Italian MP: Stop With Your Apologies

Israel should drop apologetics and admit it's fighting a war.

Italian lawmaker Fiamma Nirenstein pressed this message before the new Knesset lobby she helped create, which aims to "strengthen ties between Israel and European parliaments."

Nirenstein, 64, a staunch supporter of Israel and deputy chairperson of the Italian parliament's foreign affairs commission, was the driving force behind the formation last month of Israel's European Forum of the Knesset (EFK).

The new body - whose dozen-odd members include Tzipi Livni, Shaul Mofaz, Daniel Ben-Simon and other notable lawmakers from across the political spectrum - is meant to serve as a counterpart for the European Friends of Israel, an umbrella group of some 1,000 legislators.

Nirenstein, a Jewish Italian journalist and an ally of President Silvio Berlusconi, says some Israelis feel hostile toward Europe, but "not hostile enough considering how hateful some European institutions are of Israel." She expects the members of the new body to "attack ferociously those who demonize Israel in European forums."

Israel also needs to "attack" EU funding for NGOs that "promotes bias and prejudice," she avers. Apologetic tactics, she told Haaretz, won't work. "You Israelis must finally find courage to say you are at war and how much it costs you," she proposes - despite the militaristic image this may reinforce.

Nirenstein, who is married to an Israeli, photographer Ofer Eshed, raised a son in Jerusalem during the bus bombings of the 1990s.

Going on the offense, Nirenstein said, should be used in countering the UN's Goldstone Commission on alleged war crimes in Israel's offensive in Gaza.

She became acquainted with Arab culture while working as Middle East correspondent for prestigious Italian publications. "Europeans can't really understand terrorists shooting and then hiding behind civilians," she argues. "They can't put themselves in those shoes."

Declaring that Israel is at war for its right of self-determination as a free society would have a greater impact than explaining the human shield predicament, Nirenstein says.

"Israeli society has something Europe longs for," she says. "Europe is lost and dying out. It longs for a society of values defending its people, for a society which is still able to produce three children per couple. But you have to have the courage to say that you are different to Europe."