Saturday, March 20, 2010

The story of Rachel Corrie

Image by Robert Shetterly, from Americans Who Tell the Truth
"The international media and our government are not going to tell us that we are effective, important, justified in our work, courageous, intelligent, valuable. We have to do that for each other, and one way we can do that is by continuing our work, visibly. People without privilege will be doing this work no matter what, because they are working for their lives. We can work with them, and they know that we work with them, or we can leave them to do this work themselves and curse us for our complicity in killing them.”

Rachel Corrie, activist and writer (1979–2003)
Rachel Corrie was just 24 years old when she died; crushed by an Israeli bulldozer operated by Israeli Defence Forces while protesting the destruction of Palestinian homes in the Gaza strip. Corrie was a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement at the time and was trying to prevent the demolition of the home of a Palestinian family- a pharmacist, accountant, their wives, and five young children.

Five years ago her parents and family initiated a criminal lawsuit against the state of Israel claiming unlawful and wrongful death and seeking to hold the Israel military liable for Rachel's death. A civil court trial finally got underway in Haifa this week.Due to Israeli border policies, no Palestinians from Gaza will be allowed to attend, including the physician who treated the injured Rachel Corrie and also certified her death.

The Israeli authorities have always claimed that the death was accidental and that Corrie was acting illegally and with reckless disregard for her own life, even claiming she was a human shield for the smuggling of weapons. At the time the area was targeted by the Israeli military because it was located near the Egyptian border through which they claimed weapons were being smuggled.

Eye witnesses have always claimed that the bulldozer deliberately ran over Corrie and then reversed over her.

In Israel there are very different responses to the Rachel Corrie case. Israeli activist and political commentator Neve Gordon has written a piece about the significance of the civil case being pursued by Rachel Corrie's family. Gordon points out that the Israeli government is particularly sensitive to stories- like Rachel Corrie's death- and is doing all it can to control and shape the narrative of this story. Others have reported on the villification of the Corrie family by some Israeli citizens.

In Tel Aviv this week Simone Bitton's movie Rachel was shown. The movie is a cinematic inquiry into Rachel Corrie's death.

Other pieces about the trial and the case can be read here.

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