Italian foreign policy is like the movie The Truman Show, where nothing is real and we have all been legally adopted by a television company. One only needs to listen to the live TV speeches of Prime Minister Draghi and Foreign Minister Di Maio at the MED 2021, who claimed Italy is “fighting for human rights” in the Mediterranean.
These were the speeches of two spin doctors, and rather amateurish ones at that, who in two hours of rambling managed not to mention even once the names of Giulio Regeni, Patrick Zaki or El Sisi. Their shifty advisers are saying they’re only doing that in order not to further annoy the Egyptian general, who has grudgingly agreed to tolerate the presence of lawyers at the Zaki trial [editor’s note: Zaki has been released].
Such a soft touch for the coup-installed Cairo butcher, who is jailing and murdering his opponents.
Italy is fighting so meekly and in such a perfunctory manner for human rights because in reality, it is a country with a very guilty conscience. We are selling billions of euros of armaments to Egypt, so we must not disturb the strongman, even when he insults our institutions, from the judiciary to Parliament. As if defending human rights would impede us from doing business: it is precisely by defending them that we would assert ourselves as interlocutors, reaffirming our ideals—provided that we have any left.
But it doesn’t take one too long, listening to the speeches of Draghi and Di Maio, to understand why our foreign policy is so vague. The two reiterated that on the Palestine issue, they were in favor of the “two peoples, two states” solution.
Splendid. The only problem is that this is an obsolete formula, since in the last 20 years the Israeli settlements have reduced the Palestinian territory to fragmentary strips that make any territorial continuity of a Palestinian State impossible. Not to mention that the United States, led by Trump, has recognized full Israeli sovereignty over the disputed Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, considered part of Syria—all against every UN resolution on the matter.
But Draghi and Di Maio made no mention of the Israeli settlements, as if they were mere details. The latest morsel being swallowed up by Israel is the Arab airport of Qalandiya, north of Jerusalem, where 9,000 housing units for Israelis will be built. As reported by Michele Giorgio in il manifesto, in recent weeks, 12 European countries, including Italy, condemned the colonization and reaffirmed the international status of Jerusalem as enshrined by the UN.
However, such positions are never followed by concrete steps, and Italy, first of all, never has the courage to do that on its own. It is inconceivable that the government in Tel Aviv should become annoyed, like El Sisi: we are also selling a broad range of weapons to the Israelis.
So, instead of “two peoples, two states,” we wait for a Palestine in agony to die on its own. When the Italian foreign policy, together with us, will wake up to the reality of the Truman Show we are stuck in, that land will be no more; like the protagonist of Peter Weir’s film, the only thing we can tell the Palestinians is the catchphrase: “If I don’t see you again… good afternoon, good evening and good night!” Perhaps at this point only satire can save us, that weapon of last resort of captive peoples.
It must be said that, in Italy’s daily efforts to avoid actually having a foreign policy, we are choosing the best allies to justify our behavior. The latest one is Macron, who signed the much-trumpeted Treaty of the Quirinal with Italy, with which, according to our diplomatic corps, we should finally bury the hatchet of Libya—after the French decided in 2011, together with the whole of NATO, to bomb Gaddhafi, our major ally in the Mediterranean, and take away Libya for themselves.
Why is Macron our ideal ally today? Because we live in an age when a national leader can order a journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, to be dismembered, and still remain an acceptable partner for dialogue. Thus it was that Macron went to Saudi Arabia to meet with Mohammed bin Salman, the man behind Khashoggi’s murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018. The CIA itself has concluded that the prince is an assassin. Of course, this has no consequence whatsoever. On the contrary, business continues as usual and weapons keep being sold to him.
And to make sure he wouldn’t miss any business opportunity, during his visit to the Gulf, Macron sold off 90 Rafale fighter jets to the Emirates, which had just managed to secure the resignation in Lebanon of Lebanese Minister of Information Kordahi, who had been critical of the bombings perpetrated by the Emirates and Saudis in Yemen against civilians and the Houthis.
What lessons can we draw from what is happening in Egypt and the Gulf?
The first is that impunity rules, and we are burying the very idea of justice, and together with it the lives of Regeni, Khashoggi and Zaki (let’s hope that at least for the latter there will be a positive solution).
The second is that the allies of the US and the West have freedom to assassinate anyone they wish: a researcher, a journalist, a dissident. They face no consequences for it, quite the opposite: we allow them to flourish.
Given all that, how can we with a straight face hold Putin, Xi Jinping and dozens of other autocrats and coup leaders to account for their human rights violations?
Subscribe To Our Newsletter
Your weekly briefing of progressive news.