Rome (Oct. 18)
Wariness is the watchword in Italian politics today. This ought to be taken into account in watching the reactions of the Government-controlled Italian press to recent events in Palestine.
The victimized Jews in Palestine, of course, met with prompt and unanimous sympathy among the Italian people, but that the press should have echoed this spontaneous outburst of feeling is remarkable since Zionism is not at all popular in Italy where a Jewish question as such, can hardly be said to exist. It was a case for human sympathy, and the press dwelt on the details and commented upon the dire situation of the unarmed Jew who was left without protection to face the bloodthirsty fury of an incensed mob. Long editorials drew attention to the unpardonable slackness and laxity of the British government, and openly derided its non-commital policy. “One hundred and forty men!” said one paper. “Imperial prestige could hardly be maintained at a lower cost.” Especial care was taken to point out England’s delecate position in not being able to administer strict justice, without running the risk of seriously offending her Moslem subjects, elsewhere, and therefore the need of a thorough re-examination of the Mandates question.
In this way the century-old rivalry of France and Italy in the Near East has come once again to the fore. Both powers have long striven to be the Defenders of the Faith in the Near East, and to further their national interests under the banner of the cross. Free-thinking governments attempted to dispose of the dispute as irrelevant; Free-masons in both countries openly derided it. But the French Fathers held their own, and carried on the tradition which had made France illustrious in the Levant since the times of the Holy King.
When the Fascist Government came into power, it soon sensed the danger, and, dropping all doctrinal prejudices, openly supported the cause of the Church abroad. It was part and parcel of its nationalist policy to preserve the tradition of Italian power, under any favorable form it could find. Indeed, so much was this the case, that the cry arose from various quarters that Italy again owed a firm allegiance to the Church.
Today after the conciliation between Church and State in Italy, these fears have proved to have been groundless, and Mussolini, far from being appointed grand Gonfalonier of the Throne of Peter, has known how to hold his own.
These family bickerings did not, however, extend outside Italy, and Italian consuls in the Near East worked hand in hand with the Italian Fathers. (Continued on Page 4)
By the time a certain measure of success had crowned Mussoloni’s policy, France was alarmed to such an extent that a thoroughly Left Parliament in Paris was roused into granting official protection and subsidies to the much-abhorred Congregations.
Italy’s first aim had of course been Syria, but the French were already well established there, and did not seem inclined to give up a country which had cost them so much and over which they claimed a sort of hereditary right. Moreover the Druse War might be taken as a gentle hint that a colonizing power would not find an altogether friendly welcome among the natives. Italy’s colonial urge would clearly have to seek some other outlet, and Palestine could hardly be taken into consideration in that respect. In the case of Palestine, however, the chief consideration was prestige. To be appointed by the League of Nations as the Warden of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Trustee for the most significant and sacred spot on earth, jealously contended for by the votaries of three great religions, was something to soothe the ambitions of the Fascist Directory. Hence the unfeigned satisfaction of the Fascist press in contemplating the difficult task of Great Britain in Palestine, and the consequences of British policy upon the unfortunate Jews.
But Britain did not appear willing to give up her protectorate, and besides voices were heard in the international press advocating America as the only possible successor to Britain. The Fascists may have felt that the time had not yet arrived; anyhow they soon dropped the impartial attitude as possible successors to the Mandate, and openly supported the Catholic point of view. Long correspondences began to pour in from Palestine, showing up the folly of the Zionist dream, and the inevitable crash of Jewish illusions. Palestine, it was claimed, was fundamentally Islamic. The needs of the various religions could be met only by delicate adjustment, based on the strictest “Realpolitik.” Jewish effort, however admirable, had only brought confusion and strife; it was unsound both politically and economically; worse than that it was an idealogy. Any attempt to keep it alive must mean danger to the world at large.
This line of argument is fundamentally the same as that followed by the French Royalists in the “Action Francaise,” and coincides with the politics of the Vatican, as expressed with great discretion by its official organ, the “Osservatore Romano.” The Church of Rome has always stood for de facto situations, and its cautious realism fundamentally averse to Protestant idealism and Jewish enthusiasm, has never disguised its sympathy for the laissez-faire of Mohammedan rule.
Thus, as far as Palestine is concerned, a momentary entente cordiale has been reached between two powers and two currents of thought in Italy, which are otherwise vastly conflicting.