Honoring Rachel Corrie
HISTORY, 20 March 2017
International Solidarity Movement – TRANSCEND Media Service
Today, March 16, 2017, marks 14 years since the day that Rachel Corrie had her life taken by an Israeli Caterpillar bulldozer in Gaza. And though her life ended early, her courageous heart and defiant spirit will be carried onward, and continue to inspire many activists now and into the future.
Holding a megaphone, and wearing bright colors, Rachel Corrie stood in between a Palestinian house awaiting its demolition and the bulldozer about to demolish the house, in the town of Rafah in Gaza. For several days, ISM activists had been serving as protective presence in the homes that were on their way to being destroyed. Just hours before, a group of activists entered a Palestinian house about to be demolished, shouting at the military that they were inside, and they backed out.
The definition of a bulldozer: 1) a powerful track-laying tractor with caterpillar tracks and a broad curved upright blade at the front for clearing ground. 2) a person or group exercising irresistible force, especially in disposing of opposition.
A solidarity activist with ISM, Rachel Corrie used her body, her voice, her heart, and her will to try to stop one of many house demolitions plaguing the Palestinian people by the Israeli occupation forces. The driver of the bulldozer, a Russian immigrant, claimed that he did not see her. And, as the driver began to drive towards the house, he scooped up the dirt and took this beautiful human with him. Not once, but two times, as other activists shouted to stop through the loudspeakers. Rachel’s skull was fractured, and though she was still alive after the incident, not long after she was rushed to the hospital, she passed away. Rachel was twenty-three years old.
The case after her death proved to be controversial and contentious. Rachel’s parents sued the state of Israel, and many organizations criticized Israel for their one-sided investigation of the case. As of 2015, the court has rejected the appeal.
Rachel’s parents continue to do her work through the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice and launched projects in memory of their daughter. They have also advanced investigation into the incident and asked the U.S. Congress and various courts for redress. Rachel’s story has inspired a play entitled “My Name is Rachel Corrie”, followed by a book “Let Me Stand Alone” that includes journal entries and emails from her experience in Gaza.
This is a poem written by Rachel Corrie only a couple of months before her tragic death.
We are all born and someday we’ll all die. Most likely to some degree alone. What if our aloneness isn’t a tragedy? What if our aloneness is what allows us to speak the truth without being afraid? What if our aloneness is what allows us to adventure – to experience the world as a dynamic presence – as a changeable, interactive thing?
If I lived in Bosnia or Rwanda or who knows where else, needless death wouldn’t be a distant symbol to me, it wouldn’t be a metaphor, it would be a reality.
And I have no right to this metaphor. But I use it to console myself. To give a fraction of meaning to something enormous and needless.
This realization. This realization that I will live my life in this world where I have privileges.
I can’t cool boiling waters in Russia. I can’t be Picasso. I can’t be Jesus. I can’t save the planet single-handedly.
I can wash dishes.
Here is Rachel’s last email:
Thank you for your email. I feel like sometimes I spend all my time propogandizing mom, and assuming she’ll pass stuff on to you, so you get neglected. Don’t worry about me too much, right now I am most concerned that we are not being effective. I still don’t feel particularly at risk. Rafah has seemed calmer lately, maybe because the military is preoccupied with incursions in the north – still shooting and house demolitions – one death this week that I know of, but not any larger incursions. Still can’t say how this will change if and when war with Iraq comes.
Thanks also for stepping up your anti-war work. I know it is not easy to do, and probably much more difficult where you are than where I am. I am really interested in talking to the journalist in Charlotte – let me know what I can do to speed the process along. I am trying to figure out what I’m going to do when I leave here, and when I’m going to leave. Right now I think I could stay until June, financially. I really don’t want to move back to Olympia, but do need to go back there to clean my stuff out of the garage and talk about my experiences here. On the other hand, now that I’ve crossed the ocean I’m feeling a strong desire to try to stay across the ocean for some time. Considering trying to get English teaching jobs – would like to really buckle down and learn Arabic.
Also got an invitation to visit Sweden on my way back – which I think I could do very cheaply. I would like to leave Rafah with a viable plan to return, too. One of the core members of our group has to leave tomorrow – and watching her say goodbye to people is making me realize how difficult it will be. People here can’t leave, so that complicates things. They also are pretty matter-of-fact about the fact that they don’t know if they will be alive when we come back here.
I really don’t want to live with a lot of guilt about this place – being able to come and go so easily – and not going back. I think it is valuable to make commitments to places – so I would like to be able to plan on coming back here within a year or so. Of all of these possibilities I think it’s most likely that I will at least go to Sweden for a few weeks on my way back – I can change tickets and get a plane to from Paris to Sweden and back for a total of around 150 bucks or so. I know I should really try to link up with the family in France – but I really think that I’m not going to do that. I think I would just be angry the whole time and not much fun to be around. It also seems like a transition into too much opulence right now – I would feel a lot of class guilt the whole time as well.
Let me know if you have any ideas about what I should do with the rest of my life. I love you very much. If you want you can write to me as if I was on vacation at a camp on the big island of Hawaii learning to weave. One thing I do to make things easier here is to utterly retreat into fantasies that I am in a Hollywood movie or a sitcom starring Michael J Fox. So feel free to make something up and I’ll be happy to play along. Much love Poppy.
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