Friday, January 9, 2009

Al Nakba 2009 - Vittorio Arrigoni

Il Manifesto, Gaza, January 8, 2009 - ....Towards midnight I received another call, from Eva this time - the building she was in was under attack. I know that building well, in the centre of Gaza City. I've spent a night there with some Palestinian photojournalist friends of mine. They try to capture through images and words something of the unnatural catastrophe we're enduring in the last ten days. Reuters, Fox News, Russia Today and many, many other local or foreign agencies were under fire by seven rockets shot by an Israeli helicopter. They managed to evacuate everyone on time before anyone was seriously injured - all those cameramen, photographers, reporters - all Palestinian, considering Israel won't allow any international journalists to set foot in Gaza. There are no "strategic" targets around that building, nor a resistance fighting off the deadly armoured Israeli vehicles, which can be found a way away towards the North. Clearly, someone in Tel Aviv cannot bear the images of the massacres of civilians clashing with the ones that the Israeli officers' briefings provide while offering the mercenary journalists their aperitif. Through these press conferences they're declaring to the world that the bombs' targets are only the Hamas terrorists, not those atrociously mutilated children we pull out of the rubble every day.

At Zetun, about ten kilometres from Jabalia, a bombed building crumbled over a family, leaving about ten victims. The ambulances had to wait several hours before they could reach the spot, as the military persist in shooting at us. They shoot at ambulances and bomb hospitals. A few days ago, while I was on the air with a well-known Milanese radio station, an Israeli "pacifist" clearly spelt out to me that this was a war where both sides used all the weapons at their disposal. I thus invite Israel to drop one of its many atomic bombs upon us, those they keep secretly stashed away, defying all treaties against nuclear proliferation. Why not just drop that decisive bomb of theirs and put an end to the inhuman agony of thousands of bodies, lying in tatters in the overcrowded hospital wards I visited?

I took some black and white photos yesterday, the caravans of mule-drawn carts, overloaded beyond belief with children waving white drapes pointing skywards, their faces pale and terrified. Looking through those snaps of fleeing refugees today, I felt shivers down my spine. If they could only be superimposed with those witnessing the Nakba of 1948, the Palestinian catastrophe, they would be a perfect mirror image of them. The cowardly passiveness of self-styled democratic states and governments are responsible for a new catastrophe in full swing right now, a new Nakba, a brand new ethnic cleansing befalling the Palestinian population....

The Italian Consulate has just contacted me, saying that tomorrow they shall evacuate a fellow Italian, an elderly nun who'd lived near the Catholic church in Gaza for the last twenty years, and had by now been adopted by the Palestinians in the Strip. The consul gently urged me to seize this last opportunity and escape this hell with the nun. I thanked him for the offer, but I'm not moving from here - I just can't. For the sake of the losses we endured, before being Italian, Spanish, British or Australian, right now we are all Palestinian. If only we could do that for just one minute a day, the way we were all Jewish during the Holocaust, I think we would have been spared this entire massacre.

Vittorio Arrigoni is an Italian volunteer who has worked in Palestine with the International Solidarity Movement since 2003. He is presently in Gaza writing daily dispatches for the Italian press. His previous articles can be read on his blog.

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