Archive for August 2008
Rather topically, this CST report into Antisemitic Discourse 2007 covers many of the issues recently debated in light of the Delich affair. I would recommend page 33 to any anti-Zionist “activists”.
(H/T: Jonathan Hoffman)
Following on from my previous post.
The Duke of Chaos provides some background to the incident noting that
“The 700-strong mailing list of the British Union of Colleges and Universities (UCU, aka Uck-U)is currently permitting a patently one-sided discussion of a boycott of Israeli academics by self-termed “political activists”.
It’s rather good so keep on reading it.
Contrast that with A Very Public Sociologist,
“Personally, I have very little time for the politics peddled on HP. Warmed over social democracy plus humanitarian imperialism plus trenchant Zionism do not suit my radical palate. But they have as much right to push their rubbish politics as any other blogger, regardless of how distasteful they can be at times. So down with the complaints, the writs and the threats of court action, and away with those of censorious intent. If you’re stupid enough to make the kind of mistake Jenna Delich did, then you should take the blowback on the chin, not scrabble around for a lawyer’s letter.“
The discussion in the comments box is very revealing. AVPS showed his considerable principle by vigorously defending his position there and at Socialist Unity blog. He’s fairly unique in that respect, others took a rather tame approach but commendably AVPS didn’t.
Snoopy’s more direct and less apologetic:
“Aside of the current UK law on libel being ridiculous, there is a supreme irony in the way the two lowlifes mentioned above behaved. These two belong to a small but vociferous crowd of “anti-Zionists” that chronically complain about being muzzled by everyone – from the Zionist lobby to the British Royal Post. And look what have they perpetrated. It will be quite difficult for them to revive their favorite strawman now, I am afraid.
The final word goes to Richard Bartholomew:
“First, it was an Uzbek billionaire. Then, it was a Nigerian homeopath. And now…some left-wing activists have followed suit in dealing with on-line criticism in the UK, not by argument, but by making libel threats against a webhost. The result – as before – is that a blog has been taken down without any actual legal action having taken place, such is the fear around British libel laws.”
More later on.
Now that the dust has settled, HP is back, it is time to reflect on the support that Harry’s Place received during their outage. This post is my subjective recollection of things.
Picking through the many messages and posts it becomes apparent that bloggers saw the primacy of the issue: allow a vexatious complaint to bring down one blog and it sets a precedence to bring down others, even their own.
That was the general sentiment, as I saw it.
There was a minority of individuals, Exile is uppermost in these, that whilst loathing Harry’s Place were prepared to give their support through gritted teeth.
A very small group found it very hard to countenance any form of support for Harry’s Place, and what seemed noticeable was that they were oblivious to the possible consequences for themselves, or simply didn’t care. But I don’t want to concentrate too much on these negative headbangers.
Support for HP increased as news filtered through hour by hour. Initially using a simple google search of “harry’s place” “jenna delich” resulted in 21 hits, but the last count it had gone up to some 2100, a hundred fold increase, defeating the purpose of the attack on Harry’s Place.
Rather than shut HP down, it brought these nasty events into focus and heightened awareness of racism on the UCU activist list.
I dispatched a few email to some notable public figures (you know who you are) but didn’t receive any response and looking at their web pages/blogs I suppose they were either on holiday, too busy, oblivious to the issues or couldn’t care less.
So really, support for HP came from the average blogger, not the hotshots, vacant intellectuals or the political sociopaths. I think that HP’s supporter saw the indignity of the attack on HP, for factually reporting events and then suffering a complete loss of service, blacked out from the Internet totally.
People may wonder if this was all a cunning “Zionist” conspiracy (well, certain types of cranks would naturally wonder that, blaming all of the worlds’ problems on “Zionists”, even when the buses are slow, or there’s bad weather, etc). No, it wasn’t.
I emailed David T when I noticed that HP was down, he couldn’t give me all the details and I think that Brett had setup the blogspot archive by then, not 100% sure, I haven’t spoken to them either much on the chronology of events. So that was that. HP was down, now what to do?
The initial events weren’t too clear to anyone, who did what and why, were not precisely known, as far as I can tell. The DNS provider was not terribly forthcoming as to who was the complainant, but that didn’t stop bloggers from blogging.
The blogger’s messages reflect that initial confusion, I suspect some felt that HP was just suffering a hardware problem and didn’t worry too much.
Two particular messages of support stand out in my mind, not only for their ferocity and directness but for their wit.
Darren Red Star scores for blog post title: Nazi loving academics- Fuck off!
He writes “the idiotic nature of the ‘anti- imperialist’ left in its opposition to zionism now means that the racist rantings of neo- nazis are acceptable if they oppose the jewish state.”
Ami Isseroff in Israel:
“The first point is that we seem to have settled the question of whether or not anti-Zionism is or is not the same as anti-Semitism. Delich and her friends can plead and have pleaded that it was an “innocent mistake” and that she didn’t know who David Duke was. Let’s assume that is true. Delich read the article by an anti-Semite at an anti-Semitic Web site and found it to be identical with her views. What does that tell us about anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism? Can anyone really believe they are different now? And this is the ideology that is fueling the boycott Israel movement, isn’t it?
The second point is that if Jenna Delich really didn’t know who David Duke is, and none of the hundreds of people who got that e-mail recognized the name either, then the Boycott Israel movement in the UK is evidently being lead by ignoramuses. Can anyone believe any of the “facts” and arguments they present? Isn’t it logical to assume that this incident reveals what Delich and her Boycott Israel friends have been doing all along: repackaging anti-Semitic lies as “legitimate criticism of Israel” either knowingly, or because they were unaware of the nature of the source of the materials?”
More to follow in the days to come, if I’ve missed out any sharp messages of support, please point me to them.
Andy Newman has written a rather good and simple guide explaining Duke’s racism.
Now that shouldn’t be necessary, Duke’s filthy racism drips out of his very pores and oozes from his web site.
I rarely see eye to eye with Andy, but in this instance he needs your support. The blindness to anti-Jewish racism in that thread is almost criminal, sadly Andy Newman is being attacked for his principled stance:
“I oppose anti-Semitism and the attempts by neo-Nazis to inveigle their way towards respectability by dressing the anti-Semitism up as anti-Zionism.”
Support Andy Newman!
Shortly I shall post on the support that HP received from the blogosphere after being forced off-line, but in the interim please read Brett’s very persuasive post:
“A line must be drawn.It cannot possibly get worse than this. The dissemination of literature from a racist, antisemitic, white-supremacist, conspiracy-theorising website in the name of providing insight and/or commentary on Zionism or the policies of the Israeli government is a low point many refused to believe could be reached – though a few have warned that this is where things were headed for some time.
But, having reached this low-point, we have to ask ourselves if it can be allowed to sink any lower.
If those in British Unions who flirt with the far-right can weasel out of this, then they can weasel out of anything. A line must be drawn here. A line must be drawn now.
If this is acceptable and accepted – indeed, if this is even mere tolerated – then a line is crossed. What could possibly still remain unacceptable? What taboos remain? Violence against Jewish students ‘explained’ by left-wing academics? Desecration of Jewish graveyards celebrated on Indymedia? Would that still shock? And if so, for how long?
What can we imagine that is worse than someone on the anti-Israel Left using neo-Nazi hate polemic as propaganda?
If they can ‘teflon’ it away, then there is nothing they can’t and won’t do. Apologists for antisemitism are ludicrously inventive, but if they can get away with using neo-Nazi material, there is no limit, no boundaries, nothing beyond taste and decency. …”
I am updating a post below on the status of things, when I hear something you will.
If anyone wishes inclusion, please just email me firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: I support HP.
In the future, I hope to do a bigger post (a pick of the posts) on the type of support that HP has received from the blogosphere, many of the posts are funny and very pointed, , far better than my feeble contribution.
What happens to Harry’s Place blog today, could happen to you tomorrow.
1. The original Harry’s Place blog has been forced off-line after a complaint to their DNS provider.
2. The complaint seems to relate to a factually accurate post on how a UCU member posted a link to David Duke’s web site in the UCU activists’ email list.
3. Instead of addressing the issue of why Jenna Delich couldn’t work out the racist nature of David Duke’s web site they attacked the messenger, HP.
If HP’s DNS/ISP can capitulate to this false complaint then when you write an article on your blog the same could happen to you.
So I urge bloggers to support HP and publicise this issue.
And remember when the chips were down HP supported one of their major critics, Craig Murray, because it was the right thing to do. Threats should not be used to close down legitimate blogging.
Think about the implications for your own blog.
I have included updates in this post.
The temporary HP is at http://jennadelich.blogspot.com/
HP posted a fairly simple, factually accurate post on Jenna Delich and her incredibly stupid mistake of reading David Duke’s web site and posting a link to it.
Strangely, rather than admit this mistake, apologise profusely and move on, Jenna Delich and her supporters chose to attack HP.
The attack on HP is extremely foolish for the obvious reasons that the post is factually accurate and attacking HP will draw more attention to the initial event.
Ultimately the attack on HP will be counter-productive, it will publicise the issue more and more, it won’t restrict the Internet, quite the opposite, HP will reappear in multiple places.
Whilst authoritarians and dictators throughout the world will want to try and restrict the Internet, censor it wherever possible, that won’t work, human ingenuity will prevail and so it is with the actions of a few peculiar UCU “activists”, they won’t succeed either.
Neither you, Mr. Cushman, Ms. Delich or other wannabe authoritarians will be able to restrict the Internet or blogs.
I’m asking other bloggers to consider the dangerous precedent set by Mr. Cushman and Ms. Delich. They attack a blog for publishing a factually accurate rendition of events, they manage temporarily to close down a blog, remember bloggers tomorrow it maybe you.
Support HP and publicise this peevish attack on them.
I will update when more information comes in.
Update 1: a backup of the backup has been created and I will re-post as much as I can. http://jennadelich.wordpress.com/
Update 2: Support is coming in strong, here’s an amusing blog: http://duke-of-chaos.livejournal.com/898.html
Update 3: read the Contentious Centrist on Disabled Harry “Pretty incredible stuff. A new definition for chutzpa: She distributes a link to a bone-fide neo-Nazi website and takes umbrage at those who pay attention.”
Update 4: Mr Eugenides comments. Bob is excellent as ever, Matt deserves a prize, what a good way of putting it:
“You know: check that your tires are properly inflated before you get into your car. (Never mind that some people should just give their keys to a friend.) And even if there are no swastikas prominently displayed on the website you’d like to recommend, if it has prominent links to sites that do have swastikas prominently displayed, that’s a good indication that you should sober up before entering the debate.
David Hirsh adds, “I would add this: if you agree with what is written on a fascist website then you should stop and wonder why that might be.” “
PS: if I miss anyone off, apologies, just send me an email to confirm your support of HP to email@example.com with the subject line: I support HP.
Update 12: Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion covers it.
Update 13: Index on Censorship does a small piece.
Update 14: Marko comments. SnoopyTheGoon at SimplyJews take a direct approach. The web’s news consolidator, wikio, has picked up the story. The hyphen could be to blame? get the Ministry of Truth take on events.
Update 15: complexsystemofpipes posts “Now, I haven’t seen what HP actually wrote about JD, for reasons that will become clear.” I am speechless.
Update 16: Even the Tory, Benjamin Gray see the issue, along with SB news, For proletarian internationalism. Static Squids put it succinctly. Free Speech & The Blogosphere from Unenlightened Commentary.
Update 17: The Green Guru, Derek Wall is “horrified by the fact that a legal threat is being made to shut the blog down and I think it is important to spread the word and give a bit of solidarity.”
Update 18: Boycotted British Academic says “I feel compelled to speak out today, even if these days I mostly find myself speechless again, beyond words, for I want to register my alarm at this very troubling development, which risks doing to the blogosphere what has been done to my union, which now functions solely as a reliable source for a most abominable hate-fest, thanks to the fact that union debates take place in conditions in which the only speech which gets protected is that of the racists.”
Update 19: Serendipity ! Bob is seeing the same pattern as me.
Update 20: Rather strange debate at discarded lies . More Green support from the Daily (Maybe) who remarks preceptively : “It’s one thing to link to abhorrent material (after all I’ve even done so in this post, it can be impossible to avoid if you’re to allow the reader to judge for themselves) but it’s quite another to kick up a fuss when someone highlights the fact that you did so.”
Update 22: HP is back!! http://www.hurryupharry.org/
Update 25: Tidied up some links and Adam Holland sent his support.
This is a slightly updated version of my post on HP.
This guide was originally meant as a bit of fun, I was perplexed that some people found it hard to distinguish between neo-Nazi, KKK, White Power and other web sites. I think that the telltale signs are all too obvious and although the Extreme Right try to reach out, using fairly innocuous posts to bring in the punters, the contents of their web sites shouldn’t fool any literate adult, but apparently they do.
So this guide is not the last word on fascism, nor is it an essay on the Extreme Right, still less is it a biography of David Duke, there are plenty of web sites which detail his nasty career, no, this guide is aimed at helping people to avoid the obvious, reading and posting from the Extreme Right’s web sites.
A word of warning, if you feel comfortable with their diet of vitriolic racism, conspiracy theories, latent violence, etc then you won’t want to read any further, if, however, you have a strong dislike of the Extreme Right but are not 100% sure of what to look out for, then I hope this will help you. Use it with discretion.
Apparently some members of the UCU activist list are having problems discerning which material is fit for inclusion in civilised and academic debate, sadly one of them made the very egregious mistake of posting information from David Duke’s web site.
In mitigation another UCU activist commented “This has made me crucially aware of how difficult it is to set out rules, even guidelines, for avoiding errors. “
I can’t think why academics can’t apply some critical thinking to material found on the Internet, however, for the benefit of Mr. Cushman and other UCU activists here’s a very simple guide:
“For UCU Activists – How To Avoid Re-posting from Neo-Nazi, Ku Klux Klan or White Power Web Sites.”
A word of warning, modern day neo-Nazis, Holocaust revisionists, White Power freaks and certified Jew haters do not always advertise their loathings so conspicuously, they have learnt to dress up their hatreds and make them more acceptable, more palatable to the undiscerning reader.
So initially you won’t necessarily see “we love Hitler” plastered all over their web sites, rather they will push a few dissident Jewish anti-Zionists in the hope that it fools the gullible, and make their diet of vile anti-Jewish racism somehow more palatable.
Don’t be fooled.
Broadly speaking there are five stages:
Checking the initial link.
Verifying the author.
Examining the article.
Watching out for telltale signs.
Scanning the Symbols.
The preliminary scan of any dodgy web site is fairly simple, just look out for the obvious neo-Nazi insignia or Celtic symbols, combined with some lurid stories or references to Jews.
1. Find a link on the Internet.
2. Go to the home page of that particular link.
3. If it says “David Duke”, “White Power”, “Aryan Nation” “Hitler”, “National Socialism is good” or “KKK”* then bin that link, it is from a neo-Nazi web site or one of their friends and go to step 1 again.
4. Having found a link, verify the author.
5. Throw their name into Google with the selection of the following key words:
9/11, New World Order, supremacy, revisionism, Serbia, truth, Illuminati, Israel, etc.
6. Read the results and if the links are predominately to places like Jewish Tribal Review, Jew Watch, Stormfront, National Vanguard, Ziopedia, Rense, or sites that talk about National Socialism a lot then bin that link and go to step 1 once more.
7. Having found an article, look up the author’s previous works and ask the questions: does he/she essentialise different ethnic groupings? Does he/she appear to be paranoid? Or use conspiracy theories? Is there an overriding fixation?
8. Now read the article and look for discrepancies: is one work quoted a lot? Does the author entertain counter arguments? Does the article read like a screed? Try to cross reference any works cited and see if the article represent the arguments accurately?
9. Is the article consistently negative towards Jews, no matter how they are characterised, whatever euphemism or insult is used (“Cosmopolitan”, “Hebrew”, “Zionist” **,”Red Sea Pedestrian”,”Israeli, etc).
10. Does the author argue that the witless Goy/Goyim/Gentle has been fooled by the wily “Zionist” **? Or suggest that the media is controlled by manipulative “Zionists”?
If so, then you’ve probably hit jackpot, it is antisemitic filth and shouldn’t the recycled or passed on to others, particularly on union sanction email lists.
11. At this point, by using the above method and some common sense, you probably will have filtered out 95% of the neo-Nazi filth from the web.
That wasn’t so hard was it?
Also, watch out for lurid colours, multiple fonts etc that’s a big of a give way of a crank web site.
If these web sites use words like “International Jewry” or have references to mind control, tentacles, etc. then watch out, oh and if they post stuff from David Duke that is really, really a no no!
Finally, it is best to avoid sites that promote or approve of thetruthseeker, zundelsite, natvan, conspiracyplanet, ihr, codoh, adelaideinstitute, vho, zionistswatch ***.
If in doubt, don’t use the material. Email one of the many anti-racist/anti-fascist organisations and ask for advice.
* Extending on to include any sites that rant about Jews, New World Order, 9/11 and dancing Jews, etc.
** Don’t be fooled if some neo-Nazi site uses the transparent tactics of switching “Zionist” for the word “Jew”, they really really mean “Jew!”, but think they’re being smart.
*** This is not a complete list, use own discretion.
PS: If you still don’t know anything about David Duke read this article:
David Duke’s preoccupation with racist ideology dates back to his youth. At 17, he became active in right-wing extremist groups. While attending Louisiana State University in the early 1970s, he founded the White Youth Alliance, a group affiliated with the neo-Nazi National Socialist White People’s Party in Arlington, Virginia. To protest a speech by attorney William Kunstler at Tulane University, Duke picketed wearing a Nazi brown shirt and a swastika armband and carried a placard that said “Kunstler is a Communist-Jew” and “Gas the Chicago 7” (referring to the well-known leftist activists). Duke now describes the event as a folly of youth.
Shortly after graduating in 1974, Duke covered his swastika with a Klan robe and founded the Louisiana-based Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He first came to broad public attention during this time: the young Imperial Wizard successfully marketed himself in the mid-1970s as a new brand of Klansman – well-groomed, engaged, professional: the Klan leader as a corporate manager. And as a progressive: for the first time in the group’s history, women were accepted as equal members and Catholics were encouraged to apply for membership.”
Again the threat of libel raises its ugly head and HP is attacked again for revealing the unsavoury goings-on on the UCU activist list, as shown by the post below.
There is a cross posting in the comments from Mike Cushman suggesting that Ms. Delich has been libelled by HP, which is utter nonsense.
Ms. Delich made a conscious choice to go to David Duke’s web site, read material there, then deliberately posted a link to the well-known ex-Grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan web sites.
It is not too difficult to understand, having digestive virulent “anti-Zionism” day in day out, having pushed discriminatory measures against Israelis, having fought tooth and nail to delegitimise Israel, and along that way ingest plenty of animus towards Jews, having done all that, then David Duke’s web site might look fairly tame to some UCU “activists”?
And that’s the problem, the constant stream of attacks against Israelis means that many decent ordinary people become desensitised to anti-Jewish racism, so instead of spotting David Duke’s antisemitic filth at 200 yards, they are drawn into it.
That is the danger of this kind of behaviour, the constant, repetitive vitriol which is aimed at Israelis by some Westerners is naturally going to lead to this problem, “anti-Zionists” get to a stage where they can’t see the difference between legitimate criticism of Israel and racist filth.
And they are very different.
So Mr. Cushman/Ms. Delich, if you wish to sue Harry’s Place then sue me too.
A two part post, I suggest that other bloggers do the same and stop libel laws being used to close down legitimate debate on anti-racist themes by bloggers:
The University and College Union maintains an email list for its activists, which is administered and monitored by the union. As Harry’s Place readers know, the email list traffic is dominated by political extremists and almost entirely given over to their obsessive and nasty campaign to boycott Israeli academics.
The extremists are countered by a small number of Jews and anti-racists, many of them supporters of Engage. They are routinely defamed as racists, imperialists, Apartheid supporters, liars and conspirators. Quite a few of the Jews and anti-racists have been chucked off the list by the UCU administrators, arbitrarily, and usually for making public their complaints about the racism on the list.
There have been complaints to UCU about racism on its activist list. UCU has dismissed them all as baseless.
One of the formal complaints was made in relation to a series of particularly poisonous and nasty emails written by a Sheffield-based UCU activist called Jenna Delich. That complaint was also dismissed.
Yesterday Jenna Delich wrote the following message on the activist list in order to support a boycott of Israeli academics:
In support to your link this may be a long but also an interesting reading:
No comment necessary. The facts are speaking for themselves.
The website which she links to is the website of David Duke, who is the former Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan, and perhaps the most notorious racist and anti-semite in the world. The article itself was originally posted on an extremist conspiracy nut website, but appears only on David Duke’s website. It is therefore reasonable to infer that Jenna Delich reads and takes her information on world events from neo Nazis.
So, in a nutshell, the position is this. The UCU refuses to take action against viciousness against Jews and anti-racists on its own activist list, and endorses their exclusion from that email list when they defend themselves. Meanwhile, the UCU is circulating links to David Duke’s website on behalf of Delich.
What a wonderful institution UCU is.
Stroppy points to the plight of women in Afghanistan:
“Earlier this year a report by Womankind, Taking Stock: Afghan Women and Girls Seven Years On, revealed that violent attacks against women, usually in a domestic setting, are at epidemic proportions – 87 per cent of women complain of such abuse, and half of it is sexual. More than 60 per cent of marriages are forced and, despite laws banning the practice, 57 per cent of brides are under 16. Many of these girls are offered as restitution for a crime or as debt settlement. Afghanistan is the only country in the world with a higher suicide rate among women than men.”
As the BBC reported in June 2007:
“Six years after the departure of the repressive Taleban this is the paradox of women in Afghanistan. They now have a say and a position under the country’s constitution. But they have to work in an atmosphere of fear and intimidation.
The good news is that the rights of Afghan women have been enshrined in the constitution. It even asks the government to bring changes in the law to combat traditions that work against them.
Women can participate in every walk of life, including politics. Of the 361 members of parliament today, 91 are women.
Women have also begun talking about forced marriages, honour killings, abortions and rape in a traditionally male-dominated society. Local human rights groups have begun documenting such atrocities. “
More concerning the terrible difficulties facing Afghan women can be found at RAWA, Afghanistan Online: The Plight of the Afghan Woman, Afghan Women’s Network and Women’s Rights at HRW.
Also, see the Afghanistan Women Council.
Recently the BBC reported:
“Taleban gunmen have shot dead three female international aid workers and their local driver near the Afghan capital Kabul.
The three International Rescue Committee (IRC) workers were a Canadian, a British-Canadian and a Trinidadian-American.”
Someone pointed me to this article in The Observer on the Roma in Italy:
“Why do the Italians hate us?
On the morning of 17 July, Cristina and Violetta, along with their cousins Manuela and Diana, had made the regular journey from the dismal camp we are sitting in to one of Naples’s most popular beaches. Walking two miles to the nearest public transport link, and skipping aboard the local train that skirts the coastal cliffs of the city, the girls planned to sell trinkets – small wooden turtles carved by Nigerian immigrants – to daytrippers along the bay. At Torregaveta, after a long hot day with no sales, the sisters dared each other to jump from rocks into the sea. Violetta went first and disappeared, swept beneath the waves. Cristina, the eldest, jumped in to save her. Both drowned, clinging on to each other.
What happened next shocked the world.
The girls were recovered from the sea by a passer-by and later declared dead by a lifeguard who called for help as Manuela and Diana wept, banging their tiny fists on the corpses.
As the police arrived, their cousins, distraught and in shock, were taken away to contact relatives. Two beach towels were used to cover the dead Roma girls. And then something extraordinary occurred.
Summer beach life resumed around the bodies for three hours until an ambulance finally showed up. In the most striking image of all, a couple nonchalantly ate a picnic while looking on at the scene. Another threw a frisbee nearby. The indifference, picked up by newspapers and TV stations across the world, was seen by the country’s liberal elite to be the final straw. The most senior Catholic in Naples, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, was the quickest to point out the coarsening of human sentiment which the behaviour in Torregaveta represented: ‘Cristina and Violetta,’ he told the Italian media, ‘had faced nothing but prejudice in life and indifference in death; an unforgivable truth.’
In Rome, the government winced. Masters of realpolitik, they knew that the deaths of Cristina and Violetta, both born in Italy but full-blood Roma, had come at a bad time for the nation, forced in recent months to defend itself to its European neighbours on charges of discrimination against Gypsies and immigrants. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who swept to power for a third time on a thinly disguised anti-immigration ticket, was in the middle of a controversial yet populist programme of fingerprinting the country’s 150,000 Roma, some of whose families have been in Italy since the middle ages. According to critics it has become impossible to disguise the Fascist undertones of these actions, and they point to the fact that the first expulsions of Gypsies took place in 1926 under Benito Mussolini. The dictator’s political heirs, the ‘post-fascist’ National Alliance, are now coalition partners in Berlusconi’s government.
In May this year, rumours of an abduction of a baby girl by a Gypsy woman in Naples triggered an orgy of violence against Roma camps by thugs wielding iron bars, who torched caravans and drove Gypsies from their slum homes in dozens of assaults, orchestrated by the notoriously violent local mafia, the Camorra. The response of Berlusconi’s government? ‘That is what happens when Gypsies steal babies,’ shrugged Roberto Maroni, Italy’s interior minister and a key Berlusconi ally.
For the 10m Europeans all loosely labelled as Roma or Gypsies, life is an endless procession of marginalisation and prejudice. Corralled into settlements across the continent, 84 per cent of Roma in Europe are estimated to live below the poverty line. Perhaps even more shocking is the lack of a more detailed picture. Official indifference and reluctance on the part of the Roma themselves means data on life expectancy, infant mortality, employment and literacy rates are sparse. Yet all are likely to be lower than those of mainstream society.
The plight of the Roma has been a part of European life since their mysterious migration from Rajasthan around 1,000AD. Queen Elizabeth I was the first who sought to expel the Roma from England. German Emperor Karl VI ordered their extermination in 1721. In parts of the Balkans, Roma were traded as slaves until the middle of the 19th century. In the 20th century, hundreds of thousands of Roma perished in the Nazi Holocaust, known in Gypsy folklore as the Porrajmos or ‘The Devouring’. How Roma like Cristina and Violetta came to be born in Naples has more to do with the modern legacy of war in the Balkans. In the early Nineties, thousands of Gypsies crossed the Adriatic after the outbreak of fighting in Yugoslavia and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. For many of the Gypsies, the majority of whom were illegal immigants, lawless Naples was the place where they could disappear into the chaos.