Tomorrow it will be four years since Rachel Corrie was murdered in Palestine while protesting the Israeli occupation and massacre of the Palestinians.
What Rachel Saw: Rachel Corrie and Palestine
By SONJA KARKAR
A slip of a girl faced one of Israel’s most feared war machines in the Occupied Palestinian Territories–the armed bulldozer–and died. This deliberate killing was no accident. Maybe the Israeli authorities would have preferred it not to happen because of the public relations backlash, but the driver of the bulldozer was wielding power that day. He had a mandate from his government to clear Palestinians out of their homes at a moment’s notice and he knew that he would be protected regardless of the crimes he dared to commit. Rachel Corrie was a US citizen, but even the US government closed ranks behind Israel and the bulldozer operator. Being an American did not protect Rachel, and four years later, the US administration still refuses to investigate her death denying her American family justice and closure.
The bulldozer killing of Rachel Corrie was not the only case of such a death in Palestine, but it was the first time a US citizen had become the target of Israel’s military. Rachel was a peace activist who had gone to Rafah in Gaza because she wanted to help bring the terrible plight of the Palestinians to the notice of the world. With others in the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), she believed that non-violent resistance was a means of doing that, and tragically, she achieved that with her death more than she could have ever done with her life.
Rachel was one of hundreds of foreigners who work as human shields in the Occupied Palestinian Territories–dedicated men and women committed to social justice who are seeking to keep the lines of communication open with the outside world while Israel is doing everything to close them. Rachel was trying to stop the bulldozer from demolishing a Palestinian physician’s family home–one of thousands that have been demolished for Jewish settlements and to make way for the Separation Wall. She wore an orange safety flap- jacket with reflective stripes, and photos clearly show her holding a megaphone. According to witnesses, she was talking to the driver and he knew that she was there. But, that did not stop him from pushing the dirt up against where she was standing into a mound with his blade and as she fell, he drove the bulldozer over her, reversed the killing machine, and ran over her again.
Israel: Scrambling for Cover
Israel’s investigations cleared itself of any wrongdoing: Rachel was not run over by the bulldozer, “but rather was struck by a hard object, most probably a slab of concrete, which moved or slid down while the mound of earth which she was standing behind was moved”; the driver of the bulldozer had a “blindspot” and could not see Rachel in front of him; the soldiers who should have been flanking the bulldozer were called away to deal with another emergency; the Israeli army had not intended to demolish the physician’s house, but was only looking for explosives in a security zone; the peace activists “were acting very irresponsibly, putting everyone in danger–the Palestinians, themselves and our forces–by intentionally placing themselves in a combat zone”; the Israeli army was not guilty of any misconduct, and therefore, was not responsible for Rachel’s death.
Only days before the Israeli findings were reported, another peace activist working with the ISM, Tom Hurndall lay in a London hospital with severe brain damage after being shot in the head by an Israeli soldier as he tried to protect Palestinian children from Israeli sniper fire being shot over their heads. Other internationals shot and killed by Israeli soldiers were: German doctor Harald Fischer, Italian cameraman Rafaeli Ciriello, British United Nations worker Iain Hook and British national James Miller. As for the Palestinians, more than 5,050 Palestinian men, women and children have been killed by Israeli troops and Israeli settler paramilitary units since September 2000.
It is important to put Rachel’s death in context. Without an understanding of the history behind the injustices being perpetrated against the Palestinians, Rachel’s act of courage cannot be understood. In her writings, she believed that good and decent people everywhere would also speak out and do something, if only they knew.
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