Address by Pierferdinando Casini
President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies
to the Rome Conference: "Anti-Semitism - A Threat To Democracy"
December 16, 2004
I am delighted to be able to extend my warmest greetings to my friend Abraham Foxman, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, and with him to the Chief Rabbi of Rome's Jewish Community, Riccardo Di Segni, and to all those present.
I believe that to be able to address the issue of anti-Semitism today, in a practical and profitable manner, a
number of fundamental points must first be established, so that we can draw on the lessons of history.
I should like to begin with a statement of fact. Europe has been the theatre of the most tragic and horrific
manifestation of anti-Semitism that history has known. There is no doubt that Europe can be considered to have plumbed
the lowest depths to which humanity can fall when the intransigent defence of the dignity of the human person
yields to an irrational and uncontrolled aversion to those who are different from us.
And yet Europe managed to pullout of the chasm. What prevailed - not only because of military supremacy - were
the lofty ideas that today govern the free and democratic world. Europe was rebuilt thanks to the unambiguous and
unchallenged affirmation of principles that were diametrically opposed to the distorted and perverse arguments that had fuelled anti-Semitism.
"In Europe, as in Italy, the seeds of racism and anti-Semitism continue to lurk with all their destructive potential."
It is on these same bases that the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe has been built, which all of us hope
can lead to the creation of a fully political European home capable of gathering together all nations that endorse the
same project of peace, stability and development, marked by a common identity.
This is why I am utterly convinced that a resurgence of
anti-Semitism in Europe as a mass phenomenon is absolutely
out of the question.
I am aware of the disagreements and divisions that recently surfaced in Europe when trying to frame an agreed common
foreign policy approach, particularly to the Middle East and the problem of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These were real difficulties, which have to be overcome and resolved as soon as possible in the name of the credibility and authority of Europe's presence in the concert of nations.
I think I can safely say, however, that all of those uncertainties in no way reflected any uncertainty about
values, that is to say, about our unconditional condemnation of anti-Semitic attitudes. Indeed, I would say that the most
powerful antidote to the endemic spread of this evil is precisely the idea of Europe that we are close to bringing
to final completion.
I am personally convinced that the same thing can be said, a fortiori, about Italy, which has been a convinced advocate
of the idea of Europe ever since it was first mooted. Our country has a grave and indelible responsibility towards history, which it is not authorized to evade or to play down: I am thinking of the race laws that were introduced into Italy amid the indifference of the majority, which gravely split the moral cohesion of the national community that had been built up in the process of national
unification, at the cost of tragic and terrible sacrifices to which the Italian Jewish community, the world's oldest,
Yet in Italy, the force of human reason eventually prevailed. The path was enlightened by the courage of our fellow Italians who today are numbered among the Righteous
among Nations: Giorgio Perlasca and Giovanni Palatucci, to mention but two of the best-known. But it was the whole
country that responded in practice to those who believed they could tie their future to the fanatical profession of
violence, barbarism and extermination.
Today, the steadfast and unconditional condemnation of anti-Semitism
unyielding values shared by all Italy's political forces,
however much they may differ in terms of their histories and
Recent initiatives taken by Italy's leading institutional
authorities have given tangible and undeniable proof of this
truth. Anyone that may still harbor doubts in this regard can only do so out of prejudice - something that has no
Yet we are faced daily in the news with a fact that we
cannot ignore: in Europe, as in Italy, the seeds of racism
destructive potential. Given this situation, the greatest
error we have to avoid is to to close our eyes to the problem,
relying on the fact that those who profess racist and anti
Semitic sentiments are isolated in what is generally a
healthy public opinion.
As I have just said,
the ideal tools for addressing this
situation do exist. But it would be extremely serious if we
superficiality or indolence. All of us, in the institutions
and in civil society itself, are duty-bound never to lower
our sights against racial hatred and anti-Semitism,
when that malignant growth seems to be on the verge of
extinction once and for all.
It would be even more grievously wrong at this moment, when
anti-Semitic attitudes are taking on a new and insidious
character. Contemporary anti-Semitism finds fertile soil in
which an indistinct mixture of racial prejudice, religious
hatred and political judgments are confused to the point that they are no longer able to be separated.
One only has to think, for example, of the attitude of those who equate criticism of the policies pursued by Israel's governments criticism which, in
themselves, as in all democratic countries, - with the denial
of the State of Israel's right to exist.
In my opinion,
it is a matter of priority to speak out
truthfully and clearly. While this is the challenge,
instruments for successfully addressing it are obvious: the
unfortunately, of many young people in Europe today can only
be dispelled by a thorough and objective familiarity with
the events of history,
and by carefully preserving the
The issue is therefore essentially cultural in character.
And much has already been done in this regard already. A
great deal of merit lies with civil society, of which the
disseminating the values of tolerance,
institutions have a decisive part to play.
As far as Italy is concerned, I can say with satisfaction
Remembrance, the institutions have embarked on numerous and
extremely important initiatives to stave off the threat of
anti-Semitism by preserving the memory of the Holocaust and spreading more broadly an understanding of the contribution
made by Judaism to the progress of civilization.
This same cultural approach underlay the OSCE Conference on
anti-Semitism held in Berlin last spring, which ended with
the adoption of a very important Declaration condemning once
again and without reservations every manifestation of anti-Semitism.
In this connection I believe that a broader establishment of
the multilateral method - not only at governmental level but
also in the fora for inter-Parliamentary debate - could make
an extraordinary contribution in this direction. And this
would be particularly true if the multilateral institutions
were to put into practice, unconditionally, the values of
how to reach out in readiness to listen to others, which is
necessary to overcome stand-offs and misunderstandings.
We remain aware that no initiative will be meaningful unless
it forms part of a process leading to greater responsibility
and broader development, which cannot tolerate breaks or
weakening our guard. And I think that it is on this that any
resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will largely depend.
The present phase contains novelties and great political
ferment, which is raising the hopes of us all that the path
that has been undertaken so often in the past,
abandoned, will be carried through to completion this time.
passively and wait
for a miracle
It has a
specific obligation to fulfill: to back up every effort being
made by the parties directly involved, unceasingly striving
to remove, once and for all, the barrier of prejudice and
diffidence which, for more than half a century, has marked
the destiny of that land, and with it the destiny of the
This is a decisive condition for achieving the objective to
which Italy has long been committed with conviction,
establish peaceful coexistence between two peoples and two States, respecting the interests of each but, above all, in
the name of the primacy of the interests of humanity and