On May 31, 2010, an Israeli military raid on an aid flotilla sailing to the blockaded Gaza Strip resulted in the deaths of nine unarmed peace activists, prompting international condemnation over what was perceived as a brutal and unjustified use of force.
Five of those on board of one of the ships were Italian nationals who were part of the humanitarian mission attempting to break the blockade by delivering goods and construction materials to the occupied Palestinian territory. Israeli sanctions on Gaza since 2001 have led to widespread poverty and rampant unemployment there.
But the deadly attack on the flotilla has only served to further motivate Italian supporters of the Palestinian cause. The Palestine Forum, a network of Italian committees and associations, is pushing for greater political support for the Palestinians, while the Rome Palestinian Solidarity Network is continuing to organise a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israeli products.
"If I speak of Zionism as a colonialist ideology supported by imperialist countries, then the struggle against Zionism is not only a Palestinian struggle. It is mine, yours and ours."
Mila Pernice, a journalist and member of the Palestine Forum
Mila Pernice, a journalist and presenter with Citta Aperta, a radio channel in Rome, and a member of the Palestine Forum, says the network is gaining public support.
"We offer political support more than just humanitarian or cultural support. In the past few years we've succeeded in getting more people to be part of our activities. The Forum has helped raise awareness and mobilise people," she explains.
"Why do we support the Palestinian cause? Because it's an obvious injustice happening before the entire world. And because we are against imperialists and colonialists. If I speak of Zionism as a colonialist ideology supported by imperialist countries, then the struggle against Zionism is not only a Palestinian struggle. It is mine, yours and ours."
Rossana Platone, a retired teacher, witnessed the events that led to the birth of Israel and, along with her left-leaning family, initially supported the Israeli government. But her stance changed during the 1967 war.
"The occupation of Palestinian land and the successive colonisation of this land were the reasons why I changed my point of view," she explains.
She is now part of a group called Stop Agrexco in Rome which encourages a boycott of Israeli agricultural products, particularly those from the Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Agrexco is the company that exports most of Israel's food products to Italy.
She says the pro-Palestinian movement has received a "positive response from many people," but that she is also aware of the limits of their actions: "We don't think we can change the world by distributing leaflets. But small things can make a difference. We are not in the government. We don't have the power to change things. Each helps in their own way. But we are realistic about what we can achieve."
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