MILAN, Italy — Italy’s most famous philosopher would like to personally kill Israelis and thinks Europeans should raise money “to buy Hamas some more rockets,” he recently said on the radio.
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Gianni Vattimo, a well-known public intellectual and former member of the European Parliament, made the comments on a popular radio show as protests against Israel’s incursion into Gaza were held across Italy and the ruling left-leaning Democratic Party was moving toward a more pro-Israel position.
“I’d like to shoot those bastard Zionists,” Vattimo told Radio 24’s most successful show, “La Zanzara.” When asked by the hosts whether he would like to see more Israelis killed, Vattimo, who described himself on air as “a non-violent person,” responded: “Of course!”
Later, he said he “unfortunately can’t really shoot” because he was exempted from military service.
Vattimo also said he was planning to launch a fund-raising campaign to buy better weapons for Hamas, saying the militants are “fighting with toy rockets that don’t really kill anyone.” He suggested Europeans form international brigades to fight along with Hamas, just as foreign volunteers fought Franco during the Spanish Civil War, and said Israel was “a bit worse than the Nazis.”
(For full audio recording of interview, in Italian, click here)
Nazi comparisons are not unusual in Italy, where the intellectual elite is generally pro-Palestinian. However, such an open call to violence against Israelis by a public figure is almost unprecedented, and drew strong criticism both in the national press and among Jewish leaders.
Renzo Gattegna, the usually soft-spoken leader of Italy’s Union of Jewish communities, issued a public statement calling Vattimo’s words “unacceptable, a mixture of the most heinous allegations” against Israel.
“Either Vattimo is completely nuts, or he was speaking in bad faith,” said Stefano Jesurum, a Milan council member representing the city’s Jewish community. “I refuse to believe that a well-educated European, a scholar, can see any parallel between Israel and Spain under Franco’s regime.”
“The debate was always tense in Italy, but in the past it used to be about ideology; now it’s more of an issue of psychiatric disorders,” said Jesurum.
Although he said he is worried by the incendiary rhetoric used by people like Vattimo — and “to a lesser extent, by a small minority of pro-Israel hardliners” — Jesurum said the Italian mainstream left is slowly moving from a generally pro-Palestinian tradition toward a more nuanced view of the conflict.
In a speech to the Italian parliament, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, a Democrat, said “Israel’s right to security must be guaranteed.”
Pro-Palestinian protests have been held in Milan, Rome and other major cities in Italy. Smaller counter-protests organized by Jewish groups were held in Milan and Rome. In Vercelli, a small town in the northwest, pro-Palestinian activists hung a banner on a synagogue reading: “Stop bombing Gaza, Israeli killers, Free Palestine.”