Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Response to the Zionists

(Published in II Popolo di Roma, December 16, 1928)

By Benito Mussolini

Dear Editor,

The discussion I provoked with my article "Religion or Nation?" has garnered significant attention both inside and outside of Italy. I feel that I have a right to reply, and this is a right which I intend to make discrete use of. The letters published by your newspaper have been signed by many prominent men who can be grouped into three distinct categories:

First, the honest and sincere group, namely those Italian Jews who say that they identify as Italians, but happen to be of Jewish ancestry or religion (a similar group exists in Germany, created by Neumann), and if they had to choose between Italy or Jewry, they would choose Italy.

The second group is much less sincere: they are men who would choose Italy, but not out of any conviction or love for the Fatherland, but merely for opportunistic reasons, because they do not want to lose the high positions they occupy in the Italian world.

Finally, the last group of signatories who sent letters to your journal: this group oscillates between Nation and Religion, with a greater inclination towards Nation, i.e. the Jewish Nation. That said, we must now admit that the amount of people who have spoken up are very few in number. How many Jews are there living in Italy?

According to pre-war statistics their number was set at approximately 50,000. But these numbers are no longer accurate. After the conquest of the redeemed lands (Merano, Trieste, Gorizia and Fiume all have strong Jewish communities), in addition to the colony of Libya which has a large number of Jews, we must estimate the number of Jews to be at least 80,000 (out of a total of 42 million inhabitants). Rome alone—home to the oldest Jewish community in Europe—counts some 18 to 20 thousand Jews. Hopefully in the next census, which will be conducted in such a way as to not allow any sneaky loopholes, the true number of Jews will come to light.

Now, please read this carefully. Jewish publications boldly state that Zionism in Italy has a large following among the masses of Italian Jews. Meanwhile, it is curious to note the surprise of some Jews who pretend to have never heard of Zionism and proclaim themselves scandalized at the mere mention of the word 'Zionist'. Now, universal Zionism was born in 1897 and spread to Italy shortly after. The recent Congress of Zionists living in Italy coincided with the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Milanese Zionist Circle, chaired by the playwright Sabatino Lopez. Twenty-five local groups were represented at the Congress. The tone of their speeches is well known. Likewise the content of the posters advertised to Italian Jews. Neither of which would have moved without the intervention of this newspaper. But instead, they all would have continued to feed the movement through subscriptions, adhesions or something else. Some authors of the letters you published speak of religious fanaticism and of literature.

By no means. Italian Zionism is a vast and practical movement that has this as its supreme goal: money and the creation of a Jewish National State in Palestine through the use of intense propaganda. Just so there is no misunderstanding, they want the Palestinian State to be Jewish, just as England is English and so on. Italian Zionism is part of universal Zionism: the Italian Zionists never fail at the International Zionist Congress; and the Zionist leaders—Weissman, Sokoloff and other minor characters—do not neglect Italian Zionism in their messages and visits.

Now, from the Italian point of view, can one consider the statement by Mr. Dante Lattes, President of the Italian Zionist Federation, published in the December 6 edition of this newspaper, as satisfactory? No. We are told of the goals of the Zionists' action in unequivocal terms that do not allow for any doubt: the goal is the establishment of a "Jewish national home in Palestine". Now a nation that is fixed in a determined territory inevitably becomes a State. And this is what the Zionists want. The British Mandate of Palestine is a covert means to this end; a Jewish State is the real goal. The preparations are obvious: from the money to the flag; from the revived Hebrew language to the cities reserved exclusively for Jews, sheltered therefore from the boogeyman of Western assimilation.

As long as Palestinian Zionism is in that phase which I will call "national preparedness", one can fairly admit that this does not necessarily disturb the legal and sentimental relations between the Jews and their fellow citizens of other countries. However, the day when Zionism enters the phase of establishing a National State, then such relationships will have to be radically revised by the governments, since one can not simultaneously belong to two Fatherlands; one can not simultaneously be a citizen of two States. As to the merits claimed by Mr. Lattes and for him by the Italian Zionists regarding the cultural and economic expansion of Italy into Palestine and in the Mediterranean, we would like to see some evidence of this (which has yet to be provided) before addressing it.

To complete this picture, let's take a look at the last issue of the newspaper of the Italian Zionists. We find on the front page in huge letters an announcement that the Haifa Bay has become the inalienable property of the "Jewish people": but the fourth page is even more interesting to read because of the controversy that arose between Passigli, Vice-President of the Jewish the University in Florence, and the director of the newspaper, concerning the two epigraphs dedicated to the Florentine Jews who died in the last war.

The one made in 1920 says that the Florentine Jews shed their blood for "the advent of a greater Italy, and the resurgence of a free and united Israel". As you can see, it speaks of Italy, but never mentions the Fatherland. Now in 1928 the Florentine Jews wanted to clarify this and created a new plaque which no longer speaks vaguely of Italy, but explicitly speaks of the Fatherland. They changed the words to this: "The Florentine Jews died for the greatness of the Fatherland, which for us is Italy".

Analyzing the two versions, it is evident that the one made in 1928 does not lend itself to misunderstandings. So the question is, why was there so much furious anger coming from the newspaper of the Italian Zionists? Is Italy the Fatherland of the Italian Jews, or not? And if it is, then why do they get so irritated if this is engraved on a plaque dedicated to the Fallen?

Mr. Editor, by commenting on the Congress of Italian Zionists, my intention was to provoke a clarification among Italian Jews and to open the eyes of Italian Christians. The Jewish letters that you published led to a backlash in Italian newspapers. My goal has been achieved. A Jewish problem exists, and it is no longer confined to that "shadowy sphere" where it had been cleverly confined by the former, and ingenuously ignored by the latter.