“On a windy Saturday afternoon a group of Roma girls were selling trinkets on a beach outside of Naples. Sometime during lunch time, the girls set down their wares and ventured into a rough sea. Two of the Roma, cousins Violetta and Cristina, aged 12 and 13, according to Cardinal Sepe, struggled to stay afloat amid a strong rip tide.
Emergency services responded 10 minutes after a distress call was made from the beach and, according to local press accounts, two lifeguards attended the girls upon hearing their screams. But they were too late. Cristina and Violetta drowned.
Their bodies were pulled from the sea, covered with towels, feet exposed. Witnesses say they lay on the beach for hours — and so did many of the sunbathers who allegedly watched the drowning and, according to some press accounts, did little but stare and carry on with their Saturday afternoon.”
More from The Independent.
The Guardian’s correspondent in Rome reports that Italy’s highest appeal court ruled that it is acceptable to discriminate against Italy’s c.160,000 Gypsies on the grounds that they are thieves.
“The ruling by the court of cassation, which appears to provide judicial backing for the government’s policies, was handed down in March, but reported only yesterday. The judges overthrew the conviction of six defendants who signed a leaflet demanding the expulsion of Verona’s Gypsies in 2001.Among those convicted of racially discriminatory propaganda was Flavio Tosi, an official of the anti-immigrant Northern League, who has since become Verona’s mayor. He was quoted by a witness at his trial as having said afterwards: “The Gypsies must be ordered out because, wherever they arrive, there are robberies.”
The court of cassation decided this did not show Tosi was a racist, but that he had “a deep aversion [to Roma] that was not determined by the Gypsy nature of the people discriminated against, but by the fact that all the Gypsies were thieves”. His dislike of them was “not therefore based on a notion of superiority or racial hatred, but on racial prejudice”. The judges scrapped the two-month jail sentences and ordered that the case be reheard.”
In Italy the Roma are confused with immigrants from the newly acceded Romania, and both are blamed for a rising crime rate. On the 13th of May, a woman in Naples claimed that a Roma girl had tried to steal her baby – an old lie about Gypsies is that they steal children (see the recent BBC 4 documentary What Happened Next, a continuation of They Steal Children, Don’t They?) and although there was no evidence the community erupted in violence and burnt down Roma homes, triumphantly reported by Stormfront as a ‘nativist rebellion’. The Italian government, far from confronting the prejudice, had already begun a registration of Gypsies which has been reported as more like a dawn raid than a census, but after the judgement was announced, rabble-rousing Interior Minister Roberto Maroni felt sufficiently encouraged to announce a nation-wide clampdown to fingerprint all Roma, including children, as an emergency security measure which would allow illegal immigrants to be identified. This was applauded by Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, who until earlier this year was the European Commissioner for Justice and Human Rights. However, the current European Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammerberg observes:
“The Nazis and the Fascists used the same methods of singling them out in the 1930s. It’s not surprising that they are frightened.”
Indeed, the Nazis proceeded to attempt to wipe out the Gypsies entirely.
Contrast with Tanzania’s albinos, another population living in fear having been slaughtered in horrifying numbers (25 in the past year) for the their hair, blood and limbs, said by witch doctors to confer wealth if drunk as a potion. The Tanzanian government is carrying out a census of albinos in order to better protect them, and for the albinos this can’t happen soon enough. People know if their government is on their side.
Getting rid of the Roma seems to be the ultimate aim of Berlusconi’s government – the Daily Mail reports 68% support for the expulsion of all Roma in a recent Italian opinion poll. And Italy is not the only country where Gypsies suffer discrimination. In Greece this year they have been fighting to keep their children in the same school as non-Gypsy children whose parents object. In Russia they have been campaigning against state-sanctioned discrimination in the criminal justice system and media hate speech unopposed by the state. In Hungary, Roma are trying to convince the authorities that the high number of their children in care is a function of bad housing and poverty, rather than something intrinsic to the Roma character. In fact Gypsies are fighting on practically all fronts for rights other people take for granted.
Passing policy which singles out Gypsies as criminals-in-waiting or people who don’t belong is absolutely discriminatory, racist and specifically antiziganist.
I could stop there but more occurs to me. The movement against Israel is on my mind at the moment and a number of comparisons and contrasts present themselves.
There are countless differences between Gypsies and Israelis, and between the groups enacting the policies against them. Berlusconi’s Italian coaltion includes the ‘post-fascist’ and ‘far right’, whereas the British boycott of Israel is supported by a coalition of New Stalinists pushing a bastardised anti-imperialism, Jews who want other Jews to assume collective responsibility for the acts of Israel, people who want Israel gone – people who detest Jews make up an uncertain proportion, but where they are present their hatred is suppressed as socially unacceptable. Gypsies face violence and Berlusconi’s government wants them gone, whereas the boycotters insist they merely hope to instrumentalise Israelis to lever change in Israeli policy – nobody dies or is terrorised as a direct result. While the Gypsies endure acute poverty, Israeli – cultural and academic figures targeted by PACBI in particular – are relatively well-off and secure. While Israelis have some, albeit limited, influence on state decision-making, Gypsies are largely excluded from the organs of Italian policy-making and are preoccupied with gaining even modest civil rights and a decent living standard. The impact of being turned down, as an Israeli, for contracts, collaborations, reviews, performances and conferences is vastly different from being, as a Gypsy, finger-printed, having your only home deemed illegal and bulldozed by your own government, or knowing that an entire beachful of fellow Italians would watch you drown and impassively sunbathe around your corpse.
But both Gypsies and Jews, including the Jews who now defend their state, have a long history of subjection to discriminatory laws, marking, killing, deportation and resettlement and exterminatory or genocidal measures – particularly, in the case of Gypsies, sterilisation and adoption – in other words, hatred.
After the Holocaust the UN ratified a state for Jews – Israel. Gypsies do not have a national home. If Russian popular antisemitism becomes unfightable, Russia’s Jews will have a place to go. Russian’s Gypsies will have to fend for themselves.
The inability (where it had the will – and there are voices speaking out for Gypsies in Italy and in the U.N.) of the left to resist the fascist assaults on the rights and dignities of the Jews and Gypsies of Europe (and you could also mention the Bosnian Muslims and the Kosovar Albanians) is a testament to the advantages of self-determination and self-defence.
And yet there is this anti-Israel campaign. The Palestine Solidarity movement is burgeoning. It is teeming with activity. And it is a barely-disguised, and for some un-self-aware, movement whose logic is the cancellation of the world’s only Jewish state, on the premise that smashing Israel as if it were an imperialist bridgehead is the only just resolution for Palestinians.
Gypsies are not the notional target of Imperialist aggression, and therefore the organised left – the left which scrutinises the Israeli economy, follows the nutritional status of Gazans, shrieks about Israeli atrocities real and fictional alike – is unmoved or perhaps even bored by the persecution of Gypsies.
That is one answer to why there’s no International Solidarity Movement for Gypsies.
Disgusting, isn’t it.