TRIBUTES TO VITTORIO ARRIGONI FROM THOSE WHO KNEW HIM BEST

From Jared Malsin

Brave, big-hearted Vittorio Arrigoni is dead

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:

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Bello Ciao- The Vic I Know

Bello Chio- the Vic i know -1975-2011

With deep sadness in my heart I write. I am sad and shocked that Vik has been taken from our world so soon and so tragically. I am appalled that such ignorant brutality and violence still exists in Palestinian society.

 

Vik you were dedicated, full of humanity, and fun. Your love for life, music and laughter meant that your presence always created a nice atmosphere, for our youth and children in different occasions. You shared our lives in Gaza for more than 2 years, you danced Dabbka , you would always reach out and shake hands with little boys and girls in the streets, you would play football with them. You were there in our funerals as well as our weddings. and more than that your daily protesting as member of the ISM alongside with Palestinians, on the borders against the buffer zone that was created by Israel, where Farmers were unable reach their land.
 

Viktor you were always there with the ISM and Palestinian people, in peaceful protests against the occupation. Calling for justice, peace and a free Palestine,
I have known Viktor for more than 2 years. When he arrived to Gaza with the free Gaza movement Boats in August 2008, and since has stayed in Gaza during the siege and the ongoing different atrocities by the Israeli occupation. He was a radical real revolutionist comrade, on another occasion we met at al Aqsa hospital in the middle camps when Bianca, a member of the ISM, was shot by the Israelis in another peaceful protest against the buffer zone, he was so angry and showed his anger in a very open way. An angry young man, with smiling, beautiful, and peaceful eyes.
 

In my apartment in Gaza city, we had a light dinner with friends, and he was so happy and sang the nice famous Italian song Bella Ciao he translated it ,I felt empowered and inspired by him. We all sang it together.
 

Vik (VITTORI ) made thousands of children, youth and men happy , able to continue and steadfast against the occupation and siege , he will always be remembered by us in Palestine , he had a good time with us in Gaza, he was always smiling and happy, and above all worked according to his beliefs.
 

As a mother I am at loss for words. My thoughts and prayers go to his family.
My comrade, friend, and brother you will always be in my heart.

From Gaza with love
Mona Elfarra

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From The Electronic Intifada
Vittorio Arrigoni, “hero of Palestine”

Palestinians and international solidarity activists around the world are collectively mourning the shocking death of Vittorio Arrigoni, an Italian journalist and solidarity activist. Arrigoni was also an occasional contributor to The Electronic Intifada (see “Gaza’s record-breaking children,” 16 August 2010 and “No words to console Gaza child after mother is killed by Israeli shelling,” 26 July 2010).Arrigoni, 36, was found dead early this morning in Gaza City, hours after a video of him blindfolded and apparently beaten had surfaced on the Internet. In the video, his captors threaten to execute Arrigoni unless the Hamas government in Gaza released the little-known group’s imprisoned leader.Arrigoni was the first foreign national known to be kidnapped in Gaza since Hamas began administering the territory four years ago. Previously, there had been a number of kidnappings of journalists, international aid workers and other visitors to Gaza, all eventually released.

BBC reporter Alan Johnston was the most high-profile and longest-held captive, held for 114 days by the Dughmush clan, which some observers say have operated opportunistically and criminally under the guise of Islamic piety.While the identities of Arrigoni’s kidnappers and those responsible for his death and the reasons why they killed him are murky, Arrigoni himself was well-known and admired by those with whom he worked in solidarity with the Palestinian people. He first arrived to Palestine in 2002, his mother, Egidia Beretta, told the Italian news agency ANSA (“Hamas says it found body of Italian activist,” The New York Times, 15 April 2011).Arrigoni was involved with the International Solidarity Movement, and had last entered Gaza in 2009 during one of the efforts to break the siege on Gaza by boat. Arrigoni was among a handful of international activists present during Israel’s winter 2008-09 attacks on the Gaza Strip, volunteering with the Palestine Red Crescent Society’s emergency medical worker teams, despite the very dangerous conditions they faced. He was frequently interviewed by Italian media during the three weeks of bombardment, as Israel had banned journalists from entering the Gaza Strip. His daily dispatches during those three weeks, during which 1,400 Palestinians were killed, the vast majority civilians, were published in 2010 in a book titled Gaza: Stay Human, translated into English by Daniela Filippin and with an introduction by Israeli historian and dissident Ilan Pappe.

Arrigoni had been injured and arrested several times by the Israeli military. According to the International Solidarity Movement, Arrigoni was injured when the Israeli navy fired a water cannon at Palestinian fishing boats off the coast of Gaza. Palestinian fishermen have been repeatedly attacked — and sometimes killed — as Israel has imposed tight restrictions on how far out to sea Palestinians are allowed to fish (“ISM Rafah: Italian activist injured by Israeli navy off Gaza coast,” 16 September 2008).A month later,

Arrigoni was kidnapped along with 15 Palestinian fishermen and three accompanying international activists, from Palestinian waters. According to an International Solidarity Movement activist writing on her blog, “At the time of his abduction, he was electrically shocked while peacefully avoiding abduction by diving into Gaza’s cold waters” (“Vik: a friend, a brother, a humanist,” 15 April 2011).Arrigoni, known as “Vik” by many, was also a familiar face in the refugee camps in Lebanon. He was one of a trickle of international solidarity activists who volunteered in Nahr al-Bared camp in northern Lebanon, which was destroyed during and after fighting between the Lebanese army and a fundamentalist group in 2007.

Arrigoni was long involved in human rights issues. The deputy mayor of Bulciago, Arrigoni’s hometown north of Milan, said that the activist “had worked in Eastern Europe and Africa before embracing the Palestinian cause” (“Hamas says it found body of Italian activist,” The New York Times, 15 April 2011).The murder of Arrigoni comes just days after the assassination of Palestinian cultural figure Juliano Mer-Khamis, who was murdered by an unknown assailant outside of the Jenin Freedom Theatre, which he helped re-establish in the occupied West Bank refugee camp. Mer-Khamis’ killing, like that of Arrigoni, sent waves of shock throughout the Palestinian and solidarity communities.Palestinian factions including the Hamas government in Gaza, Fatah, Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian People’s Party and the Popular Resistance Committees, all condemned the kidnapping and murder of Arrigoni (“Palestinian factions denounce murder of Italian activist,” Ma’an News Agency, 15 April 2011).Arrigoni’s death also comes after a week of Israeli military attacks on the Gaza Strip, which claimed the lives of nearly twenty Palestinians.In a press release distributed by the International Solidarity Movement and the Free Gaza Movement, before it was learned that Arrigoni had been killed, Khalil Shaheen — a friend of Arrigoni with the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights — said “Vittorio Arrigoni is a hero of Palestine” (“Palestinians call for release of Italian activist kidnapped in Gaza,” 14 April 2011).Vigils and gatherings to mourn Arrigoni were ongoing in Gaza City, and in the occupied West Bank cities of Bethlehem and Ramallah at the time of publication. Similar actions were being organized in London and other international cities.


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From The Palestine Center For Human Rights
With Great Shock and Sorrow, PCHR Condemns Murder of Italian Activist, Vittorio Arrigoni      

 

With great shock and sorrow, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns the murder of Italian activist, Vittorio Arrigoni. On Friday morning, 15 April 2011, Vittorio’s body was found in an abandoned house in the north of the Gaza Strip, following his murder at the hands of kidnappers.

 

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), and its entire staff, gravely condemns this crime, which targets our inherent human dignity, and the values and traditions of the lawful struggle for freedom and justice. It is this human struggle which connects Gazan’s – locked behind the closed door of the Gaza Strip – with the outside world, and inspires countless individuals to stand as human rights defenders. 

 

PCHR calls upon the government in Gaza to prosecute the perpetrators. Furthermore, all necessary measures must be taken to secure the safety of international activists in the Gaza Strip.

 

According to investigations conducted by PCHR, on Thursday evening, 14 April 2011, a group named “Group of the Companion Mohammed Bin Maslamah” announced the kidnapping of the Italian journalist, Vittorio Arrigoni, 36, a prominent member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and a human rights defender. In a video posted on the Youtube website, the group demanded the release of detained members of the group, affiliates of the so-called “Salafist Jihadist Group”. The kidnappers threatened to kill Arrigoni if the government in Gaza did not meet their demands within 30 hours. 

 

In a grave development, contrary to fundamental values shared by all Palestinians, the group carried out their threat. On Friday morning, 15 April 2011, security services found the body of Arrigoni in a house located in the ‘Amer project area, west of al-Karamah building in the west of Jabalia, north of the Gaza Strip. In his testimony, a PCHR staff-member reported signs of beating on the victim’s face, signs of handcuffs on his hands, and signs of strangulation around his neck.

The Ministry of Interior in Gaza issued a press release on Friday, condemning this heinous crime. It declared the arrest of two members of the group and the continued search for others. 

 

Arrigoni had worked in Gaza since 2008, when he arrived on board the “Free Gaza” flotilla, organized to break the closure imposed on the Gaza Strip. He devoted himself to the defense of Palestinians’ rights, and participated in a number of activities against the closure, against violations committed by Israeli Forces against Palestinian civilians, particularly fishermen, and against the Israeli decision to impose a ‘buffer zone’ in the Gaza Strip.  He was arrested by Israel forces on18 November 2008, while he was accompanying a number of fishermen off the shores of Deir al-Balah, central Gaza Strip. However, he returned to Gaza a few months later via Rafah International Crossing. Arrigoni was also in the West Bank for a few years before coming to Gaza. He has been known for his activity with the International Solidarity Movement.

 

PCHR reiterates its condemnation of this heinous crime, and:

1. Calls upon the government in Gaza to conduct an effective and prompt investigation to identify the circumstances of the crime, prosecute the perpetrators, and publish the investigations’ results;

  1. 2.  Appreciates the role played by the International Solidarity Movement and other human rights defenders in the occupied Palestinian territory;

3. Calls upon the international community, political powers and Palestinian people to condemn this crime and organize peaceful activities against it.

2 Comments

  1. April 21, 2011 at 16:33

    […] Tributes to Vittorio Arrigoni From Those Who Knew Him Best (desertpeace.wordpress.com) […]

  2. April 21, 2011 at 17:10

    […] Tributes to Vittorio Arrigoni From Those Who Knew Him Best (desertpeace.wordpress.com) […]


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