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Palestine: Remembering Murdered Italian Activist Vittorio Arrigoni

Long before the deadline set by his captors arrived, kidnapped Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni was killed, apparently hanged. Bloggers in Gaza and elsewhere have reacted with disbelief, anger and sorrow.

Vittorio arrigoni by carlos latuff

Vittorio Arrigoni by Carlos Latuff (@CarlosLatuff)

Arrigoni, an activist with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in Gaza, was planning on visiting Italy soon because of his father's health [it].

Jared Malsin, who had met Arrigoni, writes:

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.

Mohammed Rabah Suliman was friends with Arrigoni:

“Ween?” (the Arabic for “where”) was the first thing Vittorio ever asked me. He was looking for my phone number and sent me a FB message titled, “ween”. Today I ask him the same question: “ween?”

I can’t think of one reason that would make a “Palestinian” kill someone like Vittorio. A man who dedicated his life to fight injustice. A man who abandoned the luxury of Rome and came to one of the most turbulent regions in the world in order to expose Israeli atrocities committed against Palestinians. A man on whose right arm was big brilliant tattoo: resistance. A hero in whose eyes there was a whole lot of unmistakable meanings of profound love, loyalty, hope, sacrifice, truth and courage. Vittorio has done for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank more than those who killed him.

[…] Vittorio is a man who loved Gaza, he loved Gaza’s land, its sea, and its sky. Two things Vittorio obviously loved to do: to wave the Palestinian flag, and to sing “Onadikum” (I call upon you!). Wholeheartedly, Vittorio sang, “Onadikum” time and again. He poured his heart out as he sang it. It’s probably the only thing he could say so fluently in Arabic.

Now that you moved to live in our hearts, we’ll become stronger and fiercer in the battle against occupation, humiliation and injustice. Vittorio. Such an inspiration to all of us. You taught us that life isn’t worth living if one isn’t ready to fight against its injustice, and that’s what gives it a meaning, that’s what makes it all beautiful. Now, empowered by your “memory”, we’ll carry on the fight together.

Nazek Aburahma also remembers him, and she writes [ar]:

لا أعلم بصدق كيف أسطر ما أريده ، صباح يلتف بالدموع والاستياء ، استيقظت على خبر مقتل أحد المتضامنين الأجانب في مدينة غزة ، عرفته عن قرب باسم “فكتور ” في كل مرة كنت أراه فيه كنت ألاحظ شعلة الحب لفلسطين في عيونه والعلم الفلسطيني كان وشاحا ورفيقا لكل خطوة يحركها على تراب الأرض المحتلة ..
[…] ” فيكتور ” كان متحمسا وكان يلوح بيديه بعلامة النصر دائما ، والآن نلوح ورود الوداع على جثمانه ، ودموع العزاء لن تجف على جسده ، سيبقى حيا في ذهن كل حر كل فلسطيني كل انسان يتناصف أنفاس الحرية مع الآخر ، قتل “فكتور ” لكننا لن نغفر لمن قتلوه وستبقى دمائه معلقه في زاوية الآثام يتيمة حتى يعاقب من اقترف تلك الجريمة !..
لن ننساك ، ولن أنساك أبدا وستبقى فلسطين كهفا يلجأ اليه الأحرار على ترابها وان شطرت عروقنا عليها ، فحامل الرسالة اي كانت جنسيته ، ديانته يبقى مخلدا في التاريخ روحه وجسده لا يموتان ، رحمك الله يا صديق القضية والانسانية

I truly don’t know how to write what I want. A morning swathed in tears and dismay: I awoke to the news of the murder of one of the foreign solidarity activists in Gaza City. I knew him as “Victor”; with every encounter, I noticed in him the flame of love for Palestine in his eyes, and the Palestinian flag as his companion with his every step on the soil of the occupied land…

[…] Victor was passionate, always waving victory signs, and now we wave farewell flowers to his corpse. The tears of mourning will not dry on his body, they will remain alive in the minds of every free person, every Palestinian, every human who shares the breath of freedom with another. Victor was murdered, but we will not forgive those who killed him; his blood will remain on the wall of sins until those who committed this crime are punished!

Lina at Live From Gaza writes:

Vittorio Arrigoni was a very recognizable face in Gaza. I didn’t personally know him, but I came to know about his bravery from the documentary “To shoot an elephant”. Vittorio was one of the activists who stayed during operation “Cast Lead”. He was one of the voices which told the world about the brutality of the Israeli invasion.

Sadness and anger prevail over the murder of the Italian activist. Those who claimed responsibility for the abduction and murder of Vittorio call themselves Palestinians and Muslims. But Islam washes its hands from such brutal act. Moreover, International activists who visit Gaza have always felt the warmth of the Palestinian hospitality. This will never change, the only threat the Palestinians and these activists share is the threat of the Israeli occupation.

Vittorio arrigoni holding a palestinian flag

Vittorio Arrigoni holding a Palestinian flag (profile picture from Facebook)

Also in Gaza, Omar Ghraieb gives an account of how the news of the kidnapping and murder unfolded, and ends:

Vittorio was Italian by birth but his dedication to Palestine and Gaza made him no less Palestinian than any other Palestinian, he came to Gaza many times and live here for a while. He endangered his life numerous times while working as a volunteer with the ISM (International Solidarity Movement) in Gaza when he was trying to protect farmers and fisherman, in addition to his participation in all buffer-zone protests.
Vittorio meant a lot for Palestinians, Gazans and his friends everywhere. He is a huge loss for us all, may he rest in peace.

Eva Bartlett worked with Arrigoni in Gaza:

I first heard of Vik before arriving in Gaza. Vik had just been injured by the IOF [Israel Occupation Forces/Israel Defense Forces] water canon attack which shattered the windows of the fishing boat he was accompanying. Vik had some injuries from the shattered glass. […] He was taken from Gaza, briefly, by the IOF navy, when they kidnapped 15 Palestinian fishermen and 3 accompanying activists, including Vik, in November 2008, from Palestinian waters. At the time of his abduction, he was electrically shocked while peacefully avoiding abduction by diving into Gaza’s cold waters.

He returned to Gaza, via Free Gaza again, before Israel began its war on Gaza. He continued to write and report from the enclosed, bombed Strip.

Stay human, he always said. And so was the title of his book on the Israeli massacre of Gaza in 2008-2009. Stay human. […] 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. […] 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.

Another fellow activist, Ken O’Keefe, has made this video, with footage from the press conference announcing Arrigoni’s death.

Jeff Halper from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions knew Arrigoni well:

Vik was truly a person greater than life. He was so filled with energy, a mixture of joy, camaraderie and impatience with the confines of boats and prisons like Gaza, that he would suddenly lift you into the air, or wrestle with you – he was a big, strong, handsome guy, ebullient and smiling even in the most oppressive and dangerous situations – as if to tell you: Yalla! These Israel naval ships shooting at us and the Palestinian fisherman cannot prevail over our solidarity, outrage and the justice of our cause! (Vik was wounded in one of those confrontations). He would come up behind you and say: The Occupation will fall just like this! (and he would wrestle you to the ground, laughing and playing with you as he did).
Vik, who like me received Palestinian citizenship and a passport when we broke the siege of Gaza and sailed into Gaza port in August, 2008, was a peace-maker exemplar. […] Vik worked in the West Bank as well as Gaza, and was jailed three times before being expelled by Israel. But his peace work did not take the form of activism alone. Vik was a master of communication – physical, verbal, written (his blog, Guerrilla Radio, was one of the most popular in Italy) – and he mixed personal experiences, reportage and analysis effortlessly.

Vik was what we call a “witness”: someone who put himself physically with the oppressed and shared with them their triumphs, tragedies, sufferings and hopes. Yet he was one who through his actions tried to affect genuine change. […] I’ll miss you, man. But every time I feel tired or discouraged, I’ll feel you lifting me up over your head and, with your huge smile and laughter, threatening to throw me overboard if I even hesitate in throwing myself into the fight. You were and are the earth-force of the struggle against injustice.

Global Voices contributor Asteris Masouras has aggregated tweets about this news on Storify which you can find here.

During the Gaza war of 2008/9 Global Voices translated and quoted extensively from Vittorio Arrigoni's blog posts. To read them click here.

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