Revolutionary Worker #1201, June 1, 2003, posted at rwor.org
March 16, 2003, Rachel Corrie was murdered by Israeli occupation forces in Rafah in southern Gaza Srip when she was crushed under a Caterpillar bulldozer. Along with several other people, Rachel sat down in front of a house that was targeted for demolition by the Israeli army--one of thousands of Palestinian homes in Gaza and the West Bank destroyed by the Israeli occupiers just in the past two years. Witnesses say the bulldozer's driver could clearly see Rachel, who wore a fluorescent jacket and was speaking into a bullhorn. But the bulldozer continued forward, pulling Rachel under--then it reversed and drove over her again.
Rachel Corrie left the United States for Palestine to work with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM)--people from many different countries who go to Gaza and the West Bank to stand with the Palestinian people and help resist the killings and the destruction of homes, crops, and water supplies by the Israeli military. Two days before she was killed, Rachel and the other "internationals" in Rafah had successfully helped reopen one of three wells damaged by the Israeli army. They camped out all night next to the wells to shield them from another attack.
Following the murder of Rachel Corrie, Israel intensified attacks on the internationals and the ISM. On April 5, Brian Avery, 24, of New Mexico, was shot in the face by a burst of Isareli machine-gun fire in Jenin, West Bank. Like Rachel, he was wearing a flourescent orange vest with white reflective tape and was in clear view of his attackers. Brian survived but has major injuries to his face.
Less than a week later, 21-year-old Tom Hurndall from Manchester, England, was shot by Israeli forces in Rafah when he attempted to protect Palestinian children from Israeli gunfire. Tom is now in a hospital on life support.
On May 9 Israeli army forces raided and trashed the ISM media office in Beit Sahour in Gaza. Israeli troops stole all the computers, arrested three people, and destroyed photos, CDs and office equipment.
Israel now requires all internationals going into Gaza to sign a release form saying they will not hold the Iraeli army responsible if they are killed or injured. It's basically a "we get to kill you" visa. A recent delegation from Amnesty International also had to sign such release forms.
Even as the U.S. and other powers talk of a "road map for peace," Israel--backed with more billions of dollars in U.S. military aid--is continuing the brutal war on the Palestinian people. There are daily Israeli tank invasions and air bombings of Palestinian towns and refugee camps. The same day Rachel Corrie was murdered, Israeli forces killed six Palestinians--including a two-year-old girl--at the Nusseirat refugee camp and two other Palestinians elsewhere in Gaza. Israel has sealed off the entire Gaza Strip-- making it a gigantic prison camp.
Rachel Corrie's parents, Cindy and Craig Corrie, have spoken out strongly against Rachel's murder and the daily killings of Palestinians by the Israeli army. On May 17, a dinner was held in Orange County, south of Los Angeles, to honor the Corries for their support of the Palestinian struggle and their example in demanding justice for Rachel. The event was also a successful fundraiser for the ISM's Freedom Summer in Palestine. A Palestinian man at the event told the RW , "Rachel sacrificed her life for our own dignity. She will always stay with the Palestinians in their hearts. She is eternal with us. She will always stay with the Palestinians."
Following is an excerpt from a speech by Cindy Corrie at the May 17 events and an interview.
"Were Rachel right here with me and listening, she would undoubtedly challenge us. She would insist that the attention be not on her, but on all the others who continue to suffer and die in Palestine and in Israel too--and even more on those who remain. Rachel wrote to me from Gaza, `Many people want their voices to be heard. And I think we need to use some of our privilege as internationals to get those voices heard directly in the U.S., rather than through the filter of well-meaning internationals such as myself. I am just beginning to learn from what I expect to be a very intense tutelage about the ability of people to organize against all odds and to resist against all odds.'
"At Evergreen College [in Olympia, Washington, where Rachel studied] one of her faculty wrote, `In the beginning, she was quiet, an intense observer, a passionate witness who saw deeply into the possibilities. I first got to know Rachel through her writings. Rachel was searching, always searching and open to the unexpected. She cared very much about other students, and they became devoted friends. With them she helped to make things possible.'
"She had always had an activist bent. She collected food at the local Safeway when she was in high school for the food bank. She spent a night sleeping at Olympia's tent city out of concern for the homeless. Her response to 9/11 was to become deeply involved with the peace movement in Olympia. In April 2002, she led the effort to create a flock of doves for Olympia's Earth Day tribute, the `Procession of the Species.'
"On September 11, 2002, she created a convergence for peace. During this period she struggled to make the Palestinian issue her issue. She studied, she learned from mentors in the community, and she decided finally that she had to go to Gaza. She was afraid, but she believed that this was important. And after she got there she told us that this was the most important thing she had ever done in her life.
"While she was in Gaza, she worked with Israeli peace activists, and she tried to better understand the water situation and the destruction of the Palestinian water supply. In Rafah, Rachel slept by wells to try to protect them from demolition. She protected houses, she drank sweet tea with grandmothers, she played with babies, she worked with youth.
"Rachel was clear about what she expected of us, her family: that we learn, that we read, that we get information from multiple sources, that we talk about this issue and that we act. Our family, like many others in this country, have for years heard the news reports from Israel. We knew little about what the Palestinians were suffering. That changed when Rachel announced to us her intention to go to Gaza and when she became our eyes and ears in Gaza. Then our connection with the Palestinian people became very personal too.
"We continue to believe that Rachel leaves all of us with a great deal to think about and with a great deal of work to do in order to bring freedom and security to both the Palestinian and Israeli people."
RW : What are you doing now to hold the Israeli authorities accountable?
Cindy Corrie : We are awaiting an investigation that we understand is still continuing in Israel. It is with the Advocate General, which is part of the Israeli military. We had been told originally that the report from that would be back much sooner than seems to be happening. Our concern of course is that the investigation is still within the Israeli military, so we are urging that there be an independent investigation, an impartial investigation, and that the U.S. government be involved in that in some way.
RW : You and your husband Craig have been traveling a lot and speaking to people all over the U.S. What are some of your experiences?
Cindy Corrie : We're learning a lot all the time. We've met fabulous people who are helping us learn. It's remarkable to us that it's been just eight weeks because it seems like we've had encounters for a lifetime. Tonight I met a woman who was born in Gaza. I could see the tears in her eyes, and I can see what it means to her, living here in the United States to know that Rachel went there to try to help. She still has family there. It's very moving for me to be with people who have that kind of connection. I've been spending time in the last couple weeks in Seattle with people in the Jewish community, and I see the struggle within that community dealing with this issue.
RW : In all your statements, it's very inspiring that you've upheld Rachel's decision to go to Gaza. You've never said, "We wish she hadn't gone so she'd be alive today." Tell us about that.
Cindy Corrie : There have been many days in the past two months when I have awakened and thought of a day previously and wished I could go back to before this happened, that somehow you could magically go back. But I raised my children to care, and to care about all humanity, and Rachel did that. I also encouraged them to think for themselves and to learn and to think carefully but then to be willing to speak out--and she did that through all her life. I just knew her well enough to know she was going to go.
RW : The Israeli Army has been attacking the ISM, and the press in the U.S. has called them "a shadowy organization." But you've met a lot of those activists.
Cindy Corrie : I think one thing that is misunderstood is that some are people my age. The first ISM person that I met directly was in Charlotte. She was a woman who has young children. Her husband is Palestinian. She went there last year and spent just a short time. The younger people that I've met since I've been back here, I've been so impressed with each one, with their conviction, with their courage. And I know that their hearts are with all humanity, and just trying to be there in place of the international peacekeeping force or human rights people that we should have there.
RW: Rachel's picture is now posted on walls all over Palestine as a shahida, a martyr. What did you think when you heard that?
Cindy Corrie : At first it was strange because in this country, our connotations of "martyr"--we're not used to that idea. And then I learned how every child that loses their life in that struggle, their picture is posted as a martyr, every individual there, and how many there are. Of course, Rachel will always be linked with the Palestinian people. She's very much in their hearts, and they are in our hearts. I'm proud that her picture has joined that group.
RW: We've all seen that picture of Rachel with the bullhorn, in front of the bulldozer, at her post. What's the lesson for the rest of us? What's the meaning of the life and death of Rachel Corrie?
Cindy Corrie : It's hard for me, even though my daughter was able to do what she did, to imagine the amount of courage it takes in order to do that. The power of Rachel's message is that she has given other people here and in other places the conviction to do something--to stand up and do something about whatever, particularly I think around this issue, but around others as well. I can't tell you how many people have written to us and have shared that feeling, the impact that it has had on them, to personally act in some way, deciding whatever they can do. I think that's really the strength of her message: that we need to do what we can do.
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