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Memorial for Rachel Corrie
Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old American activist with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), was killed on March 16 when she was run over by an Israeli bulldozer. Rachel was trying to stop the bulldozer from demolishing the home of a Palestinian doctor in the Gaza Strip. Over a hundred people gathered outside the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco to remember her.
Jess Ghannam, Free Palestine Alliance
Eric Klein, Elzza Nyiri, and David Taylor - friends of Rachel Corrie. David stated, "Rachel was an amazing friend and a beautiful person and she went to Palestine to stand up against the injustice of the Israeli Government. And a bulldozer, paid for by our tax dollars, ran her over then backed up over her again. She was trying to protect people and they killed her. I don't want my friends to be martyrs. I don't want more people to die -- whether they're Americans who I knew and loved -- whether they're Israeli or Palestinian -- this madness has to stop...
"She said in her email she had the privilege to do this--that they'd never dare kill an American -- and they did... We give billions of dollars a year to the Israeli Government. They're the largest recipient of foreign military aid that comes from this country. The tanks and the bulldozers that destroy villages and in this case destroyed Rachel come out of our paychecks. Until we resist this government and stand up to it we're going to continue to support the military and genocide in Palestine. It just so happened that this time our tax dollars killed one of our own, even though they kill Palestinians every day. We have to stand up and say enough is enough--without having our loved ones be killed to fight the injustice that's being funded by this government!"
Carolyn Arnold read an email that Rachel wrote on February 7, 2003
Statement of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee:
Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old American activist with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), was killed on March 16 when she was run over by an Israeli bulldozer. Rachel was trying to stop the bulldozer from demolishing the home of a Palestinian doctor in the Gaza Strip.
ISM is a Palestinian-led movement of Palestinian and International activists working to raise awareness of the struggle for Palestinian freedom and an end to Israeli occupation. ISM utilizes nonviolent, direct-action methods of resistance to confront and challenge illegal Israeli occupation forces and policies.
The confrontation between the ISM and the Israeli Army had been under way for two hours when Rachel was run over. Rachel and the other activists had clearly identified themselves as unarmed international peace activists throughout the confrontation.
The Israeli Army is attempting to dishonor Rachel's memory by claiming that she was killed accidentally when she ran in front of the bulldozer. Eye-witnesses to the murder insist that this is totally untrue. Rachel was sitting in the path of the bulldozer as it advanced towards her. When the bulldozer refused to stop or turn aside she climbed up onto the mound of dirt and rubble being gathered in front of it wearing a fluorescent jacket to look directly at the driver who kept on advancing. The bulldozer continued to advance so that she was pulled under the pile of dirt and rubble. After she had disappeared from view the driver kept advancing until the bulldozer was completely on top of her. The driver did not lift the bulldozer blade and so she was crushed beneath it. Then the driver backed off and the seven other ISM activists taking part in the action rushed to dig out her body. An ambulance rushed her to A-Najar hospital where she died.
While this horrific incident might seem shocking, it is a daily reality for Palestinians living under a brutal Israeli occupation that completely dehumanizes them. It is further testament to the institutional terror and indiscriminate killing that Israel practices every day. The incident illustrates that the Israeli army is ready to kill international peace activists to frighten others away. Israel can then continue to carry out more crimes against Palestinians with impunity and without witness, a matter that is particularly dangerous with the attention shifting to the impending war on Iraq.
Statement from Rachel Corrie's parents
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. Craig and Cindy Corrie, parents of Rachel Corrie
Excerpts from an email from Rachel 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 it's 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.