The Courage of Rachel Corrie

Revolutionary Worker #1194, April 13, 2003,posted at


Rachel Corrie, holding a megaphone, confronts an Israeli bulldozer driver attempting to demolish a Palestinian home, Rafah, Occupied Gaza, 16 March 2003. Taken moments before she was killed.

23-year-old Rachel Corrie left her home in the United States and went to Palestine to join other volunteers organized by the International Solidarity Movement. Along with other "internationals" she participated in non-violent direct action resistance to the Israeli occupation. Rachel Corrie stood with the struggle of the Palestinean people and for this she was murdered in cold blood by the forces of Israeli occupation.

Rachel was in Rafah in southern Gaza, where stone-throwing youth have been resisting the occupation forces for several months. In an e-mail to her family on February 7, she described Rafah as "a city of about 140,000 people, approximately 60 percent of whom are refugees."

Rafah existed prior to 1948, but most of the people here are themselves or are descendants of people who were relocated here from their homes in historic Palestine, now Israel. Rafah was split in half when the Sinai (which had been seized by Israel) returned to Egypt. The Israeli army is now building a 14-metre- high wall between Rafah in Palestine and the (Egyptian) border. Over 600 homes have been completely bulldozed and even more homes have been partially destroyed. The Israeli army has also been destroying the wells where people get their water.

On March 16, Rachel Corrie and several others sat down in front of a house that was being targeted for demolition by the Israel military. Joseph Smith, who was also in Rafa as an "international," gave this eyewitness account of how Rachel Corrie was murdered:

"Still wearing her fluorescent jacket, she sat down at least 15 meters in front of the bulldozer, and began waving her arms and shouting, just as activists had successfully done dozens of times that day. 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 rubble, and pulled her down out of view of the driver. If he'd stopped at this point, he may have only broken her legs, but he continued forward, which pulled her underneath the bulldozer. 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 central section of the bulldozer. At this point, it was more than clear that she was nowhere but underneath the bulldozer, there was simply nowhere else she could have been, as she had not appeared on either side of the bulldozer, and could not have stayed in front of it that long without being crushed. Despite the obviousness of her position, the bulldozer began to reverse, without lifting its blade, and drug the blade over her body again."

The same day Rachel Corrie was murdered, six Palestinians, including a two-year-old girl, were killed when Israeli tanks and armor invaded the Nusseirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. And Zionist armed forces killed two more Palestinians elsewhere in Gaza on this day.

An Israeli military spokesman blamed Rachel Corrie for her own death, stating that she had "acted irresponsibly by placing herself in front of the bulldozer." The U.S. Embassy had no comment. When a memorial service was held for Rachel in Rafah, the Israeli army sent its own representative: A tank pulled up beside the mourners and sprayed them with tear gas. Then the Israelis brought out a bulldozer accompanied by more APCs, and fired guns and percussion bombs.

Rachel had stayed in Palestinian homes targeted for destruction by Israeli bulldozers, and other peace activists say she had quickly developed close relationships with the families in these homes. Rachel also helped organize a demonstration in Rafah in solidarity with the people of Iraq --which took place on the international day of action in March and attracted several hundred Palestinians. For the protest, Rachel had made a banner that said, "No War on Iraq, No War on Rafah." There is much to learn from the courage and commitment of Rachel Corrie and how she lived and died, supporting and learning from the people of the world. In her e-mail, she wrote, "An eight-year-old was shot and killed by an Israeli tank two weeks before I got here, and many of the children murmur his name to me, `Ali', or point at the posters of him on the walls... There are eight-year-olds here much more aware of the workings of the global power structure than I was just a few years ago at least regarding Israel, in resistance to the constant stranglehold of the world's fourth largest military backed by the world's only superpower in its attempt to erase (them) from (their) home...I am just beginning to learn, from what I expect to be a very intense tutelage, about the ability of people to organize against all odds, and to resist against all odds."

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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