Executing a Do-Gooder in Gaza
By Micah Halpern
Sunday April 17, 2011
Gaza is just one more place that the United States and the West do not understand.
The senseless execution of Victor Arrigoni, an Italian human rights activist, at the hands of Palestinian terrorists is a perfect example of just how little is known about how Gaza thinks and how totally out of their element Western thinkers when trying to make sense out of this Hamas stronghold.
In 2008 Victor came to Gaza in order to help, he was the proverbial aid giver. In 2011 he was hanged - because he was an outsider.
Victor Arrigoni was kidnapped. He was kidnapped by a terrorist group operating out of Gaza, but not Hamas. His kidnappers threatened to execute him if their leader and fellow terrorists were not released by Hamas. The deadline was quick and obviously not set up for negotiations, there was no desire for negotiations or even dialogue with Hamas. This led most analysts to conclude that Victor was executed very soon after he was kidnapped. The point of the kidnapping was to shine a spotlight on Hamas.
The Italians applied full-court press on Hamas to find and free Victor but that went nowhere. Embarrassed, Hamas made the effort to find the house where Victor was being held and stormed it, but by then, he had already been executed. They were way too late to save him. When they entered the House they found him hanging.
Authority was ousted in a bloody coup. Today's Gaza is not a monolith. Hamas is the ruling party, but not the only armed group attempting to intimidate Gazans and enforce their own rules. Gaza is splintered, filled will fractions and divisions, mostly defined by clans and family lines. While certain groups do share common objectives, their differences are far greater than the things that unite them. The kidnapping of Victor Arrigoni is but one example, a glaring example, but only one of many.
These smaller groups within Gaza are often unknown to Western diplomats. Sometimes a cell from a clan will simply make up a name for a particular operation and then after the operation, it will disappear. In real terms this means that there is almost no way to deal with the group. Understanding the workings of internal clans within Gaza is as crucial as it is difficult . In this case, in the kidnapping of Victor Arrigoni, a group called al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad initially claimed credit and responsibility for the action. They have now recanted.
Initially, Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad issued a statement saying that they had executed Victor, then claimed his death was the result of Hamas' leadership. They said" "Even though we have no connection to the kidnapping, we would like to stress that what happened is the natural conclusion to the Hamas government policy against other organizations within the Strip."
In Gaza, foreigners are pawns and they are always in extreme danger.
And unfortunately this is what happened with Victor. A well intentioned do-gooder who thought he was protected - but whose death illustrates how deluded that dream really is.
Hamas' lack of control, their inability to bring safety or unity to Gaza is the reason why almost all efforts to create lulls, ceasefires and any other forms of negotiation fail. Negotiations with the Palestinian Authority fail. Negotiations with the West fail. Negotiations with Egypt and with local, indigenous, warring, freedom fighting factions fail. Hamas cannot police their own. The Palestinian Authority attempted to police Gaza and they were ousted.
Victor went to Gaza to help, he went to protect Gazans from the Israelis. Victor Arrigoni was consumed by the internal conflict which engulfs Gaza and baffles the Western world. Gaza's internal conflict may be a far less sexy topic to discuss, but it is far more critical to our understanding of the region and much more dangerous than the usual headline grabbing events.
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