Tomorrow, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee will host Italy's deputy prime minister, Gianfranco Fini. I won't be attending the session - in plainer terms, I will boycott it. I have no wish to play any part in sanitization ceremonies for fascists, neo-fascists and anti-Semites of all kinds.
Fini is the leader of an important Italian political party, the National Alliance - a senior partner in the coalition and an extreme right-wing faction. The National Alliance is the legal heir of Italy's declared fascist party, which changed its name, and has even tried, in recent years, to change its repulsive character - and in doing so, it's political fortune as well.
Fini has two objectives: He wants to be Italian prime minister; and he believes that one day, and soon, his party will succeed Forza Italia, the party of Italy's current prime minister that is based entirely on one individual, Silvio Berlusconi - and that when the man falls because of his criminal entanglements, his party will come toppling down too. Fini also wants to be a respected and accepted European statesman; and he knows that in a brown shirt, he has no chance of making it into the club.
Just a few years ago, Fini was still declaring, with passion and deep internal conviction, that "Mussolini was the greatest statesman of the 20th century." Eight far-too-long years passed before Fini found it in him to "rectify" his statement, to back away from it.
But even when expressing his reservation, he failed to note that Mussolini was one of the biggest villains of the 20th century - second only, perhaps, to Adolf Hitler. This he did not say so as not to anger supporters, many of whom still greet each other and are greeted with stiff-arm fascist salutes, and visit the grave of Il Duce each year.
Why, of all countries, does Israel, the state of the Jewish people, want to wash the hands of a man like Fini? The reason is clear: Fini supports the Israeli government's policies in the territories; he is a friend of Ariel Sharon; and in a place that has no friends, even Fini will be considered one.
In such a regrettable manner - and with a huge degree of hypocrisy - the government of Israel is waging its war on anti-Semitism. Not only Fini, but Berlusconi himself too is an example of the two-faced attitude: A few weeks ago, he was quoted as saying, "Mussolini never killed anyone. Mussolini used to send people on vacation in internal exile."
When our prime minister visited Italy last week, I wanted to equip him with the books of the renowned Jewish-Italian writer Primo Levi, so that he could present them to Berlusconi as a gift. In his works, Primo Levi, as is well known, describes his deportation from Italy and the two years he spent in a German extermination camp. Levi's "vacation" was in Auschwitz; and it appears he was unable to recover from this vacation up until his suicide, in the late 1980s, almost 40 years after he was rescued from the horror.
The most astounding part of the entire affair is the fact that no one in Israel protested Berlusconi's chilling statement. Not a single grievance was heard - not even from the mouth of "the minister of the Jews," Natan Sharansky. Just imagine what kind of a reaction would have ensued had the very same things been said by another statesman, who is not known as a "friend of Israel" - the French president, for example; not to mention one of the Arab leaders.
A similar kind of hypocrisy can be found in the attitude toward Austria: At the time, Israel kicked up a big fuss when Joerg Haider's party joined the government coalition in Austria. We severed diplomatic relations with Vienna - a far-reaching step - and we called on the entire world to follow suit. And then, just a short time thereafter - and almost in secrecy, without any feasible explanation - Israel renewed ties with Austria, despite the fact that Haider's Freedom Party, albeit somewhat weaker, remained a part of the Austrian government.
If we severed ties then, why are we renewing them now? And what's so surprising about the rumors regarding the link between the renewal of relations and the need to investigate financial goings-on of Ariel Sharon in Austrian banks?
It's a shame, a real shame. The battle against anti-Semitism has to be waged from a firm base of values and principles. If the world senses that it is a political, cynical and opportunist Israeli fight, its foundations will be shaken and it will completely lose its moral validity.
And every time I am at a loss, I will ask myself: Would Primo Levi, on his return from his "vacation," have shaken the hands of these people? If not, then I too refuse to shake and sanitize. As far as I am concerned, Gianfranco Fini remains persona non grata.
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