On Palestinian Humanity and the Murder of Vik Arrigoni

Required reading: Ashley Bates on Vittorio Arrigoni, the Italian journalist and human rights activist who was murdered by jihadist militants in Gaza yesterday:

I met Vittorio, known to his friends as Vik, during my first week of freelance reporting in Gaza last year for publications including The Nation, GlobalPost, and Jerusalem Post Magazine. Vik graciously offered to show me around. The first time we met, he recounted the Israeli army assaults that he’d witnessed, and advised me on humanitarian stories that I might cover in Gaza. He brought along his laptop, and offered to let me use his pictures and videos. He took deep puffs from his pipe as he told me about the things he’d seen, including the time he saw a friend of his killed in an Israeli airstrike. I remember feeling awed by his determination to perservere despite his grief…

He was among a handful of foreigners present in Gaza during Israel’s 2008 / 2009 invasion—he called it a “life-changing trauma.” During the invasion, Vik rode with ambulances to document civilian casualities; he took photographs of bomb wreckage, including many photos of dead children. Vik said that the ambulance workers, 22 of whom were ultimately killed during the war, were the most courageous people he’d ever met. I would say the same about Vik.

I have no doubt that the vicious kidnapping and murder of Vik Arrigoni will reinforce some peoples’ worst assumptions about the humanity of the Palestinian people. Last night, for instance, I received this message through my blog:

The recent assassinations of Pro-Peace activists and supporters of Palestinians by Palestinians is telling us something very loudly.

I’m not exactly sure what the commenter believed these tragedies are telling us, but I suspect this person meant something along the lines of: “See, this is the nature of the enemy Israel has to deal with. How will we possibly make peace with people who are insane enough to murder the very people who are actually working for their own liberation?”

No, I have no illusions about the knee-jerk generalizations that we’ll be hearing aired in the wake of this horrid event. For me, however, the effect has been precisely the opposite. Over the past day, my Twitter feed has been absolutely overwhelmed with expressions of grief from Gazans who are mourning the loss of someone they clearly consider to be one of their own:

Last night was like hell,so cold, so cruel, so unsafe, why couldnt we save him?we owed him that

Vik had the same flame we had,he was Palestinian,I cant help but wonder & question allot of stuff, may he RIP

I still cant believe it angered and saddened by kidnap of Vittorio Arrigoni. Gaza has been so safe from such acts in recent years

we lost a brother. he was one of us, he was more palestinian than many palestinians here.

Rest in Peace #Vittorio Arrigoni, we lost a Palestinian, not a friend to the Palestinians

Vik was murdered by the Salafists, an ultra-radical fringe group that is strongly opposed by Hamas and the overwhelming majority of Palestinians. We would be no more justified in judging Palestinian society by their actions than we would in judging Israelis by the actions of Yigal Amir or Yona Avrushmi (the individual who murdered Israeli peace activist Emil Grunzweig.)

Final word goes to Gazan blogger Omar Ghraieb:

Vittorio meant allot for Palestinians, Gazans and his friend everywhere. He is a huge loss for us all, may he rest in peace.

9 thoughts on “On Palestinian Humanity and the Murder of Vik Arrigoni

  1. Julie Kosowski

    Shalom Rav shel Shalom,
    Thanks for writing about this murder. I went to his website and viewed some of the pictures of the children of Gaza. This man was a witness and lives on through his witness. The pictures are devastating and I feel very very mournful. Rabbi Brant Rosen, your leadership gives me hope and helps me to feel that we stand together as witnesses to my grandparents’ murder in Auschwitz. Thank you for your sustaining leadership and perseverance. Love, Julie

  2. Cotton Fite

    The murder of Vittorio is absolutely heartbreaking. Period. And, I agree, Ashley’s tribute to him is required reading.
    No national, ethnic or religious group has a monopoly on the human capacity for becoming unimaginably distorted. We would surely not want to be characterized by Timothy McVeigh at the Federal Building in Oklahoma City or Stephen Kazmierczak at Northern Illinois University or Seung-Hui Cho at Virginia Tech. Palestinian friends, and Gazans in particular, are as shocked and heartbroken as we are.

  3. Steffen Schwarz

    This is extremely sad and I haven’t quite fathomed yet the whole story. Vik was one of the most pleasant characters I ever came across.

    Unfortunately it is true what Ashely writes about the generalisations we will get to hear and read about in the coming days. It’s almost as if some have been waiting for an incident like this to tell the world how gruesome and undeserving a people the Palestinians are.

  4. Dave

    I can’t believe people here are missing the most interesting aspect of this. Yigal Amir killed Rabin because he opposed Rabin. That is the way with 99.99% of the killings in the world. The same is true of Avrushmi, McVeigh, and for that matter the killings at Auschwitz. That is the way humans, even bad ones think.

    The Palestinians who killed Arrigoni killed someone completely on their side. Furthermore unlike the various lone gunmen mentioned, it is clear that a group killed Arrigoni.

    As I said, interesting. And not like any of the examples mentioned.

    1. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author


      I’ll stand by my comparisons. As in the cases in Israel, these were internal, internecine killings by extremists. Amir and Avrushmi killed because they opposed the Israeli peace camp. The Salafists killed Vik because they opposed Hamas and wanted their members freed from prison.

      Extremism is extremism, no matter which side we are talking about.

  5. Israel Gershon


    I beg to differ on your statement, “We would be no more justified in judging Palestinian society by their actions than we would in judging Israelis by the actions of Yigal Amir…”

    But Israeli’s did judge their society and grapple with issues of politics, incitement, and religion, after the assassination of Rabin. And till this day, every time the debates get aggressive or potentially violent, Yigal Amir is mentioned as a warning.

    But with all the violence in Palestinian society directed towards Israelis, Jews, other Palestinians, and even the press; with all the murder, suicide bombings, corruption, racism, incitement, etc. You seem to feel it is somehow helpful to keep giving them a pass.

    That pass, in my opinion, is main cause of the continued conflict and lack of a peace settlement.

    1. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author


      Palestinians also “judge their society and grapple with issues of politics, incitement and religion” when other Palestinians commit immoral acts.

      I’m not sure what you mean by “pass,” but I would say that Israel’s continued occupation and expansion of settlements on Palestinian lands are a fairly major cause of the continued continued conflict and lack of a peace settlement.

  6. Kathleen O'connor Wang

    Vik was a Palestinian. He became one with the people. The people who murdered him are traitors to Palestine. I’ve been mourning him all day. Just feeling so heart broken that this could happen. What a loss to Palestine! A young Palestinian friend told me;he will be all right. He knew it did not make sense for a Palestinian to kill Vik. His goodness will live after him. He will always be remembered as fully human,fully courageous,fully a part of Palestine.

  7. Kathleen O'Connor Wang

    I just finished Vik’s book this week.I ordered it after his murder. It was hard to pick up because I miss his being with us in this world.His e-mails always ended with “Hugs” along with his “Stay human” mantra.
    Israel: Be Human.Stop your inhumane crushing of Gaza and its people.
    Today let the Tawir boat follow the trail Vik and those of us who took 2 boats to Gaza left for others to follow.. Vik was able to live among our brothers and sisters in Gaza and he became a true brother and Palestinian. Hearts will always ache of those of us who were lucky enough to share space and goals with him.Peace.Stay Human.Love.


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