The Corner

The Death of Vittorio Arrigoni

Vittorio Arrigoni was nicknamed “Utopia,” and often ended messages on his Facebook page with the slogan “Stay Human” and the signature “VikUtopia.” He was a declared pacifist who had plenty of nerve, willing to place himself as a human shield between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers. He was totally committed to the Palestinian cause and wore his devotion, not on his sleeve, but on his cap — in the form of a pin of the Palestinian flag. Here are some photos from the Italian press.

Handsome, with a baby face that made him seem younger than his 36 years, Arrigoni blogged and wrote columns for il Manifesto, an iconic Communist newspaper, and he seems to have spent most of the last three years in Gaza hailing its Hamas rulers and its citizens while tirelessly condemning everything and everyone Israeli. He wrote a fairly successful book on what he called “Israeli oppression” in Gaza, and of late he was beginning to feel that Hamas had gone soft.

He called himself a “non-violent activist,” but he had harsh words for Israeli violence only, never the Palestinians’. It’s true that the Israelis had him arrested once and threw him out of the country, and when he joined the “Freedom Flotilla,” he was told that they had targeted him. But in the end, he was murdered by his Palestinian comrades. He was strangled to death, most likely with a metal cable, by a radical Islamist group that has called for a jihadist uprising in Gaza.

Vittorio’s passion seems to have run in the family. His mother, declaring herself “proud,” asked that his body be returned to Italy without passing through Israel (and the foreign ministry said on Saturday that he’d come home via Egypt). He believed his grandparents had been active in the Resistance Movement during the Nazi occupation of Italy in the waning years of the Second World War.

He is not the first Italian radical leftist to fall into hostile Arab hands. A correspondent for the very same Manifesto, Giuliana Sgrena, was kidnapped in Baghdad in 2005. Her father also fought in the Resistance. The next year, she was ransomed by the Italian government, only to be shot by American soldiers while in a car en route to the Baghdad airport.

Then there is the story of Angelo Frammartino. Son of a Communist, member of Rifondazione Comunista (the heir of the old Communist Party), Angelo went to Israel in the summer of 2006 to work with Israeli Arabs, one of whom stabbed him to death at the gates of the Old City. Like Arrigoni, Frammartino declared himself a pacifist. Like Sgrena and Arrigoni, he was firmly convinced of the unsullied virtue of the Arab cause, and of the evils of Israeli and American actions. Like them, he was the victim of those he had come to help. Like their families, his was proud of his actions, even as they mourned him.

So there’s a pattern of pro-Arab Italian lefties falling into the hands of men who don’t see much of anything to like. For their captors or killers, the Italians were simply targets of opportunity. The notion that they were allies or supporters, let alone friends, was totally alien to them. That’s a Western notion, and these killers and kidnappers reject such happy thoughts. They’re in a war against the West and Westerners, pure and simple.

Arrigoni’s comrades have strained to place the blame for his death on Israel, which is both predictable and disgusting. Predictable, because hatred of Israel and the Jewish people knows few bounds nowadays, and disgusting because such nonsense only makes it more likely that others will be seduced into walking the same suicidal paths.

It’s very hard for ideologically committed people to see that the objects of their affection and support don’t respond in kind. For people like Arrigoni, Sgrena, and Frammartino, admitting that there were Arabs who would kill them and take pleasure in the act would have challenged the fundamental principles on which their activism rested. They had come as friends, and they expected to be welcomed as friends.

But the world doesn’t work that way. There are some little corners of the world where it does, at least at certain moments. For the most part, those little corners are in civilized countries like Italy, America, and Israel — ironically, the sorts of places that the Arrigonis, Sgrenas  and Frammartinos of the world despise.

Over here, not only is there rarely a price to be paid for such serious mistakes, but there are vast communities offering support for them. It’s over there, where they fancy themselves contributing to a just cause, that the price is so high.

But you can’t save them. Even their families welcome their doom.

Michael LedeenMichael Ledeen is an American historian, philosopher, foreign-policy analyst, and writer. He is a former consultant to the National Security Council, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense. ...


The Latest