Thursday, June 08, 2006
The Malta Labour Party has always been anti-racist in its policies and statements. It was for this reason that I felt genuinely shocked when I came to learn that a local right-wing lobby group came out strongly against the local Jewish community on their website, hinting that Maltese society is victim of a covert Zionist conspiracy.
I was equally shocked by the stone silence with which such an onslaught on ordinary members of Maltese society was met by the local media even though the MLP took a formal position of condemnation in this regard.
This has nothing at all to do with the illegal immigration issue which certain new right movements are using as a platform.
Tomorrow it will be undiluted racism of the kind we are already being treated to when certain exponents speak of safeguarding the European race and culture.
Living as we happen to do in a multicultural society we cannot accept the premise that each culture should keep developing in isolation. Such statements make it easier to understand the Islamophobia we experienced recently as well as the anti-Muslim sentiments that were expressed, neatly cushioned under the cover of a clash of cultures and blending of incompatible beliefs.
In saying so I am neither debasing nor trying to run down the European and Mediterranean culture that I believe in.
Such attacks as we experienced recently go far beyond the deplorable and condemnable attacks against members of the local press who were merely exercising their right to freedom of expression. They are meant to undermine confidence in our political system in the hope of creating a power vacuum where such new elements could thrive and prosper.
I believe that the illegal immigration issue is being used as a pretext because both major political parties on the island have long been making a clear distinction between the rights of refugees and the influxes of illegal economic immigrants. For this reason alone decisive EU action on the illegal immigration issue is called for as otherwise a weak-kneed approach will merely provide fertile ground for such right wing movements, even if they might still happen to be in their infancy.
When the problem recently reached an almost explosive magnitude in the Canary Islands a senior policy adviser in the regional government of the Canaries made it clear that this is a big problem that requires military resources, intelligence resources, economic assistance and medical aid.
The clarion call was loud and clear.
"Europe has to wake up and stop staring at its belly button."
I do not believe that certain movements are just a real threat to the duopoly of our political system. They are far worse than that as they constitute a threat to Maltese society in general as well as to its values and core beliefs. How can one accept the argument that it is unnatural that children are being bombarded with messages not to be racist when people were "racist" by nature?
Europe cannot merely sit back and react to racism when it happens and spreads its wings wide. It must pre-empt certain racist developments before they happen by taking decisive and positive action that shows that when it speaks of solidarity it literally means it rather than merely using it as a buzzword to pay lip service through it.
It is even more worrying when so-called moderate right wing movements emerge, which claim they are closer to the mainstream political parties than to the extreme right movements in our midst. Proof that illegal immigration is being merely used as a pretext by these people was provided in the columns of this newspaper when a spokesman for a self-defined moderate right wing movement stated categorically that they are a multi-issue group and that they will continue to grow even if the immigration issue is solved. It is a pity that while the National Alliance has ostensibly moderated its political views in Italy through such exponents as Gianfranco Fini, who is nowadays even welcomed in such countries as Israel as much as he was welcomed in Arab Middle Eastern countries, we are seeing such movements emerge in our midst by trying to project themselves as a new mainstream party while, at the same time, resorting to racist platforms. If there is one thing that unites Malta's three major political parties that is a deep resentment of racial intolerance.
The MLP's position is clear as recently expressed by its leader. Fascism and Nazism cannot be tolerated. It is for this reason that last year I had accepted the Council of Europe's task to serve as rapporteur of a study on the excesses of Francoism in Spain.
Before talking of one's right to express oneself politically one first has to check a movement's credentials, particularly as far as respect for fundamental democratic values are concerned.
It is not for me to try and quantify what kind of support a right wing movement might have. It is incumbent on us all to ensure that no fertile ground is provided for their emergence and ideological spread.
From my contact with the electorate I can tell that a certain degree of xenophobia is real and present. This can only be neutralised if the competent authorities do not allow certain perceptions and attitudes to evolve into real threats. For this reason I genuinely call for concerted action both on the domestic front and on the international level.
As a full EU member state we might have our obligations but we also have our expectations, particularly in the light of the recent turn of events in Spain. For a start, Europe must show it can come up with a serious policy for Africa.