June 14, 2017
By International Solidarity Movement, al-Khalil team | Jerusalem, occupied Palestine
Seventy people gathered in the Sur Baher neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem for a communal solidarity Iftar on the rubble of the home of Ashraf and Islam Fawaqa.
The Fawaqa home was one of nine Palestinian homes and 3 stores that were demolished on May 4th, 2017 in occupied East Jerusalem. Home demolition is a strategic policy of Israel that is integral to their Judaization of Jerusalem and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
Nurredin Amro, who is blind and the principal of Siraj Al Quds School for Inclusive Education spoke about his family being awakened at four in the morning in March 2015 when their house in Wadi Joz was being demolished while they were inside. “It was the most terrible thing that I have ever experienced. A home demolition is the demolition of a person. It is not just stone that is destroyed it is the demolition of the human spirit.”
Nora Lester Murad, one of the volunteer organisers of the event stated: “We want to express our solidarity with the tens of thousands of Palestinian families whose homes have been demolished, sealed, or who live every day under the imminent threat of demolition. We feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of need these families have, by the apparent impossibility of stopping future demolitions, and by our own sense of powerlessness. It seemed the least we could do to show these families – families who are on the frontline of the continuing Nakba – that they have allies.”
Islam and Ashraf talked about the uncertain future of their young family who now live in a temporary caravan on the site where their home once stood, even this caravan which is insufficient to keep their children, including their new born baby, warm in the winter, is in danger of being demolished.
Munir Nusseibeh, of the Al Quds Community Action Center, explained the excuses used by the occupation authorities for demolishing Palestinian homes. “Some homes are demolished because the occupation authorities claim they have no building permits, but it is virtually impossible for a Palestinian resident of occupied East Jerusalem to receive a permit. The permit system is setup to benefit the Israeli settlers and not to serve the needs of the Palestinians of the city. Some homes are demolished as collective punishment because one of the members of the family is accused of a crime. But no matter the excuse, home demolitions by the occupying power are illegal under international law.”
At the time of the call for the evening prayer food donated by members of the community as well as local businesses, such as the Jerusalem Hotel, La vie Cafe from Ramallah, The Tanour and Abu Zahra supermarkets was shared. At least for this evening the families were not alone in facing the uncertainty of their future.
I Will Not Move Until I Die
A Story of Coming Together. A Moment of Waking Up. A little bit more.
PDF version of Newsletter
By Richard Hardigan
October 21, 2016, marked the first anniversary of the death of the Palestinian doctor Hashem al-Azzeh. The proximate cause of his demise is in dispute. Was it excessive tear gas inhalation, or was it the chest pains he had been feeling earlier on that day? Perhaps it was a combination of the two. But the ultimate cause is clear: the brutality of the Israeli occupation contributed to his death.
I first met al-Azzeh two years ago, while I was working for the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), an organization dedicated, as its name suggests, to standing in solidarity with the Palestinians. I was stationed in the neighborhood of Tel Rumeida, in the heart of the ancient city of Hebron in the West Bank, where a few hundred right-wing Zionist settlers (and the thousands of soldiers assigned to protect them) live among the roughly 100,000 Palestinians who call the city home.
Hebron is divided into two zones: H1, which is under Palestinian administration, and H2, where the Israeli authorities have control. H2 contains the most famous Hebron landmark, which is also a major source of contention between Muslims and Jews — the Cave of the Patriarchs, as it is known by Jews, and the Ibrahimi Mosque, as it is referred to by Muslims. The building, a large rectangular stone enclosure, is believed by Muslims, Christians and Jews to lie above the tomb of Abraham, the father of all three religions. In Tel Rumeida, a short walk away, settlers and Palestinians live in close proximity to one another, and violent confrontations between them occur on an almost daily basis.
In the middle of the night of August 2, 2014, I walked to al-Azzeh’s house. The army does not allow the use of his front door, and I had to make my way along a dirt path that led through thick bushes to the back. Al-Azzeh, a thin man in his early fifties, was standing on his porch when I arrived, tightly gripping a baseball bat in his right hand. A bullet hole, the result of a settler attack, was visible in the wall above the door.
It was the height of Operation Protective Edge, an Israeli military assault on Gaza, and the Palestinians of Tel Rumeida knew the potential for violence on this night was greater than normal. Not only had the situation in Gaza generally exacerbated the already high tensions in Hebron, but just a few days earlier the Israelis had suffered one of their worst losses of the assault, with 25 soldiers dying in a single day. A soldier from Kiryat Arba, the largest settlement in Hebron, had been among the dead, and he was to be buried in the old Jewish cemetery in Tel Rumeida. Hundreds of enraged and most likely armed settlers would be descending on the Palestinian neighborhood for the funeral, many of them looking for vengeance. I was part of a three-person team assigned to spend the night at the doctor’s house. Our presence, we hoped, would mitigate the possibility of a settler attack.
Like many Palestinians who live in Tel Rumeida, the family of Hashem al-Azzeh has a long history of confrontation with the settlers. For years, they attempted to induce him to leave his home. But he steadfastly refused. “I will never move until I die or we get our freedom,” he said in a 2013 interview.
The settlers employed harsh and violent methods. They repeatedly attacked him, smashing his head and breaking his teeth with the butts of their guns. Twice they beat up his wife, Nisreen, who was pregnant at the time, on both occasions causing a miscarriage. Once they invaded his house, shooting bullets into the walls, breaking windows and smashing furniture.
Al-Azzeh claimed that in 2003, perhaps sensing that he could not be intimidated, they offered him $2 million to leave, but he refused, saying that he “would require the national budgets of the USA and Israel.” If they provided that, he would sell them a branch from his olive tree.
The four hours we spent at his house that night were terrifying, as we sat in the darkness, thinking about the settlers roaming around outside. Earlier in the evening, I had watched from the roof of the ISM apartment as dozens of settlers climbed up the hill and passed on their way to the cemetery. A good number of them were armed, their M-16s slung over their shoulder. It was a frightening scene. I thought about my Canadian colleague, Peter, who years earlier had been attacked by a group of settlers and almost lost his life.
Throughout the night, al-Azzeh relayed to us reports that he received on his phone:
“There are thousands of angry settlers gathering at the Tomb of the Patriarchs.”
“The settlers are coming this way. They are chanting ‘Death to Arabs.’”
I had not seen al-Azzeh’s wife or any of their four children. I was sure he did not want his kids to be here if a mob broke down the door and began beating the inhabitants.
One of al-Azzeh’s sons was arrested when he was five years old. The soldiers accused him of throwing stones, but they admitted that they had not actually witnessed this. Laughing as they arrested him, they told al-Azzeh that they were relying on the word of a settler.
“We used to have daily harassments from the settlers toward our children,” al-Azzeh explained in 2013. “A lot of them suffer from psychological diseases. The children here, including my own, can’t sleep well at night. The light has to be on all the time. If we turn it off, they can’t sleep. They can’t fall asleep if we don’t stay with them. They always expect soldiers or settlers to come and attack. Many children still wet their pants at the age of 14 or 15.”
I don’t remember when I fell asleep that night, but I woke up at 4:30 in the morning. Al-Azzeh was nowhere to be seen. He must have retired to his bedroom sometime during the night. It was still dark outside, but it was quiet, and the streets were empty. It was over.
I never saw Hashem al-Azzeh again. He died on October 21, 2015, at the age of 54. Having had cardiac problems for years, he began to feel chest pains while at home, but because ambulances are not allowed in H2, he was forced to walk the 700 meters to the Bab al-Zawiya checkpoint. Israeli forces had killed two Palestinian teenagers the previous evening after an alleged stabbing attack on a soldier, and as a result, there were clashes at the checkpoint when al-Azzeh arrived, and he was forced to inhale the tear gas that the Israelis were employing. Eventually, an ambulance did pick him up, but he did not survive the trip to the hospital. An Israeli army spokeswoman said that “the military was in no way responsible.”
Richard Hardigan is a professor and journalist. He recently wrote a book about his experiences in Palestine entitled “The Other Side of the Wall: An Eyewitness Account of the Occupation in Palestine.” His website is richardhardigan.com.
By Sam Weaver
Once upon a time, if there is such a thing as time, there lived a Jew and a Palestinian. This Jew grew up keeping kosher, with family holding traditions, more than religion. Her father grew up in Israel, though she did not grow up with him, but still instilled in her were false impressions, and one sided stories about the State of Israel and Palestine. With curiosity and wonder, this person called herself to wake up to the truth of all manners; the truth about colonization, capitalism, privilege, and power. And, she learned about Palestine. And she became ashamed of her heritage; oppressed becoming oppressors. Blood shed and tears turned to blood shed and tears. What a mighty struggle to both celebrate a beautiful faith that holds the questions around the mysterious forces of the universe, the Creator, a history with beauty, celebration, prayer taken and twisted into a nation state claiming Judaism as their right to occupy another people.
And in this story is a Palestinian. A farmer in the hills of Hebron, a person just trying to live his life, raise his family, and put bread on the table. He is but one of every person that lives under this occupation with tragic tales of torture, destruction, and land confiscation, on this holy land for all peoples. This person’s story opens with a beautiful large shop in Bethlehem, filled with goods to sell, with pride to work and support the family. This store is bombed as he is outside the shop drinking coffee, during an uprising called the Intifada in 2002. And this is not the end of it. This person’s story involves loss of many members of the family through a fire started by settlers who live next door to his home. Surrounded 24 hours a day by Israeli soldiers carrying guns, arresting and controlling where they can enter and exit from, making life as hard as possible. And, the settlers- extremists often Orthodox Jews, who have no authority to hold them accountable for their actions. On the contrary, these people are supported by authority for anything that they say or do. This is the picture that this Palestinian has of the “Jew”.
So it came to be that one day this Jewish American (with both Sephardic and Ashkenazi roots) and this Muslim Palestinian came to meet. The meeting place: olive fields. Trees filled with purple gems, and surrounded by settler invasion and the potential for harassment and trouble. This day went smoothly for our group in the fields. With broken Arabic and broken English, and much hand gesture and facial expression, we connected about life and land over coffee and tea. She is brought over to see the new baby goats who have just been born, as they watched the shepherd head down the hillside. And, at the end of the day, the farmer invited three of the volunteers to join his family in his home for a tea and a meal. They accept the invitation, and meet sisters, wives, and many children. They sit in the living room over tea, and attempt to converse on topics such as work, marriage, children, their countries of origin and the election of Donald Trump. They laugh as they exchange guesses on one another’s ages, and look at photos of the family enjoying themselves, as well as videos of the farmer’s son, age 13 at the time, being arrested by soldiers on the street, a very common occurrence for young boys in Palestine. They are profiled and accused of crimes they never committed, all the time.
The food comes out- French fries and cauliflower both cooked in olive oil, salads, and bread. It is all delicious, and they are more quiet as they enjoy the food, hungry from a long day of work. Oh, and the olives. The most tasty olives that she had ever tasted. They begin talking again, maybe it’s about Arabic dialects, she can’t recall exactly how they get to what comes next. But, somehow Morocco gets mentioned and she blurts out (without thinking really) that her grandparents are from Morocco. The farmer is curious, surprised maybe. He asks, “Muslim”? She nod no. “Christian” ? She nod no. “Yehudi”?? His tone as he asks is concerning. Nonetheless, what can she do. She has been building a relationship with this person all day long. She isn’t going to lie, but something in her wonders what will happen. She replies, “Yes”.
What follows is a sequence of whispering, as the person reaches for a cigarette, the food shortly after disappears. One of my team mates immediately says, “She is very brave to come here. She is a good one. She is working with you”. Another cigarette. And, then lots of words, some understood and others not. She tries to discern the words, but the energy is what she is picking up on. She talks to him in hopes that he will understand that there are Jewish people that stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, and that fight to end the occupation, and that do not stand at all with the State of Israel. She says the words, ‘my people’ as she tries to explain that she is distraught by what ‘her people’ are doing, and he says, ‘my people?’ back, and she quickly works to clarify, that they are not her people in Israel, and at this point, she cannot hold back the tears, and they fall out in water falls and attempts to breathe deep in order to keep calm, and try to hold back more. These are personal tears — of her ancestors that decided in 1948 to move from Morocco where Jews and Arabs were living mostly in peace, to the nation state where her family participated and stood with the occupation of the Muslim and Christian Palestinian people. These are solidarity tears – that the Jewish people are responsible for what is being done, and that she can understand this person’s misunderstanding of religion versus the national state. And, as the tears fall, the tension begins to fade. Water and tissues are brought over, and the response is gentleness and care, with a hope that the tears will stop soon as well. And so, with the tension released, she thought she could feel more softness return to this person. She could listen to more stories of the family and the life that these Jews have caused him to suffer. And, he ended by saying we are all welcome to his home, to Palestine. Our eyes met, and more tears appeared in her eyes. This time, healing tears — a feeling of hope – that this meeting was felt by the ancestors of both of our people. She cries for both the Muslim and the Jew, for these religions and faiths have been misconstrued and misinterpreted by many, and it is a big shame and a slander that should be wiped away from the earth.
As they leave to return home from this unexpected evening, the farmer asks to aid them in finding their way back up the rocky steep hill. It was dark and hard to see. The farmer reached out his hand, and though under most circumstances in Palestinian culture she might be wary to accept, she took his hand, and was guided along the way, shown the well of Abraham that the settlers have taken from them, the school that he went to, now belonging to the settlers, and the beauty of his city. And, as we parted, he asked her if she would come back to visit. She answered, ”Inshallah”.
This is a story of one Palestinian farmer, and one Jewish American women, and the meeting of the two, coming together to heal from the separation of what once was a sweet connection between Muslim and Jew. Perhaps the peoples of that rich time were listening in, and perhaps the message of hope for the future relationship will be carried forward to more people in need of the truth, that we are both people, and that we can be living side by side in harmony and just peace.
Living in the greater bay area and engaging in activism surrounding Palestinian rights, Sam Weaver is currently traveling the world and seeking out opportunities to use her Jewish ancestry to bring attention to injustices of Israeli occupation of Palestine. She plans to continue her activism through education and direct action in the states.
NYT: Why We Are on Hunger Strike in Israel’s Prisons
Six year anniversary of the death of Vittorio Arrigoni
Beatings, theft, and humiliation: Dismantle the Ghetto activist speaks of his ordeal following arrest at Land Day demonstrations
Israeli soldiers occupy home of Palestinian family during Pesach, al-Khalil Israeli soldiers occupy home of Palestinian family during Pesach, al-Khalil
al-Khalil on lockdown as Israeli settlers and tourists celebrate Pesach
AUTHOR: INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY MOVEMENT
DATE: APRIL 14, 2017
Israeli Border Police occupy the area around the Shuhada Street checkpoint. The concrete barrier was also moved further up the road recenty by Israeli forces, extending their control in H1.
Since the evening of April 10th, 2017, Israeli forces have imposed increased restrictions on the Palestinians of al-Khalil as colonial settlers and Israeli tourists celebrate Pesach – or Passover – across the city. So far, homes have been occupied, checkpoints closed, and Palestinian children attacked with teargas during the week-long holiday. Preparations for the festival began early in the week as an increasing number of Israeli soldiers and military vehicles arrived in Hebron.
Since the beginning of the week, an increased number of Israeli soldiers and military vehicles have arrived in al-Khalil.
Israeli soldiers gather in al-Khalil
Consequently, Palestinians have faced increased delays and harrassment from soldiers, both the areas of H1, officially under full Palestinian civil and security control, and H2, which is under full Israeli control – the two areas into which al-Khalil has been divided since this Ibrahimi Mosque massacre of 1997 by a Jewish settler. The number of ID checks, bag searches, and body checks have increased across the city’s checkpoints as well as in the Old Town, as a result of Israeli military incursions, both day and night. Israeli forces also entered the homes of Palestinians living on Shuhada Street – for whom the only entry is through the rear of the house – before occupying the roofs of the houses for hours at a time.
An Israeli soldier aims his rifle at Palestinians making their way past the boys’ school
A Palestinian is subject to a body check by Israeli soldiers outside Mutannabi boys’ school, H2.
Israelis and colonial settlers celebrate outside the kindergarten on Shuhada street, while Palestinian children are made to pass through a military checkpoint every day on their way to school.
A group of Palestinian boys are questioned by Israeli Border Police in the souk, al-Khalil’s Old Town.
On Wednesday 12th April Israeli forces closed and barricaded the Ibrahimi mosque and the adjoining checkpoints, further restricting Palestinians’ rights to free movement and worship in and around the mosque. ISM activists were also informed by the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) that teargas was being fired at Palestinian children by Israeli Forces outside Saleymeh checkpoint. Whilst the checkpoint nearby the Ibrahimi Mosque had reopened for Friday Prayers, Palestinians continue to face long delays and harrassment at the hands of Israeli forces.
The checkpoint leading to the Ibrahimi Mosque was closed on Wednesday, an barricaded with an upturned table.
Palestinian residents are made to wait outside the Ibrahimi Mosque checkpoint following its reopening on Friday.
Meanwhile that day, Israeli forces gathered outside Shuhada checkpoint for over five hours, shutting down a whole road in H1 to allow (often heavily armed) Israeli settlers and tourists to pass through the area. Two military vehicles blocked the road, causing significant traffic congestion along Bab es-Sawiyah, while upwards of ten Israeli soldiers and fifteen Border Police filmed internationals and prevented Palestinians from passing through. Shuhada checkpoint leads to Shuhada Street, an area where Palestinian vehicles – including ambulances – are forbidden. Palestinians are only allowed to enter the street if they are numbered and registered as residents of the area.
Soldiers escort heavily-armed colonial settlers during an hours-long incursion into H1, near Shuhada Street.
Colonial settlers walk through H1 as part of the Pesach celebrations.
Armoured personel carriers block off roads in H1
On both Wednesday and Thursday, the Palestinian-owned shops surrounding the Ibrahimi Mosque were ordered to close. Further closures and roadblocks were also imposed by Israeli forces during several incursions by large groups of colonial settlers which passed through the souk in Hebron’s Old Town. Whilst these settler ‘tours’ happen every Saturday in al-Khalil, this week’s incursions follow similar events in occupied Palestine this week, most notably in occupied East Jerusalem where 385 settlers stormed Al-Aqsa.
A group of colonial settlers make their way through the Palestinian souk, escorted by heavily armed Israeli forces.
This year, Pesach is celebrated from the evening of Monday, April 10th, until the evening of Tuesday, April 18th. For Israeli settlers, the holiday this year has an additional significance in marking the fiftieth anniversary of the arrival of Rabbi Moshe Levinger and followers of the Greater Israel movement – the first colonial settlers in al-Khalil – to the Park Hotel in 1967, posing as Swiss tourists. Today, around 700 colonial settlers live in the H2 area of al-Khalil and are accompanied by almost 1,500 Israeli soldiers as well as Border Police and Israeli civil police.
AUTHOR: INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY MOVEMENT
DATE: APRIL 15, 2017
Israeli soldiers walk down the stairs of the family home, where some of the children wait, after occupying the roof.
A Palestinian family living in the Old City of al-Khalil were subject to nightly home intrusions by Israeli forces throughout the week leading up to Pesach, or Passover. On Wednesday 12th April, ISM activists visited the home on Shalallah Street before staying with the family overnight to monitor the situation.
The father of the family told ISM activists how six soldiers would arrive at the house at roughly 2 am, banging aggressively on the door with their M16 rifles before forcibly making their way up to the roof of the family home. These incursions occurred several times throughout the week as the same soldiers would arrive in the middle of the night to access and occupy the roof where they would sit for just one hour before leaving again through the family home.
The father believes these nightly intrusions come as punishment from Israeli forces in response to him welcoming tour groups and tourists onto his roof to witness the family’s situation. The rooftop overlooks the illegal settlement of Beit Hadassah – from which members of the family often experience harassment from neighboring colonial settlers – as well as the nearby Israeli military outpost.
The family has eight small children, all of whom are frequently woken-up scared at the sight and sounds of Israeli soldiers entering the home. The intrusions occurred all week before culminating on Wednesday the 12th of April when Israeli forces – this time consisting of eleven soldiers and two dogs – appeared at the house a total of four times throughout the day.
The entrance to the family home, located between Shuhada Street and Shalallah Street. To the left of the house is the playground for the children of Israeli settlers.
The past week in Khalil has been characterized by an increased military presence, house intrusions, closures, and harassment as Israeli settlers and tourists celebrate the Jewish holiday of Pesach. However, incidents such as these are not unique, as many Palestinian families living close to illegal Israeli settlements or outposts across the occupied West Bank often experience night raids, vandalism, and harassment at the hands of both colonial settlers and Israeli soldiers.
AUTHOR: INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY MOVEMENT
DATE: APRIL 15, 2017
ISM activists spoke to Badee Dwaik the day following his release from Ofer military court.
Last week, amidst a slew of arrests by Israeli forces and subsequent court hearings, ISM activists had the opportunity to meet with Badee Dwaik; one of the four men arrested during the Land Day demonstrations in occupied al-Khalil. Badee, a seasoned activist of many decades and committee member of the Dismantle the Ghetto campaign, believes his arrest was targeted and spoke of how conditions inside the jails were “worse than they’ve ever been before” during his four nights of detention.
ISM activists spoke to Badee Dwaik the day following his release from Ofer military court.
The peaceful Land Day actions began with the planting of olive trees near Kiryat Arba – an illegal settlement of roughly 8,000 people in occupied al-Khalil. The decision to plant olive trees was made because, as Badee put it, “we fear this land will be confiscated in the near future.” Throughout the action, many settlers attempted to provoke the demonstrators with violence, but nobody gave in: “They try to break us or block us but we ignore it and the army does nothing,” Badee says. He’s only a day out of jail, but seems calm and eager to tell his story. Every so often he takes breaks from talking to put a hand on his ribs, where he says they beat him.
“After we planted the trees, we marched up to the hill where we continued to protest,” where one of the soldiers held a sheet of paper which – as revealed during military court hearing – declared the area a “closed military zone.” Out of nowhere, Israeli forces began pursuing individual demonstrators and Badee found himself on the ground beneath a group of soldiers who beat and arrested him. Those detained by Israeli soldiers were taken down the hill, where Israeli police and Border Police were waiting: “They took us to the police. I was surprised to see Annan there.” It had appeared that the soldiers knew exactly who they wanted to arrest, and picked them from the crowd. They arrested three active members of the Dismantle the Ghetto campaign in what Badee believes to be part of a wider effort by the Israeli occupiers to silence the campaign and put an end to their non-violent demonstrations.
An Israeli soldier films demonstrators whilst holding a piece of paper declaring the area a Closed Military Zone during the Land Day action in al-Khalil. This image was taken an hour after the arrests made that day.
During their time in jail, Badee spoke of how the Israeli guards sometimes would not give the detainees their meals and did not administer Badee’s diabetes medication. When he told the guards that he suffers from diabetes, they told him “it’s not our business to bring your medication to you.” Only after being moved to another prison later that week was he taken the the medical doctor who told him he was at serious risk and he was injected with insulin on the premises. Badee was then moved to a third jail, where he said he was subject to conditions he had never experienced before. “The conditions were bad. When we arrived to this jail they made us throw our belongings away.” Here, Israeli guards made the men remove their clothing and do humilating acts while naked. When Badee refused, he was punished for it later: “We had no mattresses. We slept on the metal. They didn’t feed us a few meals and only gave cigarettes to those who cooperated with him.”
Afte four nights of detention, Badee was sat before Ofer military court, near Ramallah, on spurious charges largely based on a “secret file.” “I’ve never seen this [secret file],” he said, and was alarmed at the allegations they presented. Badee is convinced that there’s an initiative to break their coalition. The judge claimed Badee and the others were “dangerous, holding an illegal demonstration” and that the Israeli state should be “harder on these men,” however his lawyer managed to negotiate their release late that night on the condition that they paid 3,500 shekels per person. When Badee and the others were finally freed, many of their belongings had been stolen.
Whilst Israeli settlers living in the West Bank are subject to Israeli civil law, the Palestinian population lives under Israeli military law. Under this law, Palestinians like Badee can be held indefinitely in ‘administrative detention‘: detained without trail and often based on secret information. There are currently 500 administrative detainees in occupied Palestine.
AUTHOR: INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY MOVEMENT, GAZA TEAM
Date: April 16, 2017
16th April 2017 | International Solidarity Movement, Ramallah Team | Gaza, occupied Palestine
Today marks the 6th anniversary of the death of Vittorio Arrigoni, a journalist and an italian activist working with the International Solidarity Movement, in Gaza.
Arrigoni first went to Gaza in 2008, on an activist-organised flotilla seeking to defy the Israeli blockade over Gaza, imposed two years before. On April 16th 2011, when Arrigoni was 36 years old, his body was found in Gaza city, only a few hours after “The Brigade of the Gallant Companion of the Prophet Mohammad bin Muslima”, a Salafist group operating in Gaza, released the video where he was blindfolded and wounded. After investigations, his alleged murderers were arrested and sentenced to life-imprisonment (15 years after appeal).
Vittorio “Vik” Arrigoni wearing a kaffiyeh.
Vittorio Arrigoni was one of the international activists present in Gaza during Israel’s attacks on the Gaza strip in 2008-09, while volunteering with the Palestine Red Crescent Society, and was one of the few international voices dispatching information during the attacks, especially after Israel banned the entry of journalists into the territory.
For almost his 3 years living in the Gaza Strip, Arrigoni was a committed ISM activist, working in solidarity with farmers and fishermen, whose lives were being severely constrained by the blockade. His presence in protests and demonstrations allowed him to document and report the impact of the blockade, warfare and human rights violations in that territory. Arrigoni’s involvement with the Palestinian struggle made him a target for arrest and injuries by the Israeli military several times, and also led him to volunteer in Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in Lebanon.
After breaking the blockade in 2008, Arrigoni described that moment as being on of the happiest of his life, as “it became clear, not only to the world, but Palestinians also, that there are people who are willing to spend their lives to come and hug their brothers here in Gaza.”.
As it has been happening every year, Palestinians have commemorated the sixth anniversary of Vittorio Arrigoni’s death yesterday, by gathering in the port of Gaza. Vittorio’s memory is also honored in Gaza by the street and school that carry his name. Some of his thoughts on his experience in Gaza and on the solidarity with the Palestinian people have also been collected and turned into a book, “Gaza: Stay Human” (a nod to the way Vittorio used to sign his emails), first published in 2011.
ISM mourns this loss and hopes to honor Vittorio’s death by supporting and showing solidarity to the Palestinian people in their daily, non-violent resistance to the blockade in Gaza and the occupation.
“We must remain human, even in the most difficult times …
Because, despite everything, there must always be humanity within us. We have to bring it to others.”
4th February 1975 – 15th April 2011
Author: Marwan Barghouti
Date: April 17, 2017
Having spent the last 15 years in an Israeli prison, I have been both a witness to and a victim of Israel’s illegal system of mass arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners. After exhausting all other options, I decided there was no choice but to resist these abuses by going on a hunger strike.
Some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners have decided to take part in this hunger strike, which begins today, the day we observe here as Prisoners’ Day. Hunger striking is the most peaceful form of resistance available. It inflicts pain solely on those who participate and on their loved ones, in the hopes that their empty stomachs and their sacrifice will help the message resonate beyond the confines of their dark cells.
Decades of experience have proved that Israel’s inhumane system of colonial and military occupation aims to break the spirit of prisoners and the nation to which they belong, by inflicting suffering on their bodies, separating them from their families and communities, using humiliating measures to compel subjugation. In spite of such treatment, we will not surrender to it.
Israel, the occupying power, has violated international law in multiple ways for nearly 70 years, and yet has been granted impunity for its actions. It has committed grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions against the Palestinian people; the prisoners, including men, women and children, are no exception.
Continue reading the main story
I was only 15 when I was first imprisoned. I was barely 18 when an Israeli interrogator forced me to spread my legs while I stood naked in the interrogation room, before hitting my genitals. I passed out from the pain, and the resulting fall left an everlasting scar on my forehead. The interrogator mocked me afterward, saying that I would never procreate because people like me give birth only to terrorists and murderers.
A few years later, I was again in an Israeli prison, leading a hunger strike, when my first son was born. Instead of the sweets we usually distribute to celebrate such news, I handed out salt to the other prisoners. When he was barely 18, he in turn was arrested and spent four years in Israeli prisons.
The eldest of my four children is now a man of 31. Yet here I still am, pursuing this struggle for freedom along with thousands of prisoners, millions of Palestinians and the support of so many around the world. What is it with the arrogance of the occupier and the oppressor and their backers that makes them deaf to this simple truth: Our chains will be broken before we are, because it is human nature to heed the call for freedom regardless of the cost.
Israel has built nearly all of its prisons inside Israel rather than in the occupied territory. In doing so, it has unlawfully and forcibly transferred Palestinian civilians into captivity, and has used this situation to restrict family visits and to inflict suffering on prisoners through long transports under cruel conditions. It turned basic rights that should be guaranteed under international law — including some painfully secured through previous hunger strikes — into privileges its prison service decides to grant us or deprive us of.
Palestinian prisoners and detainees have suffered from torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, and medical negligence. Some have been killed while in detention. According to the latest count from the Palestinian Prisoners Club, about 200 Palestinian prisoners have died since 1967 because of such actions. Palestinian prisoners and their families also remain a primary target of Israel’s policy of imposing collective punishments.
Through our hunger strike, we seek an end to these abuses.
Over the past five decades, according to the human rights group Addameer, more than 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned or detained by Israel — equivalent to about 40 percent of the Palestinian territory’s male population. Today, about 6,500 are still imprisoned, among them some who have the dismal distinction of holding world records for the longest periods in detention of political prisoners. There is hardly a single family in Palestine that has not endured the suffering caused by the imprisonment of one or several of its members.
How to account for this unbelievable state of affairs?
Israel has established a dual legal regime, a form of judicial apartheid, that provides virtual impunity for Israelis who commit crimes against Palestinians, while criminalizing Palestinian presence and resistance. Israel’s courts are a charade of justice, clearly instruments of colonial, military occupation. According to the State Department, the conviction rate for Palestinians in the military courts is nearly 90 percent.
Among the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians whom Israel has taken captive are children, women, parliamentarians, activists, journalists, human rights defenders, academics, political figures, militants, bystanders, family members of prisoners. And all with one aim: to bury the legitimate aspirations of an entire nation.
Instead, though, Israel’s prisons have become the cradle of a lasting movement for Palestinian self-determination. This new hunger strike will demonstrate once more that the prisoners’ movement is the compass that guides our struggle, the struggle for Freedom and Dignity, the name we have chosen for this new step in our long walk to freedom.
Israel has tried to brand us all as terrorists to legitimize its violations, including mass arbitrary arrests, torture, punitive measures and severe restrictions. As part of Israel’s effort to undermine the Palestinian struggle for freedom, an Israeli court sentenced me to five life sentences and 40 years in prison in a political show trial that was denounced by international observers.
Israel is not the first occupying or colonial power to resort to such expedients. Every national liberation movement in history can recall similar practices. This is why so many people who have fought against oppression, colonialism and apartheid stand with us. The International Campaign to Free Marwan Barghouti and All Palestinian Prisoners that the anti-apartheid icon Ahmed Kathrada and my wife, Fadwa, inaugurated in 2013 from Nelson Mandela’s former cell on Robben Island has enjoyed the support of eight Nobel Peace Prize laureates, 120 governments and hundreds of leaders, parliamentarians, artists and academics around the world.
Their solidarity exposes Israel’s moral and political failure. Rights are not bestowed by an oppressor. Freedom and dignity are universal rights that are inherent in humanity, to be enjoyed by every nation and all human beings. Palestinians will not be an exception. Only ending occupation will end this injustice and mark the birth of peace.