Al Jazeera Bemoans the Celebration, in Italy, of Oriana Fallaci (Part 1)

Oriana Fallaci, the celebrated Italian journalist who has been dead for 13 years, is the woman of the hour in Italy. Italian state television has broadcast a documentary about her life and work, in recognition of what would have been her 90th birthday. All of her books are being republished in a collected-works uniform format. The leading Italian politician, Matteo Salvini, repeatedly refers to her in glowing terms. For many Italians, she is both prophetess and patron saint; the woman who early on warned of the growing Islamic threat inside Europe, and the warrior who called for a campaign to reject and reverse that Muslim presence, which would require an end to the “buonismo” (goody-goodiness) sentiment exhibited by many Europeans, including Christian clerics, who had opened wide the doors of their countries to Muslim migrants – a sentiment, and a policy, that she deplored.

She wrote that Muslim immigration was turning Europe into “a colony of Islam,” an abject place that she called “Eurabia,” (the term made famous by Bat Ye’or), which would eventually “end up with minarets in place of the bell-towers, with the burka in place of the mini-skirt.” Fallaci argued that Islam had always had designs on Europe, invoking the siege of Constantinople in the seventh century, and the Ottoman Empire’s subsequent assaults on the Balkans and Central Europe, with the highwater mark of Muslim Turkish conquest being the siege of Vienna in 1683. Fallaci argued that contemporary immigration from Muslim countries to Europe amounted to the same thing — invasion — only this time with “children and boats” instead of “troops and cannons.” And, as Fallaci described it, the “art of invading and conquering and subjugating” is “the only art at which the sons of Allah have always excelled.”

Al Jazeera, the propaganda outlet of the Qatari government, has taken note of Fallaci’s renewed popularity:

At his political rally in Milan in March, Italy’s far-right Minister of Interior and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini mentioned two women: the Virgin Mary, who, he said “will lead us to victory”, and Oriana Fallaci, whom he described as “the founding mother of this Europe.”

One of Italy’s most famous journalists, Fallaci, who died in her late seventies in 2006, covered the Vietnam War and interviewed  Henry Kissinger, Indira Gandhi,  and Ruhollah Khomeini.

This summation of her life was far too brief. Fallaci had a long, distinguished, practically mythic career. She was involved in politics and war from her early youth. Her father was a partisan during the war, captured and tortured by the Germans. As a 14-year-old, she was a bicycle-riding courier for the Italian Resistance in Nazi-occupied Florence. In 1956, she covered the Hungarian Revolution and the crushing of that uprising by the Soviet army. She covered the wars between India and Pakistan. For eight years, from 1967 to 1975, she repeatedly went back to Vietnam to cover the war there, frequently ending up in the midst of the most dangerous battles. She began as a strident critic of the American effort but became increasingly alarmed at the ruthlessness of the North Vietnamese and consequently, more sympathetic to the Americans. She developed a great hatred for certain American leftists, threatening to “kick Jane Fonda in the ass and spit in her face for lying about her coverage of the Vietnam War and betraying the confidence of American POWs.” She went to Cambodia, where she managed to interview Prince Sihanouk just as the Khmer Rouge were gathering. She was with the protesting Mexican students in 1968 when 800 of them were killed by the police; she was shot three times. She interviewed Haile Selassie in Ethiopia, Fidel Castro in Cuba, and King Hussein in Jordan. She famously took apart Henry Kissinger, who when asked by her to explain his popularity, said: “The main point arises from the fact that I’ve always acted alone. Americans like that immensely. Americans like the cowboy who leads the wagon train by riding ahead alone on his horse, the cowboy who rides all alone into the town, the village, with his horse and nothing else.” Exposed as comically full of himself, Kissinger always regretted allowing himself to be interviewed by her; he called it “my most disastrous decision.”

Fallaci interviewed Golda Meir, who positively enchanted her for her forthright truth-telling; Meir, she said, was the most impressive of all the people she had ever interviewed. She interviewed Ariel Sharon, who despite her attempts to provoke him, did not take the bait, and she grew to like the aging warrior. She interviewed Regis Debray, the Communist would-be guerilla, in Bolivia, She reported on Spain under Franco, on the appointment of Juan Carlos as king. She interviewed Deng Xiaoping in Beijing; Chinese students flocked to her hotel in hopes of catching a glimpse of her; she was regarded by them as an iconic warrior for freedom. She wrote many books, mostly non-fiction, but also A Man (1979), which was a fictional tribute to her great love, the Greek resistance fighter Alexandros Panagoulis, who died in a suspicious automobile accident in Athens three years after they met. Panagoulis had been imprisoned, and endured torture, for his failed attempt on the life of the Greek junta leader George Papadopoulos, in 1968. Only the tiniest part of her very full life is mentioned by Al Jazeera — that she interviewed Kissinger, Indira Gandhi, and Khomeini.

What Al Jazeera also left out was the fact that Fallaci had a special interest in Islam, Arabs, and Muslim leaders that long predated 9/11. She interviewed not just Khomeini, but Arafat, Khaddafi, and PFLP leader George Habash, a Christian Arab and a terrorist. She even embedded herself with a group of PLO fighters and came under Israeli bombardment. The PLO fighters refused to let her share their bomb shelter, directing her instead to a makeshift shed that was filled with warehoused explosives. She discovered that for the Muslims of the PLO, women, and especially Infidel women, were expendable. Her encounters with Arafat left her feeling only nausea and disgust; Khaddafi she found to be a semi-demented clown; George Habash she found strangely “likeable” at first, but in the end, merely a murderer who told her that “we believe that to kill a Jew far from the battleground has more of an effect than killing one hundred of them in battle.”

Khomeini was a humorless fanatic whom she nonetheless made laugh – his son said it was the only time in his life that he had seen his father laugh – by ripping off her chador in his presence, yelling about “these medieval rags!” He couldn’t believe anyone would dare to defy him as she did; he had to laugh at her chutzpah.

After September 11, she adopted an anti-Islam stance and today her legacy is enjoying a moment of renewed popularity.

She did not, as Al Jazeera claims, “adopt an anti-Islam stance” after 9/11. Her reaction to the atrocity on 9/11, her ferocious denunciation of Islam and the “sons of Allah,” had been decades in the making. She was “anti-Islam” beginning in the early 1960s. She “adopted” nothing, least of all a temporary “stance.” Over many years, she had traveled widely in Muslim countries, had observed Muslim peoples, had interviewed their leaders. Her deep “anti-Islam” convictions were the result of that long familiarity with, and study of, Muslims and Islam.

In 2019 Italy, Fallaci’s unapologetic Islamophobia is alarmingly mainstream. The new ruling class is rediscovering Fallaci as a prescient thinker.

Shall we rephrase this tendentious bit to achieve a modicum of fairness? Can we leave out that propagandistic scare word “Islamophobia”? What about this: “In 2019, Fallaci’s fierce criticism of Islam and Muslims has become widely accepted. Many Italians have come to regard her as a prescient thinker.”

There is no “new ruling class” in Italy. The country’s leading politician is Matteo Salvini, Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister, whose appeal is that he is a populist, of humble origins, who has never part of any political ruling class. His chief rival, also a kind of stand-alone politician, is Beppe Grillo of the “Five Stars” movement and party. Grillo was a comedian before entering politics; he too was anti-establishment and has never been part of any “political ruling class,” nor is he today. The kaleidoscopic realignments of Italian parties and politicians testifies to the absence of such a “ruling class.” It is among all classes of society that Fallaci is being recognized, and hailed, as “prescient” in her Cassandra-like warnings about Muslim encroachments in Europe.

Streets or squares have been renamed after her in Pisa and Arezzo, in central Italy, and Genoa, further north.

A public garden was also dedicated to her in Sesto San Giovanni, an industrial town close to Milan, where the mayor blocked the construction of a mosque.He recently mentioned Fallaci in his inauguration speech: “Her exhortations to the West to wake up still resonate today.”

In July, the lower chamber of Parliament approved the creation of low-denomination treasury bills that could also be used as a de-facto parallel currency to the euro. According to the plan’s main proponent, the League’s MP Claudio Borghi, the 20 euro bill should bear a picture of Fallaci.

For what would have been her 90th birthday, state-owned television channel RAI 2 aired a celebratory documentary about her.

At home, her ideas were not perceived as radical – her anti-Islam manifesto was first published in the country’s most prestigious newspaper [Corriere della Sera].

But with rising anti-immigrant sentiment and with the far-right League party receiving almost 40 percent in the most recent elections, her message resonates with the current climate.

On September 28, 2001, a week [sic] after the September 11 attacks, Corriere della Sera, the Milan-based newspaper, published a five-page article titled La Rabbia e l’Orgoglio, or The Rage and the Pride, in which Fallaci accused the West of being too soft on Islam and Muslim immigrants.

In Italy, she argued, “there is no place for muezzins, minarets, fake teetotalers, their f****** middle ages, and their f****** chadors.”

From then on until her death, Fallaci stirred anti-Muslim sentiment.

Fallaci did not “stir anti-Muslim sentiment.” She was never a rabble-rouser. She did not harangue crowds, even virtual ones. She was much too literate and humorful, qualities rabble-rousers seldom possess. Originally, as a leftist, she was even sympathetic to the Arabs – including the Palestinians. But the reality mugged her. She reported from Muslim countries, interviewing their leaders, and even, in at least one case, accompanying PLO fighters in battle. She grew to detest the Muslims she met, interviewed, reported on. She heard what they said about the West, about Jews, about women. She took note of the triumphalism in their stories – that Islam would conquer Europe, would conquer the world. She paid the Muslims the tribute of taking their hopes and hates and dangerous dreams of genocide and world conquest seriously, something many in the West still refuse to do.

After the article in 2001, she wrote three books – The Rage and the PrideThe Force of Reason, and Oriana Fallaci Interviews Herself – in which she described the Muslim world as an “enemy we treat as a friend” and warned Europe about what she believed to be the danger of becoming “Eurabia.

She borrowed the term from a conspiracy theory popularised by the Egyptian-born British writer Bat Ye’or (a pseudonym for Gisele Littman) about an alleged plan to “Islamise” Europe through mass immigration.

Bat Ye’or did not popularize a “conspiracy theory” about a plan to “Islamise” Europe. She provided copious documentation – not merely a “theory” – about the Euro-Arab Dialogue, which began just after the 1973 quadrupling of oil prices by OPEC. The E.A.D. was part of a French-led policy intended to increase European power vis-à-vis the United States by aligning its interests with those of the Arab countries. Bat Ye’or saw this “Euro-Arab Dialogue” as a primary cause of European hostility to Israel. Every charge she makes is backed up by written evidence, much of it little known agreements, including cultural matters, made between Europeans and Arabs, that she included it in her book Eurabia. Al Jazeera’s attempt to belittle Bat Ye’or, and thus to undermine Fallaci, who was influenced by her to the point of borrowing her term “Eurabia,” rests on deliberately using charged phrases – Bat Ye’or’s “conspiracy theory” about an “alleged” plan to “Islamise” Europe – that are designed to undermine trust in her judgment. If she can be painted as a conspiracy-theorizing kook, making up “alleged” plans, then what should we think of Oriana Fallaci, who relies on Bat Ye’or as an authority?

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