I sat down seven years ago this month with my son Adam and told him about the tragic death of a brave American woman named Rachel Corrie. As I informed him who she was, where and how she died, he stared at her two photographs in the paper and said, “Daddy, I will name my first daughter Rachel.” Adam was only nine years old, and I couldn’t have been more proud of him.
Rachel Corrie had a heart bigger than Texas. She paid the ultimate price fighting to uphold the international law that bans collective punishment.
Rachel was a 23 year-old Evergreen State College student from Olympia, WA. Rachel responded to the U.S. and Israeli rejection of a UN Resolution recommending an International Peace Keeping Force be sent into Palestine to serve as a human rights monitor there by enlisting in the International Solidarity Movement (ISM).
ISM is a group of international volunteers who partake in non-violent direct action resistance to the Israeli occupation. Members of the group live in Palestinian communities and experience first-hand the violence to which Palestinians are subjected every day by the Israeli military.
Rachel Corrie shared the Palestinian suffering and took some of the risks they are unfortunately forced to live with. Rachel dashed off to the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. It was important for her to show that the world had not forgotten these people, and that individuals from all over the world are willing to interrupt their comfortable lives to come and risk themselves for the sake of the Palestinians and draw international attention to their plight.
In Rafah, Rachel acted as a human shield, escorting people to water wells and school children between their homes and schools in order to discourage Israeli soldiers from firing at them. Rachel also helped Palestinian children with their homework and with their English language. She was also setting up a sister-city relationship between her home town of Olympia and Rafah. Sadly, her dream vanished on March 16, 2003 when her life was cut short in a savage way.
According to 21 year-old eyewitness Joseph Smith, an ISM member from Missouri: “On that tragic day, Rachel stood in the pathway of an Israeli military bulldozer attempting to demolish the house of a Palestinian physician who was a friend of Rachel and her group, and in whose house Rachel and other activists often stayed.
Rachel was wearing a fluorescent-orange jacket with reflective stripping and armed with a megaphone. Rachel sat in the pathway of the bulldozer. She was 8-10 feet in front of the bulldozer and began waving. The bulldozer continued driving forward, headed straight for Rachel. When it was so closed that it was moving the earth beneath her, Rachel climbed onto the pile of rubble being pushed by the bulldozer. She got so high onto it that she was at an eye-level with the cab of the bulldozer. Her head and upper torso were above the bulldozer’s blade. The driver and co-operator could clearly see her. Rachel was crushed to death under the 10-ton U.S.-made machine.”
Israel claimed the driver didn’t see her. However, eyewitness accounts and Associated Press photos show Rachel standing in direct view of the bulldozer driver, dressed in a bright orange jacket and speaking into a megaphone. The driver would have to be blind and deaf not to notice that!
The next day, Palestinians in Rafah flew the U.S. flag for the first time during a memorial service held in honor of Rachel. Even that did not stop Israeli soldiers from raiding and disrupting the service.
Seven years later, Israel has failed to provide any proof that the Palestinian family, any of their children, Rachel and/or ISM has any link to terrorism. Nor there was a tunnel underneath the house to smuggle weapons. In fact, Israel demolished the house that Rachel tried to protect. And ISM is now nominated to receive the Nobel Peace Price with special recognition to Rachel Corrie. In her memories many streets in Palestine were named after her, so were new-born baby girls, and women’s empowerment centers. Documentaries about her life were made in every country, even Israel.
America acted cold-blooded in the death of Rachel Corrie, but screamed bloody murder regarding the kidnapping and death of Jewish-American reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002. I remember the outrage, public condemnations, and call for justice. Mr. Pearl was equally killed in a brutal way. The master mind of his murder is now in U.S. custody. In 1985, when a 69 year-old Jewish-American, Leon Klinghoffer was murdered aboard the hijacked Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro in the Mediterranean, U.S. fighter jets intercepted the Egyptian plane carrying his killer and forced it to land in Italy. His killers are now serving jail time. In 2003, US special forces in Iraq arrested the master-mind of the cruise ship hijacking. He died later of a heart attack in US custody.
Every red-blooded American should have been outraged by the death of Rachel Corrie. Her picture never made it to the front page, and even a Maryland College newspaper cartoonist depicted her as a stupid girl. The Wall Street Journal shamelessly accused her of being a terrorist sympathizer. The truth of the matter is, Rachel was a brilliant and brave American who stood for peace and justice. She had a rare courage and unflinching determination.
It is about time that our government stopped catering to Israel and its powerful lobby in the United States. It is a travesty of justice that an American citizen was killed in cold blood by Israel with no condemnation or investigation. Who will hold Israel responsible and call for a full and transparent investigation in the tragic death of Rachel Corrie? Justice delayed is justice denied!
As her former teacher said, “Rachel had a big heart that was hard to carry.” A heart that is bigger than Texas. Rachel Corrie deserves the Congressional Medal of Honor.