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ISM volunteer Vittorio Arrigoni killed in Gaza

by Jared Malsin

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.

Vittorio Arrigoni, journalist and activist killed in Gaza (photo: ISM)

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 martyrs unspoken in the corporate media, celebrating Palestine’s 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:


Jared Malsin is an American journalist and former chief editor of the English section of Ma’an News Agency. This piece originally appeared on Jared’s blog, and is re-posted here with the author’s permission.

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    1. pura

      Vittorio, we’ll fight for you.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Sad

      as a palestinian i am sad and ashamed of what has happened.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Another bright light snuffed out.

      It’s a sad state of affairs when Hamas looks comparatively liberal.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Leonid Levin

      What purpose does it serve to kill someone like Vittorio? It makes no sense. May he rest in peace.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Yes, Jared, we say RIP and mention “tragedy” – But what about demanding that Hamas reconcile with Fatah, and demand that Hamas talk with the Israeli government. Unless we courageously confront Palestinian power as well as Israeli power, what will change?

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    6. Ben Israel

      These two recent murders reflect tensions within the “Red-Green-Brown” alliance against Israel (Marxist/Communists [the Reds], Purificationists-Radical Muslims [the Greens,-Neo-Fascist-Neo-Nazi[the Browns]). While it is true they may all agree on their anti-Israel program, there are great internal differences between them. Some of the Reds and Greens may view the ultimate goal of the struggle against Israel and Zionism as leading to the Palestinians, and indeed the whole Middle East becoming some version of Swedish Social Democrats, whereas the Muslim Greens may oppose Palestinian nationalism and view the ultimate goal of the struggle to be a pan-Islamic Salafist Caliphate, and the Browns hoping for the creation of a secular anti-American bloc in the Middle East opposing American capitalist-globalist tendencies.
      Quite a complex situation and it is hard sometimes to tell the players without a scorecard. We can expect these tensions to continue and increase with the Middle East in turmoil and with the situation being unclear which tendies will come to dominate the region, which of course, will help define the nature of the ongoing struggle against Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Harvey Stein

      Ben Israel – interesting imagery – but you forget one thing: the role of Israel in all this. As someone said, “Hamas are the best Likud voters”. Nothing in the world – ESP conflict regions – is black and white. Everything here is interdependent (although Netanyahu, etc, are blind to that). One example: if Israeli government speaks with Hamas, in some sense recognizing them as legitimate rulers of Gaza, it will simplify all your color-coded factionalism. But of course, that goes against the basic Israeli tenet necessary for eternal war: No Partners….

      Reply to Comment
    8. This comment has been removed due to offensive language.

      Reply to Comment
    9. This comment has been removed due to offensive language

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    10. David

      The revolution eats it’s children. Noteworthy how the international left never learnt any history and 22 years after the fall of the Wall we still meet people who “believe”. All of the Palestinian islamists and before them the communist reared leftist Palestinian factions romanticized and instrumentalized the “white” left.

      Ben Israel is spot on. The death of this man does not surprise me. What surprises me is that not more have been killed. Most of the readers here will not remember the brutalization of Westerners in Lebanon during the eighties. Look it up. It was a clear program to murder and kidnapp Westerners. Hamas’s bed fellows Hezbollah were famous for murdering and kidnapping the innocent.

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    11. directrob

      David and Ben, it is sad to see the murder of Vittorio Arrigoni be used for a a rant against people showing solidarity with the victims of occupation.
      Most people supporting the Palestinians do it to support people wanting to live a normal life and to defend their universal human rights. It has nothing to do with complicated political schemes.

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    12. David

      It is always more complicated . That is the problem on these threads, this Italians mission and the conflict in particular. If life were that simple, only.
      History is full of stories that begun with people “wanting to live a normal life and to defend their universal human rights”. You should either get into copy writing, or reread the last 150 years of human conflict. Stay away from Pilger and other fantacists.
      By not asking why this man was murdered, like so many before him, you miss out on the biggest debate the left is not having. Ami, a 972 pundit started a thread on this, but it kinda died……..Laters!

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    13. RichardNYC

      Like any ’cause du jour’, the “Palestinian” cause has become an end in itself for intellectually mediocre western tourist “activists.” Why serve coffee in San Francisco when you can be a freedom fighter in Palestine? Like Mer-Khamis’s death, this incident shows who they’re really fighting for. And let’s not pretend that hostage taking and mafia tactics are below Hamas.

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    14. Stella

      The struggle, boiled down, is not Palestinian vs Israeli, but conservative vs liberal. Palestinian liberals can get along with Israeli liberals, but conservatives can get along with neither the liberals nor the conservatives on the other side. I am over-generalizing, but this generalization is certainly closer to the truth than the claim that because Vittorio stood up for oppressed Palestinians against bully Israel he was somehow chummy with Hamas, and ergo deserved what he got. Hamas and Netanyahu would be husband and wife if only they were were born in the same religion. Vittorio disagreed with the nonsense of both. He died a martyr-like death at the hands of one of his enemies, standing up for what he believes.

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    15. Stella

      And let’s not call these activists intellectually mediocre. Emily Henochowiczand Rachel Corrie are anything but intellectually mediocre. Intellectually mediocre are the people who prefer to be waitresses in San Francisco and Tel Aviv and Ramallah when the whole world around them is erupting. Intellectually mediocre are people who stand by while an impending world war picks up momentum. Remember that peace is nothing but the interval between two wars; peace should not be taken lightly and activists are people who really understand that. The rest of us rubbish them, but we are really the ones wearing blinkers.

      Reply to Comment
    16. directrob

      Yes David it is always more complicated but the fact is that someone who cared for the people in Gaza died and that is sad. I do not know what debate I am missing, I think I do not care. It does not return the dead.
      Richard NYC, Your are confusing the few with the millions. The death of Juliano Mer-Khami and Vittorio Arrigoni death does not make their cause less worthy or the suffering of the Palestinians less important. If so what to think of Israel after Yigal Amir’s deed.

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    17. David

      George Galloway, Lauren Booth and Mr. Vittorio all hold Palestinian passports issued by Hamas, The NYT has a photo of this guy hugging Haniya
      Vittorio had in coming, he was in too deep. Nothing like a peace activist who did not learn the lessons of the Spanish Civil war, with the Soviets cleansing the ranks to replace them with people of their own. You’d think he’d know this , with his dad being a resistance hero and all. Love the NYT photo, he looks like the young Berlusconi crooning in the arms of Hamas.
      If you sit too close to the fire, you get burnt.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Waleed

      Itamar murder , Juliano , Vittorio on one hand and the revolutions in the ME , an independent Palestinian state on the other ….who is interested in damaging the international support ? Why Vittorio ? why not any unknown foreigner?

      Reply to Comment
    19. Kai

      He was a member of ISM, and was no pacifist or peace activist. I agree with David, though it’s sad to see someone die, he was a pro-Hamas extremist and had it coming. no sympathy from me.

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    20. directrob

      David, So you use the death of people fighting the fascism of Hitler and Franco to discredit Vittorio and to warn international activist not to go to Gaza and the West Bank…
      You could at least have read the NYT article and avoided a mistake:
      “My maternal grandparents fought and died against the occupation, another occupation, the Nazi occupation of Italy,”

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    21. David

      Precisely because people wear the plucked anti-fascist feathers of true resistance fighters against European fascists, they need to watch the comparisons in Aza. To soil the memory of the Italian partisans by comparing them to these “activists” shows a certain egocentricity.
      When you are photographed hugging and beaming at Haniya all bets are off.
      Regarding my Spain comment. It matters not what left wing cabal you are following. Fact is that nearly every major far left movement at some stage got around to some internal cleansing ( colonic irrigation ) Spain, Tito, Stalin, Iran, Egypt yada yada yada.
      When you get into bed with political freaks you may become obsolete rather rapidly. But the lack of a critical historical understanding of past extreme movements may well cost you your head. Sadly most far leftists live in echo chambers ( 972 ) and so deaths are to be expected. The internal shenanigans of the Palestinians, going back well into the early 70s probably into the 20s are pock marked with falling outs and fractricide. It’s a tribal thing.

      Reply to Comment
    22. Eddie

      How utterly ironic is this guy’s death? No one is talking about it because you’re all so blind. A faction of the very people he came to help murdered him. It just shows the utter barbarity and indifference to human life that is at the center of Palestinian terrorism. He would not have been murdered in Israel, the country he most hated. Instead of recognizing a fellow kindred spirit in Arrigoni, the terrorist dummies go ahead and murder him. So stupid! And Arrigoni, I’m afraid, has only himself to blame. Who in their right mind would go live in Gaza? The people there are indifferent to human life and can’t even recognize friend from foe. They are so consumed with hatred and fixated with jealousy for Israel that they cannot do anything to advance their own affairs and economy, nor to ever take responsibility for their own actions. Trust me, too many people will boomarang this and use it to soomehow blame Israel. That’s the screwed up reality of Hamas and the Palestinian movement. Arrigoni thought he was doing something noble when all he did was give himself up as a meaningless sacrifice to people who can’t even recognize friend from foe.

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    23. Borg

      I think he won a Darwin Award

      Reply to Comment
    24. Stefania

      Thank you for this. I’m italian, i red Vittorio’s blog and i’m very very sad, i can’t explane what i fell ’cause my horrible english. This word is not a place for good people. An hug, Stefania.

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    25. directrob

      Stefania, your post is very clear and moving. This part of the blog could do with more posts like yours.

      Reply to Comment
    26. Norman Harding

      I met Vittorio in Gaza. He died as a hero and a humanist. His deeds will be an inspiration for generations to come. While he loved the Palestinian people, he told me he strongly hated the Israelis, particularly the settlers. He hoped that one day the “state” of Israel would be destroyed by the Arabs.

      Rest in peace my friend Vittorio. You will never be forgotten.

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    27. Ben Israel

      How did Vittorio qualify for the title of “peace activist” and “humanist” if he hated Israel, wanted to see it destroyed and wanted us all killed if necessary? I thought “peace activists” wanted to bring people together peacefully in compromise with one another? This is similar to the case of Rachel Corrie who also was called a “peace activist”. I never understood this when I saw the photo of her with a crazed look on her face burning an American flag with a bunch of Palesinian kids looking on in excitement. Is an action like that supposed to make the Palestinian kids want to live in peace with America and Israel?
      It seems, Norman, that you guys have Owellianized the terms “peace activist” and “humanists” in the sense that those terms now represent warmongers and haters. The “Revolution” ends up destroying its own.

      Reply to Comment
    28. directrob

      Ben, A non violent activist like Gandhi did want the English out of India, he did not compromise about that. The Palestinians also want the Israeli army out of Gaza and the West Bank (or want a “one state”). The same is true for the peace activists. The end goal is a just lasting peace, not a compromise about peace or about lasting.

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    29. Norman Harding

      To Ben Israel: Most pro-Palestinian peace activists from America and Europe hate Israelis with a vengeance. They consider Israeli settlers lower than excrement.I once spoke to Jonathan Cook, a non-Jew from Britain, who writes for Counterpunch.com. Although he lives in Israel, because he is married to an Israeli Palestinian, his wish is that Israel’s Palestinians and Arab countries will together wipe Israel off the map.

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    30. Ben Israel

      As one of the six million people Cook and Vitorrio want to see wiped out (and we are not just going to pack up and leave simply because they and their Palestinian friends want to see us go) how am I supposed to view them as “peace activists” and “humanitarians”? They sound like blood thirsty antisemites to me.

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    31. Norman Harding

      To Ben Israel: When I met Vittorio in Gaza, he discussed his hatred of Zionism. As a student of history, notably the fascist takeovers of Spain in 1930s and Italy in 1920s and their downfalls, he understood that the illegitimate Zionist state must be destroyed. He hoped that the 1.5 million Palestinians in Israel would rise up in an armed rebellion against the 5 million Zionists in Israel and free the Galilee and other areas from the Zionist occupation.

      Reply to Comment
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