Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Staying Human: The Heroic Legacy Of Vittorio Arrigoni


By Ramzy Baroud

'Dear Mary,' wrote Italian justice activist Vittorio Arrigoni to a friend. 'Do you [know who] will be on the boats?... I'm still in Gaza, waiting for you. I will be at the boat to greet you. Stay human. Vik.'

"Mary" is Mary Hughes Thompson, a dedicated activist who braved the high seas to break the Israeli siege on Gaza in 2008.

Vittorio Arrigoni, or Vik, was reportedly murdered by a fundamentalist group in Gaza a few hours after he was kidnapped on Thursday, April 14. The killing was supposedly in retaliation for Hamas' crackdown on this group's members. All who knew Vik will attest to the fact that he was an extraordinary person, a model of compassion, solidarity and humanity.

Arrigoni's body was discovered in an abandoned house hours after he was kidnapped. His murderers didn't honor their own deadline of 30 hours. The group, known as the Tawhid and Jihad, is one of the fringe groups known in Gaza as the Salafis. They resurface under different names and manifestations, for specific - and often bloody - purposes.

"The killing prompted grief in Gaza, but also despair," read an op-ed in the UK Independent on April 16. "Not only was Arrigoni well known and well liked there, but it escaped no one that this kidnapping was the first since that of the BBC journalist Alan Johnson in 2007."

However, Johnson's kidnappers, the so-called Army of Islam (a small group of fanatics affiliated with a large Gaza clan) held their hostage for 114 days. There was plenty of time to organize and pressure the criminals to release him. In Arrigoni's case, merely a few hours stood between the release of a horrifying video showing a blindfolded and bruised activist and the finding of his motionless body. The forensic report said that he was strangled. His friends said that he was tortured.

Vittorio Arrigoni's murder was an opportunity for Israel's supporters. Daniel Pipes wrote, in a brief entry in the National Review Online: "Note the pattern of Palestinians who murder the groupies and apologists who join them to aid in their dream of eliminating Israel." Pipes named three individuals, including the Palestinian-Israeli filmmaker, Juliano Mer-Khamis, and Arrigoni himself, and then proceeded to invite readers to "send in further examples that I may have missed".

Pipes' list, however, will have no space for such names as Rachel Corrie, Tom Hurndall and James Miller, for these individuals were all murdered by Israeli forces. Pipes will also fail to mention the nine Turkish activists murdered aboard the Mavi Marmara ship on its way to break the siege on Gaza in May 2010, and the nine activists abroad Irene (the Jewish Boat to Gaza) who were intercepted, kidnapped and humiliated by Israeli troops before being deported outside the country in September 2010. The 82-year-old Reuben Moscowitz, a Holocaust survivor, was one of the activists aboard the Irene, as was Lillian Rosengarten, an American "who fled the Nazis as a child in Frankfurt," according to a New York Times blog.

The people Pipes failed to mention truly represent a rainbow of humanity. Men and women of all ages, races and nationalities have stood and will continue to stand on the side of the Palestinians. But this story has selectively ignored pseudo-intellectuals intent on dismissing humanity to uphold Israel. They refuse to see the patterns in front of them, as they are too busy concocting their own.

Writing in the UK Guardian from Rome, on April 15, John Hooper said, "Arrigoni's life was anything but safe. In September 2008 he was injured (by Israeli troops) accompanying Palestinian fishermen at sea. Two years ago he received a death threat from a US far-right website that provided any would-be killers with a photo and details of distinguishing physical traits, such as a tattoo on his shoulder."

The group that murdered Arrigoni, like others of its kind, existed for one specific, violent episode before disappearing altogether. The mission in this case was to kill an International Solidarity Mission (ISM) activist who dedicated years of his life to Palestine. Shortly before he was kidnapped, he wrote in this website of the "criminal" Israeli siege on Gaza. He also mourned the four impoverished Palestinians who died in a tunnel under the Gaza-Egypt boarder while hauling food and other goods.

Before his murder, Arrigoni was anticipating the arrival of another flotilla - carrying activists from 25 countries boarding 15 ships - that is scheduled to sail to Gaza in May. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu adamantly called on European Union countries to prevent their nationals from jointing the boats. "I think it's in your and our common interest… that this flotilla must be stopped," he told European representatives in Jerusalem, according to an AFP report on April 11.

Israeli officials are angry at the internationals who are "de-legitimizing" the state of Israel by standing in solidarity with the Palestinians. Arrigoni has done so much to harm the carefully fabricated image of Israel as an island of democracy and progress. Along with other activists, he has shattered this myth through simple means of communication.

Vik signed his messages with "Stay human". His book, detailing his experiences in Gaza, was entitled Restiamo Umani (Let Us Remain Human). Mary Hughes Thompson shared with me some the emails Arrigoni sent her. "I can hardly bear to read them again," she wrote. This is an extract from one of them:

"No matter how (we) will finish the mission… it will be a victory. For human rights, for freedom. If the siege will not (be) physically broken, it will break the siege of the indifference, the abandonment. And you know very well what this gesture is important for the people of Gaza. That said, obviously we are waiting at the port! With hundreds of Palestinians and ISM comrades we will come to meet you sailing, as was the first time, remember? All available boats will sail to Gaza to greet you. Sorry for my bad English… big hug… Stay Human. Yours, Vik"

Vik's killers failed to see his humanity. But many of us will always remember, and we will continue trying to "stay human". 

Ilan Pappe, a professor of History at the University of Exeter starts his introduction in the book by saying: “ It is first and foremost an eyewitness account of Gaza Stay Human – Vittorio Arrigoni/ Introduction by Ilan Pappe – Book Review gazastayhumanan everyman and a true humanist. He was there during the Operation “Cast Lead” and so his daily dispatches came directly from the killing fields of Gaza, and are therefore free of any media distortion or manipulation.”
Gaza Stay Human is an amazing book that introduces the twenty-two day Israeli offensive against Gaza strip in December 2008 and January 2009.
The book is simple but it attracts the reader to continue on reading to find out what exactly happened in this Israeli operation in Gaza. The book brings daily dispatches which were written by Vittorio Arrigoni who is a volunteer with the pacifist International solidarity movement that served as a human shield while working with the Palestinian Red Crescent ambulances during the Israeli attack on Gaza strip.
The conditions that Vittorio describes through his dispatches are not from his imagination or a text written for a movie but real events that took place in Gaza and shock the reader. Bombing, and lack of communication are two things which Vittorio lives like the thousands of other Palestinians in Gaza while they were all under siege and the Israeli attack. Eventhough the writers passes through the most inhuman actions which the Gaza strip witness while being under the Israeli attack, he insists on repeating the motto “Stay Human” that became popular today in his native Italy while protesting.
The book includes an introduction by renowned Israeli historian and human rights activist Ilan Pappe and also brings the dispatches translated to English for the reader.
The book was published on September 1, 2010 and is worth reading. It simply gives you an opportunity to live the events that the Palestinians lived while being under the Israeli offensive operation in Gaza. It is not a movie or a fiction story…it is a description of the daily life that these people lived while being under attack.
Daniela Filippin is the translator into English of Vittorio Arrigoni’s book Gaza Stay Human. Daniela made great efforts to get the book published.

If you believe you can, or if you believe you can’t, – you’re right.

“If you believe you can, or if you believe you can’t, – you’re right.” Henry Ford

Review Of 'The Biology of Belief' by Bruce Lipton

This is a curious book in many ways - its a kind of part personal monograph (touching on difficult but ultimately important things in his life like giving up being a Professor to become a failed Rock Concert Promoter... getting divorced... professional issues et al). The central core of the book is about Epigenetics of Cell Biology (no not as dull as you might think lol) but it ends with a chapter on Conscious Parenting. It somehow manages to weave all these together although it's perhaps his likableness and a lifetime relating what happens at a cellular level as part explanation, part metaphor for life at large that manages to tie these diverse things together.

Nevertheless it is a major work and most readable (providing you are not one of those people who "switches-off" when faced with some scientific terms). Naturally he perhaps falls into the trap of all iconoclasts of erring on the side of perhaps overstating his case and understating the 'opposing' view - nevertheless he lands some telling blows and the consensus view needs to move a long way (if not the whole way) in his direction.

I will use some quotes to show his major ideas:

[p26] "By that time I was an unabashed proponent of a "new" biology. I had come to question not only Darwin's dog-eat-dog version of evolution, but also biology's Central Dogma the premise that genes control life. [My italics here:MB] That scientific premise has one major flaw - genes cannot turn themselves on or off. In more scientific terms genes are not 'self-emergent'. Something in the environment has to trigger gene activity."

[p48] "I didn't know it at the time, but I now believe that another reason for my students' success was that I did not stop at praising cells. I praised the students as well. They needed to hear they were first-rate students in order to believe that they could perform as first-rate students in order to believe that they could perform as first-rate students... so many of us are leading limited lives not because we have to, but because we [i]think
we have to... I was well on my way to an understanding of the New Biology, which leaves in the dust the defeatism of genetic and parental programming as well as survival-of-the-fittest Darwinism"

[p49] "I will never forget a piece of wisdom I received in 1967, on the first day I learned to clone stem cells in graduate school. It took me decades to realize how profound this seemingly simple piece of wisdom was for my work and my life... He [Lipton's Professor] told me that when the cultured cells you are studying are ailing, you look first to the cell's environment, not to the cell itself for the cause."

[p50] "Even Charles Darwin conceded, near the end of his life, that his evolutionary theory had shortchanged the role of the environment... he wrote:

"In my opinion, the greatest error which I have committed has been not allowing sufficient weight to the direct action of the environments, ie food, climate etc independently of natural selection... When I wrote "Origin", and for some years afterwards, I could find little good evidence of the direct action of the environment; now there is a large body of evidence."
Scientists who follow Darwin continue to make the same error. The problem with this underemphasis on the environment is that it led to an overemphasis on "nature" in the form of genetic determinism - [MB italics] the belief that genes "control" biology"

[p52] "When a gene product is needed, a signal from the environment not an emergent property of the gene itself, activates expression of that gene". In other words, when it comes to genetic control "It's the environment stupid". "

[p65] [Following much contrary to the idea/concept/metaphor that the nucleus is the cells brain (Lipton suggests actually the membrane is more like that and that the nucleus is more like the cells hard-drive and gonads (for reproduction - he makes a good joke about not surprising that male cell biologists mistake a cells gonads for its brain lol)] Following enucleation, many cells can survive for up to two or more months without genes. Viable enucleated cells do not lie about like brain-dead lumps of cytoplasm on life-support systems. These cells actively ingest and metabolize food, maintain coordinated operation of their phsyiologic systems (respiration, digestion, excretion, motility etc), retain an ability to communicate with other cells, and are able to engage in appropriate responses to growth and protection-requiring environmental stimuli."

[p67] "Epigenetics: The New Science of Self-Empowerment

Genes-as-destiny theorists have obviously ignored hundred-year-old science about enucleated cells ... epigenetics, which literally means "control above genetics" profoundly changes our understanding of how life is controlled. In the last decade, epigenetic research has established that DNA blueprints passed down through genes are not set in concrete at birth. Genes are not destiny! Environmental influences, including nutrition, stress and emotions [MB: ie those elements that are under "our" conscious control....], can modify those genes without changing their basic blueprint....

...Since the late 1940s, biologists have been isolating DNA from the cell's nucleus in order to study genetic mechanisms. In the process they extract the nucleus from the cell, break open its enveloping membrane and remove the chromosomal contents, [MB italics] half of which is made up of DNA and half of which is made up of regulatory proteins. In their zeal to study DNA, most scientists threw away the proteins, which we now know is the regulatory equivalent of throwing the bay out with the bathwater...

...In the chromosome, the DNA forms the core, and the proteins cover the DNA like a sleeve. When the genes are covered their information cannot be "read"... How do you get that sleeve off? You need an environmental signal to spur the "sleeve" protein to change shape, ie detach from the DNA's double helix, allowing the gene to be read... As a result, the activity of the gene is "controlled" by the presence or absence of the ensleeving proteins, which are in turn controlled by environmental signals."

[p69] "Studies of protein synthesis reveal that epigentic "dials" can create 2,000 or more variations of proteins from the same gene blueprint."

[p83] "[Cell membrane protein] Receptor "antennas" can also read vibrational energy fields such as light, sound and radio frequencies. The antennas on these "energy" receptors vibrate like tuning forks. If an energy vibration in the environment resonates with a receptor's antenna, it will alter the protein's charge, causing the receptor to change shape [and hence function/'message']... [MB italics] because receptors can read energy fields, the notion that only physical molecules can impact cell physiology is outmoded. Biological behaviour can be controlled by invisible forces, including thought, as well as it can be controlled by physical molecules like penicillin, a fact that provides the scientific underpinning for pharmaceutical-free energy medicine." [MB I would have liked to see him give more evidence of this contention (after all its key to energy medicine/homeopathy etc etc]

[p90]"The [cell] membrane is a liquid crystal semiconductor with gates and channels.... "A [microprocessor] chip is a crystal semiconductor with gates and channels""

[p103] "This reductionist model suggests that if there is a problem in the system, evident as a disease or dysfunction, the source of the problem can be attributed to a malfunction in one of the steps along the chemical assembly line. By providing the cell with a functional replacement part for the faulty element ... the defective single-point can be repaired and health restored. This assumption spurs the pharmaceutical industry's sacra for magic-bullet drugs and designer genes.

...Biomedical scientists have been particularly confounded because they they do not recognize the massive complexity of the intercommunication among the physical parts and the energy field that make up the whole... Cellular constituents are woven into a complex web of crosstalk, feedback and feedforward loops".

[p104/5] "Clearly, biological dysfunctions can result from miscommunication anywhere within these complex pathways. When you changes the parameters of a protein at one point in such a complex pathway, you inevitably alter the parameters of other proteins at innumerable points within the entangled networks... underscores the dangers of prescription drugs. We can now see why pharmaceutical drugs come with information sheets listing voluminous side-effects that range from irritating to deadly.

Complicating the drug side-effect issue is also the fact that biological systems are redundant. [MB italics] The same singals or protein molecules may be used in different organs and tissues where they provide for completely different behavioural functions [quite a lot follows on this point in more detail - the same protein/chemical may have oppsoite impacts in different organs/places]"

So thats the key lines from a cellular level. This is about half way through the book. Its then a case of him explaining multicellular organisms and the role of the mind in creating the chemical environment for each cell etc etc. I wont spoil the story for any potential readers and it does get less "biological" from this point on and ends with "conscious parenting" (so a long way from the cell nucleus lol). Eg...

[p128] "When it comes to sheer neurological processing abilities, the subconscious mind is millions of times more powerful than the conscious mind, If the desires of the conscious mind conflict with the programs in the subconscious mind, which "mind" do you think will win out? You can repeat the positive affirmation that you are lovable over and over or that your cancer tumour will shrink. But if, as a child, you heard over and over again that you are worthless and sickly, those messages programmed in your subconscious mind will undermine your best conscious efforts to change your life."

[p144] "In the words of Mahatma Gandhi:

Your beliefs become your thoughts
Your thoughts become your words
Your words become your actions
Your actions become your habits
Your habits become your values
Your values become your destiny"

Anyway its a seminal book and a load of value for ~$25. It really does show that even at the genetic/cellular level the organism process is more driven top-down (ie ultimately 'beliefs') than it is bottom up. We are not prisoners of our genes (quite a lot on the anti-genetic-determinism/scientific-over-simplification/reductionism/commercial-needs-of-pharma-companies-skewing-scientific-paradigms etc line) rather we are Masters of Our Own Destiny - whether we acknowledge it or not.

Highly recommended and I hope you found this of value smiley

Peace to all