Bepi Pezzulli
International counsel & foreign policy adviser

Florence ignites controversy over Gaza conflict

In a recent session on December 12, 2023, the City Council of Florence adopted a resolution that has become a focal point of heated debate. The text of Council resolution No. 2023/01093, tabled by the Left Common Project, a far-left grouping led by councilors Antonella Moro Bundu and Dmitrij Gabriellovic Palagi, and passed with the vote of the Democratic Party, dismisses what it calls the October 7 “offensive” by the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas against Israel. The resolution contends that Hamas is a “political and paramilitary organization” and goes on to say that the attack was marked by “unconventional tactics.” The terrorist actions, the resolution states, “extended beyond Hamas to involve other forces entrenched in the decades-long Palestinian resistance.”

The language employed in the resolution triggered outrage, particularly from Marco Carrai, the honorary consul of Israel for Tuscany, Emilia Romagna, and Lombardy. Carrai denounced the characterization of the terrorist group Hamas as a political and paramilitary organization engaged in Palestinian resistance, emphasizing that such categorization is both squalid and inaccurate.

Senator Matteo Renzi, leader of Italia Viva, echoed these sentiments during a speech at the Il Foglio Festival, stating that “Hamas is the closest thing to Nazism seen in recent years.” Renzi criticized the left for hesitating to equate Hamas with Nazism and called for the liberation of Palestinians from the terrorist organization.

This controversy in Florence is not isolated. Last month, after a spontaneous demonstration saw thousands of citizens gathering in front of the Florence Cathedral to sing Hatikva, the anthem of Israel, Luca Milani (Democratic Party), the president of the City Council, stirred the pot with his assertion that Florence missed an opportunity for a unified demonstration against violence, including Hamas’ actions, saying “I am neither with Hamas nor with Israel.”

The Federation of Italy-Israel Associations expressed dismay in response to the unfolding situation.

Dismay will go frustrated, however. In Italy, historical roots of antisemitism persist, intersecting with anti-Zionism in various political and social contexts. Antisemitism, ingrained in stereotypes and prejudices, has endured for centuries, including the fascist era under the rule of Benito Mussolini. While overt antisemitism has diminished since World War II, remnants linger.

Anti-Zionism in Italian politics often converges with critiques of Israel’s policies and opposition to the concept of a Jewish homeland. Recently, it has served as a guise for antisemitic sentiments, highlighting the stubborn dynamics at play in the nation’s dysfunctional political landscape.

About the Author
Giuseppe Levi Pezzulli ("Bepi") is a Solicitor specialised in International financial law and a foreign policy scholar. His research interest is economic statecraft. In 2018, he published "An alternative view of Brexit" (Milano Finanza Books), which investigates the economic and geopolitical implications of Brexit. In 2023, "Brave bucks" (Armando Publishing House), which highlights the role of private capital in the industrial policy mix. Formerly an Editor-in-Chief of La Voce Repubblicana; is a columnist for the Italian daily financial newspaper Milano Finanza; a pundit for the financial TV channel CNBC; and a Middle East analyst for Longitude magazine. He received degrees at Luiss Guido Carli in Rome (LLB), New York University (LLM), and Columbia University (JD).
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