Rome: The head of Rome`s Jewish community on Tuesday joined the Vatican newspaper and others in sharply rebuking Premier Silvio Berlusconi for a joke about Jews, money and the Holocaust, which was caught on videotape.
The joke was one of several controversial comments Berlusconi made while chatting with fans outside his residence on his 74th birthday last week. His comments were captured on video and broadcast this weekend on the website of the left-leaning La Repubblica newspaper.
On Saturday, the newspaper of the Italian bishops` conference slammed the gaffe-prone Premier and a day later the Vatican newspaper said his comments were "deplorable".
Berlusconi apologised, sort of, saying what he had said wasn`t a sin or an offence, just a joke and that the bad taste was in those who published it.
In an open letter published on Tuesday by Italy`s leading Corriere della Sera newspaper, Jewish community leader Riccardo Pacifici deplored Berlusconi`s "imprudent jokes" and called on him to severe alliances with politicians showing "nostalgic feelings about fascism”.
"We want to hope that the anti-fascist conscience of the Premier will know how to prevail," said Pacifici, emphasising that no Italian government has been a bigger supporter of Israel than Berlusconi`s.
Berlusconi is known to throw political correctness to the winds, as when he raised eyebrows in Washington by describing then President-elect Obama as "young, handsome and even tanned”.
Just recently he drew criticism for another joke about Hitler returning to power.