On May 7, 2009, 227 migrants en route from Libya to Italy were intercepted in the Mediterranean Sea and escorted back to Tripoli by three vessels belonging to the Italian state, two from the Guardia Costiera and one from the Guardia di Finanza. In the online version of the Italian journal La Repubblica, Italy’s interior minister Roberto Maroni applauded the feat as “un risultato storico” in the struggle against clandestini, and a resolution to arguments between Italy and Malta over which nation should have to deal with potential asylum seekers. Maroni reasoned that, since the migrants were intercepted prior to reaching Italian shores, international law did not apply and it was not the “compito del governo italiano”—the duty of the Italian government—to evaluate requests for asylum; not addressed was why it was the compito del governo italiano to redeposit the travelers at their point of embarkation.
Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi was quoted in La Repubblica as supporting the re-depositing based on the fact that, unlike the political left in Italy which wanted to open the doors to everyone, his government was not founded on the idea of a società multietnica but rather on the idea of receiving only those migrants who met the requirements for political asylum. No logistical details were offered on how to determine whether migrants met such requirements if they were forcibly repatriated prior to questioning; defense minister Ignazio La Russa meanwhile deflected potential accusations of xenophobia by explaining in the online version of Il Giornale that opposition to a multiethnic society did not mean that people of different ethnicities could not become Italian. According to La Russa, it was critical not to lose track of the history that made Italians “unici nel mondo”—a history of uniqueness that had included convictions during colonial periods that Libya was not opposed to a multiethnic society.
My own extensive stays in southern Italy had acquainted me with other instances of Italian historical uniqueness, such as the centrality of testicle-related terminology to everyday communications. I had spent several summers with an Italian friend’s family in the region of Puglia, where activity was generally limited to eating, watching musical grocery shopping programs on television, and discussing the plight of immigrants in the country with a middle-aged cousin who dropped by to eat and watch TV:
COUSIN: The Arabs will break our balls and violently convert us to their religion.
BELÉN: [reminds COUSIN of existence of nearby castle built not by Arabs but by Crusaders, at which point she is added to ball breaking category, as well]
The late Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci had warned of intentions by the sons of Allah to explode the cupola of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome and to replace cognac with camel’s milk, warnings apparently forgotten by the Vatican when it criticized the Italian government’s policy regarding the fate of the 227 migrants on May 7. Vatican indifference to the fate of the Saint Peter’s cupola was unforeseen given a private meeting in 2005 between Fallaci and Pope Benedict XVI; less unforeseen was the reaction to forced repatriation by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Fallaci had previously accused the UN of being a hypocritical organization whose achievements consisted of failure to close the Soviet gulag system and failure to support the West Bank security fence, for which she created superior euphemisms such as “muro antikamikaze.” Other detectable cases of hypocrisy included:
- Fallaci’s stance on abortion, which was that it was permissible only when the pregnancy was a result of rape by Arab terrorists or when the fetus was the Ayatollah Khomeini, and
- Benito Mussolini’s declaration in Libya that he was the protector of Islam.
Protection was reinterpreted in a May 7 article on Yahoo! News, which reported the 227 seafarers as “200 rescued migrants.” Yahoo! Notizie meanwhile quoted Italian opposition politician Antonio di Pietro as declaring that one potential consequence of repelling people of different skin colors was that not even Barack Obama would be permitted to enter Italy. Obama would presumably continue to have no problems crossing the US-Mexico border, however, where the process of rescuing Mexican migrants had been jeopardized by border fence funding cuts. Oriana Fallaci would have undoubtedly endorsed the secondary importance of border fences to anti-kamikaze walls, as she had once commented that, if given a pistol and told to choose between Muslim and Mexican targets, she would hesitate for a moment and then choose the Muslims “perché mi hanno scassato le palle”—because they had broken her balls.