Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem
Chair of West Midland PSC
Sad day today—reminiscent of the news and outpouring after Rachel Corrie was killed (murdered) by an Israeli bulldozer, only this time in Gaza, with no one so far taking responsibility for it.
An Italian justice-loving ISM worker was murdered. Jeff Halper writes his feelings and regrets in item 3, and Enrique affords more responses in “A murder most foul,” item 4.
Item 1 is by Uri Avnery, and while it supports the 2 state means of ending the conflict, while I believe that a single state would be not only more just but also better for all, this article furnishes history worth keeping in mind. I think that Uri gives too much credit to the religious-idealists for carrying out their plan. They were doing the work of Israeli governments, after all. They, in other words, were not imposing anything on the governments that gladly allowed them to colonize where and when they wanted with a view to the ‘greater Israel.’ The article nevertheless is informative.
In item 2 Jeff Halper sets out the various possibilities of what might occur in September regarding the Palestinian state, and points out that none of the anti-occupation movements have formulated a policy of what to do come September, and sees as essential that we do think and plan ahead.
Only these 4 items, because Jeff’s ‘Mobilizing for September’ deserves careful reading and is quite long, and also Enrique’s ‘Murder Most Foul’ comprises several pieces.
May we see better days, soon,
Hope this may interest you.
And to all the Jews among you, Hag Sameach.
April, 16, 2011
The Settler State
THE OTHER day, the almighty General Security Service
(Shabak, formerly Shin Bet) needed a new boss. It is a
hugely important job, because no minister ever dares to
contradict the advice of the Shabak chief in cabinet
There was an obvious candidate, known only as J. But at
the last moment, the settlers’ lobby was mobilized. As
director of the “Jewish department” J. had put some Jewish
terrorists in prison. So his candidature was rejected and
Yoram Cohen, a kippah-wearing darling of the settlers was
That happened last month. Just before that, The National
Security Council also needed a new chief. Under pressure
from the settlers, General Yaakov Amidror, formerly the
highest kippah-wearing officer in the army, a man of openly
ultra-ultra nationalist views, got the job.
The Deputy Chief of Staff of the army is a kippah-wearing
officer dear to the settlers, a former head of Central
Command, which includes the West Bank.
Some weeks ago I wrote that the problem may not be the
annexation of the West Bank by Israel, but the annexation
of Israel by the West Bank settlers.
Some readers reacted with a chuckle. It looked like a
It was not.
The time has come to examine this process seriously: Is
Israel falling victim to a hostile takeover by the
FIRST OF all, the term “settlers” itself must be examined.
Formally, there is no question. The settlers are Israelis
living beyond the 1967 border, the Green Line. (“Green” in
this case has no ideological connotation. This just
happened to be the color chosen to distinguish the line on
Numbers are inflated or deflated according to propaganda
needs. But it is can be assumed that there are about
300,000 settlers in the West Bank, and an additional
200,000 or so in East Jerusalem. Israelis usually don’t
call the Jerusalemites “settlers”, putting them into a
different category. But of course, settlers they are.
But when we speak of Settlers in the political context, we
speak of a much bigger community.
True, not all settlers are Settlers. Many people in the
West Bank settlements went there without any ideological
motive, just because they could build their dream villas
for practically nothing, with a picturesque view of Arab
minarets to boot. It is these the Settler Council chairman,
Danny Dayan, meant, when, in a (recently leaked) secret
conversation with a US diplomat, he conceded that they
could easily be persuaded to return to Israel if the money
However, all these people have an interest in the status
quo, and therefore will support the real Settlers in the
political fight. As the Jewish proverb goes, if you start
fulfilling a commandment for the wrong reasons, you will
end up fulfilling it for the right ones.
BUT THE camp of the “settlers” is much, much bigger.
The entire so-called “national religious” movement is in
total support of the settlers, their ideology and their
aims. And no wonder – the settlement enterprise sprung from
This must be explained. The “national religious” were
originally a tiny splinter of religious Jewry. The big
Orthodox camp saw in Zionism an aberration and heinous sin.
Since God had exiled the Jews from His land because of
their sins, only He – through His Messiah – had the right
to bring them back. The Zionists thus position themselves
above God and prevent the coming of the Messiah. For the
Orthodox, the Zionist idea of a secular Jewish “nation”
still is an abomination.
However, a few religious Jews did join the nascent Zionist
movement. They remained a curiosity. The Zionists held the
Jewish religion in contempt, like everything else belonging
to the Jewish Diaspora (“Galut” – exile, a derogatory term
in Zionist parlance). Children who (like myself) were
brought up in Zionist schools in Palestine before the
Holocaust were taught to look down with pity on people who
were “still” religious.
This also colored our attitude towards the religious
Zionists. The real work of building our future “Hebrew
State” (we never spoke about a “Jewish State”) was done by
socialist atheists. The kibbutzim and moshavim, communal
and cooperative villages, as well as the “pioneer” youth
movements, which were the foundation of the whole
enterprise, were mostly Tolstoyan socialist, some of them
even Marxist. The few that were religious were considered
At that time, in the 30s and 40s, few young people wore a
kippah in public. I don’t remember a single member of the
Irgun, the clandestine military (“terrorist”) organization
to which I belonged, wearing a kippah – though there were
quite a number of religious members. They preferred a less
conspicuous cap or beret.
The national-religious party (originally called Mizrahi –
Eastern) played a minor role in Zionist politics. It was
decidedly moderate in national affairs. In the historic
confrontations between the “activist” David Ben-Gurion and
the “moderate” Moshe Sharett in the 50s, they almost always
sided with Sharett, driving Ben Gurion up the wall.
Nobody paid much attention, however, to what was happening
under the surface – in the national-religious youth
movement, Bnei Akiva, and their Yeshivot. There, out of
sight of the general public, a dangerous cocktail of ultra-
nationalist Zionism and an aggressive tribal “messianic”
religion was being brewed.
THE ASTOUNDING victory of the Israeli army in the 1967 Six-
day War, after three weeks of extreme anxiety, marked a
turning point for this movement.
Here was everything they had dreamed of: a God-given
miracle, the heartland of historical Eretz Israel (alias
the West Bank) occupied, “The Temple Mount Is In Our
Hands!” as a one general breathlessly reported.
As if somebody had drawn a cork, the national-religious
youth movement escaped its bottle and became a national
force. They created Gush Emunim (“Bloc of the Faithful”),
the center of the dynamic settlement enterprise in the
newly “liberated territories”.
This must be well understood: for the national-religious
camp, 1967 was also a moment of liberation within the
Zionist camp. As the Bible (Psalm 117) prophesied: “The
stone the builders despised has become the cornerstone”.
The despised national-religious youth movement and
kibbutzim suddenly jumped to center stage.
While the old socialist kibbutz movement was dying of
ideological exhaustion, its members becoming rich by
selling agricultural land to real estate sharks, the
national religious sprang up in full ideological vigor,
imbued with spiritual and national fervor, preaching a
pagan Jewish creed of holy places, holy stones and holy
tombs, mixed with the conviction that the whole country
belongs to the Jews and that “foreigners” (meaning the
Palestinians, who have lived here for at least 1300, if not
5000 years) should be kicked out.
MOST OF today’s Israelis were born or have immigrated after
1967. The occupation-state is the only reality they know.
The settlers’ creed looks to them like self-evident truth.
Polls show a growing number of young Israelis for whom
democracy and human rights are empty phrases. A Jewish
State means a state that belongs to the Jews and to the
Jews only, nobody else has any business to be here.
This climate has created a political scene dominated by a
set of right-wing parties, from Avigdor Lieberman’s racists
to the outright fascist followers of the late Rabbi Meir
Kahane – all of them totally subservient to the settlers.
If it is true that the US Congress is controlled by the
Israel lobby, then this lobby is controlled by the Israeli
government, which is controlled by the settlers. (Like the
joke about the dictator who said: The world is afraid of
our country, the country is afraid of me, I am afraid of my
wife, my wife is afraid of a mouse. So who rules the
So the settlers can do whatever they want: build new
settlements and enlarge existing ones, ignore the Supreme
Court, give orders to the Knesset and the government,
attack their “neighbors” whenever they like, kill Arab
children who throw stones, uproot olive groves, burn
mosques. And their power is growing by leaps and bounds.
THE TAKEOVER of a civilized country by hardier border
fighters is by no means extraordinary. On the contrary, it
is a frequent historical phenomenon. The historian Arnold
Toynbee provided a long list.
Germany was for a long time dominated by the Ostmark
(“Eastern marches”), which became Austria. The culturally
advanced German heartland fell under the sway of the more
primitive but hardier Prussians, whose homeland was not a
part of Germany at all. The Russian Empire was formed by
Moscow, originally a primitive town on the fringes.
The rule seems to be that when the people of a civilized
country become spoiled by culture and riches, a hardier,
less pampered and more primitive race on the fringes takes
over, as Greece was taken over by the Romans, and Rome by
This can happen to us. But it need not. Israeli secular
democracy still has a lot of strength in it. The
settlements can still be removed. (In a future article, I
shall try to show how.) The religious right can still be
repulsed. The occupation, which is the mother of all evil,
can still be terminated.
But for that we have to recognize the danger – and do
something about it.
2. MOBILIZING FOR SEPTEMBER?
April 14, 2011
The reconvening of the UN in late September and the possible recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders may be a crucial political moment in the struggle for Palestinian liberation – or not. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has characterized it as a looming “diplomatic tsunami” for Israel; Ali Abunimah, a prominent Palestinian-American commentator, calls it a “sideshow,” an “elaborate farce.” As yet, there has been little if any substantial discussion among activists regarding its significance or lack thereof, or whether and how we should mobilize around it.
In fact, there are a number of key events (or, it appears, non-events as well) leading up to September which also deserve our attention:
· On April 15th the Quartet (the US, Europe, Russia and the UN) was to meet for an already delayed, last-ditch attempt to “restart” negotiations. Britain, France and Germany, frustrated by the inability of the US to pressure Israel into agreeing on the bare minimum for getting talks started again (a halt to Israeli settlement construction and an agenda that deals squarely with final status issues: borders and sovereignty, Jerusalem, refugees, water and security), had prepared a tough statement on settlements. The US summarily cancelled the meeting, explaining that “It was not the right time.” With no prospect for a meaningful “Bar Ilan 2” speech outlining a “new” Israeli peace initiative and no more scheduled Quartet meetings, it is clear that “negotiations,” begun twenty years ago in Madrid, are finally over.
That is a good thing. The “fog of negotiations” must be cleared since, as part of an empty, interminable “peace process,” it serves one purpose only: prolonging the Israeli Occupation. The American cancellation of the April 15th meeting is especially significant (and hypocritical) given that the excuse Americans gave for vetoing the Security Council resolution on settlements last month was that negotiations are the only way to end the conflict. Ideally, the response of the other three Quartet members would be to formally declare the “peace process” ended, opening the way to the only other alternative, the acceptance in September of Palestine as a member state of the UN within recognized borders. That will not happen publically, so it is crucial that the Palestinians declare it, making it clear that it was Israel that led to the collapse of negotiations. Only in that way can they prepare the ground for an independent state in September.
· There are as yet, however, a few more way stations on the road to the UN. In May, Netanyahu may address, for the second time, a joint session of the American Congress. This is his audience: Democrats and Republicans, liberals, conservatives and Tea Party Christian Zionists. Congress represents Israel’s trump card. Netanyahu believes, with perfectly good reasons, that it will prevent the Administration from putting undue pressures on Israel, will ensure that it not allow any resolution of Palestinian statehood to come before the UN, and if it does, will certainly dictate another American veto.
· In late May the latest Freedom Flotilla, fifteen boats with activists from more than twenty countries, will attempt to break the Israeli siege of Gaza. The Israeli government has already called on the UN and the international community to stop it; in the past few days it has indicated that it might actually allow the Flotilla into Gaza. These are signs of Israel’s rising desperation as September closes in.
There will undoubtedly be other feeble attempts to derail September. Netanyahu, who himself admits there is nothing to negotiate, is mulling a unilateral withdrawal of Israeli troops from parts of the West Bank and giving the PA a little more land. More likely, Israel will try to deflect the trajectory towards September by attacking Gaza – Israeli officials are already talking openly about Operation Cast Lead 2 – or carrying out the ultimate act of deflection, an attack on Iran.
The Palestinian Authority, which over the years has failed to mobilize its greatest resource and ally, grassroots activists the world over, also needs to provide them with guidance and leadership. We have no idea where the PA is heading. Fayyad, the (non-elected) Prime Minister, has declared an intention of seeking Palestinian membership in the UN in September, the culmination of his two-year plan of building a Palestinian state “from below.” Abbas is being coy. At times he suggests that declaring statehood is the only way forward, at other times he explicitly rejects such a move. After the failure to convene the April 15th Quartet meeting and faced with American intentions to “a new push to promote comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace” – code for yet more interminable “negotiations” leading nowhere – it should be clear that the negotiation phase of the phony “peace process’ is over. The Fog of Negotiations has cleared. UN acceptance of a Palestinian state within recognized borders becomes the only option left for the Palestinians. Abbas should say this loud and clear. In this context attempts to reconcile with Hamas so as to form a united front takes on added urgency.
If Abbas has other ideas, if in fact he is unwilling to abandon fruitless negotiations and does not intend to approach the UN in September, he should tell us
Should the Palestinians ask the UN to accept them as a member state within the borders of 1949/1967? This is a question that preoccupies many activists, especially those who have abandoned the two-state solution for that of one state, be it unitary or bi-national. The judgment is ultimately a Palestinian one, of course. We non-Palestinians can only hope for a vigorous debate within Palestinian society – in the Occupied Territory, within Israel, in the refugee camps and across the Diaspora – which will point us the way. Does September represents a momentous political moment? Israeli General Amos Gilad, head of the Ministry of Defense’s diplomatic-security bureau, warned that “the beginning of Israel’s isolation in September will be no less severe than war.” If so, how should we react? If not, what are the alternative paths for resolving the conflict?
Leaving aside these questions for the moment, what is likely to happen in September? There appear to be two possible scenarios: either a Palestinian state within specified borders is accepted as a full member of the UN or, for whatever reason, it is not. Let’s trace out these scenarios with an eye to civil society’s role.
Scenario 1: Palestine becomes a member state of the UN within recognized borders.
Having (hopefully) prepared the ground well for its admission to the UN, the Palestinian leadership (ideally a broad unity government) would first declare Palestinian independence within specified borders and then submit an application to the Secretary-General, confirming its obligations to the UN Charter. The application then goes to the Security Council. If the Palestinian application wins the support of nine of the 15 Security Council members and all the five permanent members, a recommendation for admission goes to the General Assembly, which must approve it by a two-thirds majority. The Palestinian application would receive near unanimous approval, especially given the pre-condition that the US vote in the Security Council is either a “yes” or an abstention.
There are those who dismiss such an initiative as merely symbolic, with no pragmatic consequences for the Palestinians. Although it is impossible to predict how post-acceptance events would play out, admission to the UN would have several important repercussions:
· A recommendation for admission of the Security Council, followed by an overwhelming endorsement by the General Assembly (with only Israel and Micronesia, its staunch ally in the Pacific voting “no”), would place Palestine formally among the member states of the UN. Not only would it have ambassadors in the capitals of the world, it would also enjoy unmediated access to all the instruments of the international community: the right to introduce UN resolutions, to participate fully in international conferences and to pursue the application of international law against the Israeli Occupation, including access to the International Court of Justice.
· Palestine would have recognized borders (the 1949 armistice lines, upon which there is an international consensus) and would no longer be pressured to negotiate territorial swaps, to “adjust” borders to accommodate Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank or to accept exaggerated Israeli security demands such as exclusive Israeli control over water, borders with Arab countries, Palestinian air space and Palestinian communications, even over the ability to enter freely into foreign alliances.
Admission to the UN would also end all ambiguity over occupation itself, which has allowed Israel to avoid accountability under international law. Admission to the UN forecloses the need for negotiations. East Jerusalem is Palestinian. Period. The Israeli presence in sovereign Palestinian territory is illegal. Period. Continued occupation by Israel, which would now clearly violate the most fundamental principle of sovereignty upon which the entire international system is based, would become intolerable. This would activate international sanctions on Israel that could not be prevented by the US and Europe.
And what about the settlements? Easy. All settlements built on private Palestinian land must be removed. As to the others, including the large settlement blocs, the Palestinian government could simply: you, the settlers, are welcome to stay in your homes, but you will be living in Palestine, subject to Palestinian laws, with Palestinians free to purchase homes in your communities. The likelihood, of course, is that the settlers would leave voluntarily, their homes sold to Palestinians for whom they would represent a bank of high-quality housing. If played right, the settlement issue in this scenario would merely dissipate.
· In a recent article in The Guardian, Oxford academic and former PLO negotiator Karma Nabulsi argued that the time had arrived for a truly representative Palestinian government. Elections should be held for the Palestinian National Council, the Palestinian parliament in exile, which represents the entire Palestinian people: those in the refugee camps as well as those under military occupation, those living in Israel as well as those in the far-flung Diaspora. Placed within an effort to achieve independence by September, elections for the PNC could lay the foundations for a transitional government similar to the ones arising in the wider Arab world.
The chances of the US actually allowing a Palestinian state to emerge in September is minimal, if only because Congress would not allow it. But if, surprisingly, it does happen, what should be the civil society response? The issue seems clear: removing the Israeli presence from Palestine. The BDS movement would certainly be a part of this effort, but now it would receive significant backing from governments, including some European governments, that is presently lacking. And the campaign would have the backing of international law as well. Again, in this scenario we would have instruments at our disposal that are today lacking, in particular tribunals for the application of international law and sanctions, both international and of individual countries.
Scenario 2: Palestine does not become a member state of the UN. If the Security Council does not recommend Palestine for membership, the General Assembly may send the application back to the Council with a strong recommendation to reconsider. We could speculate over what would happen and whether in that case an American veto might become an abstention, but the likelihood is that a Palestinian state will not become a member of the UN in September.
What then? The PA cannot survive when there is neither a credible political process nor any prospect of Palestinian independence; it is likely to either resign or collapse. If this happens and the Occupation is thrown back into Israel’s lap, it will likely have to reoccupy the Palestinian cities and, so as to prevent Hamas from stepping into the breach, Gaza as well. Merely the threat of that would inflame the entire Muslim world – and beyond. Even the threat of such a thing happening would force the hand of the international community. Whether the US would be pulled into joining international efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict once and for all or whether the rest of the world would simply pass it by is an open question, but the status quo would become intolerable.
Who knows where this would all lead? Three things, however, seem certain:
(1) That the present situation is unsustainable, if only because of the global disruption it is causing;
(2) That the lineal “peace process” of the past twenty years – defining the problem, negotiating its solution and then actually resolving it – is bankrupt and over; and
(3) That the present deadlock, if not resolved by the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state with recognized borders, will lead to collapse and chaos. If we are faced with nothing but another American-led “push” for negotiations, then this is a good thing. Only the bursting apart of the exhausted “peace process” will lead to new opportunities to resolve the conflict, new openings and possibilities, a new logic and strategy, even new players (such as Palestinians outside of the Occupied Territory, new Palestinian leadership and governments joining actively with civil society to resist the Occupation). Hopefully the very threat of collapse and chaos turning into violence will ensure a peaceful transition to resolving the conflict.
In such an open-ended and unpredictable scenario, the role of civil society becomes even more central than today. We must act to protect the Palestinians from a renewed, violent and even more repressive Israeli occupation; we must effectively advocate for sanctions and the application of international law, engaging with governments in ways we have not until now, making any attempt at re-occupation unthinkable; and we must become watchdogs monitoring any subsequent political process to ensure that it does not perpetuate the Occupation or lead to Israeli apartheid or, worse, the permanent warehousing of the Palestinians. Perhaps not agreeing on a particular solution, we should be able to agree on a set of principles that must guide any attempt to achieve a just solution. At a minimum they would be:
· A lasting peace inclusive of all the peoples living in Palestine/Israel;
· A peace that provides economic viability to all the parties;
· A peace based on human rights, international law and UN resolutions;
· An addressing of the refugee issue, based on the right of return and Israeli acknowledgement of the role it played in driving the refugees from the country;
· Addressing the security concerns of all the parties and countries in the region; and
· Addressing the other outstanding regional issues that stand in the way of equality, justice, peace and development.
The Challenge of September
There is, I suppose, a third scenario: finessing. Netanyahu told EU representatives recently that the UN has often adopted “anti-Israel” resolutions, that the “peace process” has experienced repeated ups-and-downs and that “no one can impose a peace on Israel.” Under US pressure, the EU and its member states, never truly keen on crossing swords with either the US or Israel, could agree to yet another interminable round of negotiations, accompanied perhaps by some nominal Israel concessions, that would get them past September. Then we enter 2012, the year of the American elections, and any attempt to resolve the Palestine issue is effectively put off till 2013 or longer. Whether or not the PA would go along with this ploy would constitute a precise measure of whether it is a collaborationist regime or not. Regardless, it will not last until 2013, meaning that the scenarios laid out above – with or without a general conflagration in the Occupied Territory and the region – will likely hold even after September.
How to respond to the current political moment is a challenge to all grassroots movements and organizations. Until now there has been virtually no discussion among the hundreds of grassroots groups working on the Palestine issue of September and how we should address it. There has been no leadership on this issue on the part of Palestinian organizations, either in the Occupied Territory or abroad, and no hint that any of the activist community – Palestinian, Israeli or international – is considering any new forms of action or initiative. Collectively we have done amazing work over the past decade and more, raising the Palestine issue to the level of the anti-apartheid struggle. If we have reached the present crisis, it is due in no small part to our exposing the deceitfulness of “negotiations” and making the Occupation truly intolerable. Do we now ignore the political moment before us or engage, and how?
Ali Abunimah’s critical views expressed in his recent essay Recognizing Palestine? point to an urgent need for urgent civil society consultations. Activists in Palestine, in Israel, in every corner of the earth should be sharing their analysis, views and ideas. September is coming whether we are ready or not. Like it or not, we are part of a political process together with governments. That process, moreover, has a clear political goal: ending the Occupation and achieving a just peace between Israelis, Palestinians and their neighbors. I would argue with Ali that our ongoing campaigns and actions, from BDS, lobbying, international mobilization and pressing for the implementation of international law through resisting house demolitions and the displacement of Palestinians in Bil’in, Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan and the Jordan Valley, are important and must continue. But I don’t think they alone add up to a political force capable of ending the Occupation or of achieving a one-state solution. We are in a bad marriage with governments – the Palestinian Authority included. We the people can only bring the issue so far. We are not elected, have no defined constituencies, do not negotiate and cannot sign treaties or peace agreements. We alone cannot resolve the Palestine/Israel conflict. At some point we must pass the baton to governments. Preferring conflict management over conflict resolution, they will not do the right thing on their own. They will move towards a genuinely just solution only with our constant prodding, and even then we must monitor the process closely in order to keep it honest.
If the PA will engage with the grassroots in Palestine, Israel and internationally, if they see it as a strategic necessity to mobilize their base – us – then perhaps September can be turned from a farce into leverage for genuinely ending the Occupation. September will in no way not mark the end of the struggle. The broadly representative government envisioned by Karma, over which young people in Palestine are demonstrating daily, must replace the PA, and a focused international campaign to clear Israel out of Palestinian territory must be launched. It must be made clear as well that the “two-state solution” is merely a stage towards the eventual emergence, peacefully and by consent, of a single state, whether democratic or bi-national. And that, in the meantime, the right of return must be affirmed and the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel protected.
The September initiative does not exist on its own. It is part of a wider political campaign. But by the same token, if it does represent a significant opportunity to further the liberation of Palestine, do we have the luxury of ignoring it? The discussion must be held, and soon.
Jeff Halper is the Director of The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). He can be reached at <[email protected]>.
April 15th, 2011 | Add a Comment
by Jeff Halper
April 15, 2011
Less than two weeks after losing another friend and comrade, Juliano Mer-Khamis, I now have to mourn and remember my fellow Free Gaza shipmate Vittorio (Vik) Arrigoni, who was brutally murdered last night by religious extremists in Gaza (and who actually resembled Juliano, physically, in his buoyant personality and in his insistence on “being there” when the oppressed needed him).
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. Though having a family in Italy, he cast his lot with the Palestinians (with his whole heart, as was his wont. On his facebook page is written: “lives in Gaza”). He was especially known for accompanying the fishermen as they tried to ply their trade despite almost daily shootings at them from the Israeli navy, who confined them to the fished-out, sewage-filled waters near the Gaza coast. At least eighteen fishermen have been killed in the past decade, about 200 injured, many boats wrecked and much equipment ruined. But he was intimately involved wherever he was needed in Gaza, among the farmers as well as traumatized children, in times of distress – his book, Gaza: Stay Human, documents his experiences among the people during Israel’s three-week attack in 2008-09 – and simply being with the people in their coffee shops and homes.
When it was learned he was kidnapped, hundreds of appeals rose spontaneously not only from the international peace community but especially from a distraught Palestinian population in Gaza. A memorial service will be held today in Gaza City and other parts of the Occupied Territories.
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. His last message on my facebook page was: “No-fly zone over Palestine.” He, like Juliano, Rachel, Tom and so many other internationals who have sacrificed themselves for peace and justice in Palestine and the world over, leave a huge hole in our hearts, our lives and in the struggle.
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. You will always hold us up and inspire us. Like the Palestinian fishermen you loved so much, we and all others fighting for the fundamentals of life throughout the world commit ourselves to seeing your vision through.
4. VITTORIO: CRIME MOST FOUL AND UNNATURAL!
SHORT AFTER JULIANO’S MURDER, THE SENSELESS SQUALID BEAST OF INTOLERANCE AND BIGOTRY STRIKES AGAIN.
VITTORIO ARRIGONI, A DEVOTED ACTIVIST FOR THE PALESTINIAN CAUSE, HAS BEEN VICIOUSLY MURDERED BY DARK FANATICS WHO HAVE GIVEN ISRAEL THE MOST PRECIOUS PRESENT IT COULD RECEIVE IN A LONG TIME!
WHEN JULIANO WAS KILLED I CALLED FOR ACCOUNTABILITY, WONDERING WHAT WAS WRONG IN THE PALESTINIAN SOCIETY, AND ASKING AN END TO THE OMERTÀ SURROUNDING THIS SORT OF CRIMES. I INSISTED THAT NAMING THE IDEOLOGICAL AND POLITICAL BRANCH BEHIND SUCH MURDERS WAS THE WAY TO ISOLATE THEIR PERPETRATORS.
SOME WOULDN’T CALL ACKNOWLEDGE THIS IMPERATIVE, PERHAPS FOR THE SAKE OF A FACTITIOUS CONSENSUS. AND NOW VITTORIO IS NO LONGER. VITTORIO, OUR FRIEND, WHO ACCOMPANIED THE GRIEVED GAZANS IN THEIR HOURS OF MOST SUFFERING, AND WHO ENLIGHTENED ALL OF US WITH HIS WRITINGS, THE GUY WHO WAS MOST HATED BY THE ZIONISTS, NOW ASSASSINATED BY RENEGADE PALESTINIANS…
HOPEFULLY THE GAZA AUTHORITIES WILL BRING TO JUSTICE HIS ASSASSINS WITH MORE DETERMINATION THAN THE AUTHORITIES IN THE WEST BANK JULIANO’S KILLERS, WHO ARE STILL AT LARGE.
Italian activist found dead in Gaza after abduction
Vittorio Arrigoni was kidnapped on Thursday morning
An Italian pro-Palestinian activist has been found dead in the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip hours after being abducted.
Vittorio Arrigoni, 36, was seized on Thursday by a radical group that has been in conflict with Hamas and is seeking the release of its leader.
Police said he was found hanged in a Gaza City house after receiving a tip-off. Two people have been arrested.
Italy denounced the “barbaric murder”, calling it an “act of vile and senseless violence”.
Mr Arrigoni was the first foreigner kidnapped in Gaza since BBC journalist Alan Johnston was abducted in 2007.
Friends of the activist gathered outside the hospital where his body had been taken on Friday morning.
“He came from across the world, left his country and family and his entire life and came here to break the siege, and we kill him? Why?” asked one of his friends.
Vittorio Arrigoni was a pro-Palestinian activist who had been in Gaza for several years
Vittorio Arrigoni was seized by Salafist radicals, an Islamist movement itself that considers Hamas as too moderate, BBC Gaza correspondent Jon Donnison says.
The Salafists had threatened to execute Mr Arrigoni by 1400 GMT on Friday unless several prisoners, including their leader, Sheikh Abu Walid al-Maqdasi, were released. Sheikh Maqdasi was arrested by Hamas police last month in Gaza City.
In a video posted on YouTube, Mr Arrigoni appeared to have been beaten and his eyes were covered with thick black tape.
A caption on the video read: “The Italian hostage entered our land only to spread corruption.” The video called Italy “the infidel state”.
It is not clear why Mr Arrigoni was killed before the given deadline, but the Hamas interior ministry said he had died soon after being abducted.
Ministry spokesman Ehab al-Ghussein said he was killed “in an awful way”.
Salafists in Gaza
Small in number but appear to be attracting supporters
View Hamas as too moderate
Refuse to abide by ceasefires
Launched hundreds of rockets at Israel
Salafism espouses an austere form of Sunni Islam based on practices of earliest Muslims