On the face of it, things went from bad to worse when last weekend in Milan at the unveiling on World Holocaust Remembrance Day of a monument to the Jews deported from Italy to the Nazi death camps when Berlusconi decided to speak his mind.
Berlusconi told reporters that Mussolini’s worst mistake was to impose the 1938 anti-Semitic laws on Italy’s Jews but that Mussolini had done many “good things” and it had been the alliance with Hitler that imposed “the war on the Jews,” so “Italy does not have the same responsibility as Germany….”
The media in Italy and abroad crucified Berlusconi for these words, however true. Mussolini and fascism were not anti-Semitic until the alliance with Hitler’s Germany in the late 1930s. Many senior Italian fascists were Jews, as were most Jews, including Mussolini’s main mistress until around 1930, Margherita Sarfatti. Even after siding with the Nazis, the Italian fascists’ aim was not to exterminate Jews and no Jews in Italy were arrested and deported to the Nazi death camps until after Mussolini’s fall in 1943.
You would have thought that this latest Berlusconi “gaffe” would have banged shut the coffin lid on his corpse. Well, yes and no. Those Italians who bother with truth as opposed to propaganda”the silent majority”agree with Berlusconi. Not because he or they want to restore fascism, but because what he said is the truth.
That same weekend, however, a bigger story got bigger still. God himself, it seemed, had intervened to rescue Il Magnifico. The share price of Italy’s third biggest bank, Monte dei Paschi di Siena (which is under investigation for a whole raft of crimes), had collapsed.
The Bank of Italy, the state-owned central bank, announced a 4-billion-euro loan to Monte dei Paschi (financed by a fat chunk of Monti’s tax revenues).
But here’s the beauty of it: Monte dei Paschi, the world’s oldest bank, founded in 1472 in the picturesque Tuscan city of Siena which has been “red” since the war, just happens to be run by the ex-communist party”the Pd”which had assumed electoral victory was a foregone conclusion.
Then this! What worse news could there be for such a party to be exposed to exactly the same accusations that it has so hysterically made against banks and big business since the collapse of the world as we knew it in 2008? Now we discover it is up to its neck in the same stuff that it professes to despise!
So all week Comrade Bersani, the party’s candidate for premier, has been frantically trying to insist that his party does not have a bank, let alone this one. But he has a problem: The majority shareholding of Monte dei Paschi is owned by a fondazione which is controlled by local authorities in the Siena area (all left-wing-run) and whose directors are all leading figures of his party to which they donate large slices of their huge incomes.
Then came news of the sale by Britain’s Manchester City of black striker Mario Balotelli for 20 million euro to the top Italian side AC Milan, which Berlusconi owns. The press calls the petulant Balotelli “uomo nero.” His cars include a military-camouflage-colored Bentley Continental GT. He was born to Ghanaian parents in Palermo who gave him up for adoption but when he became rich and famous tried to get him back. The so-called “Balotelli Bounce” could bring Berlusconi up to 2% of the vote.
Italians have had quite enough of Monti Il Professore and his taxes without growth. But who else is there? Bersani the ex-Comunista of Monte dei Paschi di Siena fame? Grillo the foul-mouthed professional comedian? Who else, that is, except for Silvio Il Magnifico?
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