Celebrated Italian journalist Orianna Fallaci has never been one to mince words.
Her no-holds-barred style when interviewing global VIPs made her a celebrity icon in the 1970s and 1980s.
A vehement defense of the United States published after the Sept. 11 attacks became a best-seller in Italy and provoked a storm of controversy because of its strong language and uncompromising positions.
This week Fallaci, 72, has done it again — with a blistering attack on anti-Semitism published as the cover story in the current issue of Panorama, one of Italy’s top newsweeklies.
Repeating over and over the assertion “I find it shameful,” Fallaci unleashed a brutal indictment of Italy, Italians, the Catholic church, the left wing, the media, politically correct pacifists and Europeans in general for abandoning Israel and unleashing a new wave of anti-Semitism linked to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.
The thousands of participants at Monday’s “Israel Day” rally cheered Fallaci’s publication. Several politicians also applauded her outspoken views, but others bitterly condemned her tone and accused her of sowing racial and religious hatred.
In her article, Fallaci, who long held pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli views, declared herself “disgusted with the anti- Semitism of many Italians, of many Europeans” and “ashamed of this shame that dishonors my country and Europe.”
“I find it shameful,” she wrote, “and I see in all this the resurgence of a new fascism, a new nazism.”
She recalled that in the past “I fought often, and bitterly, with the Israelis, and I defended the Palestinians a lot — maybe more than they deserved.
“Nonetheless, I stand with Israel, I stand with the Jews,” she wrote. “I defend their right to exist, to defend themselves, and not to allow themselves to be exterminated a second time.”
Reaction to Fallaci’s article was heated.
In an article for the Rome newspaper il Tempo, the Palestinian representative in Italy accused Panorama of being “the weekly propaganda bulletin of the Israeli embassy.”
“It is shameful that Panorama has published an article like this one by Orianna Fallaci,” the representative, Nemer Hammad, said. “This type of propaganda does nothing but create hate and adds to the danger of a clash between religions.”
Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, leader of the left-wing Green Party, said, “The words of Orianna Fallaci do not help dialogue and do not reduce the danger of anti-Semitism.”
Communist member of Parliament Franco Girodano accused Fallaci of trying to “feed hate between religions.”
On the other hand, Defense Minister Antonio Martino, of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right Forza Italia party, said he found Fallaci’s argument “convincing.”
Fallaci began her manifesto with a denunciation of an Italian peace march 10 days ago that degenerated into a vicious display of anti-Israel invective, complete with marchers dressed as suicide bombers — prompting several of the sponsoring organizations to pull out of the event.
“I find it shameful,” she wrote, “that in Italy there can be a march of individuals who, dressed as suicide bombers, bawl infamous abuse against Israel, brandish photographs of Israeli leaders on whose foreheads they have drawn swastikas, incite the public to hate the Jews…”
She lambasted the left for forgetting the sacrifices Jews made in Italy’s struggle against fascism, and for becoming opportunistic lackeys to a “stupid, cowardly, dishonest” political correctness.
Yet her most damning invective was saved for Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.
Fallaci branded the Palestinian leader a “nullity who, thanks to money from the Saudi royal family, plays Mussolini ad perpetuum and in his megalomania thinks he’s passing for the George Washington of Palestine.”
She called him a “false warrior who always goes around in uniform like Pinochet but who nonetheless has never taken part in a battle … an eternal terrorist who only know how to be a terrorist … a weathercock who keeps his wife in Paris, waited on and revered like a queen, and who keeps his people in shit, from which he pulls them only to be sent to die, to kill and to stuff themselves with explosives and disintegrate with their victims.”
When a speaker at Monday’s Israel Day rally thanked Fallaci, the audience exploded in applause.
Finally, said Riccardo Pacifici, a spokesman for Rome’s Jewish community, there are “hard words that should help break the torpor and indifference.”
But a number of people — including Jews — who agree with the essence of what Fallaci said criticized the way she said it as too emotional and frenzied.
Fallaci’s article indeed may be too polemical to have much effect, by itself, on government policy.
However, taken together with other developments, such as the successful Israel Day rally and embarrassment over the “peace demonstration” by the suicide bombers, the government might begin to take notice.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.