Interview. The Italian physicist signed an appeal of scientists for peace. Cries of anti-semitism are ‘a colossal hoax. … Slaughtering thousands of Palestinians at the rate of one Palestinian child killed every 10 minutes does not seem to me to bode well for peaceful coexistence.’

Carlo Rovelli: ‘The only reasonable thing to do is to stop now’

The Breakthrough Science Society, an Indian organization that promotes scientific culture, has published an appeal for peace in Gaza signed by a thousand scientists from around the world. Among the first to sign was Italian physicist Carlo Rovelli, who has had a long association with Indian science and philosophy. Rovelli is currently in the U.S., where his latest book White Holes has just been published and where he gave an interview to il manifesto.

In recent days, Foglio had accused him of excusing Hamas’s actions. The appeal’s text is clear enough to dispel all doubts: “[We] roundly condemn the attack on the Israeli civilians and the capturing of civilian hostages,” the text reads. But the physicist prefers to steer clear of controversy: “The issue is not condemning this or that,” he explains. “Condemnations are a waste of time.”

Professor Rovelli, what is the issue then?

The issue is to stop the massacres and the endless pain they bring on all sides. Stop the carnage, sit down at a table, look for solutions by listening to the others. This is not a strange demand: the vast majority of the world’s countries have asked for this in the UN General Assembly. Millions of people in the public squares are asking for this. The Pope and leaders of other religions are asking for this. All reasonable intellectuals are asking for this. There is only a tiny minority in the world that wants to “solve” everything with artillery fire and aircraft carriers instead. Unfortunately, this minority has both the power of arms and the power of propaganda: the Italian media are largely subservient to this power, under the naive illusion that it is the one that guarantees our safety.

Nonetheless, the fact that there are more calls coming from universities around the world for a ceasefire in Gaza than in support of Israel is arousing controversy.

But it’s obvious. People are protesting because they’re calling for the guns to no longer do the talking, not for them to fire even more, as Israel’s guns are now doing. At this moment in time, those who are carrying out massacres are the Israeli army more than anyone else. Of course, it’s not the only one: there is an unbroken trail of bloodshed, war, massacres and carnage leading up to this point. But if each side keeps looking at what was done in the past and using that to justify revenge, or trying to prevail by killing everyone else, the result is endless war. The only reasonable thing to do is to stop now, as everyone is demanding except Israel and the United States.

Are those who are seeing creeping anti-Semitism in these stances wrong?

That is a colossal hoax. Millions of people in the streets calling for a ceasefire, including countless Jews, who are always highlighted and applauded at demonstrations – that’s not only not anti-Semitism, but its opposite: it is proof that most people want to live in peace, without hatred or oppression. Everyone sees Israel’s point: Israelis want to live in safety, without bombs or aggression, and no one is questioning that. The point is that slaughtering thousands of Palestinians at the rate of one Palestinian child killed every ten minutes in the last two weeks does not seem to me to bode well for peaceful coexistence. It is precisely those who are thoughtlessly suggesting that the millions calling for peace are anti-Semitic who are fanning the flames of war and racism. There are fanatics on both sides of this conflict. It is the extreme minorities that are doing the worst damage: let us remember that the Oslo Accords were blown up partly because an Israeli extremist killed Rabin, who was working for peace and had shaken Arafat’s hand.

Your appeal calls on the UN to intervene for a ceasefire. But the international bodies seem to be powerless.

Instead of repeating over and over that they’re powerless, let’s say why they are so: they’re powerless because a super-armed minority does what it wants and ignores the demands of the majority. The most bitter irony is that this armed minority is doing it in the name of “democracy.” That is, in the name of “democracy,” they act against the majority and commit massacres. Has anyone wondered how reasonable Israel’s claim to be a democracy is? A democracy is a system of government in which those who are subject to the power of a state have the right to vote for its government. The Israeli-occupied territories in Gaza and the West Bank are subject to Israel’s power, but those who live there don’t get to vote. The only similar case I know of is apartheid-era South Africa: a democracy, indeed, but where only some people could vote, and not black people. It also had “autonomous territories” as well: for black people.

In the absence of the UN, what can governments or civil society do to bring us closer to a ceasefire?

The Italian government can put pressure on its American allies. They are the ones who decide and who hold Israel’s purse strings, to whom they’re giving arms and putting aircraft carriers in front of its shores to ensure impunity for the massacres in Gaza. Biden and Netanyahu are playing good cop, bad cop: one is asking the other not to go too far, and the other says he’ll do what he can. The current Italian prime minister got herself elected by promising more autonomy in foreign policy, and now she is crushed under the heel of the U.S.’s positions. Those who voted for the U.N. resolution calling for a ceasefire included France, Spain and the U.K.: why not us? Civil society can do little, given the mainstream media’s complete subservience to U.S. power. But it can do something: after all, when it comes down to it, we are a democracy. I hope we will remember who to vote for: those who are truly committed to world peace.

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