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.