Happy New Year Italy!

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.jpg
photo: The President of Brazil, Lula da Silva

The President of Brazil, Lula and the Cardinal of San Paolo, Julio Lancellotti spent their Christmas under a viaduct, in a neighbourhood of San Paolo where the inhabitants of the street after an occupation, have created a co-operative for recycling urban refuse. One of my dear friends, Antonio Vermigli, has sent me part of Lula’s speech.

" Dear Father Julio Lancellotti, dear Cardinal Dom Claudio Hummes, dear people in authority here present, and you, my dear companions and friends, you people of the street.
with lots of sweat and in silence every day keep clean the streets of our city by removing every type of refuse that is produced, I am happy to be here underneath the Sumarè viaduct, where you have created the first co-operative for the recycling of paper and plastic in Brazil. You who are often considered to be nothing, you have managed to create a co-operative. I know how difficult it is in our country to bring about an enterprise like this, but you have done it. This is the third time that we meet up.

In 2003 we met up in Glicerio, for the opening of the Casa Cor da Rua "A House of Art for the People of the Street” called after Peppino Prisco, an Italian vice-president of the football team  Inter-Milan. Things made in Casa Cor include furniture, articles for interior design and artistic objects, all of which start off by re-using materials collected from city refuse.

In 2004 we met up at the Casa da Oraçao, the House of Prayer.
Today I assure you with serenity and strength that my Palace of Planalto is here, under your viaduct. Today I am governing from here.
Today the Government has moved to your place of work, to your place of struggle. I have listened to your reflections, your suggestions, your needs, to your request to meet up again in a few weeks to complete the project to provide job training for rubbish collectors, that we have started together.  Together, we will make this happen.

This is not just a vague promise. When I get back to Brasilia, I will call together all the ministers who need to be involved in the project, from the Minister responsible for Social Policy to the Minister for Education and I will call an inter-ministerial meeting to define your rights and to establish terms to truly recognise your work. Your recycling is resisting, you are in all ways, ecological operators.

You are providing a fundamental service for us and yet this is not recognised. On the contrary, you are considered a police problem. As Father Julio pointed out when he spoke.

Julio, I promise you that the shameful massacre of seven street-dwellers that happened in piazza della cattedrale di San Paolo in August last year for which the culprits have not even now been brought to trial even though there are witness statements and really strong evidence against them, I promise that I will talk next week to Justice Minister Bastos, to work towards a strong intervention from the Federal Justice system.

The presence here of the Mayor of Diadema, the agreement that you have signed with the Local Authorities for the employment of 72 street dwellers as street cleaners, is an important act. And it is also economically advantageous for the population, given that the Mayor has declared that the price of a ton of refuse is about 40 reais if collected by the catadores, whereas it is 150 if collected by private companies.

I listened attentively to the speech of our companion Sebastiao while he was explaining the problems of the street dwellers. I don’t know whether you Sebastiao, have a job, I’m not really sure what you do, but I assure you that with your political preparation, with your capacity to analyse, you will be ready for any type of work.

Dear Dom Claudio, we’ve known each other for many years, now you are a Cardinal, but before that you were my Bishop of San Bernardo do Campo, the place where I’m still residing, where I was working for years, where I started my activity as a Trades Unionist, where I founded the Centrale Unica dei Lavoratori first and then the Partito dei Lavoratori {Workers’ Party}.

I remember when you were at our side in demonstrations, when the police baton-charged us. I was younger then and had a flat stomach and I ran faster than you to miss the beating, because I was not a Bishop.  I am happy about your statements that your Cathedral, this Christmas is under this viaduct. We have walked together and we will continue to walk together, even though we have made errors.”

Lula da Silva.

For the New Year I wish for all Italians a President like Lula and Cardinals like Lancellotti for a better Italy.

Happy New Year. Beppe Grillo.

Posted by Beppe Grillo at 06:19 AM in | Comments (6)
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I would like to get in touch with Janet Venn-brown as I have a painting by her dated 1972 a most important year for this lady,painted in Rome it is of the Piazza Dei Coronari any one knowing her email ect. please get in touch or indeed pass this information on to her. Thank You---- and I did enjoy the article very much,when Goverment's become judge, jury and executioner without the rule of law it always rebounds on them as we see its happening now the people who use murder as a form of foreign policy are doing there country, there people and there cause great harm and people everywhere including Jews should be appauled at this criminal behaviour

Posted by: Vincent Johnson | August 22, 2007 12:07 AM


1. If Zwaiter had nothing to do with Munich, why was he so paranoid? My assumption had been Israel just went after low hanging fruit. Now I wonder if I was mistaken. Maybe the man's ego was just out of control.
2. The girlfriend's idea that Munich may have been Israel's doing undermines the rest of what she has to say. Not only does she deny her boyfriend was a criminal she argues it was impossible because the whole thing was some kind of hoax. On the other hand, a woman who gives herself to a terrorist is not someone whose opinion matters much now or ever.

Posted by: Kim Cantwell | May 11, 2006 02:38 AM


http://guerrillaradio.iobloggo.com/ :
Spielberg's movie reopens old wounds for Aussie who loved Mossad victim
Natasha Bita, Rome
28 January 2006

AUSTRALIAN artist Janet Venn-Brown was in a deep sleep when two nervous Italian policemen arrived at her Rome apartment to announce there had been an accident.


"Oh dear," she muttered.

Wael Zwaiter, her Palestinian lover, had been gunned down by Israeli secret agents.

The man she hoped to marry had become the first victim of a brutal payback for the deaths of 11 Israeli athletes killed by Palestinian terrorists at the Olympic Games in Munich, Germany, in September 1972.

"Such a gentle man, to have suffered such a violent death," a wistful Venn-Brown said yesterday, in the cosy Rome apartment where she shared Zwaiter's final hours.

"He absolutely just couldn't have been a terrorist. He couldn't even kill an ant. I know he was a man of peace.

"But he was much more dangerous than a terrorist. For the Israelis, a cultivated Palestinian was much more dangerous."

Zwaiter knew he was a marked man. The day Venn-Brown flew back from a trip to Australia, shortly before his death, he dropped by her apartment to tell her he was skipping town.

"I was only waiting (in Rome) to see you," he told his confused and concerned companion of eight years. "I must leave. If I stay here, they'll kill me."

Now 81, Venn-Brown feels upset reliving the night Mossad assassins blew her boyfriend's brains out. Three decades later, her sadness is about to be stirred by Steven Spielberg's film Munich.

The blockbuster - which opened in Australia on Thursday and across Europe overnight - is a Hollywood account of Israel's revenge for one of the most infamous terror attacks of the 20th century, when Arab terrorists slaughtered 11 Israeli athletes kidnapped in a bungled mission to free Palestinian prisoners.

Mossad's mission - codenamed "Operation Wrath of God" - was to hunt down and eliminate 13 members of the Black September terrorist group.

Zwaiter, a Palestinian activist exiled in Rome, was their first target. But in The Weekend Australian Magazine today, the assassins raise doubts he had ever been involved. And Abu Daoud, the mastermind behind the Black September strike, told an Italian newspaper this week that Zwaiter, "a philosopher and intellectual who had never held a gun", had nothing to do with it.

Venn-Brown remembers Zwaiter as a gentle man, as high-spirited as he was poor. He loved poetry and music, and even auditioned for a bit part in the Peter Sellers comedy The Pink Panther, at Rome's Cinecitta studios in 1963 - missing out when he kept forgetting his lines.

The couple met at an artists' street fair in Rome in the summer of 1964, through an Indian artist who thought the beautiful blonde Australian might like to speak English with his young Palestinian friend, who was in Italy to learn the language and study singing.

The chivalrous Zwaiter helped carry her painting back to her flat, serenading her with It Was a Lover and His Lass from Shakespeare's As You Like It as they strolled beside the Tiber River.

"I was very impressed!" Venn-Brown recalled. "He was terribly good-looking; very attractive. All Arabs like blue eyes and fair hair, and I had that.

"It didn't always go smoothly at the beginning. Wael considered himself a vagabond, and didn't want me to get too involved. I just thought that any relationship with him was worthwhile, knowing perhaps I was going to get very disappointed in the end."

Raised on Sydney's north shore, Venn-Brown had studied painting while working as a secretary for the publisher Ure Smith. In 1957 she discovered the manuscript for They're a Weird Mob, the best-selling John O'Grady novel about an Italian living in Australia. Bored with her job, she quit and used the "send-off" money from her grateful employer to sail to England for a working holiday.

Inspired by the Italian art scene, she settled in Rome, painting in the afternoons and working mornings, first at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and later at the Vatican for American cardinal John Wright.

"I think I was a kind of relaxation for Wael, to get away from all his sad and difficult problems," she said. "I wasn't completely unaware of what he did, but I wasn't his confidante for his work."

Nine years her junior, Zwaiter was the son of a Palestinian lawyer. He studied engineering at Baghdad University before working on construction projects in Beirut. From there, he followed a troupe of opera singers to Germany. After six months he moved to Italy, learning Italian before finding a job as an assistant book-keeper and translator at the Libyan embassy in Rome.

He lived a rather bohemian existence, befriending poets and philosophers including exiled Spanish poet and painter Raphael Alberti, Italian playwright and music critic Bruno Cagli, and French writer Jean Genet.

But when the Six Day War broke out in 1967, Zwaiter tried to sign up with the Algerian army, only to be turned away because he was too old. He drove to Lebanon with a friend, but by the time he arrived Israel had annexed the Occupied Territories, cutting him off from his widowed mother and sister in Nablus.

"If they do something to my mother," he told Venn-Brown, "you won't know me. I'll become violent." He had spoken "in a moment of bitterness", she insisted yesterday. "He wouldn't hurt a fly."

But Zwaiter, now officially in exile, returned to Rome a changed man. He stopped drinking, and kicked his 60-a-day cigarette habit. He became the unofficial spokesman for the Palestinian resistance in Italy, cultivating contacts with journalists, politicians and intellectuals.

He helped publish an Italian edition of the Palestinian newspaper Al-Fatah and set up a committee of intellectuals to promote the Palestinian cause. He brought Arabic books about Arab culture back from Beirut, setting up a library in the apartment below Venn-Brown's, a few streets back from the Vatican.

"He wanted to give Palestinian students some of their old culture," Venn-Brown said. "They arrived here at the age of 17 or 18 on scholarships, obviously very clever, and could easily be led astray. He was afraid of their becoming terrorists."

In July 1972, the Palestinian novelist Ghassan Kanafani - cultural director of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - was blown up in a car-bomb in Beirut. Zwaiter panicked. Two days before Venn-Brown was due to leave for Sydney to open an exhibition of paintings, he insisted they dismantle the library.

"I made a mistake in having it in a residential building," he told her. He later confided to a friend that he was terrified of being killed.

Venn-Brown, not comprehending the threat, flew off to Australia.

"I wasn't at all concerned," she said yesterday. "But I was terribly upset on the announcement (of the Munich massacre). I was in the gallery in Sydney, drinking champagne and trying to be happy, but thinking about Wael and how upset he'd be. I couldn't ring him because his phone had been cut off. I couldn't wait to get back to Rome."

Venn-Brown was worried when Zwaiter failed to greet her at the airport, but he dropped by her apartment later to tell her he was leaving. He soon changed his mind, after Golda Meir, Israel's prime minister at the time, swore to hunt down those responsible for the Munich massacre to "all corners of the earth".

"There was no point in him going into hiding," Venn-Brown said. To her surprise, he called her from work one day with a marriage proposal: the Libyan embassy had offered to help cut through the paperwork so the two foreigners could marry in Italy.

A few days before his death, Zwaiter sat out on the terrace of his girlfriend's apartment to soak up the view of St Peter's basilica. Oddly, he crept back inside, slowly, closing the doors behind him very carefully. "I've changed my mind," he told Venn-Brown, who was becoming increasingly baffled by his behaviour.

"The police told me later the assassins had been staying at the hotel opposite," she said yesterday. "He obviously saw them looking in here."

The day of his death, on October 16, 1972, a doctor had told Zwaiter he would live to be 100. The couple joked about it, and Venn-Brown popped out to buy dinner. She found him curled on the couch, chuckling as he read the Thousand and One Nights.

"Now I'm going home," he told her, "to write an article to illustrate through Thousand and One Nights that in our culture, there's no animosity towards the Jews."

"Of course, he never reached home," Venn-Brown said yesterday. "That copy of Thousand and One Nights has a bullet-hole in it."

Lurking in the shadows, Mossad agents shot the 38-year-old man, unarmed and unguarded, 12 times in the head and chest as he pressed the call-button on his lift.

"He was a martyr to his cause," Venn-Brown said. "It had nothing to do with Munich. That was the excuse they made to justify his elimination. The Israelis had been putting it around that he was a terrorist but they knew from the beginning he had nothing to with it.

"Sometimes I even think the Israelis engineered Munich."

At Zwaiter's funeral at the Libyan embassy in Rome, the PLO's representative in France, Mahmoud Hamshiri, told her Zwaiter had been at the top of Mossad's hit-list, and that he was on it too. He was blown apart two months later.

Heartbroken and angry, Venn-Brown edited a book, For a Palestinian, as a tribute to Wael Zwaiter in 1979, and convinced Yasser Arafat to write the foreword.

Zwaiter was buried in Damascus, so his mother could visit his grave. As his slaughter became a cause celebre among Arab nations, Venn-Brown began visiting the Middle East to paint its streetscapes. She consoled his grieving mother in Nablus, and exhibited her paintings in Iraq in 1978, and in Jordan in 1986.

Now that she is facing old age alone, Venn-Brown is contemplating returning to Sydney to be near her siblings and their children.

Last September the Australian ambassador to Rome, Peter Woolcott, and the president of the province of Rome, Enrico Gasbarra, inaugurated an exhibition of her intricate still-life paintings of Roman living rooms.

Posted by: alessandra arrigoni | January 31, 2006 05:36 PM


sorry, i realised just now that there's still the italian version...

Posted by: jenna tavano | January 2, 2006 05:18 AM


dear beppe,

i'm sure you decided to translate your whole blog in english for many good reasons, but don't you think that it was also important for many italians ( who probably don't speak any english) to read it?

Posted by: jenna tavano | January 1, 2006 10:33 PM


My sincere wish for the Italian "premier's" New Year is that he, too, may spend a "ponte" (long weekend) under a viaduct, thus contributing to a socially useful waste-recycling initiative. Great article.

Posted by: Maureen Lister | January 1, 2006 04:52 PM


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