Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rest in Peace Rachel Corrie (d. March 16, 2003)

Rachel Corrie (1979-2003)

Seven years ago today American peace activist Rachel Corrie was killed by the Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza. She was attempting to block the IDF from knocking down a Palestinian home using nonviolent passive resistance when she was run down by an oncoming IDF bulldozer... which then backed up over her. The incident was witnessed by a group of international activists. Richard Pursell, who was one of Corrie's fellow activists in the International Solidarity Movement, described the incident in a recent article in the Guardian UK. Guardian reporter Rory McCarthy reports from Haifa,

"Purssell, a Briton, now working as a landscape gardener, said he volunteered with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) to witness events in the occupied Palestinian territories for himself. In Rafah he had been hoping to prevent the Israeli military from demolishing Palestinian homes. The organisation was strictly non violent, he said. 'Our role was to support Palestinian non-violent resistance.'

On the day of her death, 16 March 2003, Corrie was with seven other activists, including Purssell, in Rafah, close to the Israeli-guarded border with Egypt. They saw an Israeli military armoured Caterpillar D9 bulldozer approaching the house of a Palestinian doctor.

Purssell described how the bulldozer approached at a fast walking pace, its blade down and gathering a pile of soil in its path. When the bulldozer was 20 metres from the house Corrie, who like the others was wearing an orange fluorescent jacket, climbed on to the soil in front of it and stood 'looking into the cab of the bulldozer'.

'The bulldozer continued to move forward,' Purssell said. 'Rachel turned to come back down the slope. The earth is still moving and as she nears the bottom of the pile something happened which causes her to fall forward. The bulldozer continued to move forward and Rachel disappeared from view under the moving earth.'

The bulldozer continued forward four metres as the activists began to run forward and shout at the driver.

'It passed the point where Rachel fell, it stopped and reversed back along the track it first made. Rachel was lying on the earth,' Purssell said. 'She was still breathing.' Corrie was severely injured and died shortly afterwards.

The Israeli military says it bears no responsibility for Corrie's death. A month after her death the military said an investigation had determined its troops were not to blame; the driver of the bulldozer had not seen her and had not intentionally run her over. It accused Corrie and the ISM of behaviour that was 'illegal, irresponsible and dangerous'."

So, obviously she was asking for it. After all she was standing there is a bright orange safety vest, what did she think would happen?

McCarthy reports that Corrie's parents have initiated a civil case against Israel. The Corrie family lawyer, Hussein Abu Hussein, (dum, dum, dum!) said he would argue that Corrie's death was due either to gross negligence by the Israeli military or that it was intended. If the Israeli state is found responsible, the family will press for damages.

I would like to end with something positive. I don't want to be cynical because Rachel wasn't cynical... but I just can't. Not today.

1 comment:

  1. She was a hero and she ranks up there with people like Che Guevara & Malcolm X who were killed for being outspoken and active... I hope I will have the courage to be as brave and uncompromising like her someday...