Vittorio Arrigoni

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Vittorio Arrigoni
VittorioArrigoni.jpg
Born (1975-02-04)4 February 1975
Besana in Brianza
Died 15 April 2011(2011-04-15) (aged 36)
Gaza Strip
Cause of death
Murdered by strangling by Jahafil Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad fi Filastin
Nationality Italian
Occupation International Solidarity Movement activist, journalist, blogger

Vittorio Arrigoni (4 February 1975 – 15 April 2011) was an Italian reporter, writer, pacifist and activist.[1][2] Arrigoni worked with the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in the Gaza Strip, from 2008 until his death. Arrigoni maintained a website, Guerrilla Radio, and published a book of his experiences in Gaza during the 2008–09 Gaza War between Hamas and Israel. He was murdered by suspected members of Tawhid wal-Jihad, a Palestinian Salafist group in Gaza. Arrigoni was the first foreigner kidnapped in Gaza since BBC journalist Alan Johnston's abduction in 2007.[3] The murder was condemned by various Palestinian factions.

Biography[edit]

Arrigoni was born in the town of Besana in Brianza, near Milan, Italy on 4 February 1975.[4] He claimed that it was in his blood to fight for freedom as his grandfathers fought against the former fascist regime in Italy. He had the Arabic word for resistance (muqawama) tattooed on his right arm. Once he passed his maturità exams in Italy, he left his hometown of Bulciago, a small village near lake Como,[5] and began working as a volunteer around the world (East Europe, South America, Africa and Middle East). In 2002, he visited Jerusalem which according to his mother was the "moment he understood his work would be concentrated there." His mother, Egidia Beretta, is the mayor of Bulciago.[2]

Political activism[edit]

External images
"Vittorio Arrigoni...a pro-Palestinian activist from Italy, received a passport from Ismail Haniya, head of Hamas's government in Gaza, in 2008."The New York Times[6]

Arrigoni was credited as one of the many activists who revived the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a pro-Palestinian group that works in the Palestinian territories. In August 2008, he participated in the Free Gaza mission that aimed to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, in place since June 2007 when Hamas took power in the territory. He was on the first boat that arrived in the Port of Gaza,[4] describing that moment as "one of the happiest and most emotional" of his lifetime."[7] While volunteering to act as a human shield for a Palestinian fisherman off Gaza's coast in September 2008, Arrigoni was injured by flying glass after the Israeli Navy used a water cannon to deter the vessel.[4][2] In November, he was arrested by Israeli authorities after again acting as a human shield for fishermen off Gaza's coast.[4]

He returned to Gaza prior to the Israeli military offensive Operation Cast Lead, which lasted from December 2008 to January 2009. Arrigoni was one of the few foreign journalists in Gaza during the war;[4] he worked with Radio Popolare[8] and as reporter for the Italian newspaper Il manifesto. He later published a book, Restiamo umani (en: Gaza, Stay Human), a collection of his reportage from Gaza. It is translated into English, Spanish, German, and French with a preface by Israeli historian Ilan Pappé.[9]

Political views[edit]

"Zionism is an abominable, racist and colonial movement. Like all colonial and apartheid systems, it's in the interest of all that it be swept away. My hope is to see it replaced, without any bloodshed, with a democratic, secular and lay state - for example on the borders of historic Palestine - and where Palestinians and Israelis could live under equal rights of citizenship without ethnic and religious discrimination. It's a wish that I hope will soon become a reality."

— Vittorio Arrigoni, 2010 [10]

Arrigoni was described as having a "fervent commitment to the Palestinian cause." Arrigoni described four Palestinians who died in a tunnel under the Gaza-Egypt border as "martyrs".[2] One of his last posts on Guerrilla Radio, which he wrote hours before he was kidnapped and killed, praised Palestinian efforts to smuggle goods into Gaza via underground tunnels as an "invisible battle for survival."[4]

Arrigoni criticised Muslim extremists for trying to impose a hardline version of Islam in Gaza.[11] In an interview with the newspaper PeaceReporter, he said: "Personally, as an activist for human rights, I don't like Hamas at all. I have something to say to them too: they have deeply limited human rights since they have won the elections."[12]

In his website, Guerrilla Radio, and Facebook page, Arrigoni described the government of Israel as one of the worst apartheid regimes in the world.[4] He said the Israeli blockade on Gaza was criminal and villainous.[2]

Kidnapping and death[edit]

Arrigoni was kidnapped on 14 April 2011, by suspected members of a Salafi militant group espousing Salafist jihadism operating in Gaza known as Tawhid and Jihad.[7] In a video posted on YouTube in which they identified themselves as belonging to a previously unknown group, "The Brigade of the Gallant Companion of the Prophet Mohammed bin Muslima,"[13] Arrigoni was blindfolded with blood seen around his right eye.[2][14] The captors demanded the release of their leader Walid al-Maqdasi,[7] imprisoned by the de facto government in Gaza a month earlier, as a ransom and threatened Arrigoni's killing if a 30-hour deadline was not met. The captors accused Arrigoni of "spreading corruption" and his home country Italy as an "infidel state."[2][15]

Murder[edit]

For uncertain reasons, before the deadline expired, the captors killed Arrigoni in an empty apartment in the Mareh Amer area in northern Gaza.[16][17] It is believed he was either hanged or strangled.[11] After being led to the house by a member of the suspected Salafi group, Hamas security forces stormed the building and found Arrigoni's body.[7] An autopsy revealed that Arrigoni had been strangled with a plastic cord, but journalists were not allowed to see the body and no independent confirmation of the cause of death was possible.[18] Tawhid and Jihad denied responsibility for the killing, but stated it was "a natural outcome of the policy of the government carried out against the Salafi." Iyad ash Shami, a leader of another Salafi group based in Gaza, denied involvement of Salafi militants and said the killing went against Islam.[13] Security forces in Gaza arrested four suspects in connection to the incident, and Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniya ordered an investigation by the Interior Ministry, and called Arrigoni's mother to send his condolences.[17]

Manhunt[edit]

Hamas police initiated a manhunt for members of the Jahafil Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad fi Filastin involved in the murder. Hamas sealed off parts of the Gaza Strip before the beginning of the operation, during which gunfire and at least one explosion were heard.[19]

Hamas security men laid siege on a house where the suspects were staying, in the Nusseirat refugee camp, in central Gaza. The suspects refused to surrender and a gun battle ensued. Hamas policemen entered the home and killed Balal al-Omari and The Jordanian Abbad a-Rahman al-Brizat (one of the two dead men may have committed suicide). A third suspect, Muhammad a-Salpiti, was wounded and detained. Three of the suspects' associates were also captured. Ihab Ghussein, Hamas interior ministry spokesman, reported that five Hamas policemen were injured as well as girl who was caught in the crossfire.[20][21][19]

Reactions to death[edit]

A cartoon of Arrigoni by Carlos Latuff made following his murder.

Several hundred Gazans rallied in the Unknown Soldier's Square to mourn Arrigoni while about 100 Palestinians and internationals marched through Ramallah to a house of mourning in nearby al-Bireh in the West Bank.[22] In Bethlehem, a candlelight vigil was held outside the Church of the Nativity.[17] Egyptian authorities offered to allow Arrigoni's family to enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing and his body to be sent back to Italy via the crossing.[23]

Palestinian response[edit]

An official statement from Hamas described the killing as a "disgraceful act" by a "mentally deviated and outlawed group."[24] Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniya stated the killing "does not reflect the values, morals, or the religion of the Palestinian people. This is an unprecedented case that won't be repeated."[17] He also said Arrigoni would be designated a martyr and a street would be named after him.[23] Foreign minister of Hamas told he would get a state funeral. After this the body would be transferred to Egypt.[25] Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum condemned the killing as 'shameful'.[26]

Various condemnations of Arrigoni's killing were released by other Palestinian factions with Fatah decrying it as an "act of betrayal," the Popular Resistance Committees calling it "cowardly," Islamic Jihad calling it a "grotesque crime," and Mustafa Barghouti saying it was a "shocking criminal act."[22][24] A spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas condemned it as an "act of treason".[24]

International response[edit]

The foreign ministry of Italy expressed "deep horror over the barbaric murder," calling it an "act of vile and senseless violence committed by extremists who are indifferent to the value of human life."[24] UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon pressed the Gaza government to bring to justice "the perpetrators of this appalling crime."[24]

Accusations against Israel[edit]

Although Arrigoni was killed by suspected members of the Palestinian Salafist group Jahafil Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad fi Filastin, some blamed Israel for the murder. In spite of the fact that Hamas identified the perpetrators with a Palestinian group affiliated with Al Qaeda,[20] Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said he suspected Israel might be responsible since the death appeared to be timed to deter foreign activists from joining a flotilla due to sail to Gaza in May to break Israel's naval blockade of the area.[26]

Mahmoud al-Zahar, a member of the Hamas leadership, indirectly accused Israel of engineering the killing of Arrigoni in an attempt to scare off international activists from coming to Gaza.[27] He said that "such an awful crime cannot take place without arrangements between all the parties concerned to keep the blockade imposed on Gaza".[28] Al-Zahar offered no evidence to support his accusation.[27]

German politician Inge Höger said that both Arrigoni and Israeli actor Juliano Mer-Khamis, who was shot dead by masked gunmen in Jenin eleven days before Arrigoni's murder, were actually killed by Israelis. In her website, Höger wrote that "The question one must pose is: Who profits from this terrible crime? First of all, now two of the activists most 'dangerous' for Israel, because they were the most engaged, well known and noted, are eliminated."[citation needed]

Investigation of his death and trial[edit]

A Hamas court in Gaza convicted four Salafist extremists on charges of kidnapping and murdering Arrigoni in September 2012.[3] The court refrained from handing down the death penalty to two of them, Mahmoud al-Salfiti, 28, and Tamer al-Hasasna, 27, after Arrigoni's parents had urged Hamas to spare them. They were sentenced instead to life imprisonment, with hard labour. 24-year-old Khader Jram was given a 10 year sentence for participating in the kidnapping. Amer Abu Ghouleh, 23, was given a term of one year in prison for sheltering fugitives.[29][30] On February 19, 2013 a Gaza military court accepted an appeal of two of those convicted, Mahmud al-Salfiti and Tamer al-Husasna, and reduced their sentences from life to 15 years. "We asked in our appeal for the conviction for murder and abduction to be dropped to only abduction," their lawyer Mohammed Zaqut said.[31]

Criticism and praise[edit]

A Jerusalem Post article published shortly after Arrigoni's death assembled various criticisms of Arrigoni from Steven Plaut, associate professor at the University of Haifa in business administration, Fiamma Nirenstein, Italian parliamentarian with Jewish ascendance, vice president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in Italy's Chamber of Deputies and chairwoman of the Italian Parliament's Committee for the Inquiry into Antisemitism, and Noah Pollak, executive director of the Emergency Committee for Israel, accusing Arrigoni of supporting violence rather than being a peace activist.[32]

According to The Guardian's correspondent in Italy, Arrigoni was "first and foremost a pacifist."[2] Khaleel Shaheen of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza, a friend of Arrigoni, described him as a "hero of Palestine".[33] Max Ajl, a friend of Arrigoni's and fellow ISM activist, eulogized Arrigoni as a courageous and dedicated opponent of the Israeli occupation and advocate of resistance to oppression in the Middle East and around the world.[34]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Johnston, Nicole. Vittorio Arrigoni: The man I knew. Al Jazeera. 15 April 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Hooper, John. Vittorio Arrigoni: pacifist supporter of the Palestinian cause. The Guardian. 15 April 2011.
  3. ^ a b "Gaza Vittorio Arrigoni murder: Four Palestinians jailed". BBC. 17 September 2012. Retrieved 24 October 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Kalman, Matthew.Idealistic blogger 'was more Palestinian than the criminals who killed him'. The Independent. 16 April 2011.
  5. ^ Mackenzie, James. "Dismay and sorrow" in hometown of Italian activist. Reuters. 15 April 2011.
  6. ^ Saber, Mohammed (15 April 2011). "Gaza Killing of Italian Activist Deals a Blow to Hamas". The New York Times (Gaza). European Pressphoto Agency. Retrieved 6 July 2011. 
  7. ^ a b c d New video released of slain Italian activist: 'Day I arrived in Gaza was happiest of my life'. Haaretz. 15 April 2011.
  8. ^ Radio Popolare, announcements archive
  9. ^ Gaza, Stay Human. Amazon Book Review.
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ a b Daily Mail Reporter, Bloodied, bound and paraded on YouTube... then hanged hours later: Horrific fate of peace activist kidnapped in Gaza. Daily Mail. 15 April 2011.
  12. ^ Gaza, eliminate il pacifista Arrigoni (Gaza, eliminate the pacifist Arrigoni), Peacereporter, 14 January 2009.
  13. ^ a b Salafi leader: Islam prohibits murder. Ma'an News Agency. 15 April 2011.
  14. ^ Italian Activist Found Dead in Gaza after Abduction. BBC. 15 April 2011.
  15. ^ Hamas Says It Found Body of Italian Activist, New York Times 14 April 2011
  16. ^ Urquhart, Conal. Palestinians rally to mourn kidnapped Italian activist murdered by extremists. The Guardian. 15 April 2011.
  17. ^ a b c d Body of abducted Italian activist found in Gaza City. Ma'an News Agency. 15 April 2011.
  18. ^ Fares Akram and Isabel Kershner. Gaza Killing of Italian Activist Deals a Blow to Hamas. New York Times. 15 April 2011.
  19. ^ a b Vittorio Arrigoni killing: Suspects die in Gaza siege. BBC. 19 April 2011.
  20. ^ a b Associated Press.Gaza police close in on suspects in Vittorio Arrigoni murder. The Guardian. 19 April 2011.
  21. ^ Issacharoff, Avi. Hamas kills 2 suspects during manhunt for murderers of Italian activist in Gaza.Haaretz. 20 April 2011.
  22. ^ a b Candlelight vigil held for Italian activist. Al-Jazeera. 16 April 2011.
  23. ^ a b Egypt offers to help slain activist's family enter Gaza. Ma'an News Agency. 16 April 2011.
  24. ^ a b c d e Abbas: Murder of Italian activist is treason. Ma'an News Agency. 16 April 2011.
  25. ^ la Repubblica 17 April 2011
  26. ^ a b Kalman, Matthew. Activist's murder shakes Hamas's grip on Gaza. The Independent. 16 April 2011.
  27. ^ a b Aldabba, Ahmed. Body of kidnapped activist found in Gaza City, Los Angeles Times. 16 April 2011.
  28. ^ Associated Press and Haaretz Service. Hamas official hints Israel killed Italian activist to intimidate future Gaza flotilla members. Haaretz. 15 April 2011.
  29. ^ Associated Press,'Hamas court convicts 4 in Italian activist death,' at Ynet, 17 September, 2012.
  30. ^ Fares Akram, 'Gaza: Hamas Court Convicts 4 in Murder of Activist,', at New York Times, 17 September, 2012.
  31. ^ 'Gaza court cuts sentence in Italian murder case' Press Trust of India. Published: February 19, 2013. Accessed: February 20, 2013.[2]
  32. ^ Weinthal, Benjamin. "Italian politician: Vittorio Arrigoni was ‘enemy of Jews’." The Jerusalem Post. April 26, 2003. Retrieved on August 11, 2011.
  33. ^ Quinton, Pennie, Vale Vittorio Arrigoni, 'hero of Palestine'. The Guardian. 2011-04-16.
  34. ^ Ajl, Max. "in memoriam: Vik Arrigoni". Retrieved 19 June 2011. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Arrigoni, Vittorio; Ilan Pappe (Introduction) (2010). Gaza: Stay Human. Kube Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84774-019-9. 
  • Francesca Borri Restiamo liberi, peacereporter, 18/04/2011
  • English-language obituary for Arrigoni on Max Ajl's blog.

External links[edit]