Gianni Vattimo, known to Arab intellectuals through his books, notably “The End of Modernity,” was not only a left-wing Italian thinker but also a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause. He did not remain silent in the face of the war crimes committed during the Israeli aggressions against Gaza.
One of the most renowned Italian philosophers and a leading advocate of “hermeneutic philosophy,” also known as “philosophical hermeneutics” on a global scale, Vattimo was a prominent figure in the post-modernist anti-colonial movement for liberation.
Born in 1946 in Turin, Italy, Vattimo studied existential philosophy at the University of Turin. He became an assistant professor in 1964 and later a professor of ethics in 1969 at the same university. In 1982, he became a professor of theoretical philosophy and also served as a visiting professor at several American universities.
Vattimo joined the Italian Communist Party and was elected as a member of the European Parliament in 1999, serving a second term from 2009 to 2014.
He gained recognition in Palestine and the Arab world for his political commentary and writings critiquing the Zionist ideology. He was a strong advocate for the rights of the Palestinian people, as evident in his book “Deconstructing Zionism: Critique of Political Metaphysics.” Palestinian organizations, regardless of their diverse orientations and methods of struggle, considered him a “legit voice for the Palestinian people.” This was apparent in a joint statement he signed with fellow intellectuals, including his friend and comrade Umberto Eco in 2009, calling on the European Union to remove Hamas from the “list of terrorist organizations” and recognize it as a legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
His famous statement expressing his desire to “shoot those Zionist scoundrels,” as he put it, during the 2014 Israeli war on Gaza sparked mixed reactions. He stated, “If it were up to me, I would call for a global campaign to purchase weapons for the Palestinians to stop the Israelis who are committing mass killings.” He added, “Israel is slightly worse than the Nazis,” as he described it.
These stances led Hamas to mourn his passing, affirming that “he and our Palestinian people have lost a man who long defended the rights of the Palestinian people and their right to resist occupation and its crimes,” according to a statement issued by Hamas.
Hamas, the Islamic movement that rules Gaza, praised Vattimo’s positions that defended it before the European Union and his publicly declared stances against Israeli assaults on Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied territories.
Due to his critical stances against the occupying state of Israel, his support for the national and human rights of the Palestinian people, Vattimo faced accusations of “anti-Semitism,” a label often used to intimidate those who criticize the occupation’s crimes in Palestine.
If it were up to me, I would call for a global campaign to purchase weapons for the Palestinians to defend themselves.
Vattimo contributed 19 books to the philosophical, intellectual, literary, and political discourse. His writings were translated into many languages, including Arabic. He had an early interest in German philosophy when he received a two-year scholarship at Heidelberg, the oldest university in Germany, where he studied Hegelian philosophy. He authored books such as “The Adventure of Difference: Philosophy After Nietzsche and Heidegger” and “Nietzsche: Philosophy as Cultural Critique.”
In 2013, he authored the book “Deconstructing Zionism: Critique of Political Metaphysics” as part of the Contemporary Political Theory and Philosophy series, providing a political and philosophical critique of Zionism.
Prominent global thinkers contributed to the book, dismantling the metaphysical and mythical political narratives that form the framework of “Israel’s” existence.
The book argues that while other nationalisms have adapted to the realities of the 21st century and changing concepts of state and nation, Zionism has largely remained confined to the 19th-century mindset, including the exaltation of the state as the sole means of expressing the spirit of the people.
The book offers a multifaceted critique of the theological and political foundations of the Zionist project and its economic, geopolitical, and cultural consequences. It makes a significant contribution to discussions surrounding the occupation state today.
He was a member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts and the Turin Academy of Sciences. Vattimo received several awards, including the Gold Medal of the Fine Arts Circle, the Hannah Arendt Award, the Max Planck Research Award, an honorary doctorate from the University of Buenos Aires, and an honorary doctorate from the National University of San Marcos.
Vattimo did not hesitate to disclose his national and religious identity, identifying as a non-believing Catholic and a democratic socialist. He called for greater tolerance and love within Catholicism, especially regarding the rights of minorities, immigrants, and LGBTQ+ individuals.
He passed away last September in Rivoli, northern Italy, in the Piedmont region where he was born, at the age of 87, after suffering from Parkinson’s disease and a severe decline in health.
Gianni Vattimo was a vocal opponent of injustice and marginalization, a philosopher of the oppressed and marginalized. He enjoyed widespread popularity among students and in cultural and artistic circles.
Vattimo’s passing was a loss to the cultural community in Europe and the world, with his only consolation being that his students and disciples continue his philosophical legacy to defy suffering and colonialism in Palestine and around the world.