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Italian parlamentarian Fiamma Nirenstein elected new chair of ICJP
30 June 2011

A delegation of 55 Jewish lawmakers from 22 countries gathered in Jerusalem for the Consultation of the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians (ICJP). The meeting was organized by the World Jewish Congress. The consultation focused on developing common strategies to combat anti-Semitism and the assault on Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. In a hearing in the Knesset moderated by the outgoing chairman of ICJP, US Congressman Gary Ackerman (pictured below speaking), numerous parliamentarians spoke about the growing challenges felt by politicians across the world. Viviane Teitelbaum-Hirsch from Belgium said that in her legislative body, the term ‘Israel’ was viewed as a “dirty word.” She added that overcoming those stereotypes represented “a very lonely fight.”

Dan Diker, secretary general of the World Jewish Congress, said that creating a common voice among Jewish parliamentarians was one of the most important public diplomacy objectives for Israel and the Jewish world. “The coming months will be ones of unprecedented challenge for all those looking to defend the interests of the Jewish state,” he said, adding: “Ensuring that these lawmakers can maximize their influence to support Israel and world Jewry’s basic rights will therefore be critical in overcoming the many obstacles that we know lie ahead.”

Diker cautioned the group of parliamentarians that any bid for unilateral statehood “uproots the entire concept of international diplomacy,” and could have consequences for other free countries facing similar territorial conflict. That’s what’s at stake, much more than Israel’s future being at stake,” he said.

The lawmakers met with their Israeli counterparts in the Knesset, and with other public officials.  The group also paid a visit to the protest tent for captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, whose captivity in Gaza entered its fifth year earlier this week. Speaking with Gilad’s father Noam Shalit, Ackerman said: “It is wholly unacceptable that Gilad is being held as a political ploy in a world which should be peace-loving and just.”

Diker said on behalf of the World Jewish Congress and its president, Ronald S. Lauder, that pressure had to be brought to bear not just on Hamas alone. “The Palestinian Authority as a whole, and Mahmoud Abbas as its leader, must be held accountable for the continued captivity of Gilad, which is an outright international war crime. We call upon the international community to intensify all possible efforts to secure his release as every day which passes without him returned to his family is another day too long,” he declared.

Italian lawmaker Fiamma Nirenstein new ICJP chair

On Wednesday, the ICJP unanimously elected Fiamma Nirenstein, the member of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, as its new chairman. Nirenstein, 65, succeeds US Congressman Gary Ackerman. Nirenstein (pictured below with WJC President Lauder) said that as new ICJP chair she would fight attempts to delegitimize Israel.

The Jewish parliamentarian was born in Florence where she completed her university studies in Modern History. In April 2008, she was elected Member of the Chamber of Deputies for Silvio Berlusconi's center-right coalition, and she currently serves as vice chairwoman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Chamber of Deputies. Until her election to parliament, she was a columnist and Israel correspondent for ‘Il Giornale’, a daily newspaper she still contributes to as analyst, as well as for the weekly ‘Panorama’. From 1991 until December 2006, she worked as correspondent and columnist for ‘La Stampa’ daily. She is an expert of the Middle East conflict, terrorism and anti-Semitism.

WJC Secretary General Dan Diker congratulated Fiamma Nirenstein on her appointment, calling her "a patriot of Italy and a true friend of Israel and the Jewish people."