Italian Jews protest attempt to ally with French anti-Semites

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The Radical Party is a tiny but influential political force in Italy that is known for its support of civil rights.

The xenophobic National Front is led by Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has made repeated anti-Semitic statements and has referred to the Holocaust as a "mere detail" of history.

Radical Party leaders had sought to link their deputies in the Strasbourg-based European Parliament with those of the National Front and other small parties that operate outside of major parliamentary groups in order to have more clout.

They insisted that such relationships would be for administrative or "technical" purposes rather than because of political agreement.

But Zevi bitterly attacked Radical Party leaders Marco Panella and Emma Bonino for trying to engineer any sort of relationship with the National Front.

"Marco, Emma," he said, "if you are not cretins or suicidal, break the technical agreement with Le Pen."

Several Jewish leaders also sharply condemned the initiative.

Tullia Zevi, wife of Bruno Zevi and the past president of Italy's Jewish community, told reporters that the Radicals should be ashamed of attempting such a move.

"Parties such as that of Le Pen are racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic," she said. "They deny the Holocaust and are indifferent to ethnic cleansing."