Remembering Murdered Activist, Vittorio Arrigoni

[All external links in Italian unless otherwise indicated]

On April 15, 2011, news came of the kidnapping and then murder in Gaza of Vittorio Arrigoni, a member of the International Solidarity Movement, an event which sent shock waves through the world of international activism, its ripples felt far beyond the online world.

Vittorio Arrigoni in Gaza,  from his Facebook profile.

Vittorio Arrigoni in Gaza, from his Facebook profile.

Vittorio, better known as Vik, provided a first person account of Gaza and Palestine on his blog Guerrilla Radio, concluding each post with the message Restiamo umani (Stay Human). The blog is still active today, thanks to the efforts of friends and collaborators, who keep his memory and engagement alive by documenting and describing the everyday lives, difficulties and violence suffered by Palestinians in the Gaza strip. Facebook pages [ar] in several different languages have been created and dedicated to his memory.

A year after his death, many initiatives have been organised to commemorate his courageous defense of human rights and support of the Palestinian cause. Events and demonstrations are planned for various cities in Italy (for a complete list see this Facebook page), but there will also be events in several European cities, including Paris [fr] , Madrid [es], Cologne and Palma de Mallorca [es], as well as in GazaRamallah and in Cairo [all en].

Demonstration in Gaza in memory of Arrigoni -  April 15 , 2012, from Facebook

Demonstration in Gaza in memory of Arrigoni – April 15 , 2012, from Facebook

The independent news network is running a retrospective of Arrigoni's work and writings (some of it previously unpublished) and has allowed friends, writers and journalists ample space to share their memories and stories of Arrigoni.

Another initiative, established with the support of Arrigoni's family, has taken the form of a reading movie, produced thanks to a crowdfunding initiative which ended on March 31, 2012. Nineteen international figures (including Tariq Ali, Noam Chomsky, Brian Eno, Stéphane Hessel, Luisa Morgantini, Moni Ovadia, Ilan Pappé and Roger Waters) who have, in the past, shown interest and engagement, from a cultural or humanitarian perspective, with the tragic consequences of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, have agreed to “lend their voices” to the reading of 19 chapters of the book Gaza – Restiamo Umani (Gaza – Stay Human), a collection of Arrigoni's articles written during his months in Palestine as part of the “Piombo Fuso” [“Melted Lead”] operation.

The trailer for the film  “Gaza – Stay Human” [en]:

In addition to the commemorative events there is also an important and significant initiative being organised by the international Freedom Flotilla network. On Sunday, April 15, an international mission of 1,500 Italian and international activists will set out to “break the isolation and the siege of Palestine”.

On the initiative's site they declared:

Questa nuova missione ha per obiettivo, quello di rivendicare il diritto di entrare in Palestina e la libera circolazione per i palestinesi e per chiunque voglia andare a trovarli, rompendo l’assedio “di fatto” che Israele pratica anche in Cisgiordania. […] Il nostro progetto è trasparente: noi andiamo direttamente in Cisgiordania per contribuire alla costruzione di una scuola. Il terreno è già stato acquistato, i lavori sono iniziati e quello che vedete qui sopra è il progetto degli edifici. All’uscita dell’aeroporto di Tel Aviv, il 15 aprile, ci aspetteranno delle auto per portarci direttamente a Betlemme, dove le famiglie e le associazioni palestinesi ci riceveranno.

This new mission's objective is to assert the right to enter Palestine and to free circulation for Palestinians and for anyone who wants to go and find them, breaking the de facto siege that Israel is also practicing in the West Bank. […] Our project is straightforward. We're going directly to the West Bank to contribute to the construction of a school. The land has already been purchased, the construction has already started and what you can see above is the plan for the buildings. On leaving Tel Aviv airport on the 15 April we will be met by cars which will bring us directly to Bethlehem, where Palestinian families and associations will host us.

For news and live updates on the initiative you can follow the @freedomflotita account and the hashtags #flytilla and #airflotilla2 on Twitter.

Currently Vittorio's Facebook page is the main location for sharing and announcing events and memories. Messages of support and memories have been circulating for days on Twitter as well, even if there are plenty of critics as well.

For example, @dscanferla writes:

I paci-finti non si smentiscono mai, #Arrigoni è morto da un anno, il processo a #Gaza è una farsa e per loro la colpa è d’#Israele ???

The false pacifists are always the same, #Arrigoni has been dead for more than a year, the trial in #Gaza is a farce and according to them it's all #Israel's fault ???

Rosa Schiano, an activist and photo-reporter who knew Vik personally, describes a demonstration organised by children from Beit Lahia:

@infoxresist I bambini di Beit Lahia, a nord della Striscia di Gaza, ricordano vik con musica e e rappresentazioni.

@infoxresist The children of Beit Lahia, in the north of the Gaza Strip, remember vik with music and plays.

A year after his tragic death however, the events leading to his death remain uncertain. A motive for the killing has yet to emerge from the 14 court hearings held so far and many suspect the Israeli police of mishandling information.

Michele Giorgio addressed that view on the Near East News Agency site:

Ritrattando in buona parte le confessioni che avevano reso negli interrogatori seguiti all’arresto da parte della polizia di Hamas, i tre – Mahmud Salfiti, Tamer Hasasnah e Khader Jram – hanno recitato, davanti ai giudici della corte militare di Gaza city, la parte dei giovani difensori delle tradizioni sociali «minacciate» da un presunto stile di vita troppo «liberal» di Vittorio. Più di tutto hanno negato di essere stati a conoscenza di un piano per uccidere l’attivista italiano. È evidente il tentativo degli avvocati della difesa di far ricadere tutte le responsabilità su Breizat e Omari che non possono raccontare la loro versione dei fatti. La prossima udienza è fissata per il 14 maggio e secondo alcune voci potrebbe essere l’ultima prima della sentenza.

Retracting, for the main part, the confessions that they made to interrogators after their arrest by Hamas's police force, in front of a military court in Gaza City, the three men – Mahmud Salfiti, Tamer Hasasnah and Khader Jram – played the parts of young defenders of social traditions “threatened” by Vittorio's lifestyle which they considered too “liberal”. Above all else they denied knowing about a plan to kill the Italian activist. The lawyers’ attempts to place all the blame on Breizat and Omari, who cannot defend themselves, are obvious. The next hearing is set for the 14 May and according to several sources it may well be the last hearing before sentencing.

Two Partito Democratico (Democratic Party) MPs – Vincenzo Vita and Lucia Codurelli – tabled a question in the Italian parliament in order to seek clarification from the government of the motives behind the kidnapping and killing of the activist.

Please stay human.

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