Staying Human

Vittorio Arrigoni has written an on-the-spot account of what occurred in Gaza during Israel’s Cast Lead operation. Arrigoni — who lived in Gaza working as an authentic journalist and volunteer with International Solidarity Movement — exemplifies what it is to be a humanist. This comes through in his Gaza: Stay Human — an eyewitness chronicling of destruction, misery, courage, inhumanity, and humanity in Gaza during the massacre that was Cast Lead.

Gaza: Stay Human
By Vittorio Arrigoni
Translation by Daniela Filippin
Preface by Ilan Pappé
Publisher: Kube Publishing Ltd, New York, 2010
Paperback: 178 pages
ISBN-10: 1847740197
ISBN-13: 978-1847740199



Arrigoni combats Israeli and western media disinformation without mincing words. He unequivocally states Cast Lead was a “deliberate criminal and terrorizing will to massacre civilians.” He points to the extremely dense population of the strip where aerial bombing would “inevitably butcher many civilians.” Eighty-five percent of the casualties were civilians. Yet he notes that the killing was futile, as the massacre deepened the incredible solidarity among Palestinians.

Arrigoni describes life in Gaza during the Israeli onslaught as a “tour of hell that even the poet Dante Alighieri could not have conceived of …”

Arrigoni is a pacifist. While decrying the huge number of Palestinians murdered, he was thankful for the low number of Israeli deaths.

The Italian author portrays the whopping asymmetry of the “conflict”: “Tanks, fighter planes, drones, Apache helicopters – the world’s fiercest army attacking a people who use donkeys as their main means of transportation…” And the Israelis wielded their military power without compunction. They targeted firefighters, ambulance crews, United Nations personnel, media, … The killing was also indiscriminate: “Bar none, everyone in Gaza is a walking target.”

During the massacre, 21,000 civilian buildings were destroyed or damaged by Israeli shelling, including 57 medical centers, 51 schools and 59 UN schools, in addition to 1,500 factories and shops, 20 water and sewage networks and power plant.

The repair bill was estimated at $1.9 billion dollars.

Arrigoni expressed his disgust: while Palestinians were penned in (Israelis opened exits points to foreigners – to remove eyewitnesses to their carnage); “mercenary journalists” reported ensconced in comfort far from the killing fields of Gaza. He lamented the lack of “a single western government lifting a finger to stop this massacre, or sending medical staff out here, or stopping the genocide that Israel is smearing its hands with …”

Yet the US, he wrote, was about to ship weapons to Israel – arming Israel took precedence over the humanitarian disaster in Gaza enforced by US-Israeli arms.

The European Union used the massacre to attempt to impose its/Israel’s political will over Gazans. European commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero threatened European “aid” for reconstruction would only arrive when Palestinians overturn their democracy.

Arrigoni digs deeper than the physical devastation. He captures the desolation of Gaza and the feeling of abandonment by the Palestinians. He examines the effects warring that usually escapes the mention of media; for example, the harmful effect warfare has on intimacy between human adults.

The bombing was not without warning. Arrigoni says of the Israeli leafletting prior to bombing: “Israeli commanders are indeed polite – they ask the population of Gaza to cooperate before crushing them like insects.” In an open air prison like Gaza, there was nowhere for the people to go. And the Israeli army left little food for the “insects,” as it torched wheat and barley fields in Gaza.

Racism plays a significant part in the Israeli Massacre Machine. Arrigoni tells of Tel Aviv shops selling t-shirts with racist slogans that dehumanize Palestinians and laud their killing.

Cast Lead, according to historian Ilan Pappe, in the book’s foreword, is what you get “[w]hen you have the firepower and no moral inhibitions against massacring individuals…” Pappe cites massive Jewish Israeli support for the massacres. This is symptomatic of a society that dehumanizes Palestinians.

What is needed, says Pappe, is to delegitimize Zionism.

Arrigoni strongly supports the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign as a tactic to bring Israel’s occupation and oppression to a halt. Arrigoni suggests that consumers look for barcodes whose first three numbers are 729, meaning it is a product of Israel. By refusing to purchase Israeli products consumers can express their opposition to the Occupation of Palestine.

Gaza: Stay Human is a searing first-hand account of life for people under siege and fire in the open air prison called Gaza. It conveys the danger, raw emotions, and gore that Palestinians face. Arrigoni urges people to stay human; but when Israelis disrespect Palestinian life, they strike at themselves and their own humanity. When people in the international community stand by, it renders so many of us culpable and less human.

Kim Petersen is co-editor of Dissident Voice. He can be reached at: kim@dissidentvoice.org. Read other articles by Kim.

7 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. hayate said on August 9th, 2010 at 10:59am #

    94% of israelis supported their country’s war crimes against the people of Gaza. And just so their barbarity would not be misunderstand, 94% of them also supported their country’s war crimes on the Gaza convoy. For the vast majority of Jewish israelis, and the hardcore zionists abroad, it’s not a question of staying human, it’s whether if it is too late now for them to ever become human.

  2. Ismail Zayid said on August 9th, 2010 at 12:29pm #

    It is heart-warming to see that there are still few authors and journalists who are able to manifest their humanity and have the courage to defy the power of Zionism and its allies. This book clearly displays, as well-reviewed by Kim Petersen, the brutality and racism embodied in the vicious Israeli onslaught on defenceless Gaza, in this atrocity described as “Operation Cast Lead”…

    The Palestinians, despite this campaign of dehumanisation that they are subjected to, will defy this form of inhumanity and remain determined to restore their rights in their own homeland.

  3. JoeJ said on August 9th, 2010 at 12:48pm #

    SHAME! US, he wrote, was about to ship weapons to Israel – arming Israel took precedence over the humanitarian disaster in Gaza

  4. REDPILLED said on August 9th, 2010 at 3:19pm #

    My only complaint is about the title of the article (and subtitle of Arrigoni’s book). What the Israelis did in Operation Cast Lead; what the U.S. has always done to indigenous people, dark-skinned people, poor people, any people in its path to Empire; what happened in Rwanda; what the Russian and Chinese Communists did to their own dissidents; what the Japanese, Nazis, Italian Fascists did from the 1920’s through 1945; what the Allies did to German, Italian, and Japanese cities in World War II: ALL of this is “human”. Humans commit acts of horrific cruelty and brutality; acts which are evil; acts which most humans ARE capable of committing. They also perform acts of great mercy and compassion; acts which are good; acts which most humans ARE capable of performing. Implying that Israelis who murdered Palestinians are “inhuman” not only demonizes those Israelis, which is precisely what they did to the Palestinians so they could more easily murder them; but it also lets them, and us, off the hook by making an artificial, false distinction between those who commit truly evil acts (“they must be inhuman!”) and the rest of us, who surely have the same potential for evil acts. When we begin to face the reality that evil acts are the potential, very possible dark side of any and all humans, perhaps then we can begin to re-structure our political/economic systems to make such acts less likely.

  5. Maien said on August 9th, 2010 at 6:20pm #

    Yes, Redpilled, you are correct. And this was the purpose of the ending of the 2nd world war, the United Nations and all kinds of treaties. Humanity growing up, enough to stop killing and stealing from each other. Recognition of All humans.

    sometimes to understand a situation one must label the facts correctly. The Zionist Israeli Occupying Forces have dehumanised themselves long ago by their spoken out loud agendas and their clear purposeful actions afterwards.

    When one is a psychopath, one should be called a psychopath. someone has to stop the fighting. we expect those in power to stop. they are the problem. they have choices. the victims do not.

    The Zionists (Christian and Jewish) or rather israel and the united states have the guns, own the money and are not willing to let go of their murderous, pornographic and self-righteous lifestyles. They are dangerous with their entitlements created through genocide and theft. Dear redpilled…and from your moniker I assume that you believe that humanity can grow into adulthood. It is true that we each have the potential to commit evil or good. And most readers here have the capacity to make that considered choice, consciously. The colonisers and empire builders, I suggest, are not motivated to consider their humanity or lack of it. they want power, period.

    The labels have changed, for those currently committing atrocities. Historically, we used to label this quality of behaviour as barbaric. Sub-human. The first re-structuring of your “political/economic systems to make such acts less likely” would be to begin changing that lovely American/Israeli lifestyle which demands brown people brutally dieing so that the colonial powers can continue to have lifestyles built through theft and murder. You know, requiring closets that are larger than some peoples homes. Redecorating every year. Giving five year olds cell phones, video games to teach them to kill and McDonalds instead of a mother.

    I lost any possibility of sympathy for anything Israeli when I saw the baby-clothes with “Envy Me, I’m Jewish” emblazoned across the chest. How desperate, this stupidity has become. Humanity reaching adulthood requires that barbaric behaviours have ended. Currently, this cancer of barbaric greed is destroying the body of humanity and the earth. the mature or adult human will not get lost in despair or even contempt. the adult human will stop acting in any way which supports corporations, war agendas etc. You know the drill. I believe that the majority of posters here …are those people…. adult humans, doing whatever they can.

  6. mebosa.ritchie said on August 10th, 2010 at 5:41am #

    great article,kim

    was there anything in the book about hamas’s genocidal war against jews or the 8,000 rockets fired at israeli civilians from gaza?

  7. kalidas said on August 10th, 2010 at 7:12am #

    Human evolution, indeed..

    I give you… President OBarnum.