world”, while stating, “I believe that the world is upside down if he who saves a life is punished”. Segre also said, “Welcoming immigrants will make us wiser as human beings.”

Furthermore, the senator denounced the behaviour of those responsible for reducing the 25th April celebrations to “a sort of hooligan feud”, and expressed hope that the new government will defend “our shared values, democracy, and the principles of solidarity enshrined in our Constitution, which was born out of the Italian resistance movement.”

To conclude, Segre said that she hopes for the government to implement the proposal she had submitted at the beginning of Conte’s first government. Her proposal, which then became a draft legislation, suggested the creation of a parliamentary committee in charge of monitoring and opposing hate speech, violence, intolerance, racism and anti-Semitism. In addition, she expressed her hope for the government to restore the importance of history in schools, for “it teaches us how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past,” she said.

“When I am called upon to vote on the government’s proposals, I will do it without prejudice, putting the interests of Italian citizens first and remaining faithful to the values I have always lived by”, had underlined Segre, before abstaining from the vote of confidence to Conte’s first government in June 2018. Today, instead, she decided to vote in favour.

In the meantime, the senator for life received several expressions of affection for her 89th birthday, including Noemi Di Segni’s, President of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities. Her message reads as follows: “Dearest Liliana, today is a celebration day not only for you, but also for all the Italian citizens who identify with those values you have always defended with passion, courage and determination. You are a Witness of the 20th century’s horrors who has been able to break the darkness around us with the light of life, smile and hope. What is more, you represent a stronghold of the fundamental principles of our Constitution within our national institutions.”

“On such a significant date for you and your loved ones,” Di Segni said, “I would like to reaffirm my deepest admiration and gratitude to you for being steadily committed to leaving your mark on the whole Nation. You are a model for all of us”.

Translated by Sara Facelli and revised by Mattia Stefani, both students at the Advanced School for Interpreting and Translation of Trieste University and interns at the newspaper office of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities.