Whoever the fanatics are that killed Vittorio Arrigoni and Juliano Mer-Khamis in Palestine in the last two weeks, it can be safely said that the occupation killed these good men: that they died because the denial of freedom for Palestinians over 44 years of military occupation has produced despair and radicalism and brutalization, and called on great souls to act. If the occupation were happening in New Jersey, we would be far more violent than the Palestinians have been.
Arrigoni was drawn to the conflict from Italy. Because world governments had so failed to enforce the Geneva Conventions and secure the rights of fishermen and mothers and farmers and children under collective punishment, he left his country to become a human shield. He was a brave, handsome, lionhearted man, and he knew for three years that his life was in danger. I have met other volunteers for the International Solidarity Movement who are as idealistic and courageous as Arrigoni. And I have read enough by and about Rachel Corrie, the ISM volunteer who was killed by the Israelis in 2003, to know that hers was the finest moral spirit that America produces. Gone.
And I just want to pause tonight to reflect on how many people outside the actual parties to this conflict have been affected by it now, and how many of them have been killed. From the time that Jacob de Haan was killed in Holland in 1924 for being an anti-Zionist to England’s Lord Moyne killed in Palestine in 1944 for his opposition to Zionism, to the Stern gang’s killing of the Swede Folke Bernadotte in 1948 for his plan to internationalize Jerusalem and restore the UN Partition line, the violence inside the conflict has radiated out and destroyed others. Just last year Israel killed nine unarmed Turkish men who were moved by Gaza’s suffering to risk their lives on the high seas. The youngest of them was also an American, Furkan Dogan, and the same day young Emily Henochowicz, an American artist, was blinded in her left eye by the Israelis during a protest at a checkpoint. And yes another Israeli teargas canister maimed American Tristan Anderson a couple of years ago.
Most of these people were called to the conflict by the injustice. But if you expand the category to include collateral damage, well then you begin to comprise the thousands of Americans killed on 9/11– for even the 9/11 commission has acknowledged that a root cause of the hijackers’ action was anger over Palestine, and bin Laden has said so too. And any fair audit would have to include Bobby Kennedy, the charismatic American leader whose support of Israel cost him his life in ’68.
Take it further and you can say that the Iraq war, with its destruction of an entire society and tens of thousands of people, had a source in this conflict and the neoconservatives’ idea of how to end it. And the oppression of 84 million Egyptians for 30 years under a tyrant at the behest of the United States– this also was rationalized as the cost of containing this intractable problem next door.
I like to think of myself as a realist; well this body count is hardly realistic. And no wonder realists have been among the most vocal opponents of the occupation. Because they know this list– a list that our media never tallies, let alone asks us to consider, Is that enough?
I am not even talking about the parties themselves. I’m not talking about the Israelis killed by suicide bombers or by rockets in Sderot, nor the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees created in ’48, nor all the dead of Cast Lead. I’m not talking about Chaim Arlosoroff murdered by Zionist thugs on the beach in Tel Aviv in ’33, nor Yitzhak Rabin murdered a few miles away in ’95. Nor Jawaher Abu Rahmah killed by Israeli tear gas last year or her brother Bassem killed by tear gas the year before that.
No I am talking about the price that this conflict has demanded of the world. And in the name of beautiful Vittorio Arrigoni, I ask, How many seas must the white dove sail before she can sleep in the sand?