“Mara Carfagna: ‘If the West abandons Israel, it will be abandoning itself,'” a translation of “Mara Carfagna: ‘Se l’occidente abbandona Israele, abbandona se stesso,’” L’Informale, February 11, 2016:
Mara Carfagna, the Minister for Equal Opportunity from May 2008 to November 2011, among Italian politicians has been one of the stoutest defenders of Israel. Mindful of ethical issues and civil rights, she was chosen by Berlusconi to be in charge of the civil and human rights section of his party, Forza Italia.
We wanted to speak with her not only about Iran, but about the growing antisemitism in Europe, and the boycott of Israeli goods from the territories.
We thank Mara Carfagna for agreeing to grant this exclusive interview to L’Informale, and for having restated her strong support for Israel and for the Jewish people.
Mara Carfagna, you have on many occasions spoken out openly in favor of Israel, as few other politicians have done. Do you really think Israel’s case is so hard to understand?
No, I don’t, if you look at the real situation, and not through the lenses of anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist prejudice. I have faith in the history, traditions, and culture of Israel. But above all, I believe in the rights of the Jewish people. In their right to claim their homeland, where they can live securely, free of discrimination and persecution. I believe that those who would deny Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state are very often motivated by prejudice rather than by political disagreements.
Israel has so many enemies, but at times it cannot even rely on its friends. The United States made a nuclear treaty with Iran over Israel’s objections. Does this mean that the West is abandoning Israel?
The West cannot abandon Israel, for that would mean to abandon itself. Israel is the West’s beachhead in an area where democracy, liberty, and human rights are not respected. Iran is a country with a long anti-Zionist tradition, and where many human rights are not respected. The West’s fundamental values cannot be put on the back burner or ignored altogether in order to further purely economic interests. We find it unacceptable for Italy or our allies to think only of profit.
It’s not only the United States that has angered Netanyahu. It’s also the EU’s decision to label products from the Israeli settlements that has angered Israel. What do you think about that decision?
I have publicly declared my opposition to it, and signed the petition which Il Foglio [a center-right Italian paper] started in mid-November of last year, at the same time that the European Commission was making its decision. There are so many territorial disputes everywhere in the world, and I don’t see why, of all of them, the E.U. chose to act only against Israel. I saw this as a form of discrimination, and I am well known for being against every kind of discrimination.
In a recent interview, Massimo D’Alema [a left-wing party leader] described Israel as “a problem,” which aroused the ire of the Israeli ambassador Naor Gilon…
Precisely because D’Alema is well-versed in foreign affairs, we should expect him to be careful before he speaks his mind. He surely ought to understand that, especially in foreign policy, words carry a tremendous significance. Israel is a democracy, a rarity in the Middle East, a beacon of liberty and human rights, and rather than addressing Israel as a “problem” ally, he would do well to recognize the great efforts Israel has made to further the peace process and should recognize, too, that Israel is a bulwark against the spread of Islamic terrorism.
Besides being the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel as a country is especially attentive to ethical matters and to human rights. These are subjects that the Right in Italy sometimes seems to ignore, just the way it seems to ignore Israel. Do you agree? And is there a place for a different kind of political right in Italy?
Let’s not overstate the case. To claim that the center-right isn’t interested in ethics and civil rights is another kind of prejudice. After decades during which Italy followed a policy of neutrality between Israel and Palestine, Silvio Berlusconi publicly aligned himself with Israel, which radically changed how Israel was viewed in our country. He was the first Italian prime minister to address the Knesset, repeating the beautiful definition of Pope John Paul II in his historic visit to a synagogue on April 13, 1986, describing the Israelis as “our elder brothers,” and Netanyahu called him an “apostle of peace.” It was our [center-right] government that compelled UNAR, the National Office Against Racial Discrimination, to include antisemitism as part of its remit.
In Milan last November, Nathan Graff, a Jewish man, was stabbed near a kosher club. This was the most serious act of anti-Semitic aggression since the attack at the Rome synagogue in 1982, in which a little child, Stefano Gaj Tache, died. Do you think that Italy could become a dangerous place for Jews to live?
Italy will continue to be a country that will be welcoming for its Jewish citizens. Our security services — police and intelligence – work effectively to prevent and fight all forms of intolerance, xenophobia, and antisemitism. They work tirelessly every day so that we can feel secure. The very valuable work that they do every day, and for which we should be forever grateful, has made Italy an example to be followed by the rest of the world.
In Sweden, antisemitism is now tolerated, partly because of massive Muslim immigration. Jews are leaving France. How is possible that Europe again is falling into the errors of the past?
I became full of rage when I learned that in Europe there are Jews now afraid to wear the kippah, or that large numbers are leaving for Israel out of fears for their safety. Or when I hear that Jewish children are afraid to go to school, or Jewish businesses are attacked. These attacks have been taking place all over, in Paris and Brussels, in Toulouse and Copenhagen. We have a duty to fight all this, and to fight the terrorism that kills in the name of God. There is no room for tolerance here. Every country should apply the principle of zero tolerance and fight ignorance and indifference before it manages to metamorphose into hate and antisemitism.
Ruth Dureghello, the President of the Jewish Community of Rome, spoke memorably during the Pope’s recent visit to the Rome synagogue: “Jews and Catholics should strengthen their common efforts to fight the evils of our time.” Do you think that such common efforts are possible?
I hope so. Pope Francis is a progressive and enlightened pope, and he is right to stress that Jews and Christians should feel themselves to be brothers, and together find the right path to solve the problems that now have the entire world in their grip.