Fiamma Nirenstein (born 18 December 1945 in Florence) is an Italian-Israeli journalist, author and politician. In 2008 she was elected to the Italian Parliament for Silvio Berlusconi's The People of Freedom party and she served as Vice President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Chamber of Deputies for the length of the legislature, ending in March 2013. On 26 May 2013 she emigrated to Israel (made Aliyah). In 2015, Nirenstein was nominated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the future ambassador to Italy, but subsequently withdrew for what she stated were personal reasons. She currently works at the Israeli-based think-tank the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA).
She lives in Jerusalem now with frequent visits to Italy. One of her children is writer Beniamino Irdi Nirenstein.
Nirenstein's father came to Italy as part of the Jewish brigade. There he met his future wife, who was a partisan in the resistance. She grew up in Florence as a communist. She began to alter her views after the Six Day War, when Israel conquered the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and she found herself in disagreement with her communist friends, who considered that Israel had become an occupying power. Though he signed a protest against Israel's war in Lebanon, her views have since changed since, she suggests, Israel has gained nothing from its withdrawal from that country. In 1993 and 1994 Nirenstein directed the Cultural Institute of the Italian Embassy in Tel Aviv.
Silvio Berlusconi and his ally, Gianfranco Fini, the former leader of MSI, Italy's neo-fascist party, invited Nirenstein to become a candidate for their joint list Il Partito della Liberta ("The Party of Liberty") for the April 2008 national elections. During her campaign for a seat in Liguria, she did not talk at rallies about local issues, but rather concentrated on expounding her belief that Israel was in the vanguard of Western democracies in the battle against Islamic terrorism. In her view, the most important thing for Italians in grasping their national identity was to stand by the side of Israel.[a]
Elected Member of the Italian Parliament, she served as Vice President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Chamber of Deputies for the entire XVIth legislature, ending in March 2013. She was also a member of the Italian delegation to the Council of Europe, where she represented Italy in the Network for the fight against violence on children. Nirenstein also established and chaired the Committee for the Inquiry into Antisemitism of the Italian Parliament. During her parliamentary activity, she had a particular focus on Israel, human rights, international controversies, democratization in the Middle East and awareness of Iran's nuclear capabilities.
Professional career as journalist and writer
Nirenstein is an expert of the Middle East conflicts, terrorism, anti-Semitism,human rights and her activities deals with the great changes that are taking place within the Middle East democratization process. She became a specialist in these fields after having travelled all over the world as a specialist in foreign affairs.
The pivotal focus and underlying idea that runs through all Fiamma Nirenstein's work is the fight against totalitarianism and terrorism as connected to antisemitism and hate for Israel.
Nirenstein is a leading columnist for the conservative Italian daily "Il Giornale", which belongs to Silvio Berlusconi's media empire since 1977. From 1991 to 2006, she has been correspondent from Israel for the centrist "La Stampa" daily and the Berlusconi-owned "Panorama" weekly.
She is the author of over ten books in Italian and two in English. In Italy, Nirenstein has introduced and prefaced Bernard Lewis, Natan Sharansky and Ruthie Blum. She has been granted over twenty awards for her literary and journalistic activity.
Nirenstein started her career in 1977 and has been a columnist and correspondent for all major Italian magazines (Panorama; l'Espresso; Epoca). Nirenstein contributed to The New York Sun, to the Commentary magazine and has written for the Moment magazine.
Her writing are collected in four American anthologies, her work as a journalist is at length quoted in "Bias" by Bernard Goldberg (Regency Publishing, 2002, pp. 200–206) as an example of good journalism in explaining the terrorist phenomenon. The Wall Street Journal one day after 9-11 quoted at length her article on Commentary Magazine to explain the disaster.
Fiamma Nirenstein has produced many documentaries for the Italian TV, the last by the title of "Settlers", about the disengagement (from where?) seen through the lives of the people involved in it. She is daily interviewed by the Italian TV and radio and on 2006 she conceived and conducted a program on foreign affairs, "Ore diciotto/Mondo", on channel RAI 2. She is weekly interviewed on Radio Radicale, for a program named "Mediorientale".
Her experience of journalism includes a group on interviewed leaders, from Rajiv Gandhi to Deng Xiaoping, from the protagonists of the anti-communist regimes revolutions of the '80s to all the most important Israeli and Palestinian figures, from Arafat to Sharon to Netanyahu.
Work at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA)
Fiamma Nirenstein began a working relationship with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, an Israeli-based think-tank, in the late-2000s. Nirenstein's interests largely focus on European-Israeli relations, anti-Semitism, and sociological studies of terrorism. Nirenstein served both as an editor and contributor for her most recent publication, Lessons from Israel's Response to Terrorism. Within the publication, Nirenstein authored an article entitled "Resilience, the Israeli People's Weapon against Terror". In the essay, Nirenstein argues that Israelis have a unique culture built upon resilience which makes the country particularly strong in responding to terrorism.[better source needed]
In 2016, Nirenstein participated in an interview at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on the subject of European Anti-Semitism. Among the subjects discussed include the history of anti-Semitism in Europe and its contemporary manifestations, particularly in what Nirenstein terms "Israelphobia".
One of her works produced while at the Israeli think-tank was Israel is Us: A Journalist's Odyssey in Understanding the Middle East. According to the organization's website, Nirenstein confesses the publication's premise is 'very simple': "Israel, contrary to commonly accepted propaganda, is a positive model, a case study for anyone who finds himself living in a democratic society that must eventually confront a defensive war- one that encompasses the entire universe of Western democracy today.”
Nirenstein continues to work at the think-tank.
Nirenstein's writings have also appeared, among other websites, on the Times of Israel and the Gatestone Institute. Since 2007, she has also maintained her own personal website on which she publishes material in English and Italian.
Later Political career
In August 2015, Benjamin Netanyahu designated Nirenstein to become Israel's ambassador to Italy. The initial reaction by the Jewish community of Rome was negative: according to Haaretz, a group, including the chief rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni, expressed concerns for the possible adverse repercussions her nomination might have both on the local Jewish community and on relations between Israel and Italy. were reported as asking the President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, to intervene and block the appointment. They were also reported as asking Matteo Renzi to pressure Israel to revoke the nomination. Subsequently, Nirenstein withdrew from the offer for what she stated were personal reasons. Some press sources said the decision was related to her having called Sara Netanyahu a 'monster' in 1996.
On June 29, 2011, Nirenstein was unanimously elected chairperson of the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians (ICJP), an organization that brings together Jewish legislators, parliamentarians and government ministers from around the world.
In the same year, she established a center on Foreign Policy, "SUMMIT - for the dialogue between Europe and Middle East, human rights and democracy", with which she organized tens of events and conferences.
Nirenstein is a Selection Committee Member of the Genesis Prize, a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and of the Gatestone Institute, as well as a member of the Advisory Board of Ngo-Monitor and a board member of the European Friends of Israel (EFI). She is also one of the six founding members of the steering committee of the Interparliamentary Coalition on Combating Antisemitism (ICCA), and in the Board of the Friends of Israel Initiative, established on 2010 by former Prime Minister of Spain José María Aznar. She is also a Board member of the "Talmud Project", a major initiative, sponsored by the Italian government, to translate the Babylonian Talmud into Italian.
Nirenstein has been dedicating a great effort in voicing for Muslim dissidents. In December 2007 she promoted and organized in Rome the international conference "Fighting for Democracy in the Islamic World", which was the continuation of the great Prague conference on dissidents, promoted by Natan Sharansky, Václav Havel and José María Aznar in June the same year.
Fight against Antisemitism and anti-Zionism
Fiamma Nirenstein has discussed antisemitism, anti-Zionism and the left. She has been official speaker in a variety of conferences on antisemitism, among them, the world forum of OCSE in Berlin about antisemitism, the Boston Conference on "antisemitism, the press and Europe" (2004), "Multiculturalism, the left and antisemitism" during the 2006 international symposium of the Vidal Sassoon Center (SICSA) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In the 2014 SICSA international symposium, she raised the issue of fighting what she deemed to be "Israelophobia" as a means of beating contemporary antisemitism.
- On 16 December 2009 Nirenstein, together with the other members of the ICCA steering committee, was awarded by the Israeli Knesset for her commitment in the fight against Antisemitism.
- On April 2011, she was awarded in New York by CAMERA, together with José Maria Aznar and John Bolton, for her activity as "Friend of Israel".
- In June 2011, Nirenstein was included in the Jerusalem Post list of the 50 most influential Jews in the world, headed by Mark Zuckerberg.
In an interview with Haaretz, Nirenstein stated that her country of origin, Italy, had much to learn about democracy from Israel. She also made the following assertions:-
- "Every Jew in the world is an Israeli even if he's not aware of it. Anyone who doesn't know it is making a big mistake."
- "...morally speaking, there mustn't be negotiations with Hamas, which thinks that Jews are the sons of monkeys and pigs. You can't negotiate with cannibals, who eat human beings."
- "I'm not saying that all Muslims are terrorists, or that all Muslims are criminals. But Hamas has announced that it wants to conquer Rome, to make it the outpost from which it will conquer all of Europe.".
Books by Fiamma Nirenstein
- Il Califfo e l'Ayatollah, (2015) Mondadori
- A Gerusalemme (2012) The history of Jerusalem through the eyes of twenty years of journalistic work
- Israele Siamo Noi (2007) On the State of Israel as archetype for a liberal democracy at war with terror. - Translated into English: Israel is us - a personal odyssey to a journalist's understanding of the Middle East, JCPA ed., 2009
- La Sabbia di Gaza (2006) On the Israeli disengagement from Gaza.
- Terror: The New Anti-Semitism and the War Against the West (2005) An English-language selection of various articles.
- Gli Antisemiti Progressisti (2004) A look at the new anti-Semitism.
- Islam, la guerra e la speranza (2003) An interview with Bernard Lewis.
- L'Abbandono, come l'Occidente ha tradito gli ebrei (2002). A book that argues the West has betrayed the Jewish people.
- Un solo Dio, tre verità (2001).(One god, three truths)
- Come le cinque dita di una mano – una famiglia di ebrei da Firenze a Gerusalemme (1998) Written with her family.
- Israele: una pace in guerra (1996)(Israel, at peace in war)
- Il Razzista Democratico (1990).(The Democratic racist)
- Her campaign was centered on the view that Israel is Western democracy's vanguard in the struggle against world terror. Liguria district. I held rallies in Genoa and other cities in the region," she recounts. "But I didn't talk with the people about local problems. I told them that the most important thing for their Italian identity is to stand by Israel's side
- "The reasons for my Aliyah - Fiamma Nirenstein Home page".
- Corriere,  Corriere della Sera 10 May 2016
- Meron Rapaport, 'The Israeli ‘Settler’ Serving in Italy’s Parliament,' Haaretz 17 April 2008
- Emanuela Poli (1998). "Silvio Berlusconi and the myth of the creative entrepreneur". Modern Italy. 3 (2): 271–279. doi:10.1080/13532949808454809.
- "Fiamma Nirenstein | Jerusalem Center For Public Affairs". Jerusalem Center For Public Affairs. Retrieved 2017-07-23.
- "Resilience, the Israeli People's Weapon against Terror, Jerusalem Center For Public Affairs". Jerusalem Center For Public Affairs. Retrieved 2017-07-23.
- "Israel Is Us". Jerusalem Center For Public Affairs. Retrieved 2017-07-23.
- Barak Ravid , 'Italian Jewish Leaders Urge Rivlin to Block New Israeli Envoy's Appointment,' Haaretz 5 September, 2015.
- ANSA, 'Fiamma Nirenstein, l'appello degli ebrei di Roma al presidente Rivlin: "Blocchi la nomina ad ambasciatrice",' Huffington Post 9 September 2015
- ANSA,'Fiamma Nirenstein rinuncia a incarico di ambasciatore di Israele a Roma,' Huffington Post 5 October 2015.
- Judy Maltz (17 August 2015). "New Diaspora Ministry Initiative Could Open Israel's Gates to Millions of non-Jews With Jewish Links". Haaretz. Retrieved 27 August 2015.
- "CAMERA Honors Fiamma Nirenstein".