Despite Italy's prohibition on demonstrations on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a surge of dissent unfolded across the country last weekend as thousands rallied against the ongoing assault on the Gaza Strip. Pro-Palestinian groups boldly defied the Interior Ministry's ban, staging protests from Rome to Trento, Cagliari to Milan, vehemently advocating for an end to the hostilities.
Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi had attempted to preempt potential tensions by urging organizers to defer scheduled demonstrations on January 27, emphasizing a postponement rather than an outright ban in a circular to the cities' quaestors. However, not all pro-Palestinian entities heeded his call. In Rome, approximately 1,000 individuals gathered in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele III for a sit-in, brandishing flags and banners while demanding an immediate halt to the Gaza war. Notably, a puppet resembling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, adorned as a deportee with chains and the Star of David, was displayed.
Meanwhile, in Milan, a procession of over a thousand people embarked from Piazzale Loreto to Via Padova. Tensions escalated as demonstrators attempted to breach the police cordon, leading to clashes with law enforcement. Despite some unrest, the protesters regrouped at Piazzale Loreto, resuming the demonstration the following day in a more harmonious and tension-free manner.
The resurgence of the procession on January 28 was marked by the unified voice of various Italian pro-Palestinian groups joining forces with Palestinian youth, collectively calling for a ceasefire. Notably, university students, represented by the group Cambiare Rotta Milano, condemned the perceived hypocrisy of authorities who speak of memory and support Palestine, while contributing to what they term as the genocide perpetrated by Israel.
In response to the conflict, political figures in Italy, including Giorgia Meloni, voiced criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's recent positions. Giorgia Meloni affirmed:
“I do not share Netanyahu's position, Palestine has the right to its own state, as long as the recognition is not unilateral.”
President Sergio Mattarella, during Memorial Day celebrations, delivered a strong message underscoring the inalienable right of every people to have their own state:
"Those who suffered the vile attempt to erase their people from the land know that one cannot deny another people the right to a state".
The speech was co-hosted with the presence of key figures such as Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Senate President Ignazio La Russa, House Speaker Lorenzo Fontana, and representatives of the Jewish community.
Consequently, as a foundational member of the European Union and the United Nations, Italy has a pivotal role. It must engage with international organizations on behalf of Palestinians, considering the current conditions of Gaza and Israel’s continued refusal to allow a Palestinian state. As an initial step, Italy is coordinating the transfer of the first wounded Palestinian children to receive medical treatment in this country, reflecting its commitment to humanitarian assistance and diplomatic initiatives in the ongoing conflict.