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A Year After the Murder of Vittorio ArrigoniTim King Salem-News.com
The grandson of Italian Resistance Fighters in WWII, it was natural for 'Vik' to rally for the downtrodden people of Gaza, who are forced to live like animals behind fences and walls...
(SALEM) - "I have seen my brother Vik's body and his death certificate, but Vik is not dead".
It is hard to imagine that a year has passed since Ken O'Keefe said those words from Gaza. There were a few hours when the famed Italian peace activist Vittorio 'Vik' Arrigoni, remained missing, and that was a tense period, but it didn't last long enough and soon came the word that this courageous man and friend of so many, was dead, brutally murdered.... gone.
Vik wanted to remind people that at the core of each one of us is our humanity, it is what we have in common, a starting point.
His favorite slogan; words he will always be known for... 'Restiamo Umani' - 'Stay Human', has taken off all over the world.
Few people who ever walked the face of this earth were more human or more humane than this man who was a member of the group, ISM, International Solidarity Movement, and it is Vik who revived the movement after the loss of two other western ISM members, killed by Israeli military.
US national Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer in March 2003, and a month later Briton Tom Hurndall was shot and critically injured by an IDF sniper, dying from the wound in January 2004.
The grandson of Italian Resistance Fighters in WWII who helped defeat the fascist and Nazi Italian and German governments of the time, it was natural for 'Vik' to rally for the downtrodden people of Gaza, who are forced to live like animals behind fences and walls and suffer the antics of deadly Israeli naval patrols that endlessly harm and harass Gaza's fishermen.
It was this specific issue that haunted Vik and occupied his thoughts; he couldn't stand the Israeli harassment of these hard working fishermen, who are not unlike fishermen on our own U.S. coastlines, however Gaza's fishing fleet is dealt with by bullets, water cannons on freezing days, and sometimes confiscation, arrest, etc.
Sometimes fishing crews disappear after being contacted by the Israeli military. Thanks to Vik, much of this is documented, even recorded on video, yet nothing changes, the U.S. continues to back these crimes against working human beings, of course the fishermen are only one segment in Gaza that suffers every day, without the ability to conduct trade, to exit or return to Gaza, or to even do the most simple things like mail a letter.
Hamas, the government in Gaza, did everything they could to save Vik when he was kidnapped on 14 April 2011, but they were a day late and a dollar short. When the confirmation was in, Hamas released a statement, part of it was:
It seems the biggest and simplest question: was his loss worth it? I am not Vik's family, I can't speak for them, however the answer regardless of how his story is examined, is that Vik's mission continues to benefit Gaza even now. The idea of saying that a great person's murder was worthwhile is a complicated and potentially ugly statement, but his death brought attention to the plight of Palestinians and he was hailed as a full hero most everywhere except for the U.S. and Israel.
The very last thing Vik would have wanted was for his work to end, or for his vision to be lost, none of this happened.
Instead, one of the greatest hopes of many Palestinians came true.
In the year following Vik's death, Palestine was admitted to UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. It was a giant step toward national acceptance. Even though the U.S. stopped funding projects to help poor people through UNESCO all over the world in protest, the nations of the world supported this historic quest of Palestine and it happened.
The vote was quite a statement in itself, it was a landslide for Palestine and Vittorio's name is in the unreadable fine print: 107 voted for Palestine, 14 voted against, with 52 abstentions, to approve full Palestinian membership in the international body.
As Dr. James Wall wrote last year, In addition to leaving the US and Israel with a demonstratively shrinking number of friends in the international community, the UNESCO vote has far-reaching implications for the PLO’s earlier request to the UN Security Council, which requested full statehood membership in the UN General Assembly.
The Arab Spring began in December 2010, but heated up dramatically in the month following Vik's death; interestingly the Palestinian protests that joined those of Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Bahrain, Libya, Syria and so many other countries, are oddly not mentioned in Wikipedia, a strong oversight.
The Gaza border with Israel, with Ken O'Keefe shooting video, absolutely was the scene of large-scale protests and we'll never forget because of all of the casualties; young Palestinians shot by Israeli bullets being run to waiting ambulance crews on stretchers. Don't think for a second that Vik's spirit wasn't there.
We have even continued to publish Vik's articles since his murder, that is what happens when reporters as busy as he was, build up reports en mass and never have time to get them out.
The Restiamo Umani Summit 2012 is taking place as I write this, along with many other projects inspired by Vik's life and death. He was funny, powerful, and full of life; a man well beyond his years and incredible as a writer, photographer, activist, swimmer. (The Israelis once beat him on a fishing boat to the point that Vik believed he had to go into the ocean and swim to shore, in order to avoid being killed, he barely made it.)
Artists have certainly been inspired by Vik's legacy. From the walls of Gaza, to the art tables of incredible Brazilian artist Carlos Latuff and many others, Vik's face occupies many places, and the songs that have come forth are incredible.
The DARG Team in Gaza produced an incredible new version of the Palestinian folk song 'Unadikum' in Vik's name, but it is our own Agron Belica who has repeatedly honored Vik in soulful tributes that have been produced by Salem-News.com.
The newest is 'Lions of Palestine' by Ace in Boston, Mass., and it is incredible and even more fiery than other songs that celebrate Vik.
Listeners literally feel the determination of this movement for humanity, against religious oppression, against Israeli apartheid which subjects Jews to one set of laws, and those who aren't Jewish to another.
Two excellent articles were published this week about the new release:
There are few better ways to get this point across; Vik's life's work and his image naturally inspire artists, and anyone who reads his book or just reads about him at all, learns that he was as real in his desire to raise the bar of humanity, as any person in history. The song 'Lions of Palestine' is a powerful, respectful tribute to the hard driving, relentless activist.
Vik was aboard the first Freedom Flotilla to reach Gaza; it represented the first time a vessel landed at Gaza from out of the country, in four decades. He became locked in step with these incredible people who are so mis-portrayed, so abused, so ignored by the powerful countries of the world that could force change.
The worst part of all of it, is the fact that Israel uses religion as an excuse to kill. It is unacceptable and will never become acceptable.
Americans lived in the dark for decades over this while Israel built up an illegal, undeclared nuclear arsenal with the help of its American friends. Everything to do with the Negev Nuclear Research Center at Dimona, is illegal in every respect; however now with the help of the Internet and burning truth that is singeing away the veneer of propaganda, the world is dialing in and increasingly understanding.
Things are changing, Vik Arrigoni is one large reason why, we lament his loss and honor him on every day, but especially today.
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Tim King has more than twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. Tim is Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. His background includes covering the war in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, and reporting from the Iraq war in 2008. Tim is a former U.S. Marine.
Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing from The Associated Press the National Coalition of Motorcyclists, the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs, Electronic Media Association and The Red Cross In a personal capacity, Tim has written 2,026 articles as of March 2012 for Salem-News.com since the new format designed by Matt Lintz was launched in December, 2005.
Serving readers with news from all over the globe, Tim's life is literally encircled by the endless news flow published by Salem-News.com, where more than 100 writers contribute stories from 20+ countries and regions.
Tim specializes in writing about political and military developments worldwide with an emphasis on Palestine and Sri Lanka, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the U.S. Marines. You can write to Tim at this address: email@example.com. Visit Tim's Facebook page (facebook.com/TimKing.Reporter)
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