Archive | Italy

Italian Premier Renzi gets his facts and priorities wrong on I$raHell and the Palestinian struggle

Matteo Renzi in Israel

Matteo Renzi, failing to ensure respect for international law is “futile and stupid”, not the boycott of Israel

Media release from BDS Italia:

During his visit to Israel, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi gave a speech to the Knesset in which he stressed the relationship and friendship between Italy and Israel, affirming that “Italy will always be in the front line against all forms of boycott, which are futile and stupid”.

Renzi’s statement demonstrates his utter lack of knowledge of the movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) launched in July 2005 by a broad coalition of Palestinian civil society as a necessary and moral response to the failure of international institutions to halt Israel’s continuing violations of international law.1

For decades and with complete impunity, Israel has carried out policies of occupation and colonisation, appropriating Palestinian land and resources, building settlements and the Apartheid Wall, approved laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel and forced half of the Palestinian population to live as refugees or in exile.2 A year after the operation “Protective Edge”, Israel’s third military operation in five years bombarding the Gaza Strip, which caused the death of over 2,200 people, the vast majority civilians and a quarter of them children, Israel continues to prevent, through the illegal blockade it has imposed for eight years, the reconstruction of the 18,000 homes it damaged.3

BDS serves to break the status quo in which Israel continues to violate rights with impunity, thanks to the inaction of states and institutions, and businesses, including Italian firms, continue to profit from this illegal situation.4

Now more than ever, the BDS campaign in Italy must be intensified in order to end complicity of Italian institutions and companies.

In these 10 years, the BDS movement has grown steadily, garnering ever more consensus and successes. Among the endorsers of the campaign are trade unions, movements, churches, non-governmental organisations, artists and intellectuals, including Ken Loach, Naomi Klein, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd and South African Archbishop and Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu. Thanks to the work of civil society around the world, businesses, banks and pension funds have divested from the Israeli economy and complicit international companies and consumers refuse to buy Israeli products.5

The boycott is a recognised and time-honoured non-violent means to apply pressure and withdraw support from systems of injustice, just as was the case with the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. Now more than ever, the BDS campaign in Italy must be intensified in order to end complicity of Italian institutions and companies.

It is “futile and stupid” to continue to ignore the violations of Israel instead of taking concrete measures to ensure respect for human rights, international humanitarian law and UN resolutions, and support the Palestinian call for freedom, justice and equality.

BDS Italy

BDS Italia is a movement supporting boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. It is comprised of associations and groups throughout Italy who endorse the 2005 call from Palestinian civil society and work to promote BDS campaigns and initiatives locally and nationally.


1. BDS

2. Dispossession and exile

3. Blockade of Gaza

4. Italian firms profiting from Israeli crime

5] Key successes of the BDS movement

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Upto 700 feared dead as migrant boat capsizes off Libyan coast

A boat transporting migrants arrives in the port of Messina after a rescue operation at sea on April 18, 2015 in Sicily. ─ AFP
A boat transporting migrants arrives in the port of Messina after a rescue operation at sea on April 18, 2015 in Sicily. ─ AFP

ROME/PALERMO: As many as 700 people are feared dead after a boat carrying migrants capsized off the Libyan coast overnight, a United Nations official said on Sunday.

Antonino Irato, a senior official from the Italian border police told television station RaiNews24 that 28 people were rescued in the incident, and 24 bodies had been recovered, adding that the boat had capsized just off Libyan waters, south of the southern Italian island of Lampedusa.

If confirmed, the death toll would bring the total number of dead since the beginning of the year to more than 1,500.

The boat is believed to have capsized when the migrants shifted to one side of the overcrowded vessel as a merchant ship approached.

“The first details came from one of the survivors who spoke English and who said that at least 700 people, if not more, were on board. The boat capsized because people moved to one side when another vessel that they hoped would rescue them approached,” said Carlotta Sami, a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee.

Italian officials said navy and coast guard vessels, as well as merchant ships in the area and a Maltese patrol boat, were involved in the search and rescue operation, which was being coordinated by the Italian coast guard in Rome.

The new deaths fuelled calls for a stronger response from Europe to the increasingly deadly decades-long migrant crisis playing out in the Mediterranean.

International aid groups and Italian authorities have criticised Europe’s so-called “Triton” border protection operation, which recently replaced a more comprehensive Italian search-and-rescue mission.

“A tragedy is unfolding in the Mediterranean, and if the EU and the world continue to close their eyes, it will be judged in the harshest terms as it was judged in the past when it closed its eyes to genocides when the comfortable did nothing,” Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said.

“They are literally trying to find people alive among the dead floating in the water,” he added.

There was still no decision on where the survivors and the bodies that had been recovered would be taken.

Just last week, 400 people were presumed drowned when another boat capsized.

Know more: Nearly 400 migrants die in shipwreck off Libya, 150 rescued

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said Europe was witnessing “systematic slaughter in the Mediterranean”.

“How can we remain insensible when we’re witnessing entire populations dying at a time when modern means of communications allow us to be aware of everything?” Renzi said at a political event in Mantua.

On his way back to Rome, where he was expected to give a news conference later, Renzi spoke by telephone to French President Francois Hollande.

The leader of the anti-immigrant Northern League party, Matteo Salvini, who has made migration one of the centrepieces of his political agenda, called for a an immediate naval blockade of the coast of Libya.

The lawless state of Libya, following the toppling of former leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, has left criminal gangs of migrant smugglers a free hand to send a stream of boats carrying desperate migrants from Africa and the Middle East.

Around 20,000 migrants have reached the Italian coast this year, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates. That is fewer than in the first four months of last year, but the number of deaths has risen almost nine-fold.

In 2013, the previous government initiated the search-and-rescue operation “Mare Nostrum” or “Our Sea” after hundreds drowned in an incident off the coast of Lampedusa.

The operation was cancelled last year, because of the cost and because some politicians said it encouraged migrants to depart by raising their hopes of being rescued.

That made way for the European Union’s border control mission, Triton. However Triton, which has a much smaller budget and narrower remit, has been criticised by humanitarian groups and Italy as inadequate to tackle the scale of the problem.

Know more: Migrant crisis intensifies with arrests, deaths

On Saturday, Pope Francis joined Italy in pressing the European Union to do more to help the country cope with the soaring numbers of arrivals, which include more than 10,000 in the week ending Saturday.

Italy says it will continue rescuing migrants but demands that the EU increase assistance to shelter and rescue them.

Italy says the EU’s border control agency, Frontex, must take a greater role in coordinating rescue operations.

Frontex technically is a border patrol operation, not responsible for search and rescue efforts. Because most migrants want to reach family or other members of their community in northern Europe, Italian governments have pushed for those countries to do more, particularly by taking in the migrants while their requests for asylum or refugee status are examined.

The EU’s commissioner for migration, Dmitris Avramopoulos, says a new policy will be presented in May. He also has called for other EU members to provide more aid to Italy.

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Italy Takes Regional Anti-Mosque Law to Constitutional Court

Members of the Muslim community in Italy leave Rome
  • Members of the Muslim community in Italy leave Rome’s mosque after prayers

Following a series of protests across the country, Italy moved to block a regional law recently passed which was aimed at preventing the building of mosques.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (center-left) declared on Friday that his government had gone to the Constitutional Court to examine the so-called “anti-mosque law” – a series of measures that were approved by local authorities (far-right) in the northern region of Lombardy at the end January.

The legislation possible breaches several constitutional rules of the country, such as freedom of religion, and could have over-stepped its ability to rule in state-religion matters, or given too much power to local mayors.

The law created various urban and political restrictions so that the building of mosques would be impossible. For instance, religious minorities that have not benefitted from any official recognition are now compelled to adapt their places of worship to local aesthetic canons, in addition to other bureaucratic obstacles.

Lombardy officials would also be required to convoke a public referendum before approving the building of any religious facilities in the region.

Islam is the only religion in the country that has not yet received official recognition. It is practiced by over a million Italian citizens and is the second biggest religion in the country according to a 2011 survey quoted by Russia Today.

The northern region of Lombardy, one of the wealthiest in the country as well an industrial heartland, has been ruled by the far-right Northern League allied with Italian Force. Matteo Salvini, leader of Northern League, responded to the government’s move by saying “Renzi and [Interior Minister] Alfano are the new Imams” on his Facebook page.

However, when the law was passed, surprisingly Renzi – who frequently comments on everyday political events on social networks – did not react. As for Alfano, one week before passing the law, he controversially conflated immigration and terrorism during a speech to legislators.

European countries are facing a wave of Islamophobia recently, and more and more frequently governments, especially at the local level, are granting the requests of part of their electorate by approving anti-Islam laws or measures. In 2009, Switzerland was the first country to prohibit building minarets – a measure later approved by referendum. More recently, the right-wing government of Austria initiated legislation in February that forbids the foreign funding of Muslim organizations in its territory.

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Upwards of one million refugees could reach Europe from Libya amid collapsing security in the northern African country, the European Union’s border agency chief has warned. 


Frontex executive director Fabrice Leggeri said he expects asylum seekers’ crossings to skyrocket in 2015 and urged EU governments to ready themselves to “face a way more difficult situation than last year”.

“We are told there are between 500,000 and one million migrants ready to leave from Libya,” Leggeri told Italian news agency Ansa. “We have to be aware of the risks”.


In 2014, more than 173,000 asylum-seekers were rescued in the Mediterranean after they set off from African shores on overcrowded, run-down boats in a bit to reach the Italian coast. At least 3,500 others died at sea.

Numbers have increased with human smugglers exploiting the power vacuum caused by Zio-NATO war the that has engulfed Libya since the overthrow of late Leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.


With the country now locked in a three-way power-struggle pitting government troops against different Islamist groups including Zio-Wahhabi Islamic State (Isis) affiliates, fears have been raised that extremists could mingle with the hundreds of migrants crossing by boat every week or drastically increase the number of crossings to strain EU border forces.


“We have evidence that migrants have been forcibly boarded on vessels at gunpoint,” Leggeri said. “I do not have elements to say they were terrorists but there are worries among states.”


Leggeri called for the EU to provide more funds and resources to address the migration crisis. The call came as a large Italian search and rescue operation – Mare Nostrum – was wound down in December due to high costs and internal political opposition. It was replaced by an EU operation run by Frontex and named Triton, the scope and size of which however are considerably smaller.


Earlier this week, EU officials aired the idea of launching an EU border guard operation. “We have to think much more about a common system of European border guards,” Matthias Ruete, head of the EU’s migration and home affairs office, said.

The Union migration chief Dimitris Avramopoulos added: “Frontex is not a European border guard system. If we want one, we would have to create one.”


Muslim councillor Aicha Mesrar flees Italy in fear for her life after death threats


‘I cannot always live under escort,’ says Mesrar as she resigned her post

Italy’s first Muslim councillor says she is fleeing the country after a series of death threats, in the latest example of racism suffered by the country’s non-white public figures, from politicians to football players.

Aicha Mesrar, 45, resigned from her post as local councillor for the Democratic Party in Rovereto, in the northern Trentino province, saying she feared for her children’s lives.

The Moroccan-born politician, who has lived in Italy for 23 years, has been an active and effective community liaison worker, according to local media. She was the first woman to wear a veil in the city hall. The city’s Mayor, Andrea Miorandi, had hailed her appointment as president of the local Open City cooperative.

On announcing her resignation, however, she said: “I cannot always live under escort. I have no fear and it is not the fault of the people of Rovereto, but of some. I leave with pride, satisfied with everything I have done, what I did and what I received.” She has not said where she intends to move to.

The threats against her have come in the form of anonymous letters. The police, who have provided special protection for councillor and her family for two years, are investigating where they may have come from.

Mayor Andrea Miorandi, a political ally of Ms Mesrar, has also been threatened due to his backing for a Muslim cemetery and a mosque to be built in  the city, according to Il Fatto Quotidiano newspaper.

Bruno Dorigatti, the head of the provincial government, expressed his alarm at the news. “If Aicha Mesrar, an extraordinary example of commitment towards building bridges between cultures – in Rovereto and Trentino – decides to abandon her post and even leave the country, then everyone should be concerned,” he said. “If she has to give in to intimidation and anonymous threats it means that Trentino has yet to defeat the dangerous disease of  intolerance.”

But the immigrant-bating Northern League, many of whose politicians have aimed racist abuse at non-whites living in Italy, mocked Mr Dorigatti’s comments. The party’s regional secretary, Maurizio Fugatti, said: “This isn’t the impression of many people in Trentino who themselves feel discriminated against by the supply of public subsidies to foreigners.

“So we won’t accept lessons about tolerance from Ms Aicha Mesrar. We don’t know why she’s leaving Trentino.

“Certainly, we won’t be lacking in foreigners like her, who’ve come to this province as guests and exploited Trentino’s social services then ungratefully stabbed Trentino’s citizens in the back.”

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A Tale of Two Cities: Istanbul and Rome


by Richard Falk

[This is a corrected and slightly revised version of yesterday’s post; I apologize for the various mistakes in the earlier text, maybe an effect of jet lag or something worse!]

Why Istanbul?

In earlier posts [Nov. 2 & 7, 2012], I urged that symbolically and culturally Istanbul deserved to be privately christened as the global capital of the 21st century. It is the only world city that qualifies by virtue of its geographic and civilizational hybridity, Western by history and experience, Eastern by culture and location, Northern by stage of development, modernism, and urban dynamism, Southern by some affinities, outreach, and partial identification. The feast for the eyes provided throughout much of the city includes the Bosphorus Straight (connecting the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara) and Islamic architecture featuring the great mosques along its shores, at least one designed by the master architect Mimar Sinan (1490-1588), Ottoman memories preserved in picturesque and grand palaces, the nocturnal vitality of city life in a variety of exotic neighborhoods, excellent cuisine everywhere, and through it all, an intoxicating overall blending of modernity, hyper-modernity, and tradition. Trip Advisor, the influential online guide, confirms this enthusiasm by reporting recently that Istanbul is now the #1 favorite tourist destination among the cities of the world. Perhaps, this is enough of an objective certification. enough.

The fact that Ankara is the national capital of Turkey should not weaken the objective argument for designating Istanbul as the firstglobal capital. In fact, it may be an advantage when we consider that a global capital has a different role than a national capital. What makes Istanbul so appealing is its cosmopolitan cultural, spiritual, and political heritage and everyday vivacity, its geographic locus at the crossroads of continents and civilizations for ideas, beliefs, trade, transport, and more recently its suitability as a multi-regional venue for conflict resolution and global dialogue. As global governance is currently institutionally dispersed, there is no need for the global capital to function as a governmental center of authority. In this sense, if Washington were ever proposed as world capital the idea should be immediately rejected. The yardsticks that could best support such an American claim are based on the combination of hegemonic status and global military capabilities. Such attributes of global leadership may be appropriate as indicators of hard power governance but are quite at odds with an imaginary that wishes that the emergent global polity will be based on peace, justice, and cultural depth. It is precisely because Istanbul’s status is linked to Turkish soft power ascendancy, even if the Turkish geopolitical signature has been compromised by several recent regional developments. Nevertheless, Istanbul more than other global cities seems best situated to serve the peoples of the world as the place where the geo-story of our times is unfolding.

Turkey’s emergence in the front rank of states in the last 12 years is mainly based on a combination of economic performance and political moderation, as well as the increasing outreach of its diplomacy reflected in being elected by an overwhelming vote to term membership in the UN Security Council in 2009-2010. Turkey is currently campaigning hard to reelected for another term of Security Council membership in 2015-2016. Instead of remaining the foot soldier of NATO guarding the southern flank of Europe during the Cold War and forgetting about the rest of the world, Turkey under AKP leadership dramatically widened its horizons, and in the process inevitably stepped on important geopolitical toes. Turkey looked beyond its borders to Central Asia, the Arab world and the Balkans, being alert to economic and diplomatic opportunities, but also revisiting lands once governed from the Ottoman imperial center in Istanbul. At the same time, Turkey was not merely nostalgically engaged in the recovery of past grandeur. It was reaching out in creative ways to Africa, launching a major assistance program to one of Africa’s most troubled countries, Somalia. It also established for the first time significant Turkish economic and diplomatic connections with Latin America. Despite straying some distance from the American led strategic ‘big tent,’ Turkey reaffirmed its fundamental engagement with the Euro-American alliance.

Contrary to some neocon allegations, the Turkish government never exhibited any intention to turn its back on the West. On the contrary, never waivered in its allegiance to NATO. Beyond this security commitment, the AKP proclaimed European Union membership as its primary foreign policy goal during the first years of its leadership, and only began to lose interest in this project some time later when it became apparent that Islamophobia had slammed the European door shut. By then it became clear that no matter how much the Turkish leadership met EU demands, the country was never going to be admitted as a full member of the EU. This courtship with the EU did serve the AKP well domestically as the reforms made to satisfy EU adhesion criteria created a useful pretext in Ankara for taking steps to civilianize the government and uphold human rights, thereby making constitutional democracy much more of a behavioral reality for ordinary Turks.

 It is also true that during this period, especially in the last several years, Turkey has hit several bumps in the road. Turkish domestic polarization, always intense, worsened after the AKP scored its third consecutive electoral victory in 2011. After receiving such a mandate, the charismatic populist leader, Recip Teyyip Erdoğan seemed to lose patience managing prudently the deep fissures in the Turkish body politic, and began acting in a more autocratic manner that infuriated the opposition that had deeply resented his leadership from the outset. The internal debate in Turkey shifted from allegations that the AKP, and Erdoğan in particular, were pushing the country toward Islamism, to concerns about his supposedly anti-democratic style of governance.

These fissures erupted in a severe storm of oppositional politics during the Gezi Park protests of 2013 that were initially provoked by grassroots concerns that the future of Istanbul was now in the hands of greedy commercial developers enjoying ğvirtually unregulated support from the Erdoğan leadership. Turkey’s international image during these years was also weakened by its intemperate and failed material support given to the anti-Assad uprisings in Syria and its unresolved tensions with Israel. These tensions, although the result of Israel’s unlawful and provocative behavior toward the Palestinians and Turkey, nevertheless fueled a surge in anti-Turkish sentiments in the West, especially among Washington think tanks.

Few would doubt that Turkey has been traveling a controversial path both domestically and internationally, but in regional and global setting beset by turmoil and uncertainty to an extent that the reputation of the country has not damaged the popularity or reputation of the city. Istanbul embodies the charm and tradition of its illustrious Ottoman past and retains the extraordinary picturesque resource of the Bosphorus wending its way gracefully through the city, a source of continuous spectacle. At the same time, in a process that preceded the AKP but has been accelerated during its period of leadership, Istanbul became overly receptive to the glitz and glamor of capitalist modernity, upscale shopping malls springing up all over the city and huge ungainly buildings and residential projects being constructed without sensitivity to coherent urban design or sustaining the gracious urban past. In this respect, the irregular modern skyline formed by a poorly sited series of skyscrapers is an insensitive failure to seek the harmony of old and new, raising doubts about the future. Yet it is precisely this unresolved struggle over the nature of urban space that makes Istanbul a strategic and ideological battleground in the unfolding narrative of a globalizing planet.

Given the way world order is constituted even a world city, such as Istanbul, is subject to the authority of the territorial state where it is located and exists beneath the shadows cast by Turkey. Istanbul can only be seriously considered qualified to serve as the global capital if Turkey offers an acceptable national setting. This means that Istanbul must be situated within a legitimate state that maintains the rule of law, human rights, public order, and an atmosphere of tranquility, as well as being hospitable toward and protective of foreigners. All leading states have severe shortcomings in relation to these criteria, and this includes Turkey, but such limitations should not be treated as disqualifying unless the state fails to meet minimum requirements. There are many among the political opposition within Turkey, and outside, who contend that the Turkish state does fall below this minimum threshold. I disagree. I believe that Turkey as a political actor enjoys a sufficiently favorable balance of positive attributes to enable Turkey to offer a proper national setting for Istanbul in relation to being designated as global capital. The situation could change for the worse in the future, and if so, it would become appropriate to reconsider Istanbul’s status as global capital. In this respect tourist popularity should not be confused with a designation of Istanbul as the city that best transcends its national boundaries by offering cosmopolitan satisfactions to all persons, regardless of civilizational, racial, and religious identity.


 A Global Capital: Of Governments, Of People

Arguably, the idea of a global capital was given institutional resonance after World War I with the establishment of the League of Nations in Geneva, embodying a conception of world order as Euro-Centric. This was followed, in line with shifts in geopolitical stature, by locating the United Nations in New York after World War II, an acknowledgement of both American global leadership and the persisiting West-centric character of world order as of 1945. It should be noted that New York was not a national capital, and its appeal rested on its fabulous urban facilities, cosmopolitan ethnic and religious makeup, and its unsurpassed cultural depth. In the second decade of the 21st century it would no longer seem appropriate to choose any urban site in the West as ‘the center’ of the world, but neither would it be appropriate to ignore the continuing prominence of the West. Turkey offers a perfect compromise, and within Turkey Istanbul has most of the endowments needed at this historical time for the sort of world capital that now provides an existential entrance to the multi-faceted global reality of the early 21st century, but also showcases the epochal tensions of the age: modernity versus tradition; societal permissiveness versus conservative social values; secular versus religious worldviews.


Appreciating Rome: “The Eternal City”

According to Trip Advisor the second favorite tourist city is Rome, which continues to live up to its reputation at ‘the eternal city.’ It has a long lineage that traces back to its legendary founding in 753 BC. Rome more than even Athens is the birthplace of modernity, yet also the home of the most enduring of religious institutions, the Catholic Church, with its universally acclaimed papal leadership that resides in that unique polity, the Vatican, located within the confines of Rome. The restless political leaders of Rome in past centuries sought to extend the Roman political imaginary to the outermost parts of the known world. Our contemporary near universal sense of law and citizenship, political structure, transportation, urban vitality and even decadence all flow from the Rome’s rise and fall. The Roman Stoic philosophers also gave us the first glimmerings of belonging to a species as well as to an ethnos or religion or civilization. Although Rome was present at the creation of Western civilization, in modern times its destiny has been to let others carry the torch of the West to the far corners of the world, disastrously punctuated in the late 1930s by the rise of a populist version of fascism.

 To visit these two cities is to understand why Istanbul deserves to be the world capital and Rome deserves to remain the eternal city. While Istanbul draws strength from its Islamic/Ottoman past and present, its claims are reinforced by investing great energy and capital in establishing an identity that is fit for an era of continuing globalization. Its host country, Turkey, has recently learned to be an indispensable geopolitical player while at the same time becoming a focal point for efforts to forge ‘an alliance of civilizations.’ In contrast, Rome is content to keep what it has, admittedly at the cost of losing some benefits of modernity, not exerting influence in the telling of the contemporary geo-story. Perhaps, the biggest cost for Italy is public despair, especially among youth, many of whom feel they must leave country to find a sustainable future for themselves.

In Istanbul there is also a mood of some discouragement associated not with the absence of opportunity, but with the difficulties of achieving a satisfying life with too much demanded by way of work and daily tribulations in a crowded city of 15 million—too much traffic and pollution, insufficient income, clashing visions of a desirable future. All of this complexity is leading some Turkish youth to feel a new yearning for a simple life in the country. In architecture, as well, these complementary differences are evident. Rome discreetly hides its embrace of modernity rather convincingly, for some, too convincingly, and the old skyline and harmonious clusters of buildings dominate the city. While Istanbul has a jagged skyline of irregularly placed tall buildings, perpetual traffic gridlock of large and fast belligerently maneuvering cars, Rome is a city where the streets are filled with motorcycles, scooters, and smart cars, as well as varieties of automobiles. Rome mostly rests on past laurels, while Istanbul aspires, alive with a mixture of memory and ambition that exhausts, and even infuriates, many of its inhabitants, while enchanting visitors. In Istanbul the modern competes with and complements, often overwhelming the traditional, while in Rome the old classical city of fountains, squares, and parks holds uncontested sway.

Urban Pinnacles of our Time: Istanbul and Rome

 This global reality is strikingly different than what existed in 1918 or 1945. Although world order remains state-centric, its structure is more complex. It is less territorially governed and organized. Non-state actors play much more central organizing roles in the world economy and political system, both as providers of order and as its principal disrupters. The increased economic and technological integration of the life of the planet, as well as the global scale of the threats challenging its future, give a historical plausibility for the first time to the conception of a global capital that represents the authority and aspirations of the peoples of the planet rather than the functional projects of governmental elites. This conception of a global capital is essentially a cultural expression, and should not be confused with the creation of global problem-solving mechanisms or the harnessing of popular loyalties. It may be a refuge for those seeking a human identity that is neither the anachronistic idea of patriotic citizen nor the sentimental insistence of being a world citizen. Perhaps, the global capital will become an incubating haven and homeland for citizen pilgrims, those dissatisfied with the world as it is, those who have joined in a nonviolent pilgrimage in search of a future political community that embodies values of peace, justice, ecological wisdom, and spiritual fulfillment. It is against this background that I would nominate Istanbul to be the first capital of the world, not primarily because of its popularity among tourists. Rather because of its qualities that arouse and excite mind, heart, and soul.

In the end, we need them both—a global capital for the many faces of a globalizing reality, an eternal city that keeps alive its past while enjoying the present. It is no wonder that Istanbul and Rome are rated the first and second favorite cities in the world. Both share multiple imperial memories and plural religious traditions, and both contain architectural splendors, cultural legacies, while partaking of an exhilarating, often breathless, and richly satisfying lifeworld.


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Rome welcomes 15 MKO terrorists

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) thanked Italy for welcoming 15 members of Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO, a.k.a. MEK and NCRI).


“UNHCR welcomed the Italian government’s decision to let into the country a total of 15 Iranian refugees from Iraq, including the seven latest arrivals,” Gazzetta del Sud quoted UNHCR Italia as saying.

The UN’s refugee agency has repetitively called on the international community to accept some 3000 members of the terrorist MKO grouplet.

Earlier in December 2013, UNHCR said in a press release that it urgently “reiterates the need to find solutions for the camp’s residents, and is appealing to countries to act urgently on 1,400 cases from Camp Hurriya that have already been submitted for relocation.”

The press release added that since 2011, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) have been “engaged in an effort to find relocation opportunities outside Iraq” for some 3,200 members of MKO now residing temporarily inside Camp Liberty, a former US military base near Baghdad International Airport.

“So far, the international community has managed to secure the relocation to third countries of 311 residents, clearly demonstrating that more relocation places are urgently needed,” UNHCR added.

The relocations are in line with a memorandum of understanding signed between United nations and GOI on December 25, 2011 for a humanitarian and peaceful resolution of the situation of MKO members in Iraq.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) thanked Italy for welcoming 15 members of Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO, a.k.a. MEK and NCRI).


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Italy’s new PM backs I$raHell sees Iran as major threat


Matteo Renzi considers Iranian regime ‘main problem’ of the Middle East, says left should learn to understand, support Israel


Matteo Renzi is Italy’s youngest-ever premier, and he could also be one of the most pro-Israeli.

The 39-year-old ambitious leader of the center-left, who was sworn in on Saturday as Italy’s fourth prime minister in four years, may bring Rome, already one of Israel’s key allies in Europe, even closer to the Jewish state.

The former mayor of Florence burst onto the national stage in December by winning the primary election of the Democratic Party, the largest force in parliament, and earlier this month used his new position to oust the 10-month-old coalition government of fellow democrat Enrico Letta.

His popularity is mostly linked to a reputation as a no-nonsense city administrator and a pledge to jump-start Italy’s sluggish economy by creating jobs and cutting taxes. But the outspoken and fresh-faced Italian politician has also touched on foreign policy matters during his campaign.

He has pointed to Tehran’s regime as the major source of trouble for the Middle East and has said that Europe should do more to support pro-democracy movements in Iran.

“The main problem of the area is Iran − if we don’t solve that one we will not be able to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said during a 2012 debate, adding that Europe needed to “listen to the cry of pain of the Green Wave,” referring to the protests that had followed the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

At the time, Renzi also voiced doubts about the Palestinian bid for membership in the United Nations and criticized Italy’s decision to follow other European Union countries in voting in favor.

The new premier is not expected to change the cornerstone of Italy’s Middle East policy, which follows EU views on opposing settlement expansion and pushing for a two-state solution in the conflict with the Palestinians. But Renzi has voiced strong support and empathy for the Jewish state, chastising his fellow leftists for their knee-jerk anti-Israeli attitudes.

“Israel is a country surrounded by others that want its destruction, starting with Iran,” he commented during 2012’s Operation Pillar of Defense. “The Italian left must learn to say that Israel has a right to exist without threats, because too often the left has had an inconceivable and unbearable anti-Israeli attitude.”

Renzi’s attitude has earned him support among Italy’s small Jewish community. While community leaders didn’t officially endorse him, many Jews campaigned for him and used social networks and SMS chains to urge friends and family to vote for him in the Democratic primary.

Renzi’s views have also been used to attack him. Far-left blogs routinely publish conspiracy theories claiming he receives funding from Israel and the United States. In the mainstream, his main opponent in the primary, Pierluigi Bersani, once remarked that “on Israel and Palestine, Renzi says things that are more right-wing than all the right-wing parties put together.”

It was in fact the right-wing media mogul and now opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi who, during three stints as premier in the last two decades, slowly reversed Italy’s traditionally pro-Palestinian stance. Even after the scandal-ridden politician’s fall from grace, relations continue to be at an all-time high, with the two governments holding joint cabinet meetings, signing research cooperation agreements and encouraging commercial ties that have made Italy Israel’s second-largest trade partner in the EU, after Germany.

Although he has visited the country, Renzi’s closeness to Israel mostly stems from his broader political views and goals. Inspired by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his transformation of the Labor party, Renzi has set out to change Italy’s stuffy post-communist left into a more liberal and social-democratic force − and that modernization includes throwing out old prejudices on Israel and the U.S.

“He is much closer to the West, and has great respect for Israel,” said Yoram Gutgeld, an Israeli-Italian management consultant who was elected to parliament for the Democrats and is one of Renzi’s top economic advisors. “On foreign policy we will definitely have a friend.”

Posted in ItalyComments Off on Italy’s new PM backs I$raHell sees Iran as major threat

Italy’s PM-to-be is tough on Iran, empathetic to I$raHell



Matteo Renzi supported the 2009 ‘Green Movement’ against the ayatollahs, and has urged ‘more careful consideration of I$raHell’s stances’

Times of Israel

The man expected to become Italy’s next prime minister is known to be friendly toward Israel and to take a tough line on Iran.

Matteo Renzi, currently the mayor of Florence and the secretary of the Italian center-left Democratic Party, is the top candidate to succeed Prime Minister Enrico Letta, who resigned last week.

“Sometimes Israel exceeds its defense [actions], and we need to say it, but it is time that the left state unequivocally that Israel has a right to live without threats,” Renzi, who has visited the country, has been quoted as saying. “Israel is a country that is surrounded by organizations that wish its destruction, starting with Iran,” he said on a different occasion.

A government led by Renzi would probably imply a “few variations to the traditional pattern of Italian foreign policy,” according to Michele Di Donato, an Italian scholar focusing on European left-wing politics. “A slight pro-Atlanticist swing may be expected, as well as a more careful consideration of Israel’s stances in Middle Eastern policy.”

Renzi has called Iran the “mother of all challenges” in the Middle East, Di Donato noted, not only because of the regime’s nuclear ambitions but mostly because the 39-year-old politician supported Iran’s opposition “Green Movement” in 2009. “On the same occasion he expressed reservations about the Italian approval of the bid to upgrade Palestine’s UN status on November 2012: a rather isolated position in the center-left, traditionally quite sympathetic to the Palestinian cause,” Di Donate noted.

In 2012, Renzi attended a demonstration entitled “For the Truth, for Israel,” during which Israeli and Italian flags were waved.

“I don’t really know why, but he has always shown very pro-Israel ideas the few times he talked about foreign policy,” said Nathan Servi, a Jewish native of Florence who has been following Renzi’s political career closely over the years. “It seems we may [get] a European center-left prime minister who doesn’t hate Israel after all.”

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US ‘spied on future Pope Francis during Vatican conclave’

NSA spied on the future Pope Francis before and  during the  Vatican  conclave at which he was chosen to succeed Benedict XVI
Pope Francis delivering a speech during a meeting of the world's cardinals

Pope Francis delivering a speech during a meeting of the world’s cardinals Photo: AFP

By , Rome

The National Security Agency spied on the future Pope Francis before and during the Vatican conclave at which he was chosen to succeed Benedict XVI, it was claimed on Wednesday.

The American spy agency monitored telephone calls made to and from the residence in Rome where the then Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio stayed during the conclave, the secret election at which cardinals chose him as pontiff on March 13.

The claims were made by Panorama, an Italian weekly news magazine, which said that the NSA monitored the telephone calls of many bishops and cardinals at the Vatican in the lead-up to the conclave, which was held amid tight security in the Sistine Chapel.

The information gleaned was then reportedly divided into four categories — “leadership intentions”, “threats to financial system”, “foreign policy objectives” and “human rights”.

At that time, Benedict XVI was Pope, suggesting that the Vatican may also have been monitored during the last few weeks of his papacy.

The allegations follow a report on Cryptome, a website that gathers intelligence on surveillance and national security, which claimed the US intercepted 46 million telephone calls in Italy between Dec 10 2012 and Jan 8 January 2013.

The monitoring of communications, including emails, continued after Benedict’s resignation in February and encompassed the election of Pope Francis.

“It is feared that the great American ear continued to tap prelates’ conversations up to the eve of the conclave,” the weekly magazine said.

It added that there were “suspicions that the conversations of the future Pope may have been monitored”, but provided no hard evidence or quoted sources for the claim.

Archbishop Bergoglio was of interest to US diplomats and intelligence agencies as far back as 2005, when he was mentioned as a possible candidate for the papacy after the death of John Paul II.

According to US State Department cables released by WikiLeaks in March this year, the US embassy to the Holy See drew up a profile of him, describing him as a “wise pastor” who had been praised for his “humility”.

Brent Hardt, the embassy’s charge d’affaires, discussed the future Pope as one of 16 possible candidates, noting that he “has been reluctant to accept honours or hold high office and commutes to work on a bus.”

The US agency also intercepted telephone calls relating to the selection of a new head of the scandal-ridden Vatican bank, Panorama said.

The NSA was also reportedly interested in intercepting communications relating to the 2012 Vatileaks scandal, in which Paolo Gabriele, Benedict’s butler, was caught stealing sensitive documents which lifted the lid on power struggles and alleged corruption at the heart of the Holy See.

Asked about the espionage claims, Federico Lombardi, the Vatican’s spokesman, said: “We have heard nothing of this and in any case we have no concerns about it.”

The American embassy to the Holy See referred queries to the State Department in Washington.

Leaks by Edward Snowden, the fugitive former US intelligence operative who has been granted asylum in Russia, have suggested the NSA conducted extensive spying on several European countries in addition to Italy, including Spain, France and Germany.

The revelations have seriously strained relations between the US and its European allies and trade partners.

Separately, reports claimed on Wednesday that the NSA secretly tapped into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centres around the world, enabling it to collect information from hundreds of millions of user accounts.

The NSA’s “acquisitions directorate” sends millions of records every day from Yahoo and Google networks to data warehouses at the agency’s headquarters at Fort Meade in Maryland, according to The Washington Post.

It then analyses the information it gathers with a project called MUSCULAR, which is operated jointly with GCHQ, its British counterpart.

In a statement, Google said it was “troubled by allegations of the government intercepting traffic between our data centres, and we are not aware of this activity.”

A Yahoo spokesman said: “We have strict controls in place to protect the security of our data centres, and we have not given access to our data centres to the NSA or to any other government agency.”

Gen Keith Alexander, the NSA director, dismissed the report, saying the NSA is “not authorised” to do this and instead must go through a court process”.

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