Remembering Rachel Corrie
by Brown Douglas
In the ever-bloodier campaign of the denial of the
Palestinian people of self-determination, the first American casualty was
claimed on March 16 in Rafah, a city of refugees on the Gaza Strip, with the
death of Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old peace and solidarity activist. As if this
horrible tragedy didn't spill enough peaceful blood, the Israeli army has, in
the three-week period following Rachel's murder, shot two more international
activists in the face, killing one.
All three were part of the International Solidarity
a Palestinian-led movement of Palestinian and international activists working to
raise awareness of the struggle for Palestinian freedom and an end to Israeli
For most of the day of March 16, the international
activists had been standing in the way of Israeli bulldozers attempting to
demolish water wells and Palestinian homes. As a bulldozer approached the home
of a Palestinian physician and his family, who were well known by most of the
activists, Rachel ran with megaphone in hand to block it with her body.
STOOD HER GROUND
From the eyewitness account of one of her comrades, we
hear that she stood in the way, shouting in the megaphone even as the bulldozer
started to move the ground under her feet. After scrambling up the pile of
rubble made by the bulldozer and coming to eye-level with the driver, she was
plowed under by the blade. Only after she was run over again by the blade going
in reverse were fellow activists able to administer first aid. She later died in
Al Nejar hospital.
Rachel was a senior at Evergreen State College in
Washington. What is amazing about her story is that she was so moved by the
movement of a people for control over their own lives. She took herself out of a
privileged situation in the U.S. and immersed herself in one of the most
negative realities of our times. Here's an excerpt from a letter that she wrote
to her family detailing her feelings about her own life and background compared
with those of the Palestinians:
"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. When I leave for
school or work I can be relatively certain that there will not be a heavily
armed soldier waiting halfway between Mud Bay and downtown Olympia at a
checkpoint with the power to decide whether I can go about my business, and
whether I can get home again when I'm done."
What also struck me when looking at her letters was the
internationalist feeling of a young person being immersed in the
"Other" and at the same time having a recognition of the commonality
of all humans. She declared, "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. And then waving and, 'What's your
name?' Something is disturbing about this friendly curiosity. It reminded me of
how much, to some degree, we are all kids curious about other kids."
I think that the fact that a young American woman could
go to a foreign country with a foreign language and a foreign culture under such
oppressive circumstances, and yet come to such a conclusion, is amazing. At the
best of times, there seems to be a certain universality to youth. It can be seen
in the very fact that Rachel made the decision to go to Palestine, and also in
the work she did there.
The vision of youth that I see coming from her is one of
internationalism, solidarity, and, as she says it, "curiosity about other
kids." It's a beautiful vision and one that I think is worth developing and
being a part of. I don't even think that it would be hyperbole to say that it is
a vision that Rachel died for.
It's no coincidence that Rachel was also against the
planned war on Iraq. A few days before her death, she made a banner for a local
demonstration that said, "No war on Rafah! No war on Iraq!" It wasn't
hard for her to make the connection between a war on youth in one country and a
war on youth in another. She was against all of it.
I hope that people keep sharing the story of Rachel Corrie and who she was, and why she traveled half-way across the world to put her body in front of bulldozers. Some Israelis have already made a sculpture in her honor in hopes that we will not forget. The Palestinians whose lives she loved being a part of will not forget her. In the work that we do to end all wars and create genuine self-determination for all people, we will be remembering her.
Published by News and Letters Committees