Farewell to Marco Pannella. The hardest fight was for Israel

He didn’t at all seem close to his death when I visited him two or three weeks ago. There are light years between the moment of total silence and the affection of our meeting, the exclamations, the Pannella-style spiralling chatter, the scolding (“isn’t it time you finally join my Party”?), a clear and inquisitive joie de vivre, his comments on the radio program about the Middle East that Massimo Bordin and I have been conducting for years on Radio Radicale.

There are miles between the intelligent and constant attention Matteo and his other close friends paid tohis every gesture, every need, and their impossibility of helping him anymore.

He must have been quite forgetful, Marco Pannella, at the moment he allowed himself to be taken from the frenetic rhythm of his daily life … With me, when I visited him, he talked mostly about Israel just like the rest of our meetings life, and what else, a wide and deep understanding like no many in this Europe can understand …

And how can it be, he said, that although I explained it all to them that day, the other day, on this and that occasion,… how come they didn’t listen? Marco wandered with his memory back to a square in Rome where he had repeated that Israel should have become a member of the European Union. Wasn’t it obvious? Wasn’t it clear? This would have been the best wall of defence: Marco was upset that he hadn’t been understood.

And here he touched the heart of a matter, legitimisation, whose denial was soon transformed into a wave of Israelophobic anti-Semitismthrough all of Europe;for years he said, I have been repeating that either we reached a shared legitimisation of Israel or we would all have suffered of the compòlete loss of our morality, because Israel is a moral imperative no less important than his battles, the fight for legality or for the imprisoned or against the death penalty.

In Jerusalem, during the Second Intifada, when everything kept on blowing up – cafés, buses – the world showed indifference towards the thousands of dead killed by terrorism, and never condemned, never sympathised. One day, Marco came to my house after we had visited together a nearby bus stop, still stained with blood, down the Gilo descent.

The bus that had blown up was carrying, among others, many children heading for school, and their parents had gonedown the hill running down, as soon as they had heard the boom roll out over the hills. Pannella was going through one of his ghandian hunger strikes – that made him even more emotional against the world’s incomprehension regarding an enemy that was willing to self-explode on a bus just because its passengers were Jews. Indeed, there in my home, at the limit of phisical resistence, he swallowed two spoonfuls of grain salad and drank a cup of coffee. I felt honoured by that miniscule meal of sorrow for Israel.

This article originally appeared in slightly different form in Italian in Il Giornale ( 21 May, 2016).

About the Author
Fiamma Nirenstein is a journalist, author, former Deputy President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, and member of the Italian delegation at the Council of Europe.