10th March 15:59
The Death of Rachel Corrie/Mark Levine/TIKKUN
Photo Story of Rachel Corrie's Murder
The Death of Rachel Corrie
Mark Levine | 03.24.2003
It's hard to imagine a more horrible way to
die than to be crushed twice by a bulldozer.
Particularly when you're just trying to protect
a family whose only crime is that its land stands
between the fourth most powerful army in the
world and another in a seemingly endless
supply of Palestinian homes marked for
That is how 23 year-old Rachel Corrie
died last weekend, on the wrong end
of an Israeli bulldozer.
I didn't know Rachel personally,
but I know her spirit and courage well.
In 1996 I first met up with the people that
would inspire the International Solidarity
Movement, under whose banner she stood
down the huge American-made Caterpillar bulldozer.
Back then it was mostly semi-retired
school teachers from the mid-west and
a few recent college graduates who lived
their faith in Hebron as part of the
Christian Peacemaker Teams.
Watching them practice unflinching non-violent
resistance and mediation I felt embarrassed
and even ashamed—
if middle-aged Methodists from Minnesota
were putting their bodies on the line for real
peace and justice between Palestinians and Israelis,
shouldn't twenty-something progressive
Jews from the Coasts be there with them?
The initial attempts by me and a few others
to start a "Jewish Peacemaker Teams" to
join our Christian comrades didn't bear fruit then,
but within a couple of years the increasing
toxicity of the Occupation led to the creation
of the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions,
while American activists, including a significant
number of Jews, were imagining what would become the ISM.
As America's war on Iraq grows bloodier,
we would do well to reflect on the meaning
of Rachel's life and death,
and the powerful message of the ISM.
She and the other human shields,
like their colleagues in Iraq,
are true soldiers of peace;
fighting not for the ideology or
benefit of any one country or leader,
but rather for the singular principle that
only totally selfless and committed
non-violent action can overcome the dogs of war,
the enmity and injustice of occupation,
and the terror it breeds on all sides.
In fact I envy Rachel and her comrades'
courage and audacity, as over the last
five years I have become too wise,
sedentary and committed to life's
mundane tasks (wife, kid, work) to
have been in Gaza risking my life with Rachel.
I feel guilty, too:
Suppose I had been there?
A long-haired American Jew yelling at the
soldiers in Hebrew would have given them
pause before crushing a goy.
I don't use such ethno-religious terms lightly;
for it is clear that for the ever more religiously
and nationalistically militant Israeli soldiery any
life besides that of a Jew, and more and more,
that of a right-wing, settlement-supporting Jew,
is cheap, if not meaningless.
It's not for nothing that the last Israeli
Education Minister called all Palestinians,
on both sides of the Green Line,
a cancer to be excised from the Israeli body.
That was the Education Minister.
That's what Israeli children are learning.
Yes, Palestinian textbooks have yet to
fully erase the anti-Semitism that stained
their pages for decades,
although they were well on their way before
last spring's invasion of Palestinian cities
saw the IDF destroy the Education Ministry,
and walk off with tends of thousands of dollars in cash
—supposedly for terrorists; more likely for textbooks.
What's more frightening than her killing
is that Israel will pay no price for it—
the IDF expresses "regret" and the
White House says it will "assess the situation."
But President Bush is too busy planning
his war to worry about Rachel, and the IDF—
which in the last year has killed ambulance drivers,
journalists and senior UN personnel
(not to mention hundreds of completely innocent
Palestinian civilians of all ages) without reproach—
will draw the obvious conclusions and step up the
violence against the ISM and similar groups.
The machinery of occupation that literally ran
Rachel over is yet another reminder that the
Occupation itself is one big war crime.
Rachel's death is a sign of what's going to
come in Iraq, as our 20,000 pound "smart" bombs
are already proving unable to discriminate between
Iraqi civilians and soldiers—most of whom had little choice but to fight.
Do Americans think our Occupation of Iraq
will be any less criminal that Israel's of Palestine?
Will Americans care any more than Israelis
about what their sons are doing to the enemy
and anyone else who stands in their path?
Can anyone even ask these questions
of our leaders now that war has begun?
I'm pretty sure that Rachel would not want
her death mourned any more than the thir****
year old Palestinian boy killed the same day as she.
How many Palestinians were killed yesterday?
How many Israelis were killed
in that last suicide bombing?
Where was it, Haifa? Hedera? Or Jerusalem?
The numbers, names and places just pile up
until they seem natural, like the weather.
And it's up to all of us to make sure Rachel's death—
all their deaths---are not in vain.