Italian prime minister lashes out in Jerusalem at “stupid and futile” BDS

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, center, listens as his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu introduces him in the Israeli parliament, 22 July.

Office of the Prime Minister of Italy

Activists in Italy are hitting back at Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who declared during a visit to the Israeli parliament this week that “Italy will always be in the front line against all forms of boycott, which are futile and stupid.”

The center-left leader’s attack on the boycott movement, which received wide coverage in Italian media, comes as several European governments are deepening their ties with Israel.

Greece this week signed an unprecedented military pact with Israel and both Greek and Italian military forces have recently taken part in joint exercises with the Israeli air force despite the latter’s leading role in devastating Gaza last summer.

BDS Italia, a coalition of dozens of groups, said that Renzi’s statement “demonstrates his utter lack of knowledge of the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) launched in July 2005 by a broad coalition of Palestinian civil society as a necessary and moral response to the failure of international institutions to halt Israel’s continuing violations of international law.”

Throwing the prime minister’s words back at him, BDS Italia said that “it is ‘futile and stupid’ to continue to ignore Israeli violations instead of taking concrete measures to ensure respect for human rights, international humanitarian law and UN resolutions and support the Palestinian call for freedom, justice and equality.”

Ignoring Gaza

In a speech to the Israeli parliament, Renzi also emphatically endorsed Israel’s claim to be the “the nation-state of the Jewish people,” a sectarian formula Palestinians regard as negating their most fundamental rights.

The Italian leader made only a fleeting reference to Gaza and utterly failed to call for accountability for the Israeli assault on the territory that killed more than 2,200 people last summer, more than 500 of them children according to a recent independent UN inquiry.

Renzi also paid a brief visit to Mahmoud Abbas, the de facto leader of the Israel-allied Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.

Embracing Israeli extremism

Renzi’s speech would appear to be the first time an Italian leader has directly attacked BDS, but there have been other initiatives afoot in Italy to counter the Palestine solidarity movement.

In Milan in mid-June, Fondazione Corriere della Sera, a think tank tied to Italy’s leading newspaper, co-sponsored an anti-BDS workshop with the Italian Zionist Federation, the Italy-Israel Association and the Jewish Community of Milan.

Italy – like other European countries – appears to be embracing Israel more tightly, the more extreme Israel’s government becomes.

In April, just weeks after elections returned the most right-wing and racist Israeli government in history, Italian air force personnel participated in drone training exercises in Israel.

Greece signs military deal with Israel

Also this week, Greece’s government, led by the left-wing Syriza party, signed a “status of forces” agreement with Israel which offers legal immunities to military forces from both countries while they train in each other’s territories.

Greek defense minister Panagiotis Kammenos, right, greets his Israeli counterpart Moshe Yaalon in Tel Aviv, 19 July.

Greece Ministry of National Defense

Israel has only ever signed a similar accord with the US, according to The Jerusalem Post.

The deal was signed during a visit to Tel Aviv by Greek defense minister Panagiotis Kammenos, where he discussed closer ties with his Israeli counterpart Moshe Yaalon. Kammenos heads Syriza’s coalition partner, the right-wing party Independent Greeks.

The pair also discussed closer cooperation in the “defense industry” and “issues pertinent to maritime security” in the Mediterranean gas fields in the economic zones of Greece, Cyprus and Israel.

In April and May, Israeli F-16 warplane squadrons carried out joint training exercises from Greek airbases.

This was the first time Greece has invited a foreign air force to participate in its major annual INIOHOS military exercise. Greece is effectively letting Israel use its territory to practice killing Palestinians, “skills” that will likely be put to use next time Israel launches an attack on Gaza.

Israeli F-16 warplanes at a Greek airbase during the “INIOHOS” joint military exercise, 30 April.

Greece Ministry of National Defense

EU reassures Israel

This week, Reuters broke the story that an EU think tank had recommended sanctions against Israeli banks for their role in the construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The European Council on Foreign Relations, which frequently informs EU policy, argued in a paper that “the EU is in breach of its own laws” due to its failure to “distinguish its dealings with Israel from Israel’s activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which it has occupied since 1967.”

The report provoked a plunge in the value of Israeli bank stocks.

Israel’s major banks are already disqualified from the investment portfolios of several major pension funds due to their role in settlement financing.

But EU officials moved quickly to reassure the Israeli institutions that the Union would continue to ensure the banks’ impunity and freedom to profit from illegal colonization.

According to Israeli media reports, an unnamed EU diplomat said: “We have no intention of imposing restrictions on Israeli banks that do business in the settlements. This entire issue is complete nonsense.”

Meanwhile, Israel’s justice ministry is moving ahead with plans to grant government recognition to additional Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, all of which are illegal under international law.

All of this underscores BDS Italia’s insistence, in its rejoinder to Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, that “BDS serves to break the status quo in which Israel continues to violate rights with impunity, thanks to the inaction of states and institutions.”

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Ali --

Why do you think the European governments are so enamored of Israel? You didn't say it explicitly, but you strongly hinted that European governments are somehow ignoring the wishes of their publics.

You talk as if BDS Italy is this mighty and powerful group capable of dealing political penalty to the PM for his comments. Obviously he is not the least bit afraid.

Are the Europeans scared of the US Congress or do they simply see personal benefit in their relationship with Israel, and therefore overlook those flaws in Israel that they don't like?

Also, isn't Syriza openly anti-Israel? It flipped out during the Gaza operation last summer.

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You refer to flaws in Israel, which are to be overlooked in consideration for certain rewards. Well, let' s review a few of these flaws and ask whether they equate to something more than occasional bad manners. How about ethnic cleansing on a mass scale? Yes, I suppose that's a flaw. Then there are the repeated wars of aggression against every neighboring state. Let's not leave out the wholesale massacre of civilian populations and utter destruction of vital infrastructure. Don't forget the whole body of discriminatory legislation aimed at non-Jews. And of course the totally illegal occupation and colonization of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. I mean, who doesn't have flaws? The imposition of military courts using secret "evidence" against the accused might qualify as a flaw. As would the practice of "administrative detention" without charges. Torture and assassination, more flaws. And if we move a little further afield, we can talk about the gross corruption of the US Congress through legalized bribery, carried out by pro-Israel organizations and individual oligarchs. Direct governmental attempts to sabotage US diplomatic activity while demanding ever greater donations of cash and weapons- this is perhaps flawed behavior. As is spraying demonstrators with rancid chemicals, when not shooting them from ambush. All told, systematic theft, violent occupation, and fascist political leanings could easily qualify as flaws.

But hey- who among us is perfect? And why do people pick on Israel? I think they're just antisemitic. That's their flaw.

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Well said Tom Hall...you consistently flow with the ever so soundly profoundly astoundingly liberty of reason in a never ending show of separation of good and evil. I sure can't top that! As the world gets shaken there will only be left with "a few good men"...and it is 'good' to come here and witness them. God bless this place...Palestine and all her "few good men"...and let the Almighty take them in His quiver in these last days. Stay strong Palestine! Amen

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Sounds like he took a slight detour to the Planet Borg on the way to Hell Aviv. He should have stayed there [Borg].

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Ali, thank you for these updates.

You wrote:
"Italy – like other European countries – appears to be embracing Israel more tightly, the more extreme Israel’s government becomes."

The Italian political class has for years been quietly transforming itself with the same nationalistic imbecility as its fascist past. It now walks dangerously close to the shadow of a dead buffoon, Benito Mussolini, Il Duce himself, whose dream to turn the Mediterranean Sea into an "Italian lake" turned Italy into a sesspool.

As for the leftist team of traitors in Greece, I have a personal note to make. Being part Greek myself, I cannot but express my utter contempt for them. Rightist or leftist makes no difference in 2015. These are just names and ideologies. Syriza has collected of the same kind of leftist traitors who emerged after the Second World War. After the Nazi occupation, the British triggered a convenient civil war that cost more than a million lives. They and the ubiquitous Americans began bombing Athens to crush the Greeks' newfound spirit of independence, for which the partisans had fought so hard. The partisans were the real victors against the Nazi armies, which they decimated especially on the island of Crete.

All kinds of liberal and leftist elements then emerged--most of them assuming the role of collaborators all during the Cold War. This is what the Syriza Party has inherited. Sadly, there are honest, but rather naive figures, in their midst. However, their leaders have just sold Greek sovereignty to the EU leviathan, a bloated concoction on paper whose days are now numbered. The agreement with Israel should not come as a big surpise to anyone.

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To Voice of Reason...
1. When does 'reason' exit...and personal offense 'enter'???
2. What does spelling have to do with it? Are you better at critiquing Arabic...albeit "FREE PALESTINE" ? Please have reason before your voice.

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Thank you for the spelling correction.

Are your ethics or your reasoning ability as good as your English grammar? What leads one to doubt they are? Oh yes, the seething hostility in your words and the vain braggadocio of your handle.

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That's very poetic. I enjoyed it.

I don't see how there is anything ethical about insisting that Jews, and only Jews, don't have the right to self-determination.

Oh, you may claim to oppose all states centered around religion or ethnicity. But you only take tangible action to undo one of them.

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vor...."I don't see how there is anything ethical about insisting that Jews, and only Jews, don't have the right to self-determination.

Oh, you may claim to oppose all states centered around religion or ethnicity. But you only take tangible action to undo one of them.

Thank you vor for being so transparent. In fact the truth is...and has been said over and over again by Israeli gov heads, " The state of Israel is for Jews only." I do not accept Israel the right to determination when it is indeed an illegal racist despot regime that has zero legitimacy to the land of Palestine. Your tongues weave a web of deceit behind so-called democratic language to veil it's now revealed agenda for not just Palestine but the whole ME. You hide behind a man-god religion to get legitimacy by murder, bloodshed, theft, rape, tyranny of terrorism, and lies. Your days are numbered...and please go somewhere else to begile a weak soul...your lies simply don't work anymore.

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Spend this time considering the possibility of living in a neighborhood and street composed mainly of Arabs and Arabic speaking people. Also spend this time considering living in a society that does not offer any special rights, preferences or perks to anyone. The key words there being inclusion and equality.

I have found that when one treats others badly (like garbage) it is not lost on them... and they tend to reciprocate in kind.

Shabbat Shalom

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"I don’t see how there is anything ethical about insisting that Jews, and only Jews, don’t have the right to self-determination."

That again?

As ever, Zionists want to have it both ways. On the one hand, they insist on an absolute, unique, unassailable, trans-historical territorial claim to Palestine. This claim is categorically distinct from the agreed basis of other nation states: it is overtly sacred and eternal, being ordained by God. As well, the unparalleled persecution inflicted on European Jews by various regimes is cited as lending further support to the singular status of Zionism's claim.

On the other hand, Israel's apologists declare that they only desire what's allowed to everyone else- a normal, down to earth, hum-drum little homeland, akin to France for the French, Spain for the Spanish, and so on. No special exemptions or privileges are involved, and Israel should not be regarded in a different light from other countries.

Rather than sustaining the case for Zionism, this contradictory set of arguments illustrates the cynical nature of the enterprise.

Finally, as to the issue of "self-determination", under this version of Jewish self-determination, the indigenous people of Palestine find themselves automatically ill-favored, negatively defined through their lack of ethno-religious status. Jewish supremacy is decidedly unhealthy for them, as it is morally hazardous for Jews themselves.

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Thanks Tom ,the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Lets hope that the truth will one day set Palestine free.
By the way 'Voice of Reason', as you should be well aware, Judaism is a religion, we are talking about a country. Claiming that predominantly immigrant Jews have the sole right to determine the future of Palestine is as preposterous as saying that all Orthodox Christians from around the world have a right to immigrate there and repress everyone else. I almost feel sorry for these Zionist extremists, they do not realise what monsters they have become.

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ANTHONY: I also am Greek, with immigrant parents from Greece to the U.S. Any cooperation of Greece with Israel demeans all Greeks. I welcome hearing from you, and maybe working with you. = George Beres

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George, please do get in touch. Perhaps we could exchange e-mail addresses through our good colleague Ali. Anyway, he has my permission to have someone forward my e-mail to you, if he can possibly spare a moment.

He has certainly opened an interesting and rather troubling issue with this latest news from Greece, which has suffered so much.

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That imbécile can describe BDS as such but the facts are showing and the results on the ground are growing and growing !

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.