Friday, July 11, 2008

Anti-Gypsyism in Italy

Imagine this.

May – June 2008


Four Molotov cocktails are thrown into a Jewish neighborhood in Italy. Two days later, assailants burn down another Jewish neighborhood causing approximately 800 residents to flee. Crowds of people are seen cheering live on the main national TV channel RAI yelling: Jews out! The riot police is not even alerted at the time the broadcast takes place.


During the next weeks, a number of similar incidents happen. The minister of interior, known for his anti-Semitic stands during his previous job as the minister of employment, decides the Jewish children should be fingerprinted for what he calls “safety reasons”.


The OSCE, organization which deals mainly with security issues and conflict prevention and resolution, known for taking extensive commitments to combating racism and promoting tolerance, announces it will discuss in one month’s time, during its next meeting in Vienna , on Jewish-related issues.

The OSCE plans to have the following three sessions:

  • Role and responsibility of regional and local authorities to assist in integrating Jews
  • Good practices and major challenges in improving the situation of Jews at local level: examples from municipalities
  • Policies to facilitate equal access of Jews to public services, in particular social services and education

Indeed the above are hard to imagine. Both the incidents and the reactions would be hardly believable even to the existing wishful European hardcore anti-Semites. It would be out-of-the-question that the OSCE would address only issues on the extreme margins of the relevant issue, and avoid mentioning ethnically motivated attacks or the blatant Italian officials anti-Semitism. Would be expected from leaders of the democratic world to speak harshly against Italy and condemn the acts of hate targeting Jews.


The European Jews and Roma as ethnic groups have been primary targets for European racism for centuries and were the main targets of extermination policies of the Nazi Germany. There are many similarities regarding between anti-Semitism and anti-Gypsyism which makes the comparison salient.


Unfortunately when it comes to Roma the European Union, the UN and the OSCE seems to have a blind spot. Blatant racism, hate speech and nazi style demonstrations against Roma are rather justified than fought against.

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8 comments:

ct said...

Thanks for posting this info. The situation for Roma and Sinti in Europe is incredibly bad and dangerous, as the article shows. I have heard similar stories about the situation in the Czech Republic, and have heard racist remarks expressed by people who identify with progressive causes.

And yes there are similarities between antisemitism and "anti-gypsyism." It would be helpful to look into these commonalities (as well as differences). Definitely, there is too little focus on the issue.

But I also find the introduction to this article to be very strange. It treats Jews as a privileged group with international support, which I find inaccurate and problematic.
Not only is the claim exaggerated, it also follows some of the typical assumptions about jewish power and international influence.

Additionally, I think it forces a conflict between those suffering under antisemitism and those suffering under "anti-gypsyism," where the aim should be to foster solidarity.

Southpawpunch said...

Good article.

I never quite got over writing a letter to the local paper, aged about 12, politely asking why people where so opposed to the plans for a Travellers site as it 'must be tough living in a caravan' 'children want to go to school etc' and then getting half a dozen pieces of hate mail (& 1 supportive) and 3 or 4 abusive visitors to the house - only some of whom were discouraged when they discovered my age.

It would be interesting to do a timeline where if you replaced 'gypsies' in my letter by X, you would get a similar reaction.

I'm guessing 'Asylum Seekers' 1998 to date, Muslims 2001 to date, Jews (ancient to WW2, 50s? more recent?), Irish (17th cent to 60s/70s?), French (ancient to early 20th Cent) and many more.

bob said...

Thanks for both these comments. Contested Terrain - I get your point about the comparative/competing racisms, and did wonder about that myself before posting it. I agree that there is a reading of it that forces a conflict, but that was not how I read it.

I think it is correct to say that there would be an international outcry if the racism against Gypsies that is commonplace throughout Europe was attached to almost any other group - Jews being a good example, because it is not actually long since such legislation was meted out to the Jews of Europe, and a reminder of that should be chilling.

ct said...

Here is an example of a similar argument. This one, in which the author tells of Armenians who "Covet the Holocaust".

The problem is that those who are actually responsible for the suppression of the history of the Armenian genocide (that is, the Turkish government), or the lack of concern about violence against Roma and Sinti (the Italian government, in the above mentioned case), or the lack of reparations to African-Americans (by the US government) are let off the hook.

It seems quite clear that a major cause for the lack of recognition of the Armenian genocide has to do with the Turkish state's persecution of scholars who work on the topic.

But instead of criticizing this clear cause of the problem, a conspiratorial approach is preferred in which Jews are suspected, in some way or another, of monopolizing moral sympathy.

In this way, the Armenian genocide will remain unacknowledged, and the usual skapegoat will take the blame.

There is a very good statement about this by Bernard-Henri Lévy. He describes an "anti-racist antisemitism." He says:

“You will not raise a mass movement by saying the Jews killed Christ—nobody cares. Accuse them of having invented Christ, like Voltaire did in the eighteenth century, still nobody cares. As far as being a special race, nobody believes that anymore. But anti-racist anti-Semitism—saying that for the sake of the blacks, for the sake of the Arabs, we must make the Jews shut up — this works. If the Jews practiced ‘memorial pornography’ — thus exaggerating their own suffering — they became responsible for why the world didn’t care enough about the history of slavery and the suffering of blacks. [emphasis added]

bob said...

CT- Excellent quote from Finkielkraut. Good example from the despicable Chris Hedges. I know exactly what you mean, and I have seen examples of this. I don't think that the anti-gypsyism piece comes from this genre (I don;t think it seeks to minimise antisemitism or blame its victims, but rather uses it as part of a rhetorical strategy to incite moral outrage at the treatment of the Roma by making assumptions that may or may not be valid), but I agree that it fits easily alongside it, in a political culture soaked with that sort of thing.

The Contentious Centrist said...

It's an extremely ironic situation we have here.

The Jews are always accused of trying to monopolize the victimhood market by reminding the world that the Holocaust is unparalled in its atrocity.

Those who wish to minimize the Holocaust, for their own reasons, then rope in other holocausts and thrusting them under Jewish noses: See, see, here is a holocaust, and there is a holocaust. And you think you are so speacial?

So what they do is actually abuse atrocities wreaked upon other peoples in order to bash in Jews. It's not the other crimes that bothers them (do they care about the Kurds? About Darfur? About Zimbabwe? Did they care about Bosnia or Kosovo?). It's the fact that the Holocaust, the greatest victimhood prize on the stage of history, goes to the Jews. The Armenian holocaust, the gypsy holocaust, are useful and worthy of mention only as far as they serve an agenda against Jews and /or Israel.

It's the politics of pity, and nothing is more cynical, or dangerous, than that game.

http://contentious-centrist.blogspot.com/2007/12/argumentum-ad-misericordiam-i-was.html

ct said...

I agree with you Bob. I was picking up on a kind of logic that exists on a spectrum. The example I gave was one step further than the one in the article about attacks on Roma and Sinti, which you posted.

Contentious Centrist, I think you're right to say that "what they do is actually abuse atrocities wreaked upon other peoples in order to bash in Jews." But I would be careful about who to attribute such intentional actions to. It certainly applies to neo-Nazis who express support for Palestinians. But I think Left antisemitism is much more complicated.

Leftists do sometimes abuse other atrocities, but I am not sure it is with the intention of attacking Jews and the memory of the Shoah. I see that more as a result of the process Levi described.

For Levi there is a "ground" on which Jews are attacked, and this ground is that Jews supposedly monopolize moral sympathy, and silence tragedies of other social groups. Jews are attacked because they are seen as suppressing emancipation.

bob said...

CT-
I just noticed you are not on my blogroll: I thought I put you on ages ago! Well, you're there now.
-b