Usa Palmieri-131111g, the Italian representative of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, traces some worrying undercurrents to the resurgence of Italy's New Right
WHILE COMPARISON to Germany's Republikaner or Le Pen in France would not be appropriate, there are many, both within and outside Italy, who feel uneasy about the country's new right-wing government.
Oreste Bisazza Terracini, Italian President and global Vice President of the International Association of Jewish Jurists and Lawyers, put it thus at a recent meeting in Rome: "Although the present government is without a doubt certainly not anti-semitic, and is a friend of Israel's, we must nonetheless keep in mind that many amongst the parliamentary and political forces that compose and support the government are characterized by nostalgia for an insufficiently remote and illiberal past.
"Post-fascism", he said, referring to Gianfranco Fini's definition of his new Alleanza Nazionale (AN) party built from the ashes of the MSI, Italy's postwar neo-fascist party "is an unknown entity..."
It cannot be denied that the new Italian coalition is the first in contemporary Europe to incorporate diverse political forces having undisputed historical roots in fascism or in pseudoCatholic, anti-Vatican II values.
The watchful attitude of EC countries and Israel presently obliges all coalition partners in Italy to woo public opinion by condemning anti-semitism, racism and totalitarianism. So long as they are made to feel "on trial", they will continue to do so.
A significant exception is Irene Pivetti, "La Lega's" controversial speaker of the Italian Parliament. She has not retracted any of her many state ments contrary to the ideals of ecumenism and interreligious dialogue.
Before the recent African Synod, Pope John Paul II said: "In truth, one cannot conceive of an ecclesiastical life today without ecumenism and interreligious dialogue". Irene Pivetti disagrees.
She criticised Milan's Cardinal Martini for hosting the St Egidio Community's Interreligious Prayer for Peace last summer. She questions the validity of Article 18 "On Religious Freedom" of The Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man.
"A Catholic cannot always recognise everybody's right to freedom of religion," she said. "The different faiths can't be placed on the same level. Only Catholicism is a revealed religion... What have I got to learn from a Muslim?"
She even questions the validity of Nostra Aetate, the Vatican II document that ushered in a new era in CatholicJewish relations through its declaration that the Jewish people could not be accused of "deicide", destroying all foundations for theological anti-semitism. Ms Pivetti's unabashed reply to that was: "The Gospels say 'The Jews' killed Jesus, and Jesus Christ is God." (Telemontecarlo, 22 April, 1994).
An unholy alliance with anti-conciliar Catholicism also characterises much of the rank and file of the AN, whose leader, Gianfranco Fini, cannot always keep in line.
Teodoro Buontempo, a popular ANMSI figure who is president of the Rome Town Hall Council, invited the renegade priest Fr Curcio Nitoglia to deliver a keynote homily in memory of three young MSI party members killed in 1978 by a leftist terrorist group.
The priest, a member of a far-right Catholic community that broke away from the late Cardinal Marcel Lefebvre excommunicated by the Pope for his anti-conciliar schism is not considered ordained by the Italian Bishops Conference.
On 7 January 1994 he addressed a crowd of 500 in a church courtyard in Rome: "The Catholicism of Vatican II is the result of an agreement between Communists, Masons and Jews. The power of Jews in the world is indeed great ...."
He expressed regret that "there is now no longer a law that condemns whoever professes a religion other than Catholicism".
While such statements can be brushed aside as inane and totally contrary to contemporary Catholic teaching by official Church bodies, sections of the political Right tend increasingly, though reconditely, to legitimise them.
Classic "secular" anti-semitic libels also emerge via occasional "slips" by AN-MSI representatives.
Some gems: at a 5 January AN-MSI victory rally, the Mayor of Chieti, Nicola Cucullo, said: "Hitler was the most intelligent person in the world, but even though the Germans are superior beings, they committed an error. They should have fried all the Jews."
On 25 March, during a TV election campaign interview, the "AN-Forza Italia" parliamentarian and well known film director, Pasquale Squitteri, advised his audience to read The Elders of the Protocols of Zion. He neglected to mention that this infamous masterpiece of anti-semitism, used by Nazi propagandists, was concocted by the Czarist police in the early 19th century to foment scapegoat anti-semitism.
Yet despite all these incidents, the real danger at present is not anti-semitism, but rather a quiet, progressive legitimisation of a newly empowered "post-fascist" Right.
It is a force eager to blandly equate "the victims on both sides" of the war with the opposing ideologies they died for, to rewrite history, and to smother the lively dissent of Italy's Left through the replacement of opinion-makers in the state-run TV, bolstered by Premier Berlusconi's three-channel TV monopoly.
Education on World War H in Italy is insufficient. History programmes in secondary schools stop at the end of Word War I.
The Right is taking advantage of the generation gap that separates those who remember from those who know nothing. Over 50 per cent of Gianfranco's Fini's votes were cast by 18-25 year olds.
In this vacuum, all-too-familiar revisionist ideas against multiracial soci et es tend to appear in publications fo merly thought of as marginal but n w becoming mainstream.
The present political crisis in Italy w s not caused merely by the ubiquito s corruption of a decadent ruling cl ss.
lack of courage and intellectual h nesty might be said to have marked a alf-century of successive "antifaScist" governments, who failed to enforce an objective study of World War II in Italian schools.
The responsibility for an Orwellian come-back for the reactionary Right is also theirs.