It will have come as no surprise to Proletarian readers when, on 28 August 2012, an Israeli judge ruled that the zionist state bore no responsibility for the death of Rachel Corrie, the 23-year-old American student who was crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer nine years ago. Justice for Rachel’s murder was never very likely to be found in the court of the aggressor, but it is to the Corrie family’s credit that they pushed for the case to be heard, thus forcing Israel into a very public cover-up of one of its many war crimes.
Rachel Corrie was one of a number of volunteers who, as part of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), was working in Gaza to protect Palestinian crops and homes from being illegally destroyed by Israeli occupying forces. Having been in Gaza for two months, Rachel had already been involved in various other actions, during which she and fellow ISM activists had used their international status (ie, the fact that an American life is worth more in the eyes of the ‘international’ community than a Palestinian one) to act as human shields against Israeli bulldozers.
On 16 March 2003, Rachel was standing with seven other ISM activists in hi-vis jackets. They were blocking the path of two Israeli army (IDF) bulldozers in an attempt to prevent homes from being demolished. Rachel, wearing a fluorescent orange jacket and shouting through a megaphone, stood between one of the two bulldozers and the house of the Nasarallah family. As the bulldozer approached, all the eye-witness accounts testify that she was in full view of the driver at all times, and that as it drew nearer she scrambled onto higher ground to maintain full visual contact with him.
However, despite his clear view of her and her clear statement of the fact that she was there to prevent an illegal act of aggression and occupation, the soldier driving the bulldozer continued towards Rachel until he had knocked her down and pulled her under the heavy vehicle. He went on to drive over her body twice, thus fracturing her skull, breaking her ribs and crushing her lungs.
After a trial that lasted more than two years, the final verdict read out by Judge Gershon in Haifa court described the deliberate murder of Rachel Corrie as merely a “regrettable action”. The judge then went on to lay the blame for this ‘action’ on the victim herself, stating that “she chose to put herself in danger … she could have easily distanced herself from the danger like any reasonable person would”. (Quoted in ‘Court rules Israel is not at fault in death of American activist’, New York Times, 29 August 2012)
Judge Gershon continued to paint black as white and white as black by claiming that the soldiers’ mission on the day of Rachel’s murder “was not, in any way, to destroy homes” but to clear away brush and explosives “to prevent acts of hatred and terror”.
The reality, however, is that Israel has been systematically destroying Palestinian homes since its creation in 1948. The zionist state was born amidst an orgy of destruction of homes and villages, as three quarters of a million Palestinians were brutally forced off their land to make way for the new jewish inhabitants.
Just before her death, Rachel expressed her horror at the continuing destruction of Palestinian homes in an email to her family. In the two-and-a-half years since the beginning of the second Intifada (uprising), over 600 homes had been completely destroyed and many more had been partially destroyed. This illegal demolition continues to this day throughout the occupied territories, where more than 27,000 Palestinian structures have been destroyed since 1967. (See ICHAD.org)
Unsurprisingly, none of this was admitted to in the verdict. The blame was laid squarely at the foot of the victim, while the IDF was exonerated of all wrongdoing. In response to the verdict, the Corrie family are intending to appeal the decision and continue their fight for truth. This determination can be seen to stem from the strength of conviction Rachel herself showed. In an email sent not long before her death she wrote to her mother the following words, which turned out to be only too prescient:
“When I come back from Palestine, I probably will have nightmares and constantly feel guilty for not being here, but I can channel that into more work. Coming here is one of the better things I’ve ever done. So when I sound crazy, or if the Israeli military should break with their racist tendency not to injure white people, please pin the reason squarely on the fact that I am in the midst of a genocide which I am also indirectly supporting, and for which my government is largely responsible.”
In recognition of the responsibility that the US bears for the ongoing genocide in Palestine, the first case that the Corrie family brought was actually against the US company Caterpillar Inc. The Corries accused Caterpillar of supplying bulldozers to Israel in the full knowledge that they were being used for illegal demolitions in the occupied territories – a clear violation of international law. Since the US courts are as rigged as the Israeli ones, the lawsuit was dismissed on the grounds that it “intruded upon US foreign policy”.
The dismissal of the case exposes the other part of the responsibility the US bears. Indeed, there is no crime committed by Israel for which Anglo-American imperialism does not bear ultimate responsibility, since it was British imperialism that created the state of Israel and it is US imperialism, with support from its British partner-in-crime, that continues to give military, financial and diplomatic support to the zionist state, enabling it to commit any and every crime in its role of middle-eastern gendarme for US imperialism.
Fight for justice continues
When she was killed, Yasser Arafat told Craig Corrie: “Rachel is your daughter, but she is also the daughter of all Palestinians. She is ours too now.”
Ever since Rachel’s death she has become a symbol of the struggle of the Palestinians against the might of Israel. She is just one of thousands of victims who have been martyred in the struggle for a free Palestine. However, she is one of the few non-Arabs to have been murdered by the zionist state in the occupied territories, and, as a US citizen, her death has brought much more attention on Israel’s activities there.
In continuing to seek justice for their daughter, the Corries are making themselves a thorn in the side of both the US and the Israeli governments. Leaving their staid life in middle America, they continue to travel across the US and the Middle East, raising awareness not only of what the Israeli state did to their daughter, but also what it continues to do to the Palestinians.
In meetings across Israel in the week building up to the verdict, Craig Corrie carried with him a picture. It was not a picture of Rachel, but of the Palestinian girl, then 6, whose family’s house Rachel had been protecting. When asked about the picture he replied: “I think this one in some ways is more hopeful … she deserves a future that we all want for our children.”
:: Hail the victory of the Palestinian hunger strikers , Proletarian issue 48 (June 2012)
:: DVD review: The Promise , Proletarian issue 41 (April 2011)