Staying Human - Tribute to two fine examples
VITTORIO ARRIGONI also campaigned for freedom at sea. UNDER the slogan "Stay Human" - peace campaigners in Brighton have organised a march and vigil on Wednesday in tribute to the victims of violence in Palestine this month, and notably to the theatre director Juliano Mer-Khamis and peace activist Vittorio Arrigoni, who were murdered in the last two weeks. Juliano Mer Khamis, director of the Freedom Theatre in Jenin refugee camp, was shot dead in what friends and co-workers believe was a professional 'hit', as he sat in his car with his children. The son of an ex-kibbutznik Jewish mother and Palestinian communist father, Juliano described himself as "100 per cent Jewish and 100 per cent Palestinian". Vittorio Arrigoni , an Italian journalist and solidarity worker, was found, apparently hanged by the neck, after kidnappers had let a video of him blindfolded and bruised from beatings appear on the internet. Members of a Salafi -extreme Islamist -group had threatened to execute the Italian unless the Hamas government in Gaza release their leader. Juliano and Vittorio were regarded not just as friends but each as militants in their own way in the struggle for Palestinian freedom and justice, and they are being mourned by shocked Palestinian friends and international supporters. Arrigoni, who had previously been active for human rights and aid in Africa and the Balkans, first came to Palestine in 2002. Becoming involved with the International Solidarity Movement which combines humanitarian aid and support for non-violent civil resistance, he returned with efforts to break the siege on Gaza by boat, and worked with the Palestine Red Crescent Society’s emergency medical worker teams during the 2009 Israeli military assault. Because Israel had banned journalists from entering the Gaza Strip, Vittorio -"Vik" as he became known to friends and fell-volunteers - was in demand for interviews with the Italian press. His daily dispatches during those three weeks, during which 1,400 Palestinians were killed, the vast majority civilians, were published in 2010 in a book titled Gaza: Stay Human, translated into English by Daniela Filippin and with an introduction by Israeli historian and dissident Ilan Pappe. "Vik" , who had become a Palestinian citizen, also developed a special interest in campaigning for the rights of Palestinian fishermen to sail free of Israeli imposed restrictions and harassment, so they can earn their livelihood and bring much needed food to the Gaza strip population. Fishermen have been attacked and sometimes killed, and the Italian campaigner himself was injured when the Israeli navy fired a water cannon at fishing boats off the Gaza coast, in 2008. A month later he was kidnapped along with 15 Palestinian fishermen and three accompanying international activists, from Palestinian waters. The murder of this fine comrade has been condemned by Hamas and Fatah alike, as well as by Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian People's Party, and the Popular Resistance Committee. Vigils to mourn him were held in Gaza, and in Ramallah and Bethlehem. News of "Vik"s death came as people were still mourning the murder of Juliano Mer-Khamis, and calls were made for those responsible to be quickly brought to justice. http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=378677 For a tribute to Juliano Mer-Khamis and Vittorio Arrigoni by Israeli peace and rights activist Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, see: http://www.icahd.org/?p=7195 For the feelings of UK peace activist, film maker and solidarity campaigner Pennie Quintin, who knew Vittorio: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/apr/16/vittorio-arrigoni-murder-peace-activist-palestinian The two murders came at a time when Hamas and the Israeli government were being edged towards a truce after a escalation of attacks and counter-attacks brought more civilian deaths in Gaza, and calls both sides for moves towards negotiations. But it is also a time of movement among young Palestinians calling for national unity, democracy and popular struggle. The Salafis who have appeared claiming to represent a 'purer' form of Islam, and demanding that it be enforced, are already resented for their self-righteous, taqfiri attitude to the masses, and people may well compare notes with experience of sectarian groups setting out to divide the people elsewhere. The murders of Vittorio Arrigoni in Gaza and Juliano Mer Khamis in Jenin have both been described as crimes against the Palestinian people, and if they are linked, then whoever is responsible is working to a discernible strategy. See also: http://www.tarabut.info/en/articles/article/vittorio/ The tribute in Brighton is to all who have lost their lives recently in Palestine, The organisers say: - Add your voice for an end to violence against civilians. - Feel free to bring your own placard or banner with words of peace on them. Please do not bring or chant words of hatred or violence. LET PEACE BE OUR GUIDE OF COURAGE. - We will distribute headbands with the word PEACE on them. Venue & Time: Assembly for the march: 1pm at Brighton War Memorial, Old Steine (near St James Street) before marching towards Palmeira Square. Candlelight Vigil: 7pm to 9pm, War Memorial, Old Steine. Feel free to bring your own candle.