Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Religion or Nation?

(Published in II Popolo di Roma, November 29, 1928)

By Benito Mussolini

In publishing this article I want to immediately make it clear that I do not intend to incite anti-Semitism, despite the fact that Semites are the main protagonists of worldwide anti-Fascism, from Treves to Torres. I hope instead that the Jews living in Italy do not provoke us and force us to be anti-Semitic.

Recently the Congress of Italian Zionists was held in Milan. Italian Zionists are Jews who want to return to Palestine, or help other Jews of other countries to go there. The Milan Congress has not attracted the attention of the general public, except for one laconic "Stefani" who published a story about some of the telegrams sent to the supreme authority of the State. As for the rest, silence. But we are too careful and too sensitive observers of what is happening under the sky of Italy to be satisfied with a press statement. We have read with great interest the most comprehensive account of the conference that was published by the official newspaper of the Italian Zionists in three successive numbers. We have made ​​some remarkable findings.

But before we expose them, it will not be inappropriate to recall that Italy is one of the few nations in the world that historically had no anti-Semitic parties or movements. The Italians—good-natured and easygoing for the most part, until Fascism taught them how to stare directly into the face of reality—the Italians have always thought that Jews were Italians who believed in Moses and awaited the Messiah. Different from us, therefore, only in religion, while having everything else in common: Fatherland, rights and duties. The Italian people never made distinctions; they were not surprised either when they learned there were three Jewish prime ministers, nor when they saw the Jews ruling many delicate institutions. Up until recently, therefore, it was reasonable for them to consider Jews merely as Italian citizens of the Jewish religion. But after the Congress of Milan, the panorama presented certain variants worthy of meditation which are likely to impose a correction of opinions. We read—and we are not surprised—an appeal by the Italian Zionist Federation, which speaks of a "Jewish people following in the footsteps of their fathers, in the name of Sion", and which called upon the Zionists to "regain their Jewish consciousness", and which states that "the Jewish people will soon implement their ideal", etc.

Italian Christians will perhaps be a bit surprised and disturbed to find out that there exists in Italy another people, which not only declares itself completely foreign to our religious faith, but also to our nation, our people, our history, our ideals. A host people, in other words, which stands among us as oil and water, together but without merging, to use the expression of the late Florentine Rabbi Margulies. This discovery is very serious.

Of course not all Italian Jews follow Zionism, however there are many tepid and silent Jews. Mr. Giuseppe Pardo Roques of Pisa, for example, hurls his lightning and speaks of "Jews still quietly immersed in hibernation since 1848, refusing assimilation". Do you understand this? The abolition of the "ghettos" and the recognition of equality of Jews to Christians—an event which was previously exalted as one of the greatest achievements of civilization—is defined by this scornful Maccabean host as a "hibernation".

Another commentator of the Zionist group in Milan, presided over by the comedy writer and President of the Congress Sabatino Lopez, wants to incite before the drowsy Jews—though susceptible to a Jewish awakening—the ominous specters of assimilation and absorption. The same commentator speaks of a "national consciousness" to pass on ever more ardently to their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, up to the most distant generations. Only a triestine Jew found a way to remember Italy, this Italy which is so tolerant and indulgent, even under the firm rule of the Roman Lictor. But all the Zionists speak of a "Jewish people", a "Jewish race" and "Jewish ideals", without the slightest allusion to religion.

We then ask the Italian Jews: are you a religion or are you a nation? This question is not intended to give rise to anti-Semitic riots, but merely to bring to light a problem which I know exists, and which is useless to further ignore. From your answer we shall draw the necessary conclusions.