Saturday, April 11, 2009

TOM HURNDALL REMEMBERED





"What do I want from this life? What makes you happy is not enough. All the things that satisfy our instincts only satisfy the animal in us. I want to be proud of myself. I want more. I want to look up to myself and when I die, I want to smile because of the things I have done, not cry for the things I haven’t done."


-Slain peace activist Tom Hurdall



Six years ago today a team of nine peace activists in Gaza was travelling to the Egyptian border to set up a peace tent to block tank patrols. The group abandoned their protest when they encountered a fighting at a military checkpoint, but when several children who had been playing in the street came under fire Tom Hurndall, a twenty-one year old British activist, ran to bring them to safety. After evacuating a girl Hurndall returned for the rest of the children, as he knelt to collect a second child a bullet from an Israeli sniper struck him in the head.

The Israeli government initially refused to investigate, initially claiming Hurndall was unintentionally hit in crossfire, then supporting the sniper's claim that Hurndall was wearing military fatigues and carrying a weapon. The British government eventually seceded in pressuring Israel to launch an investigation which subsequently resulted in the conviction of Sergeant Taysir Hayb for manslaughter, one of only two IDF soldiers to ever be convicted for abusing human rights in the Occupied Territories.

Hurdall never regained consciousness before dying in London nine months after his shooting. The aspiring photojournalist and social activist lost his life in an act of compassion, but he gave the world an inspiring example in courage and solidarity. The military can crush the bodies and end the lives of those who come to Gaza in solidarity with its dehumanized victims, but it can never extinguish the spirit of humanity that brings foreigners to Palestine to join a forgotten people in their struggle for survival.

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