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In Memorium, Rachel Corrie
Voices for peace, USA and Israel
March 16, 2003
On Sunday, March 16, 23 year old American student and peace activist Rachel Corrie, who was working with the International Solidarity Movement to help prevent house demolitions by the Israeli army, was killed by an IDF bulldozer. Following are a few of the reports and responses to her death.
American woman peace activist killed by IDF bulldozer in Gaza
voice: Arnon Regular, Haaretz Correspondent, Israel
published: March 16, 2003
An American woman peace protester was killed Sunday by an IDF bulldozer, which ran her over during the demolition of a house at the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip. Another activist was wounded in the incident. Rachel Corey, 23, from Olympia, Washington, was killed when she ran in front of the bulldozer to try to prevent it from destroying a house, doctors in Gaza said. "Corey was killed in the al-Salam neighbourhood when an Israeli bulldozer covered her with sand as she stood in front of a bulldozer," said Dr Ali Musa, a doctor from the al-Najar hospital in the southern Gaza Strip. He said she died from skull and chest fractures. The IDF said it was checking the report. The U.S. State Department had no immediate comment. Greg Schnabel, 28, from Chicago, said the protesters were in the house of Dr. Samir Masri. "Rachel was alone in front of the house as we were trying to get them to stop," he said. "She waved for bulldozer to stop and waved. She fell down and the bulldozer kept going. We yelled 'stop, stop,' and the bulldozer didn't stop at all. It had completely run over her and then it reversed and ran back over her." Since the start of the Intifada, groups of international protesters have gathered in several locations in territories, setting themselves up as "human shields" to try to stop IDF operations. Corey was the first member of the groups, called "International Solidarity Movement," to be killed in the conflict. Schnabel said Corey was a student at Evergreen College and was to graduate this year. He said there were eight protesters at the site, four from the United States and four from Great Britain. "We stay with families whose house is to be demolished," he told the Associated Press by telephone from Rafah after the incident.
"We are now in a period of grieving"
voices: Craig and Cindy Corrie, parents of Rachel Corrie, US
published: March 16, 2003
We are now in a period of grieving and still finding out the details behind the death of Rachel in the Gaza Strip. We have raised all our children to appreciate the beauty of the global community and family and are proud that Rachel was able to live her convictions. Rachel was filled with love and a sense of duty to her fellow man, wherever they lived. And, she gave her life trying to protect those that are unable to protect themselves. Rachel wrote to us from the Gaza Strip and we would like to release to the media her experience in her own words at this time. Thank you.
Excerpts from an e-mail from Rachel Corrie on February 7, 2003:
I have been in Palestine for two weeks and one hour now, and I still have very few words to describe what I see. It is most difficult for me to think about what's going on here when I sit down to write back to the United States—something about the virtual portal into luxury. I don't know if many of the children here have ever existed without tank-shell holes in their walls and the towers of an occupying army surveying them constantly from the near horizons. I think, although I'm not entirely sure, that even the smallest of these children understand that life is not like this everywhere. An eight-year-old was shot and killed by an Israeli tank two days before I got here, and many of the children murmur his name to me, "Ali"—or point at the posters of him on the walls. The children also love to get me to practice my limited Arabic by asking me "Kaif Sharon?" "Kaif Bush?" and they laugh when I say "Bush Majnoon" "Sharon Majnoon" back in my limited Arabic. (How is Sharon? How is Bush? Bush is crazy. Sharon is crazy.) Of course this isn't quite what I believe, and some of the adults who have the English correct me: Bush mish Majnoon... Bush is a businessman. Today I tried to learn to say "Bush is a tool", but I don't think it translated quite right. But anyway, there are eight-year-olds here much more aware of the workings of the global power structure than I was just a few years ago—at least regarding Israel.
Nevertheless, I think about the fact that no amount of reading, attendance at conferences, documentary viewing and word of mouth could have prepared me for the reality of the situation here. You just can't imagine it unless you see it, and even then you are always well aware that your experience is not at all the reality: what with the difficulties the Israeli Army would face if they shot an unarmed US citizen, and with the fact that I have money to buy water when the army destroys wells, and, of course, the fact that I have the option of leaving. Nobody in my family has been shot, driving in their car, by a rocket launcher from a tower at the end of a major street in my hometown. I have a home. I am allowed to go see the ocean. Ostensibly it is still quite difficult for me to be held for months or years on end without a trial (this because I am a white US citizen, as opposed to so many others). When I leave for school or work I can be relatively certain that there will not be a heavily armed soldier waiting half way between Mud Bay and downtown Olympia at a checkpoint—a soldier with the power to decide whether I can go about my business, and whether I can get home again when I'm done. So, if I feel outrage at arriving and entering briefly and incompletely into the world in which these children exist, I wonder conversely about how it would be for them to arrive in my world.
They know that children in the United States don't usually have their parents shot and they know they sometimes get to see the ocean. But once you have seen the ocean and lived in a silent place, where water is taken for granted and not stolen in the night by bulldozers, and once you have spent an evening when you haven't wondered if the walls of your home might suddenly fall inward waking you from your sleep, and once you've met people who have never lost anyone—once you have experienced the reality of a world that isn't surrounded by murderous towers, tanks, armed "settlements" and now a giant metal wall, I wonder if you can forgive the world for all the years of your childhood spent existing—just existing—in resistance to the constant stranglehold of the world's fourth largest military?backed by the world's only superpower—in its attempt to erase you from your home. That is something I wonder about these children. I wonder what would happen if they really knew.
As an afterthought to all this rambling, I am in Rafah, a city of about 140,000 people, approximately 60 percent of whom are refugees—many of whom are twice or three times refugees. Rafah existed prior to 1948, but most of the people here are themselves or are descendants of people who were relocated here from their homes in historic Palestine—now Israel. Rafah was split in half when the Sinai returned to Egypt. Currently, the Israeli army is building a fourteen-meter-high wall between Rafah in Palestine and the border, carving a no-mans land from the houses along the border. Six hundred and two homes have been completely bulldozed according to the Rafah Popular Refugee Committee. The number of homes that have been partially destroyed is greater.
Today as I walked on top of the rubble where homes once stood, Egyptian soldiers called to me from the other side of the border, "Go! Go!" because a tank was coming. Followed by waving and "what's your name?". There is something disturbing about this friendly curiosity. It reminded me of how much, to some degree, we are all kids curious about other kids: Egyptian kids shouting at strange women wandering into the path of tanks. Palestinian kids shot from the tanks when they peak out from behind walls to see what's going on. International kids standing in front of tanks with banners. Israeli kids in the tanks anonymously, occasionally shouting—and also occasionally waving—many forced to be here, many just aggressive, shooting into the houses as we wander away.
In addition to the constant presence of tanks along the border and in the western region between Rafah and settlements along the coast, there are more IDF towers here than I can count—along the horizon,at the end of streets. Some just army green metal. Others these strange spiral staircases draped in some kind of netting to make the activity within anonymous. Some hidden just beneath the horizon of buildings. A new one went up the other day in the time it took us to do laundry and to cross town twice to hang banners. Despite the fact that some of the areas nearest the border are the original Rafah with families who have lived on this land for at least a century, only the 1948 camps in the center of the city are Palestinian controlled areas under Oslo. But as far as I can tell, there are few if any places that are not within the sights of some tower or another. Certainly there is no place invulnerable to apache helicopters or to the cameras of invisible drones we hear buzzing over the city for hours at a time.
I've been having trouble accessing news about the outside world here, but I hear an escalation of war on Iraq is inevitable. There is a great deal of concern here about the "reoccupation of Gaza." Gaza is reoccupied every day to various extents, but I think the fear is that the tanks will enter all the streets and remain here, instead of entering some of the streets and then withdrawing after some hours or days to observe and shoot from the edges of the communities. If people aren't already thinking about the consequences of this war for the people of the entire region then I hope they will start.
I also hope you'll come here. We've been wavering between five and six internationals. The neighborhoods that have asked us for some form of presence are Yibna, Tel El Sultan, Hi Salam, Brazil, Block J, Zorob, and Block O. There is also need for constant night-time presence at a well on the outskirts of Rafah since the Israeli army destroyed the two largest wells. According to the municipal water office the wells destroyed last week provided half of Rafah's water supply. Many of the communities have requested internationals to be present at night to attempt to shield houses from further demolition. After about ten p.m. it is very difficult to move at night because the Israeli army treats anyone in the streets as resistance and shoots at them. So clearly we are too few.
I continue to believe that my home, Olympia, could gain a lot and offer a lot by deciding to make a commitment to Rafah in the form of a sister-community relationship. Some teachers and children's groups have expressed interest in e-mail exchanges, but this is only the tip of the iceberg of solidarity work that might be done. 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 US, 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.
American Jewish Group Calls for Investigation
voice: Marcia Freedman, president of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom/Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace, US
published: March 17, 2003
Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace, deeply regrets the death of Rachel Corrie, who was run over and crushed by an Israel Defense Forces bulldozer in the Gaza Strip on March 16. Ms. Corey, an American from Olympia, Washington, and a monitor with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), was killed when she tried to prevent the bulldozer's demolition of a house in the Rafah refugee camp.
Accounts vary as to whether or not the driver of the bulldozer was aware that Ms. Corrie was standing in his path. An IDF spokesman said the driver had not seen her and called her death a "very regrettable accident," while fellow ISM monitors claimed that Ms. Corrie was dressed in bright colors and that there was nothing to obscure the driver's view. At a minimum, the IDF must have been aware of the presence of observers in the area, having clashed with them an hour before the incident in the same vicinity.
In order to determine the facts, the IDF should immediately undertake a full and impartial investigation of this tragic incident and determine if the death of Ms. Corrie was purposeful, or the result of willful negligence, or truly a regrettable accident. More broadly, Brit Tzedek calls upon the Israeli government to review its procedures for dealing with unarmed, non-violent protesters to institute measures to prevent further loss of innocent life. We also call upon the U.S. State Department make a similar demand of Israel.
Members of the International Solidarity Movement and other so-called "internationals" are engaged in a legitimate form of non-violent action to oppose and expose what are widely regarded as human rights abuses by the occupying Israeli forces. However unwelcome Israel considers their presence to be, there can be no justification for the IDF's intentional or negligent use of deadly force against them, to the extent that it occurs. Indeed, Israel's repeated call for the Palestinians to pursue their objectives by non-violent means is blatantly contradicted by any action that does not respect this form of protest.
Ultimately, only an end to the occupation—negotiated if possible, unilateral if necessary—and the withdrawal of Israeli forces and settlements from the West Bank and Gaza Strip can bring an end to the violence that has now claimed an innocent American life.
Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace, is a grassroots organization of American Jews deeply committed to Israel's well-being through the achievement of a negotiated settlement to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.