Italy attacks Israeli ‘settlers,’ but has some of its own

While criticizing Israeli ‘settlements,’ what does Italy say about its territorial possessions acquired through conquest?

By Rafael Medoff

Italy reportedly has complained about the choice of Benny Kashriel as Israel’s next ambassador to Rome, because he has served as mayor of Ma’ale Adumim, which the Italians consider an illegal “settlement.”

Ma’ale Adumim, with its 40,000 residents, is just seven kilometers from the municipal boundary of Jerusalem.

It is widely assumed that it will be physically connected to the capital in the near future.

For most Israelis, the idea of characterizing Ma’ale Adumim as a “settlement”—conjuring up images of trailers on a remote hilltop—is laughable.

But some of Italy’s own territorial acquisitions could be described that way.

The islands of Lampedusa and Lampione, which are closer to North Africa than to Italy, are nonetheless occupied by Rome.

Over the centuries, various imperialists have ruled the two islands, including the Barbary pirates, the Spanish, the British, and, most recently, the Italians.

They have no particular right to the territory, other than the “right” of might.

In recent years, the 6,000 residents of Lampedusa have been joined by tens of thousands of African migrants.

Does the local population want Lampedusa, which is arguably an African island, to continue to be part of Italy?

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Should they have the right to vote on whether their majority-black island should be governed by white Europeans? The Italian occupation regime, which points an accusing finger at Israel, does not appear to be interested in granting the Lampedusans self-determination.

There are Italian “settlements” in a number of other countries. Within the borders of Switzerland, for example, there is an Italian enclave, Campione d’Italia. Historically it was called just “Campione,” but fascist dictator Benito Mussolini added “d’Italia” to assert his imperialist claim to the territory. Several thousand Italian citizens currently reside there.

Not all the Swiss are happy about the Italian “settlers” in their midst. When Campione’s casino went bankrupt in 2018, Swiss creditors were left with millions of dollars in unpaid debts.

Italy also has manned outposts (for scientific research) in Kenya, Antarctica, and the Norwegian-occupied part of the Arctic Circle. In addition, the Italians have a military base called Amedeo Guillet, with some 300 personnel, in Djibouti, an African country that the Italians illegally occupied from 1889 to 1941.

The Italian government has described the base as “a permanent outpost in an area of enormous strategic importance.” Israel might say the same thing about Ma’ale Adumim, especially considering its close proximity to Jerusalem.

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Israel’s historical, legal and religious claims to the area where Ma’ale Adumim is situated are much older, and stronger, than Italy’s claims to Campione or Amedeo Guillet. Ambassador Kashriel may have an opportunity to remind Rome of that fact when he takes up his new position.

Dr. Medoff is founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies and author of more than 20 books about Jewish history and the Holocaust. His latest is America and the Holocaust: A Documentary History, published by the Jewish Publication Society & University of Nebraska Press.