Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
In memory of Vittorio Arrigoni
By Zaki Khalid
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, April 27, 2011
It is true when they say humanity as a concept is not bound to
any religion, race, caste, color or creed. Humanity, is a universal
phenomenon. In this particular piece, I would like to share the story of
Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni who shared the pains and sorrows of the
oppressed people of Palestine.
Vittorio Arrigoni (1975-2011) was a
member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a Palestinian-led
movement committed to resisting the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine
without consorting to any violent means whatsoever. As part of ISM, Vittorio
regularly assisted every ship that came to Gaza with food/medical supplies.
He would take part in anti-Israel protests near buffer zones along the Gaza
border. He would bow down on the sands of Palestine whenever he would return
after being repeatedly deported by Israeli naval authorities.
Vittorio was far from being someone who could be called a "rebel". He was a
non-conformist to social injustice, oppression of the weak, abuse of basic
human rights and ideological fascism. He was always vocal against the
torture and killings of Palestinian men, women and children and other
horrible actions by the state of Israel built upon a fascist ideology known
On August 28 2008, he received a Palestinian passport
from former Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haaneya which he would show to his
friends with pride. Standing on the sunny coastline of Gaza Strip where he
would notice aid flotillas approaching from the horizon while puffing to his
pipe, Vittorio would jump in the air, wave his hands with victory signs and
rush-off to receive the guests holding the Palestinian flag high. With
splats of mud on his clothes and bruise marks on his body, he would help the
volunteers unload aid supplies and deliver them at the right places, all the
while looking at Israeli navy officers in the eyes when he sensed they would
This was one side of Vittorio: On the other side, one
could see the child within him as he would go down the Gaza markets and sit
down among a group of war-torn Palestinian children, narrating stories of
hope and liberty. He would remind them that it is always darkest before the
dawn and that one day, all the sacrifices of their parents and elders would
bear fruit in the form of Palestine's eventual liberation. He understood
that amongst all, it are the children of Palestine who are most affected by
all the tensions taking place on both sides of the border. The psychological
disturbances could be easily noticed. Where he spared time for the Gaza
Strip as a whole, Vittorio would make special arrangements to 'hang out'
with Arab kids.
Yet, what even fewer people had knowledge of was the
constant threats looming over Vittorio's head. When a few of his Arab
friends would inquire about his absence, Vittorio would tell them that he
was kept in lockup by Israeli authorities and beaten up. Israel's domestic
intelligence would accuse him of being 'an aide to Hamas militants', he
would aptly deny the baseless charges and come back again to serve the
people of Palestine.
On April the 14 (Thursday), Vittorio Arrigoni
was reported missing yet again. However, this time it was found that he was
abducted purportedly by a group of "al Qaeda militants" who were opposed to
his presence in the region. A video surfaced on the Internet hours later
which showed him being brutally beaten and eventually hung in the room.
Authorities later recovered his body.
It is of interest to note that
Vittorio's killing, or rather planned murder, comes at an important time
i.e. just before Flotilla-II campaign to Gaza (of which Israel has again
sent a warning to Turkey and associated countries). The Irish Times
newspaper and Palestine Telegraph both report that Hamas alongwith hundreds
and thousands of Palestinian mourners in the Gaza Strip have
straightforwardly accused the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad of being
responsible for Vittorio's abduction and murder. The primary question, they
ask is, do you think his killing serves Palestine's interests? In the past,
it has already been established that Israel was responsible for the murder
of Rachel Corrie.
Vittorio Arrigoni shall always smile with
glistening eyes in our memories. He was a fine example of 'humanity beyond
borders' who tried to do whatever he could in helping out those whom he knew
were facing the agonies of time at the hands of a fascist state. Hamas
officials, citizens of Palestine and most importantly the youngsters in Gaza
will remember this Italian for the rest of their lives. His legacy of
perseverance, steadfastness and determination shall live on. Foremost in
continuing with his mission is none other than his mother Egidia Beretta who
has announced to take part in the upcoming Flotilla-II aid ship to Gaza
renamed "Stay Human", the trademark slogan associated with Vittorio.
The writer is a student based in Lahore, Pakistan