Sadly ironic tragedy in the Gaza Strip

Robert A. Cohn, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus


One would think that the terrorist group Hamas could never appear to be relatively “moderate” or more accurately less extreme than other factions in the Gaza Strip. But the recent murder of pro-Palestinian Hamas supporter and Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni by Tawhid and Jihad, a fringe group of Palestinians inspired by Al Qaeda, was such an example.

Arrigoni, 36, had long been a supporter of Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip, filing reports for a leftist Italian newspaper and being an active member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), the radically anti-Israel group who once jeered Rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun Magazine off the stage for saying that he is both pro-Israel as well as pro- Palestinian.

A Wall Street Journal editorial quotes ISM leader Huweida Arraf as saying that Arrigoni’s killing came as a “complete shock.” Apparently Arraf was convinced that Arrigoni’s well-known and vehement support of Hamas and the fact that he took up residence in the Gaza Strip, would somehow protect him from violence at the hands of other extremists. Tragically, his kidnappers were not impressed with the photos of Arrigoni smilingly posing next to Hamas leaders who had innocent blood on their hands, stating that he was in Gaza “only to spread corruption.” A Hamas spokesman, Ehab al-Ghussein, said that Arrigoni’s murder “does not reflect the values, morals and customs” of the people of Gaza. Later, other Hamas spin-masters tried to link Israel or the United States to Arrigoni’s kidnapping and murder.

Despite Arrigoni’s arrogant embrace of the blood-stained terrorists of Hamas, he did not in any way deserve his horrific execution. His captors had demanded the release of one of its detained leaders within 24 hours or Arrigoni would be killed. The deadline passed with no such release, and Arrigoni suffered the same horrific death that has claimed the lives of other hostages taken by extremist groups, such as Daniel Pearl, who was brutally executed by terrorists in Pakistan where he had been working on a story for the Wall Street Journal.

Hamas is hardly in a position to say that Arrigoni’s murder does not reflect the “values, morals and customs” of the people of Gaza, who have been under direct and iron-fisted rule by Hamas since 2007. Hamas has been responsible for firing 8,000 or more deadly Kassem rockets into southern Israel, killing scores and wounding many more and forcing Israeli men, women and children to sleep in bomb shelters every night.

Hamas has sent hundreds of suicide bombers into Israel proper, setting off lethal explosions that have killed and wounded thousands of innocent people. Hamas most recently boastfully claimed “credit” for firing a guided antitank missile at an Israeli school bus, critically wounding a teenage boy and narrowly missing many others. The Wall Street Journal editorialized that “political naivete is not a crime, at least not in the West.” But Vittorio Arrigoni was kidnapped, held hostage and brutally executed by a group so extreme that even ISM and Hamas claimed they were “shocked, shocked!” that one of their supporters and activists would be murdered at the hands of Palestinians, a people to whom a friend said he was “married.”

Violence begets violence and Hamas, which lives by the sword and the suicide bomb, has lost one of its strongest supporters to the very kind of violence they espouse. There is no “poetic justice” in this tragedy. There is only the tragic lesson that placing trust in those who foment extremism and violence often produces deadly and irreversible results.

Local Commentary

Robert A. Cohn is Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of the St. Louis Jewish Light.