Richard Silverstein, 14 Apr 2011
[See also Jared Malsin, Brave, big-hearted Vittorio Arrigoni is dead]
“A man does what he has to do, whatever the personal consequences, whatever the obstacles, the dangers or the pressure. This is the basis of all human morality“. (Giovanni Falcone)*
I don’t know how to write this post. There are some things about this conflict that make no sense. There are some things about this conflict that are just plain evil. Today, Hamas security forces found the body of Vittorio Arrigoni, an International Solidarity Movement activist, in an abandoned house in Gaza. He’d been kidnapped by a Salafist group, whose leader had been arrested by Hamas last month. The kidnappers said Vittorio would be killed if their leaders wasn’t released, and by God, they were true to their word.
Vittorio arrived in Gaza in 2008 aboard a boat bringing humanitarian supplies and attempting to break Israel’s Gaza blockade. He was utterly dedicated to the cause of Palestinian freedom.
Does it make sense to kill a family of five in Itamar, including babies? Does it make any sense to kill an Italian pacifist who devoted his life to the Palestinian cause? Does it make any sense to kill a gifted Israeli-Palestinian theater director dedicated to using culture to fight for Palestine? What kind of world do these killers want? Do they want to eat their own young like some wild animals? Do they want to return the human race to darkness?
Vittorio’s killers, what can one say about them? Let these odious people speak for themselves and let the world judge for itself regarding what they represent:
“The Italian hostage entered our land only to spread corruption.” It described Italy as “the infidel state.”
What do these people want? That Palestinians should eat locusts and live in caves? Would that satisfy them? Do they think anyone will care for the Palestine they envision? Or Muslim Caliphate or whatever? They are beasts. I don’t know which emotion I should give freer reign: rage or sorrow.
Of course, the Israeli far-right will be dancing the hora with this news. It will be plastered in big headlines across Rotter, Debka Files and the like, not to mention the nutcase blogs we all know. This will confirm every prejudice they hold, reinforce every fear every Israeli might have. It doesn’t matter that the Salafists are a tiny group within Gaza. It doesn’t matter that Hamas has waged implacable battle against them before and killed many of their members. In situations like this people don’t look for nuance. They see blood and blood speaks louder than words or thought.
* Thanks to Lawrence of Cyberia for quoting this “Thought of the Day” at Vittorio’s blog, Guerilla Radio. May this quotation stand as a testament for the thoughtfulness, love and valor of international peace activists like Vittorio Arrigoni (Alav ha-shalom). They cannot kill peace, they cannot kill love. They can kill a man, but they cannot kill what he believes especially if others follow in his path.
I cannot ever remember crying while I wrote a post. I am close to doing so now.
On the Middle East
Vittorio Arrigoni, an Italian Palestine solidarity activist and journalist, was killed this evening after being kidnapped hours earlier by a little-known fringe Salafi group in Gaza. It was the first kidnapping of an international in Gaza in the nearly four years since Hamas took control.
I met Vittorio several times when I was in Gaza last year. I first met him when I accompanied him and several other activists to visit Palestinian families who had been injured in a series of Israeli airstrikes in the mid-Gaza area. He was a burley, bearded man, dressed in black and smiling wide. Talking politics the whole way, we shared the front seat of a van on the ride from Gaza City down to Deir Al-Balah. He had a tattoo of the word “resistance” (“muqawama”) in Arabic on the inside of his right arm.
He was a man who lived and died to express his solidarity with Palestinians. He was big-hearted and he was brave, twice participating in blockade-defying sea voyages to Gaza, three times jailed by Israel for his activism.
He embodied a certain spirit of the European anti-fascists of the 1930s and ’40s, who went to fight and die as partisans in Italy and Spain. “I come from a partisan family,” he once told an interviewer. “My grandfathers fought and died struggling against an occupation, another occupation. It was the Nazi-Fascist one. For this reason, probably, in my DNA, there are particles that push me to struggle.”
His murder is an outrage and an enormous tragedy.
Those who knew him better than I will write better tributes. I’ll quote now from In Gaza, a blog written by Eva, one of Vittorio’s ISM colleagues:
Stay human, he always said. And so was the title of his book on the Israeli massacre of Gaza in 2008-2009. Stay human.
Viks blog, Guerilla Radio, gave voice to Palestinians who have strong voices but are denied the microphone.
During the Israeli war on Gaza, we all worked together, riding in ambulances, documenting the martyred and the wounded, the vast majority (over 83%) civilian. Vik was always on the phone, Italian media taking his words and printing them for the public to see.
Aside from the loss of a compassionate, caring human, activist, and friend, I am saddened by the group that did this. Surely they knew Vik was with them, for them. But in every society, including my own, there are extremists, people who act with misguided guidance.
Vik was there, among the war casualties, among the on-going martytrs unspoken in the corporate media, celebrating Palestines beauty and culture, dancing Dabke at my wedding celebration.
He was there to joke with us, to counsel us, to smoke shisha by the sea…He wrote the truth, spoke the truth, stayed human.
Vik, my brother, allah yerhamek, bless you for your humanity and your great contribution to Palestinian justice. I will miss you, your smile, your humble, fun personality.
Yatikalafia ya Vitorrio.
And here, via ISM, is the video from which I quote above: