Please Don’t Let Rachel’s killers go Unchallenged

4 Jan

R a c h e l C o r r i e
1979 – 2003

U.S. Human Rights Activist Killed by the Israeli Military

Rachel was crushed beneath an Israeli bulldozer while
non-violently protesting the demolition of a Palestinian home.

**********************

Please don’t let Rachel’s killers go unchallenged.
click here for WHAT YOU CAN DO

But First, Some Background:

CONTEXT:
Israel has destroyed about 10,000 Palestinian homes since it began its military occupation of Palestinian lands. According to UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency), last year saw an unprecedented increase in Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes. The vast majority of these homes are being razed simply to provide a "security strip" around Jewish settlements, army posts and barriers that Israel has chosen to build, illegally, on seized Palestinian land. During the first half of 2003, an average of 73 homes were destroyed each month. It was during this time that Rachel Corrie was working in Gaza with the International Solidarity Movement. The ISM is an organization that gathers peace activists from around the world to support Palestinian non-violent resistance to Israel’s illegal occupation and to bear witness to military and settler atrocities.

WHAT HAPPENED:

On 16 March 2003, Rachel and her fellow human rights activists in the Rafah refugee camp in Gaza observed two Israeli army bulldozers, accompanied by a tank, in the process of destroying farmland and threatening nearby homes. Over the course of two hours, despite the aggressive maneuvers of the soldiers driving the bulldozers, the activists were able to thwart the military’s efforts. When one of the bulldozers proceeded to target the home of a Palestinian doctor and his family-people personally known to Rachel and in whose home she had stayed-Rachel stood in plain sight between the house and the bulldozer. She was wearing a bright orange jacket, the kind worn by construction workers for maximum visibility and safety. Here is what happened next, in the words of one witness:

The bulldozer continued driving forward headed straight for Rachel. When it got so close that it was moving the earth beneath her, she climbed onto the pile of rubble being pushed by the bulldozer. She got so high onto it that she was at eye-level with the cab of the bulldozer. Her head and upper torso were above the bulldozer’s blade, and the bulldozer driver and co-operator could clearly see her. Despite this, he continued forward, which pulled her legs into

the pile of ruble, and pulled her down out of view of the driver.

We ran towards him, and waved our arms and shouted, one activist with the megaphone. But the bulldozer driver continued forward, until Rachel was underneath the cab of the bulldozer. Despite the obviousness of her position, the bulldozer began to reverse, without lifting its blade, and dragged the blade over her body again.

U.S. RESPONSE:
The U.S. State Department, in a glaring departure from its responses to other incidents of American citizens being killed abroad, responded by "assessing the situation," then meekly accepting assurances from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that it would be provided the results of his government’s investigation of its own military operation. America’s failure to act helped maintain an atmosphere of impunity for the Israeli forces. In just the following weeks, Brian Avery (American ISM activist) was shot in the face; Tom Hurndall (British ISM activist) was shot in the head and later died; and journalists Nazeh Darwazeh (Palestinian AP cameraman) and James Miller (British HBO cameraman) were both shot dead. Contrary to official obfuscations by the Israeli military, evidence has shown that none of these shootings occurred in a context of crossfire or other allegedly mitigating circumstances.

ISRAEL’S RESPONSE:
Rather than take steps to protect the people in the Gaza Strip, Israel soon took steps to insulate itself and its activities from further exposure by forbidding the free travel of ISM activists to that region. A campaign was begun to liken Rachel and ISM to supporters of terrorism, despite their avowed and demonstrated commitment to non-violence. Government officials condemned ISM as "warmongers." The Israeli Army "investigation" of the incident, not surprisingly, cleared itself of wrongdoing. No disciplinary action was taken against the soldiers involved. Rachel’s death was deemed an "accident" that somehow "was not caused as a result of a direct action by the bulldozer or by its running her over." The driver of the bulldozer, it was claimed, had not seen Rachel. All this is contradicted by the testimony of several international activists who directly witnessed the event.

WHERE WE ARE NOW:
Despite Israel’s failure to provide what was promised to be a "thorough, credible and transparent investigation," the U.S. Government has done nothing to obtain justice for Rachel. This is in stark contrast to the British government’s involvement on behalf of Tom Hurndall (see above). Sadly, Rachel’s parents are forced to petition their own government to take an active interest in their daughter’s case. Their Congressional Representative Brian Baird [WA] has sent the Rachel Corrie Resolution (see full text below) to the House International Relations Committee. The resolution (H.CON.RES. 111) simply calls for the U.S. Government "to undertake a full, fair, and expeditious investigation into the death of Rachel Corrie" and encourages U.S. and Israeli cooperation "to determine all the circumstances that led to this incident and to ensure that an incident of this kind never occurs again." As of now, it has 53 cosponsors, but it is likely to die in committee unless a critical mass of Representatives support it. Please help us get as many Members of Congress as possible to sign on as cosponsors.

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