Commentary. The ports are open for weapons shipments, while the same ports are closed for boatloads of desperate human beings, by the order of the Minister of Hatred himself, Matteo Salvini. But the real news is that the protests have begun.

In Italy, the ports are open to arms but closed to humans

If you want a tangible and concrete illustration of the nature of the Italian government, of the contract between the racist nationalism of Lega and the vigilante-style populism of the M5S, look no further than at two ports located in our beautiful country’s north and south: Genova and Lampedusa.

In Genova, the Ligurian capital, there is a Saudi ship docked called the Bahri Yanbu, which has for a long time been transporting weapons to Saudi Arabia. In the other extremity of the country, off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, the Sea Watch, the humanitarian rescue ship giving aid to refugees, was itself blocked until just two days ago. By the decision of the Italian government, the ports are open for weapons shipments to a country at war—Saudi Arabia, engaged in the bloody conflict in Yemen—while the same ports are closed for boatloads of desperate human beings, again by the order of the Italian government, specifically of the Minister of Hatred himself, Matteo Salvini.

But the real news is that protests have started in both ports, challenging the silence, the duplicity and the arrogance of the government whose members are now passing the blame back and forth, going through an internal crisis as well as a larger crisis triggered by the conscience of Italian civil society. In Genova, activists and trade unionists were no longer willing to contribute to bloodshed worldwide through arms trafficking, so they have blocked the Bahri Yanbu, a de facto military ship, registered to the Saudi company which is the monopoly operator for Riyadh’s military logistics.

Meanwhile, in Lampedusa, a veneer of civilization has shown itself in the streets, willing to welcome rather than reject those fleeing desperately from too many Western wars and from the misery produced by our model of pillaging energy resources, in Africa and beyond.

These developments are once again bringing the international context to the fore, breaking with the petty tendency of our country to turn in on itself. This is because both protests have an international resonance, and call for an immediate reaction from Europe, especially on the eve of the vote for the European elections. The Saudi ship, which is carrying arms and/or associated supplies meant for the military forces of the Saudi monarchy, started its journey in the United States, and visited Canada before arriving in Europe, with Jeddah as its ultimate destination. After loading locally produced ammunition in the Belgian port of Antwerp, the ship visited and tried to land in the United Kingdom, France and Spain. However, it was always met by protests organized by pacifists, human rights activists and local port workers.

And Italy is not just another stop along its route: here, RWM Italia manufactures bombs under German license (headquartered in Ghedi, Brescia, with a plant in Domusnovas, Sardinia), which are going to be used against Yemeni civilians.

This deadly arms traffic is happening with the acquiescence of all of Europe: according to the reports of the EU itself, in 2016 alone, EU member states have issued at least 607 licenses for arms exports to Saudi Arabia, worth €15.8 billion.

On Monday, the port of Genova was blocked by the protests organized by activists and dockworkers, but the government circumvented the protests and ensured that the ship would dock anyway.

Even in Lampedusa, in the end, the Sea Watch ship that had again been held off shore for days was allowed to land and the migrants were allowed to disembark. And with the popular welcome of the landing of the 47 refugees, which almost turned into a spontaneous festivity, the alternative offered by the “Mimmo Lucano model” was put into stark relief—the former mayor of Riace who is now suspended and in exile because he demonstrated that integration is possible, real and productive, for a new workforce and a renewal of civility.

An angry reaction came immediately from Salvini, sponsor of that “Security decree 2.0” that the UN has openly accused of violating human rights. The humanitarian vessel was impounded, and its captain is being investigated for the dreaded crime of “favoring illegal immigration.”

This is where the two different sides of the “government contract,” in the end, come together and put up a united front, including for electoral purposes.

One should not forget, however, that their strength—increasingly fraying as it is—has come exclusively from the disasters caused by the previous Italian and European governments, both of the center-right and center-left, regarding both the reception of migrants and the endless wars. That’s the reality. This government is simply continuing a shameful legacy: that of dozens of walls erected at the borders of each European country, and, in the Mediterranean, that of the externalization of European borders as far as the supposed “authorities” in Libya.

Despite being overwhelmed by months of internecine warfare and wars by proxy, Salvini mentions Libya every day because, with its militias—fancifully renamed as “the Libyan Coast Guard”—it is keeping its migrant prisons and concentration camps open for business.

In the current Newspeak, war has long become “humanitarian,” while humanitarian refugee reception is now considered wholly “criminal.” But it should be clear to everyone by now that those who are opening the ports to arms dealers and closing them to humanitarian aid and hospitality are destroying our civilization, erasing our future and preparing for a reign of unbridled hatred.

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