An aspiring photojournalist and committed peace activist
by Carl Arrindell
Thursday January 22, 2004
In the spring of 2002, Tom Hurndall made a journey around Europe, which then took him on to Egypt and Jordan. He was young, a soon-to-be student, interested in philosophy - and most interested in the contrast between cultures. It was a formative experience. Indeed, an abiding image for his friends is of Tom, who has died aged 22, on his motorcycle, cigarette in hand, riding into the Egyptian desert.
Back in England, he was accepted by Manchester Metropolitan University to study criminology and philosophy. But his passion and natural gifts were for photography and writing, which he saw as ways of highlighting what was important in life. So he switched to a degree in photographic journalism.
A year ago, he photographed the million-strong London anti-Iraq war demonstration. During it, he encountered the group planning to provide human shields in Iraq against the threat of attack by Anglo-American forces.
By February 2003, he was in Iraq, having told his Manchester faculty head that he would still make his course deadlines. He was, after all, amassing a photographic record, and writing journals. But rather than sending the volunteers to hospitals and schools, Saddam regime officials detailed them to power stations and strategic targets.
Tom headed for Jordan. There he offered his remaining £500 to provide medical supplies for Jordanian Iraqi refugee camps, helped courier supplies and worked on building temporary shelters. In Jordan, he encountered the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), whose volunteers - committed to non-violence - were working with Palestinians as they faced the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. By foot, taxi and bus, Tom set off for Gaza, with the aim of recording what he saw.
He arrived in the town of Rafah on April 6 2003 and began emailing images of the IDF and the Palestinians back to his family. The tone of his journals changed dramatically. "No one could say I wasn't seeing what needs to be seen now," he wrote.
The practice of ISM members in Rafah was, while waving their passports, to accompany Palestinians as they attempted to restore water supplies, and telecommunications shot up by the IDF, and to prevent the demolition of houses. On April 11 2003 Tom, dressed in a fluorescent orange ISM vest, was at the end of a Rafah street observing an earthen mound where a score of children were playing. As IDF rifle fire hit the mound, the children fled. But three, aged between four and seven, were paralysed by fear.
Tom, having taken a boy to safety, returned for the girls. He was hit in the head by a single bullet, fired by an IDF soldier. After a two-hour delay on the border, Tom was taken to a specialist hospital in Be'ersheva, and then back to London, where he survived, in a vegetative state, until his death.
Tom was the second of four children born in Camden in north London, the son of a property lawyer and the head of a school learning support unit. He was educated at the Hall School in Hampstead, Highfield in Hampshire and at Winchester College before, back in London, joining Camden School for Girls mixed sixth form. Various jobs followed before that first trip to the Middle East and subsequent student enrolment in Manchester.
The initial IDF field report, which went to the British Embassy in Tel Aviv and to Tom's family, exonerated the soldier who had killed him. He claimed that Tom was in camouflage, and wielding a gun. In the face of a clutch of witness statements, such suggestions were withdrawn. Just before Tom's death, the soldier, a Bedouin Arab of the IDF, was indicted on six charges, of which the most serious was aggravated assault, implying no intention to kill. Since Tom was shot by a rifle with an advanced telescopic lens, his parents are demanding that the charge be murder, but they are also demanding the eradication of the "culture of impunity" with which the IDF operates in the occupied territories of Palestine.
According to B'Tselem, the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, between September 29 2000 and December 18 2003 some 377 Israeli civilians and 80 security forces members were killed in Israel. Some 196 Israeli civilians and 180 IDF members were killed in the occupied territories.
In that period, 2,289 Palestinians were killed in the occupied territories, with many tens of thousands injured, most of whom have been civilians. From the end of 2002 to the spring of 2003, four "internationals" were killed in the occupied territories of whom three, including Tom, were British citizens. There have only been a handful of IDF investigations and just two convictions, with lenient sentences. Tom's case is a landmark. For B'Tselem's director Jessica Montell, it "has made a real contribution to the cause of greater military accountability".
Tom, blind to nationalities and borders, exuded humanity. He wanted, he wrote in his journal, "to make a difference". He did. He also had an outrageous sense of humour and will be missed, most of all, because he made those of us who were his friends smile. He is survived by his parents, sister Sophie, and his brothers Billy and Freddy.
· Thomas Peter Hurndall, student, born November 27 1981; died January 13 2004
Little Green Footballs
Saturday, January 24, 2004
Posted by X at 18:08
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
Charles Johnson has done some funny things in his time as owner and moderator of the Little Green Footballs weblog. His latest hilarious stunt was to organise a 'Fisk Award' for the personality most hated by pimply rednecks, square-eyed anti-terrorism fighters and frothing racists. What fun. Shame then, that the announcement of the winner should lead to so much infighting, name-calling, screaming and bitching (http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=9603#c0281). Hey guys, peace out. This was meant to be, like, good fun! We're all happy racists and morons in this together, right? I mean, come aahhnnnnn....
Posted by X at 16:58
Tuesday, January 13, 2004
LGF: attention span of five paragraphs
Charles Johnson flags up a seemingly horrific story about mass genital mutilation of defenceless baby girls all over Indonesia, and blames Islam (http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=9593_Indonesia-_Genital_Mutilation_Half_Price_Sale).
However, anyone actually reading the entire article will find that it repeatedly differentiates between the genital mutilation practised in some African countries (and for which there is no Islamic requirement) and the circumcision practised in Indonesia. Moreover, Mr Johnson's assertion that "90% of Islamic mothers surveyed support the barbaric practice" is incorrect. There is no mention of the mothers' religion in the article. So, once again Charles Johnson takes any opportunity to point the finger of moral outrage at Islam, without bothering to check his facts first.
Charles Johnson might like to read about another place where mass circumcision of neonatal infants takes place on a routine basis: America. Let's see if he picks up on this one.
Posted by X at 15:11
Monday, January 12, 2004
LGF Double Standard
Charles Johnson is howling at the moon and gnashing his teeth at the BBC's temerity: it suspended a talk show host's programme after he made racist remarks about Arabs in a British newspaper. To Mr Johnson, this is stifling of free speech, why, a return to Stalinist censorship! Let debate be free and open and let everyone have their say, finds Charles. Except of course when the person making the outspoken statements says something Charles doesn't like. For example Robert Fisk of the Independent, Michael Moore, any Indymedia, and of course anyone who disagrees with Mr C on the LGF message board. People like that, naturally, are banned faster than you can say "Charles Johnson is a hypocrite."
Posted by X at 07:52
Sunday, January 11, 2004
Thursday, January 08, 2004
Lizard tool tries to infiltrate US State Department
LGFer 'KevinV' unwisely blew the whistle on another nefarious lizardoid scheme today, by admitting (http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=9545#c0005) that he intends to sneak into the United States State Department posing as a job applicant and steal classified information.
Says Kev: "To my friends on this board who have been asking for updates: I received the job offer from the State Department yesterday, and I start in early March. I'll let you know what I find there. At least one LGFer will be in there!"
So, Collin Powell beware: you've got a lizardoid mole coming up; better start taking precautions to root him out before he turns into a major security risk.
Posted by X at 17:46
LGF wins 'contortionists of the month' award
Charles Johnson delights (http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=9546_The_ISMs_Jihad_Against_Arabs) in a FrontPage News rant by Steven Plaut against the International Solidarity Movement and its campaigns to bring to justice the assassins of Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall.
Johnson and Plaut believe they have found a fatal flaw in the ISM campaign because the soldier who shot Hurndall was a Bedouin Arab. "Hah!" they gloat, "the ISM are now persecuting Arabs!" Which kind of misses the point: the ISM is pursuing those who shot Rachel and Tom for what they did, not who they are. And the fact that the solider in Tom's case was an Israeli Arab means nothing to the ISM, just as little as it would if the soldier were a Jewish Israeli. Why? Because unlike Charles and Plaut, the ISM do not have a racist agenda.
Another interesting thing Charlie and Stevie fail to pick up is the different way in which the IDF is treating the soldier who committed this crime. Normally, soldiers are screened from the media and any attempt at prosecuting them for having committed a crime against Palestinians or Internationals is strenously prevented. Not so in this case? Perhaps because, to the IDF, he is only a Bedouin? Is the IDF trying to find a convenient fall guy for this embarrassing episode?