Palestine remembers Rachel Corrie

Palestine Update 346

Palestine remembers Rachel Corrie
Twenty-three-year-old American peace activist Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli bulldozer that was preparing to demolish a Palestinian home in the Gaza Strip in 2003. The Head of the Popular Committee against the Israeli Siege on Gaza said on the occasion of Rachel Corrie’s death anniversary that the 17th anniversary of Rachel Corrie’s death should spur heightened global solidarity with Palestine. He asserted: “The world must listen to Corrie’s voice which still resonates around the world.” The 23-year-old solidarity activist confronted the ugly, cruel Israeli occupation forces in order to protect a Palestinian family from becoming homeless. Corrie’s family now calls for international solidarity movements to intensify their efforts to save the Gaza Strip from the worsening humanitarian and economic crises which overwhelm it: “We hope to see popular, institutional and parliamentarian moves having a tangible impact at the official level,” he added. “Such efforts must lead to real pressure on the Israeli government in order to end its siege imposed on the Gaza Strip. We will never forget Rachel Corrie and her sacrifice to achieve justice and protect the Palestinians.”

“Happy birthday” Rachel Corrie
Palestine remembers Rachel Corrie - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Palestine remembers Rachel Corrie –
Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Happy Birthday, Rachel!” This is what she would have heard in her hometown, Olympia, Washington. Her family and friends would have cheerfully flocked around her as she blew out forty candles on April 10, 2019. However, Rachel Corrie deserves a warm international celebration on this day to appreciate her dedication to expressing the value of solidarity.

Rachel Corrie, who was born to a middle-class American family on April 10, 1979, could have had a normal life in which she did not care about what was going on in her world, but she knew she had a responsibility to express and take action, imposed on her by her humanity and values. Rachel expressed her moral responsibilities as a child, as revealed in the moving speech she gave when she was 10, known as the fifth-grade speech. She talked about childhood pains in her world and the need to take action. “I’m here for other children. I’m here because I care. I’m here because children everywhere are suffering,” she said in 1990. This schoolgirl grew up with an alert human conscience, and as a university student, she joined the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). She joined at a time when the Israeli occupation forces were committing constant killings and daily widespread destruction campaigns in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

On one of her trips, the American woman travelled to the Gaza Strip. She saw the Israeli army’s armoured bulldozers destroying Palestinian homes and razing their agricultural land. On March 16, 2003, Corrie held the loudspeaker and by one of the army’s bulldozer in Al-Salam neighbourhood in Rafah, located near the Egyptian border in the southern part of Gaza. She repeatedly urged them to stop the destruction, which, throughout a few years, led to the destruction of the basic life needs for thousands of Palestinians in Rafah alone. Some Israeli commentators described the destruction of houses and civilian facilities and the bulldozing of trees and farmlands as giving the area a “zero buzz cut” because it removed everything in their path.

Rachel Corrie wore an orange high visibility vest, required to identify her as a volunteer in solidarity work, as she issued multiple appeals. However, the bulldozer continued to approach her without slowing down until it crushed this 24-year-old American civil activist. This tragedy embodied how the successive Israeli governments and its military forces typically behaved, i.e. disregard for international appeals and their continued occupation, oppression, war crimes, and countless violations without any regard for any appeals.

The Israeli occupation army resorted to its habit of evading responsibility for this crime by opening an investigation into what happened and absolved itself from causing the brutal murder of Corrie. It considered it to be an unintended accident. This conclusion was rejected by the most prominent human rights organisations in the world, including Israeli and Palestinian organisations. In 2012, an Israeli court acquitted the occupation army and the bulldozer driver of any responsibility for what happened after Rachel’s parents filed a lawsuit in this regard. This was denounced by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Richard Falk. It is sickening that the Israeli reports continued to downplay the crime, justify it, and even blame the victim, even though the army bulldozer driver buried Rachel Corrie alive as she screamed into the loudspeaker while wearing her orange vest, visible to everyone.

Time did not stop on March 16, 2003, the day on which the tragic incident occurred in Rafah. Rachel Corrie grew in the human conscience and became a symbol of solidarity in the world after she was buried alive as the price for her solidarity. As for her family, they are no longer just the loving family living in Olympia, as Rachel has become an inspirational international icon. She has also become a Palestinian given her attachment to a fair cause that cannot be extinguished. Her name lives in Palestine in the names of many facilities.

It is true that President Donald Trump will not find time on Rachel’s 40th birthday to commemorate his fellow American who was brutally crushed by the Israeli occupation army, while the congressional sessions will avoid mentioning her name on this occasion. However, through this young brave woman, America presented a loyal face in its international expression of noble human values, as Rachel Corrie’s name inspired a generation of solidarity activists after her who then carried loudspeakers to defend human rights, justice, and the people’s freedoms and to combat injustice, aggression and war crimes.

On April 10, 2019, there will be an international celebration honouring the sacrifices of activists showing solidarity with Palestine around the world, with forty candles for Rachel Corrie.

My name is Rachel Corrie
My Name is Rachel Corrie, being showed at the Young Vic in London, is based on the emails and diary entries of the pro-Palestinian activist, which first premiered at London’s Royal Court in 2005. The play was originally put together by the late Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner, now the editor of the Guardian.

Unsurprisingly the plays reproduction has come under strong criticism from Pro-Israeli groups. Fury at the revival of the play has stirred all kinds of controversy such that supporters of Israel in the UK are piling pressure on the Young Vic for staging the play. The Vic’s artistic director David Lan, who is Jewish, felt compelled to come to the theatre’s defence saying: “Gaza is a wound to the planet from which so many people are suffering.” Aside from the nuisance of having Pro-Israeli activists shoving propaganda leaflets smearing the memory of Corrie towards you at the entrance of the theatre, the hour and half long immersion into Corrie’s mind is a memorable experience.

The play brilliantly darts through the diaries of Corrie from her early teens through to the period of her untimely death. Directed by an award winning director, Josh Roche, and wonderfully performed by British actor Erin Doherty, viewers are exposed to a visceral representation of the brutality of Israeli occupation seen through the eyes of an activist searching for her place in life. It  brings to life defining moments in the campaigner’s  personal journey as she grapples with her own sense of privilege in contrasted with the indignity and poverty she saw in Gaza.