Sunday, September 2, 2012

Rachel Corrie – This is not over

Rachel Corrie, for those of you who are not familiar with her, was a young American college student who went to Gaza to help the people of Rafah whose homes were being demolished.  Sadly, she never came home.  Rachel became the first foreign national to be killed while protesting Israeli occupation—but she was not the last.  She was run over by a Caterpillar bulldozer when the driver continued on his course to demolish a family home despite the fact that Rachel, wearing a day-glo orange jacket, was standing in front of it.

After a cursory investigation, Israel closed the case.

The family filed a lawsuit on the advice of Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who, on behalf of the State Department, told the family in 2004 that the United States did not consider the investigation into Rachel’s death to be “thorough, credible and transparent.”

After seven years, the verdict was that Rachel was responsible for her own death.  The driver and the Israeli army were exonerated.  Although this verdict was not unexpected, it still generated cries of outrage throughout the world. 

Former President Jimmy Carter said, “The killing of an American peace activist is unacceptable.  The court’s decision confirms a climate of impunity, which facilitates Israeli human rights violations against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Territory.”

The Guardian said, “The case laid bare the state of the collective Israeli military mind, which cast the definition of enemies so widely that children walking down the street were legitimate targets if they crossed a red line that was invisible to everyone but the soldiers looking at it on their maps.  The military gave itself a blanket of protection by declaring southern Gaza a war zone, even though it was heavily populated by ordinary Palestinians, and set rules of engagement so broad that just about anyone was a target.

With that went virtual impunity for Israeli troops no matter who they killed or in what circumstances.”

Going even farther, the actual testimony included phrases like “there are no civilians in Gaza.”  How can a community of 1.7 million people, almost half of whom are under age 15, not have civilians?  Are newborn babies combatants? 


Rachel’s family founded the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace & Justice to carry on the work that meant so much to Rachel and for which she made the ultimate sacrifice.  You can learn more about their work at

You can also read more about Rachel in my post earlier this year on the ninth anniversary of her death.

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