Op-ED: Rachel Corrie

Elana Kashti and Noor Fawzy

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By:  Elana Kashti
Israel Coalition on Campus Grinspoon, Intern
Florida Atlantic University

In recent months many have speculated about the tragic and accidental death of a 23-year-old woman from Olympia, Wash. named Rachel Corrie on March 16, 2003. Ten years after the fatal accident, many ask if justice was served, or if Corrie was a victim of a misguided group’s attempt for attention.
Corrie was a young woman who, like many of us, searched for her place in the world. In that search she was introduced to the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). The ISM is a Palestinian group, which thrives on recruiting young men and women from nations around the world to act in favor of its causes in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The ISM intentionally provides its followers with false and inflammatory information to incite them against Israelis. This misinformation is used to persuade its followers to take extreme measures and put themselves in harm’s way in order for the ISM to gain greater attention and seek international sympathy.
On March 16, 2003 Corrie was turned into a potential propaganda tool after being instructed to kneel in front of an IDF (Israel Defense Force) bulldozer in the Gaza Strip in an attempt to prevent the destruction of illegally built tunnels by the Palestinians intending to smuggle thousands of weapons, bomb materials and suicide vests. Since Corrie was not visible to the bulldozer operator, she was accidentally killed.
While Corrie’s death was tragic, the real culprit in the tragedy is the ISM. Ten years after Corrie’s death her family seeks justice for the daughter they lost. However, if it’s justice they seek, they should look at the ISM and their lies. It is the ISM who is responsible for the tragic death of Rachel Corrie and no one else. When hatred is present the result is very often tragic. While we all sympathize with Rachel Corrie and her family, we cannot lose perspective on how the ISM used this young woman and eventually lead to her death.
Today on 9/11 we must all ask ourselves, is there justice when a hate group induces other like us with lies, which leave nothing but pain and sorrow. Is this justice?

Following Rachel’s Footsteps: End U.S. Funding for Israeli Apartheid
By Noor Fawzy

Last week represented a long-awaited milestone in the struggle for justice in Palestine. Palestine solidarity groups, domestic and international, mobilized to mark the historic verdict rendered by an Israeli court on the 2010 Rachel Corrie wrongful death case. My organization, Students for Justice in Palestine, followed this story intently, raised awareness about it and the larger issue behind it, and encouraged students to sign letters urging divestment from companies that profit from and contribute to the Israeli Occupation of Palestine.
Rachel Corrie was a 23-year-old American peace activist, and a true American hero. At a young age, she’d developed a strong moral compass and sense for justice, the rule of law, and human rights. As an American citizen, she felt indirectly responsible for the United States’ funding of violence in the region. During her senior year at Evergreen State College, she suspended her studies to work with the International Solidarity Movement, an organization actively working to end the Israeli Occupation by non-violent means. She was killed in 2003 in the Gaza Strip as she defended a Palestinian medical doctor’s home from demolition by the Israeli army. She was crushed to death by an American-made, Israeli-operated armored Caterpillar bulldozer.
The Israeli court decided that the State of Israel was not guilty for Corrie’s death. Instead, the court placed the blame squarely on Rachel, arguing that she should not have been inside a war zone, when in fact the “war zone” is a densely populated territory the Israeli military is currently occupying. The ruling utterly ignores the overwhelming photographic and eyewitness evidence that Rachel was wrongfully killed. In accordance with ISM policy, she wore a fluorescent orange jacket, communicated through a megaphone, and stood atop a mound of dirt and rubble in order to make eye contact with the bulldozer driver. There were seven other activists with her. They had been at the residence for two hours prior, and had in fact confronted a bulldozer earlier that day, making the claim that her presence was unknown implausible.
The ruling will be subject to intense international scrutiny, considering the Israel/Palestine issue is one that threatens international peace and security. It will also serve, as has the issue at large, as a significant source of anti-American sentiment. More disappointing than the U.S. government’s response to Israel’s actions (usually limited to a few “critical” words) is the U.S. government’s tacit contributions to these crimes. For decades, successive American administrations have provided Israel with the funds and military weaponry necessary to systematically humiliate and terrorize the indigenous Palestinian population, forcing them to live without basic human rights. The U.S. is Israel’s primary weapons supplier. Israel receives the most money in U.S. foreign aid, receiving more than the entire continent of Africa.
U.S. weapons transfers to Israel are funded by our American tax dollars. Rachel Corrie’s presence in Palestine was the product of the U.S.’ failure to pressure Israel to end the brutal, 67-year-long Occupation, and her death was the result of a State emboldened by dozens of failed attempts at U.N. condemnation, consistently vetoed by the United States. Our nation possesses the political, economic, military and diplomatic capacity to hold Israel accountable for its human rights abuses. What our nation lacks is the political will and courage to do so.
If we want to end the violence, we must start by pulling our tax dollars out of Israeli military brutality. Our tax dollars should not go to aid the military of a country that commits human rights abuses, conducts collective punishments and implements apartheid policy. Rather, those dollars should be spent here at home. Our tax dollars should translate not into weaponry, but into job creation, early reading programs for children, affordable housing for low income families, and basic health care services for the 50 million of our citizens who lack it.
Rachel was not the only American to fall victim to Israeli aggression funded by her own nation. In 2009, Tristan Anderson was shot in the head by an American-provided Israeli tear gas canister while non-violently protesting the Israeli Apartheid Wall in the West Bank. American art student Emily Henochowicz lost her left eye after she was shot by a tear gas canister in the West Bank. Furkan Doghan was a dual Turkish-American citizen who was killed while on board the Gaza Freedom flotilla. He was shot in the head five times, point-blank by Israeli commandos.
To date, no justice has been served for any of these Americans. Israel has proven both its unwillingness and its incapacity to hold its military accountable for their atrocities. Its structurally flawed justice system has fanned the cruel impudence of Israeli criminals by allowing them to continue their aggression with impunity. The United States, Israel’s top ally, refuses to hold Israel accountable in the United Nations. In fact, the U.S. vetoed 43 U.N. resolutions condemning Israeli aggression in the region. As long as the U.S. shields criminals by playing Israel’s lawyer in the U.N., the international community will remain unsuccessful in pulling Israel into the law-abiding, human rights-respecting sphere. And as long as Israel is permitted to conduct its own biased and corrupt investigations in matters of violence against peaceful activists, no family of the Americans slain for Palestinian rights will see justice.