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Oppressed populations around the world acquired a new rival on Wednesday with the announcement by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of his campaign to “Free Lampedusa” within 48-60 hours.
What the Sicilian island requires freeing from: thousands of migrants, primarily arriving from North Africa.
Why it requires freeing: residents are not pleased, and Berlusconi sympathizes. (So much so that he has spontaneously purchased a villa on the island.)
The migrants are being transferred to refugee camps on the Italian mainland, which has generated unrest among certain sectors of population of south Italy who feel that the freedom of Lampedusa will occur at their expense.
In this video below, for example, from minute 1.22-1.34 the south Italian gentleman in the red hat explains that “since the state doesn’t do shit” he has taken it upon himself to capture refugees who have escaped from the makeshift camps—in this case, the two darker men being herded in front of him.
Libya’s Col. Muammar Gaddafi is known for his proposal of a state called Isratine. I would propose another state by the name of Italibya.
Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi has already sounded the alarm that taking a stroll in downtown Milan can cause one to think that one is not in fact in Europe but rather in Africa. In 2009 Italy test-drove a convenient way to deal with attempts by the formerly colonized to violate the territory of their colonizers, and hailed Tripoli’s acceptance of over 200 Africans discovered in small boats off the coast of Malta.
The voyagers were escorted by the Italian coast guard and police from European waters back to their continent of departure. For anyone in doubt, Berlusconi clarified that his government was not founded on the goal of a multiethnic society and would receive only those migrants meeting the requirements for political asylum. It was not explained whether asylum tests were simultaneously administered to the 200-plus migrants while they were being forcibly repatriated by the Italian state.
Back in February I attended a rally in Caracas of the Venezuelan anti-government opposition, where various protesters took it upon themselves to educate me as to President Hugo Chávez’ latest transgressions. These included consulting Cuban assassins on the issue of the electricity shortage in Venezuela and emulating Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.
Given that other world leaders have likened themselves to Mussolini, I thought it might be interesting to briefly compare Chávez and current Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, only one of whom is considered a “great friend” of Barack Obama despite repeated references to the U.S. president’s suntan.
A few basic areas for comparison:
Media control: Chávez is accused of dominating the media despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of outlets are in control of the opposition and, as Mark Weisbrot and Tara Ruttenberg of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. point out, “as of September 2010, Venezuelan state TV channels had just a 5.4 percent audience share.” Berlusconi meanwhile owns Italy’s three largest television channels and a publishing house, and has a history of violating broadcasting laws.
The War on Terror: Chávez opposed the War on Terror and famously announced that “you can’t fight terror with terror” in response to photographs of Afghan children slaughtered by the U.S.-led coalition. Berlusconi opposed the War on Terror-inspired tactic of domestic wiretapping only because wiretap transcripts implicated him and his colleagues in criminal and other dubious behavior.
I cannot recall a visit to my friend’s home in Puglia, southern Italy, in which the Muslim invasion of Europe has not surfaced as a discussion topic. It often initiates when one or more of my friend’s relatives discovers that I have just been to Turkey or Lebanon, for example, and remarks on my good fortune as a female to have avoided being stoned to death.
This year’s discussion started out as an innocent rant by my friend’s cousin against the concomitant invasion of Italy by Romanian criminals, who were said to make Albanian immigrants look well-behaved and who along with the euro constituted proof of the heinous nature of the European Union. A comment on the need to backtrack on a Europe without borders then led to the cousin’s observation that fortified Italian frontiers would additionally prevent Muslims from faking qualifications for asylum in order to continue the quest to absorb Italy into an Islamic caliphate. As for faked qualifications, it was now decided that stoning was not overly oppressive.
The July 28 deaths of two Italian soldiers in Herat, Afghanistan—occurring shortly after the most recent Wikileaks deluge—prompted an article entitled “Obama’s ‘Just War’ is Already Lost” in the Italian daily La Repubblica, in which Italy’s involvement in said conflict is described as follows:
We Italians are in Afghanistan for America. But the Americans are no longer sure about the reasons they thought they were there… Our [other] allies have understood this and… [are] all in search of a way out and an exit date from the Afghan trap. As for us, we remain hitched to a crazed convoy with various derailed [components].”
An Italian friend recently used a scene he had witnessed in a crowded piazza in the San Lorenzo neighborhood of Rome to explain the current political leadership of Italy. According to my friend, his usual Saturday night consumption of beer in said piazza had been interrupted when a Moroccan began breaking bottles and threatening bystanders with the jagged edges before eventually being toppled by other Moroccans.
What was most disturbing about the scene in my friend’s view was that the Moroccan had not been toppled by Italians, who had failed to react. When I asked my friend why the man’s nationality was central to the event, he protested that the real issue was why the Italian nation was senza palle—“without balls”—a deficiency that enabled fascist politicians to install themselves in power. My suggestion that perceptions of national weakness were also conducive to fascist takeovers was met with the response that brief ethnic takeovers of Roman piazzas were merely indicative of a larger pattern of territorial conquest, something Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had confirmed with the following quote in a June 2009 article in Corriere della Sera: “Some people want a multicolored and multiethnic society. We do not share this opinion.”
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.