Passengers on the Mavi Marmara were attacked by heavily armed Israeli commandos.
Three years ago, the Free Gaza movement was wrapping up final preparations for a flotilla of eight ships to head out to Gaza, determined to break Israel’s illegal siege on 1.5 million Palestinians shut into an open-air prison. Most of us were already in Cyprus or Turkey or Greece, as we were the primary organizers, having already sent eight voyages, five of them successful in 2008.
Why a flotilla of boats?
During Israel’s horrific massacres against the people of Gaza (called Operation Cast Lead) in December 2008/January, 2009, our boat, the DIGNITY, had been rammed off the coast of Lebanon as we were taking medical personnel into Gaza. The boat later sank in a storm off the coast of Cyprus.
Then, in July 2009, Israel brutally attacked the “Spirit of Humanity,” even though Nobel Peace Laureate, Mairead Maguire, and former Congresswoman, Cynthia McKinney were on board. The Israeli government stole the boat, threw passengers into Israeli prison and, laughably, deported them eight days later, because “passengers had illegally entered Israel.” It was the first time the Israeli commandoes had actually boarded one of the boats as opposed to ramming them or trying to sink them.
We realized a new approach would have to be designed, one that would include more vessels, more passengers and more media exposure to the brutal closure of Gaza. Sailing one boat at a time was not going to get the message out to the world that Israel was blockading the people of Gaza and committing crimes against humanity.
It took Free Gaza a year to organize. We traveled to Sweden, Norway, France, Turkey, Greece, many Middle Eastern countries, Tunisia, Spain, Malaysia, the UK, the US and Germany. We helped Palestinian support groups raise money and send out the message that the next voyage would have to be organized with worldwide support. We succeeded beyond our wildest imagination, as organizations and individuals got on board the mission, raised money from people around the world, and bought the boats… eight in all, from the boats purchased by the Turkish charity, IHH, to the boats ready to go from Greece, Sweden, Ireland, Malaysia and the U.S.
Our own boats, Challenger 1 and Challenger 2 plus the cargo ship, the Rachel Corrie, were on their way to the meting place off the coast of Cyprus. The Rachel Corrie, bought with money from a charity in Malaysia had finally left Ireland, its propeller pin suspiciously dropping out just days before leaving, causing the ship to be delayed for days. Had the final inspection not caught the problem, the propeller would have flown off, damaging the boat and putting the passengers and cargo at risk. The Rachel Corrie would not make it in time to join the flotilla but would try to get into Gaza five days later, only to be boarded by Israeli commandos, the passengers brutalized and left in the sun, then thrown into prison.
The six of us in the media office in Cyprus were fielding calls, trying to keep track of passengers and where they were going to board…and also trying to pacify the Cypriot authorities, who were no longer willing to have our boats leaving their shores… too much Israeli money had come into Cypriot departments over the year, and the doors that had been so welcoming to us, were beginning to close.
As the boats headed out to the meeting place, our two yachts were suddenly dead in the water, clearly a result of sabotage, as the Israelis bragged about it.
After the pin had come out of the Rachel Corrie propeller, it was obvious that one way Israel was going to shut down the flotilla was to make sure boats never left port (during Freedom Flotilla II in 2011, that’s exactly what Israel accomplished, thanks to outsourcing the occupation to Greece and shutting down the entire flotilla of nine boats).
Now, both of our yachts had the same gasline problem at the same time in the middle of the Mediterranean. One was never able to join the flotilla (after taking months to repair, it finally became the Irish ship, Saoirese, that sailed with the Canadian boat, the Tahrir and was violently boarded in November, 2011 by Israeli commandos who tried to sink them with water canons).
We could not have imagined in the days running up to the murderous attacks on our passengers on May 31, 2010 that the Israeli government, in spite of ordering the ramming of the DIGNITY and the vicious boarding of the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY, they would actually send armed commandos onto all six boats, beating up many passengers, wounding over 50 of them, and murdering nine, all while the boats were in international waters.
Shutting Us Up
In an attempt since then to make the attackers look as though they are the victims, the Israeli PR machine has been working overtime to spin the story. Here are just three of the many lies told by PR shill, Mark Regev and top Israeli military men.
1. The flotilla was Turkish or was run by the IHH and was full of Turkish jihadists.
The flotilla was organized and run by the Free Gaza movement with help by every initiative that joined, from IHH to the Swedes to the Irish to the Malaysians. We were all members of civil society who were protesting at Israel’s brutal behavior regarding the Palestinians, and we took no money from governments. All money was raised through donations from average people outraged over Israel’s behavior.
In fact, we had an international passenger list of over 600. Turkey made up half of the passenger list. Australia 3; Azerbaijan 2; Italy 6; Indonesia 12; Ireland 9; Algeria 28; United States 12; Bulgaria 2; Bosnia 1; Bahrain 4; Belgium 5; Germany 11; South Africa 1; Holland 2; United Kingdom 31; Greece 38; Jordan 30; Kuwait 15; Lebanon 3; Mauritania 3; Malaysia 11; Egypt 3; Israel 6: Macedonia 3; Morocco 7; Norway 3; New Zealand 1; Syria 3; Serbia 1; Oman 1; Pakistan 3; Czech Republic 4; France 9; Kosovo 1; Canada 1; Sweden 11; Turkey 380; Yemen 4.
Every one of these passengers had filled out an extensive application. Although Free Gaza was not responsible for the Turkish passengers, they used our application process. Every person who boarded every boat was searched. Even one of the crewmembers on board the Mavi Marmara had to relinquish his Swiss army knife.
2. Passengers attacked heavily armed Israeli commandos, forcing them to shoot in self-defense.
Passengers on all six boats testified to being beaten, their bones broken, and most of them tied up on ships that were in the Mediterranean, a direct violation of maritime law and the treatment of civilians.
As the UNHCR report clearly states, of the nine passengers who were murdered on board the Mavi Marmara, six of them were assassinated, none of them had weapons. In fact, the only weapon in their hands was a camera.
Even the whitewashing Palmer report, a panel set up to counter what UNHRC had issued and co-chaired by that famous human rights abuser from Columbia, Uribe, reluctantly concluded that Israel overreacted. Their finding that the blockade was legal has no standing according to many maritime lawyers (there were none on the panel), since they were only tasked to mend relations with Turkey, something they failed abysmally to do.
3. Israel ‘kindly offered’ to take the supplies loaded on the boats and transfer them to Gaza.
First of all, our missions have never been about delivering supplies. They have always been about breaking Israel’s illegal siege on Gaza. We took in supplies, because we could, and because we often loaded the boats with medical equipment and construction equipment that Israel refused to allow into the besieged enclave.
Second, there is no method of transporting anything from Ashdod to Gaza. It is a seaport with no facilities for transporting 10,000 tons of supplies that were on board the boats. Free Gaza’s lawyers and representatives in Israel spent months working on getting the supplies from the Rachel Corrie into Gaza. When they finally were delivered, the battery operated wheelchairs were minus the batteries, as Israel determined they might be used to make rockets, the same reasoning they gave to us on the first trip about hearing aid batteries.
Third, every piece of cargo, every piece of equipment and every supply that was going to Gaza had already been inspected at the point of departure. That’s the way it’s supposed to be handled, not by some paranoid country that thinks it can break all the conventions of the sea and demand that cargo that was already inspected get hauled into its port. Imagine what a mess it would be if every country in the world decided they had the right to inspect cargo coming in from every other country. It’s what cargo manifests and inspectors are for.
Those three constant lies have been trotted out at every opportunity to shut up the activists and prevent additional voyages. It has not stopped us, as evidenced by the most recent initiative, sailing a boat out of Gaza (www.gazaark.org), nor will it stop us from continuing to hold Israel accountable for the wellbeing of the people it occupies.
The best news on this, the third anniversary of the murders of eight Turks and one American, is that the ICC is going to consider the complaint from the Cormoros Island, the country where the Mavi Marmara was flagged.
In an attempt to shut in the people of Gaza, shut down the voyages and shut up the people who advocate for freedom of movement for the 1.5 million people imprisoned there, the Israelis have failed…. Miserably.
- Greta Berlin is one of the five co-founders of the Free Gaza movement (www.freegazamovement.com) and was on one of the first two boats to arrive in Gaza in August, 2008. She was the primary spokesperson for Freedom Flotilla 1 in May 2010, appearing on international media in Europe, the Middle East and the United States when the flotilla was attacked by Israeli commandos. She is the co-author of Freedom Sailors, a book about that first trip and how activists made it to Gaza in spite of huge obstacles.
‘Hi Papa .. Don’t worry about me too much, right now I am most concerned that we are not being effective. I still don’t feel particularly at risk. Rafah has seemed calmer lately,’ Rachel Corrie wrote to her father, Craig, from Rafah, a town located at the southern end of the Gaza Strip.
‘Rachel’s last email’ was not dated on the Rachel Corrie Foundation website. It must have been written soon after her last email to her mother, Cindy, on Feb 28. She was killed by an Israeli bulldozer on March 16, 2003.
Immediately after her painful death, crushed beneath an Israeli army bulldozer, Rafah embraced her legacy as another ‘martyr’ for Palestine. It was a befitting tribute to Rachel, who was born to a progressive family in the town of Olympia, itself a hub for anti-war and social justice activism. But Olympia is also the capital of Washington State. Politicians here can be as callous, morally flexible and pro-Israel as any other seats of government in the US, where sharply dressed men and women jockey for power and influence. Ten years after Rachel’s death, the US government is yet to hold Israel to account. Neither is justice expected anytime soon.
Bordering Egyptian and Israeli fences, and ringed by some of the poorest refugee camps anywhere, Rafah has never ceased being a news topic in years. The town’s gallantry of the First Palestinian Uprising (Intifada) in 1987 was the stuff of legends among other resisting towns, villages and refugee camps in Gaza and the rest of Palestine. The Israeli army used Rafah as a testing ground for a lesson to be taught to the rest of Palestinians. Thus, its list of ‘martyrs’ is one of the longest, and it is unlikely to stop growing anytime soon. Many of Rafah’s finest perished digging tunnels into Egypt to break the Israeli economic blockade that followed Palestine’s democratic elections in 2006. Buried under heaps of mud, drowning in Egyptian sewage water, or pulverized by Israeli missiles, some of Rafah’s men are yet to be located for proper burial.
Rafah agonized for many years, not least because it was partially encircled by a cluster of illegal Jewish settlements – Slav, Atzmona, Pe’at Sadeh, Gan Or and others. The residents of Rafah were deprived of security, freedom, and even for extended periods of time, access to the adjacent sea, so that the illegal colonies could enjoy security, freedom and private beaches. Even when the settlements were dismantled in 2005, Rafah became largely entrapped between the Israeli military border, incursions, Egyptian restrictions and an unforgiving siege. True to form, Rafah continues to resist.
Rachel and her International Solidarity Movement (ISM) friends must have appreciated the challenge at hand and the brutality by which the Israeli army conducted its business. Reporting for the British Independent newspaper from Rafah, Justin Huggler wrote on Dec. 23, 2003: “Stories of civilians being killed pour out of Rafah, turning up on the news wires in Jerusalem almost every week. The latest, an 11-year-old girl shot as she walked home from school on Saturday.” His article was entitled: “In Rafah, the children have grown so used to the sound of gunfire they can’t sleep without it.” He too “fell asleep to the sound of the guns.”
Rafah was affiliated with other ominous realities, one being house demolitions. In its report, Razing Rafah, published Oct 18, 2004, Human Rights Watch mentioned some very disturbing numbers. Of the 2,500 houses demolished by Israel in Gaza between 2000-04, “nearly two-thirds of these homes were in Rafah… Sixteen thousand people, more than ten percent of Rafah’s population, have lost their homes, most of them refugees, many of whom were dispossessed for a second or third time.” Much of the destruction occurred so that alleyways could be widened to secure Israeli army operations. Israel’s weapon of choice was the Caterpillar D9 bulldozer, which often arrived late at night.
Rachel Corrie was also crushed by the same type of US manufactured and supplied bulldozer that terrorized Rafah for years. It is no wonder that Rachel’s photos and various graffiti paintings adorn many walls of Rafah streets. Commemorating Rachel’s death anniversary for the tenth time, activists in Rafah gathered on March 16. They spoke passionately of the American girl who challenged an Israeli bulldozer so that a Rafah home could remain standing. A 12-year-old girl thanked Rachel for her courage and asked the US government to stop supplying Israel with weapons that are often used against civilians.
While Rafah carried much of the occupation brunt and the vengeance of the Israeli army, its story and that of Rachel’s was merely symbolic of the greater tragedy which has been unfolding in Palestine for many years. Here is a quick summary of the house demolition practice of recent years, according to the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, also published in Al Jazeera August 2012:
The Israeli government destroyed 22 homes in East Jerusalem and 222 homes in West Bank in 2011, leaving nearly 1,200 people homeless. During the war on Gaza (Dec 2008 – Jan 2009), it destroyed 4,455 homes, leaving 20,000 Palestinians displaced and unable to rebuild due to the restrictions imposed by the siege. (Other reports give much higher estimates.) Since 1967, the Israeli government destroyed 25,000 homes in the occupied territories, rendered 160,000 Palestinians homeless. Numbers can be even grimmer if one is to take into account those who were killed and wounded during clashes linked to the destruction of these homes.
So, when Rachel Corrie stood with a megaphone and an orange high-visibility jacket trying to dissuade an Israeli bulldozer driver from demolishing yet another Palestinian home, the stakes were already high. And despite the inhumane caricaturing of her act by pro-Israeli US and other western media, and the expected Israeli court ruling last August, Rachel’s brave act and her subsequent murder stand at the heart of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It highlighted the ruthlessness of the Israeli army, put to shame Tel Aviv’s judicial system, confronted the international community with its utter failure to provide protection for Palestinian civilians and raised the bar even higher for the international solidarity movement.
The Israel court verdict last August was particularly sobering and should bring to an end any wishful thinking that Israel’s self-tailored judicial system is capable of achieving justice, neither for a Palestinian, nor an American. “I reached the conclusion that there was no negligence on the part of the bulldozer driver,” Judge Oded Gershon said as he read out his verdict in a Haifa District Court in northern Israel. Rachel’s parents had filed a law suit, requesting a symbolic $1 in damages and legal expenses. Gershon rejected the suit, delineated that Rachel was not a ‘reasonable person’ and, once more blamed the victim, as has been the case with thousands of Palestinians for many years. “Her death is the result of an accident she brought upon herself,” he said. It all sounded as though demolishing homes as a form of collective punishment was just another ‘reasonable’ act, deserving of legal protection. In fact, per Israeli occupation rules, it is.
Rachel’s legacy will survive even Gershon’s charade court proceeding and much more. Her sacrifice is now etched into a much larger landscape of Palestinian heroism and pain.
“I think freedom for Palestine could be an incredible source of hope to people struggling all over the world,” she wrote to her mother nearly two weeks before her death. “I think it could also be an incredible inspiration to Arab people in the Middle East, who are struggling under undemocratic regimes which the US supports.”
- Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is: My Father was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press).
President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel signals nothing but bad news for the Palestinian people and probably the people of the rest of the world too. Every American president who has served since Israel’s founding has put chosen Israeli interests over those of their own people. Israel may kill United States servicemen as it did in attacking the U.SS. Liberty in 1967. American citizen Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by an Israeli tractor when she tried to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home. Furkan Dogan was assassinated by Israeli soldiers on board a freedom flotilla vessel bound for Gaza. Neither the sailors on board the Liberty, nor Corrie, nor Dogan received any justice from their government. There is very little justice when it comes to Israeli/American relations.
It will be important to keep that in mind while watching Obama’s “listening” trip to Israel, Palestine and Jordan. The president’s first visit to Israel since his election is nothing more than a public relations ruse. Obama will do just as his predecessors did in regards to Israel, that is to say, whatever the Israelis want him to do.
It doesn’t matter that Prime Minister Netanyahu practically endorsed Mitt Romney during his presidential campaign. Romney’s well heeled Zionist supporters wasted their war chests and not just because theirs was a losing effort. They were going to get what they wanted from whomever emerged victorious in November. There was no need to spread around all that cash.
If Obama acts true to form during his trip, he will perform his usual double talk routine. He will say things that make his liberal fans happy, such as making bland comments about Palestinian rights. Such talk should be ignored because Obama loves nothing more than behind the scenes wheeling and dealing with people whom he allegedly opposes.
Just as he gave us sequestration and cuts to entitlement programs, he will mouth the right words but give Israel the go ahead on anything they want. Obama is after all the more effective evil. His common sense tells him that a shooting war against Iran would be difficult to pull off, but he has crushed the Iranian economy with sanctions. Iranians are going without food and medicines because the United States and NATO want them to submit to western dictates on nuclear production and on their very existence as a sovereign nation.
One by one, the dominoes have fallen to the Obama regime. On this tenth anniversary of the occupation of Iraq, it is important to remember that Barack Obama made good on the neo-con dream of an American empire. He has gone where Reagan and the Bush presidents would not. He killed Gaddafi, he is destroying Syria, he is sending troops to occupy the African continent.
If anyone can get away with making Israeli fantasies of regional domination come true, it is Obama.
If the flies on the wall during the Obama and Netanyahu meetings could talk, they would have much to tell us. Netanyahu is likely to get his own version of a sequestration deal. A promise to cease and desist from showing badly made drawings of Iranian bombs in exchange for patience and a certainty that the United States will live up to its promise to be Israel’s best friend. Obama’s diabolical ability to make his supporters believe that he isn’t doing things he clearly is doing will come in handy when dealing with the likes of Netanyahu.
The United States will do as it has done for decades. It will keep vetoing United Nations resolutions which criticize Israel. It will keep arming Israel and agreeing to settlements which steal Palestinian land. When Israel decides to massacre people in Lebanon or Gaza or anywhere else, the United States government will either voice support or be silent.
Obama’s relationship with Israel and its American Zionist supporters is but one example of why the ruling classes chose him for the presidency. As we have pointed out in Black Agenda Report, pax Americana could only succeed if the brand was rebooted. “So much face was lost, it required that the Empire put a new, Black face forward, so as to resume the game under (cosmetically) new circumstances.”
The nonsensical dance goes something like this. Racists attack Obama. Progressives defend Obama. Obama goes behind closed doors to do what progressives say they don’t want. Obama lies and claims he didn’t do what he in fact did. Progressives are happy. The world suffers anew.
Obama is not without pride and ego. He did make Netanyahu wait for a meeting after he so publicly backed Romney. Ultimately though, he does what the system requires of him. In the end, Israel will get a pass or even American help for its next nefarious plan. No listening is needed to make that prediction.
Margaret Kimberley lives in New York City and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.
“Parents can be awakened by their children”
–Cindy Corrie, 2003 Commencement address
Ten years have now passed since we received the terrible phone call telling us our young friend Rachel Corrie was dead. We had gone to see her off the drizzly winter day she left Olympia to work in Gaza with the International Solidarity Movement. We couldn’t know that we were seeing her for the last time, nor foresee the legacy she would leave as she said goodbye to her hometown, and stepped into history.
Rachel would be killed on March 16, 2003, crushed beneath an armored Israeli bulldozer as she tried to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home in the Gazan border town of Rafah.
It seems likely that Rachel’s story would by now have faded from memory as just one more among the thousands of deaths in Gaza over the past decade, but for the efforts of her parents, Craig and Cindy. Having no prior involvement in the Israel-Palestine issue, they immersed themselves in a process of self-education and public activism so relentless and untiring that even now it leaves their friends slack-jawed in amazement.
Rachel’s family has witnessed an eventful decade—in the Middle East and at home. They’ve pursued legal struggles, led public campaigns, traveled the world, and kept Rachel’s story alive through books, plays, films and media outreach.
We sat down with them recently to talk about the changes they’ve seen.
Working Inside the System
As we detailed in an article five years ago, much of the Corries’ initial efforts focused on moving the three branches of the American government to deliver justice after Rachel’s killing. They pressed the Executive branch, through the State and Justice departments, for an investigation, they used the court system for a civil trial against the Caterpillar Corporation, and they sought a Congressional resolution calling for a U.S.-led investigation. As hardly needs saying, these efforts failed spectacularly in their primary goals. The Corries challenged—and for many newcomers, exposed–a powerful and deeply entrenched foreign policy apparatus that grants virtual impunity to Israel, even for the killing of an American peace activist.
But the Corries take a long view, and try to see the good. Cindy says, “Many people in government, particularly in the diplomatic corps, are there for good reasons– there are people with good hearts. I think their willingness to meet with us is partly because they know that Rachel’s story does have significance, around the world, and in the Arab world particularly. And certainly they know it has resonance in Gaza and with Palestinians.”
Craig and Cindy know that they carry an authority that few others can claim, and although it was unsought, they use it conscientiously.
“It’s been ten years for us now, and for our family,” added Craig. “That includes extended family like sisters and brother in laws, and it’s amazing how many people who are high up in government we’ve talked to. Either them or their assistants… all these people now have some understanding of the situation, and I think they have some respect, they can’t just write us off as crazy.”
“In the last attack on Gaza, in November, we were there. Israel started to drop bombs, and we woke up to a flash of light, then the concussion–it was that close to us. When we came back, we went to the State Dept. We spent about an hour talking to the head of the Israel-Palestine desk. They’ve never been to Gaza, none of these people knew anything about Gaza.” In a sense, the Corries have become civil society’s ambassadors to Gaza, a region abandoned by U.S. (and European) diplomatic isolation since the rise of the democratically elected Hamas government there.
Cindy said, “The State Department doesn’t have anybody in Gaza. I think many of them know that’s maybe not the most productive policy for them, it’s difficult when they don’t have people in places. We shared with them that we went to the funeral of a young boy killed playing soccer in front of his house in Khan Younis by the Israeli military. I went with his mother, and we talked to his friends who showed us where they had been playing soccer. You realize that for these children, that’s an experience they may carry with them forever. If you want to make progress, you have to stop these kinds of situations that have to fill people with so much hurt and rage. It shouldn’t happen.”
The Civil Trial in Israel
The Corries, at their own expense, have spent the last eight years pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit in Israeli courts, charging the State of Israel and its Defense Ministry with the intentional and unlawful killing of their daughter. If the effort to move the U.S. government was Herculean, the task of moving the Israeli government would prove Sisyphean. Personally attending all of the courtroom proceedings, the family logged some nine months in Israel for the trial. Seeking accountability, not money, they asked for $1 in symbolic damages.
Craig explained, “The courts are the way that we have agreed as a society to settle our disagreements nonviolently. That’s the official way to do it. And so I feel very strongly that you have to demand that they work. And so we did.”
They encountered double standards from the outset. Cindy told us,
”They didn’t want to hear anything about home demolitions. In some ways, Rachel’s lost in the trial. She’s just a dead person. And the reasons for why she was there, the home demolitions and all that was happening, oh they bristled so. When B’tselem gets brought up, the Israeli human rights organization that’s reporting what’s happening in the Occupied Territories, they just brush it away: ‘What’s B’tselem? We don’t trust their data!’ It’s so shocking because this is the Israeli state. That’s what we were seeing, the Israeli state, in the courtroom. And it’s very shocking, the lengths to which they will go to prevail.”
“They had a woman who testified as an ‘expert’ on the International Solidarity Movement—she had never done any research on ISM. She was the military spokesperson when Rachel was killed and so that made her an expert on ISM. She submitted to the court a 100-page report demonizing ISM, demonizing Rachel.”
Craig broke in: “She submitted that two weeks before she was coming to testify, so it’s all in Hebrew. We said, ‘How are we going to get this translated? ….What are we gonna do with it?’” (The Corries had to pay for the English translation of thousands of pages of documents). “Then we learn that she just picked it up off the internet. She has no expertise on this. And it all goes in, and it’s just made-up garbage. When we have witnesses, it can’t be about what Israel is doing in Gaza, but when they have witnesses, it can be about what the ISM is doing in Jenin. “
They were struck early on by the casual trial preparation by the military, signaling its confidence in a friendly judge’s courtroom. Craig recalled with exasperation the testimony of the former Gaza Division’s Southern Brigade Commander, Colonel Pinhas (Pinky) Zuaretz, who was in charge when Rachel died. The colonel had testified in a sworn affidavit that an injury he had received had occurred in the area Rachel where was working, known as the Philadelphi Corridor, which was untrue. “So our attorney says, ‘So you’re telling me, you’re injured near the Philadelphi Corridor?’ And he said ‘No, I never said that’. ‘Well, here, you want to read this (affidavit)? ‘Oh, well, it’s wrong.’ ‘Wrong? Why is it wrong?’ He said it’s wrong because of ‘inattention’!”
“Then he said his troops had been fired at with rockets from the Nasrallah’s home (the family Rachel was defending). They’re putting in a public document that anybody can read, that the family are terrorists. He then says, well it was after the family had been forced to move out. So it was when the house was controlled by the Israeli military! And it completely escapes them that they were safer with the family living in the house than when it was under their control. These are experienced, good attorneys turning out this sort of (Expletive Deleted), and it’s an important trial, but they know going in that they’ve got it won, and they don’t have to do any better than that. “
Last August the Corries finally received a verdict in the trial. While not unexpected, it was stunning in the scope of its implications.
The judge, Oded Gershon, ruled that the military was blameless in Rachel’s death. He said that the military’s own investigation (which had exonerated itself) had been “properly conducted.” Even the U.S. government rejects that finding; the Bush State Dept. told the Corries in writing that Israel had never conducted the “thorough, credible and transparent” investigation it promised in 2003.
But the judge didn’t stop there. He went on to condemn the Gandhian tactics of the ISM as “de facto violence,” and– in words indistinguishable from a military press release–said that ISM protected Palestinian families “involved in terrorism;” specialized in “disrupting operational activities of the IDF”; and shielded “terror activists wanted by the Israeli security forces.” The group also provided “financial, logistic and moral support to the Palestinians, including terrorists and their families,” and was involved in “disrupting the demolition or sealing of homes of terrorists who carried out suicide attacks that caused many casualties.”
The notion that home demolitions were defensive actions taken in response to suicide bombings is ludicrous on its face: over 1,600 homes were demolished in Rafah alone, between 2000 and 2004. This was a policy of mass collective punishment, and deliberate destruction of civilian infrastructure, a war crime. But more galling than this is the sheer hypocrisy. To Palestinians and their supporters accustomed to decades of Israeli demands that Palestinians use only non-violent tactics of resistance, Judge Gershon’s opinion could have come from the pen of Kafka.
Moreover, the real locus of “terrorism” had indeed been available from court testimony.
The Southern Brigade Commander, Colonel Zuaretz, had testified that the rules of engagement were to “shoot to kill any adult person on the [Philadelphi] route.” Another Israeli colonel had testified, “There are no civilians in a war zone.” Even the judge himself said, “She consciously put herself in harm’s way.”
As the Corries’ attorney Hussein Abu Hussein put it, “By accepting the testimony of Zuaretz and others, Judge Gershon essentially accepted that the ‘shoot to kill’ order was acceptable, which violates the fundamental tenets of international humanitarian law, mandating that soldiers distinguish between combatants and civilians.”
Indeed. And in addition, there is the unbounded irony of an Israeli judge dismissing the Fourth Geneva Convention. That convention, which mandates protection of civilians in wartime, was adopted by the U.N. in 1949 in response to the Nazi atrocities. In 1993, the Convention became a part of “Customary International Law,” binding even on non-signatory nations.
Following the verdict, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter of the Carter Center joined other distinguished critics in condemnation, saying that the “Court’s decision confirms a climate of impunity, which facilitates Israeli human rights violations against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Territory.”
Changes over 10 years: Getting the story right
When Carter, a former U.S. president, can title a book Palestine: Peace or Apartheid, an undeniable shift has occurred in the public discourse on this issue. Countless activists working for decades have contributed to this slow change in perceptions. Palestinian civil society, religious activists, organizations such as ISM and the U.S. Campaign to end the Occupation, and prominent figures like Carter have all contributed.
Cindy particularly emphasizes “the Palestinian voices that have become so strong in this decade” and the importance of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement: “It was courageous of those who first stepped out to support BDS, but now more and more people understand that BDS developed because other things have not worked, that there’s injustice to address, and this is a way that people are doing it.” She further highlights groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace and Young, Jewish & Proud who confront Israeli political figures and lobbyists and pointedly challenge the Occupation. She gives special note to “the remarkable courage of human rights organizations in Palestine and Israel” for helping to change public attitudes.
And, we believe, some of this shift can be attributed to Rachel’s inspiring stand for justice, the global impact of her story, and her family’s unrelenting work.
Ten years ago, Rachel was an early international witness to the mounting human catastrophe in Gaza that continues to this day. She wrote of Israel’s demolition of water wells, greenhouse cooperatives, and family homes, describing “the systematic destruction of people’s ability to survive.” Today her father contrasts this to the vast Israeli construction in the occupied West Bank, of settlements, roads, the Separation Wall. “You see the construction and you think ‘maybe this is better,’” as there is at least some employment. “But the people living there see the last parts of apartheid being set up–maybe it does matter if you have a little bit better standard of living under apartheid, but apartheid is what they are seeing there.”
In recent years, the mainstream media has come closer to getting the story right. The Corries pointed out the novelty of a major U.S. network reporting live from Gaza, during Israel’s November 2012 attack (a.k.a. “Operation Pillar of Defense”). Anderson Cooper’s coverage for CNN was “a huge sea change,” Cindy said. “It’s a bellweather…people may not know much about the issue, but they now know there’s something wrong with what Israel is doing there.” But, Craig added, “The part you don’t see in the paper is the siege of Gaza, which is always there—the basic injustice. “
Yet Israel’s attempt to isolate Gaza from the world, and the unprecedented destruction of its 2008 attack (“Operation Cast Lead”, which killed over 1400 Palestinians), has only brought more attention to Gaza’s plight. The Corries found themselves at the center of public response. In March 2009, they joined a Code Pink delegation, which included such public figures as Alice Walker and Medea Benjamin, to bear witness to Gaza’s destruction. Cindy also recounts how Rachel’s own congressman, Brian Baird, visited Gaza in the wake of Cast Lead, then “stood on the floor of Congress with a photo of three dead Palestinian children… and tried to speak to his colleagues about why there was something very wrong with all of this. I don’t know if this ever happened before. . .” Baird’s shift in position grew from his relationship with the Corries and his own eye-witness encounter with the sordid realities of daily life in Gaza. As Cindy explains, “When he first started talking to us, he started almost every sentence with ‘I’m supportive of Israel, but . . . ‘ and I said to him at one point, ‘I’m tired of hearing that. Can’t you just be pro-people?’”
The growing violence also spurred international activism to new levels of commitment. The Gaza Freedom Flotillas (2010-11) sought to break the siege of Gaza by delivering much-needed humanitarian supplies to the coastal strip, using unarmed civilian ships reaching Gaza from its Mediterranean coast. Israel’s military assault on the relief ship Mavi Marmara, killing eight Turkish activists and one Turkish American, drew widespread condemnation and further contributed to Israel’s pariah status. Another aid ship, christened MV Rachel Corrie, was intercepted in international waters by Israeli commandos in May, 2010. The Corries would tour the Mavi Marmara on a visit to Turkey in 2011, giving their condolences to the families who had lost loved ones in circumstances so similar to their own daughter’s.
Craig believes such actions have only backfired. He points out, “When you look at who voted for recognition of Palestine at the United Nations (last year), “it’s the U.S. that’s being isolated. You got the U.S., Canada, Israel and a couple of islands in the Pacific–and the rest of the world either voted Yes or abstained.”
The award-winning play, My Name is Rachel Corrie (2006), produced by Alan Rickman and Kathryn Viner, has reached audiences in more than 20 countries and over a dozen languages—a fact that Craig thinks is “fairly astounding.” In addition, Rachel’s collected journal writings in Let Me Stand Alone (2008), published by WW Norton, convey Rachel’s gift as a young writer and poet, with an intense awareness and creatively quirky self-expression. Craig describes Rachel as a flawed, joyous, much more humorous person than the iconic figure of Rachel that has emerged, but he is glad that some of her humor comes through in both the play and the book. He explains, “When she went to Palestine, her voice changed and her writing changed dramatically.” Cindy, however, sees continuity in Rachel’s writing and her empathetic way of looking at the world: “She wrote a poem when she about 12 years old about lost souls. I think more than about anybody I know she made a conscious effort never to look away from somebody. And I think going to Gaza is a rational extension of that.”
Here in Olympia, the impact of Rachel’s story is manifest on the walls of our city and in the collective efforts that made the Olympia Food Coop the first grocery in the U.S. to successfully boycott Israeli products. In 2007 the Olympia City Council voted against official recognition of the Olympia-Rafah Sister City relationship initiated by Rachel, despite over 70% support in public testimony. Shortly thereafter, plans for the world’s largest Palestine solidarity mural emerged under the direction of Susan Greene, a Jewish American mural artist from San Francisco, whose work also appears on the Separation Wall in Palestine, as well as in the Palestinian refugee camps Sabra and Shatilla. Olympia’s mural, in the heart of downtown, can be viewed at (http://olympiarafahmural.org/).
Local BDS activists also won a significant victory when the Olympia Food Co-Op board passed a boycott in July 2010. They compounded that victory when they defeated a lawsuit brought by plaintiffs backed by the pro-Israel group Stand with Us. The lawsuit was struck down in February, 2012 as an illegal attempt to make it prohibitively expensive for the Co-Op to exercise its right to free speech. Under the provisions of a new Washington State law, the plaintiffs were ordered to pay attorneys’ fees plus $160,000 in damages to the Co-0p board members. This victory establishes a precedent for other groups to embrace the boycott strategy free from legal harassment.
In their travels across the country and around the world, Cindy and Craig encounter young people who have been inspired to act by Rachel’s story. “That happens over and over again,” Cindy said. “People say that her example resonates with them, and makes them feel they have to do something more with their lives.” She told us of a young man who approached them at a recent talk in Washington, D.C. and said that Rachel was the reason he had become politically involved. Craig recalled an actress who had done two long runs of the play in Australia, then went and volunteered in Africa. “And she told us, ‘I didn’t do that, Rachel did that, that’s not anything that was in me before I played Rachel.’”
Cindy spoke of being approached by Palestinians from the beginning. At first, she said, she didn’t understand why it was so important for Palestinians, young and old, to come meet them. Many would cry. “It took me awhile to understand it, and all that they were carrying, and have been carrying for over sixty years. I think it’s that there was this American kid–and as they struggled to get their message out and struggled to challenge what’s happened to them—she came, and she did that. I know, because they tell me how much that means, and it’s very personal.”
In the weeks approaching this 10th anniversary, the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice has been coordinating with activists in Australia, Scotland, Israel and Palestine, as well as in the U.S. In the past week alone, Craig and Cindy have traveled to Edmonton, Calgary, San Diego and Portland, and will be home in Olympia for a March 16 commemoration titled Rachel Corrie, 10 Years: The Person and the Continuing Struggle.
Cindy and Craig couldn’t throw out even a wild guess as to how many places they’ve traveled to in the past decade. “Continents,” Craig said. “I could tell you how many continents. All but Australia and Antarctica.” Recalling one event in Mobile, Alabama, Cindy said, “To me it’s heartening that no matter where you go, the smallest places, there are people—it may not be Palestine exactly—but they’re really a part of the movement, they know that it needs to be changed, and they’re finding a way to respond to that. It’s really inspiring, it keeps us going.”
Tom Wright directed the 1997 documentary, Checkpoint: The Palestinians After Oslo.
Therese Saliba is on the faculty of International Feminism and Middle East Studies at The Evergreen State College, Olympia. Mail can be sent to email@example.com.
Shameful Symbolism: Commemorating the Ten Year Anniversary of the Beginning of the Disastrous Iraq War
By Doug E. Steil | Aletho News | February 25, 2013
Nearly ten years ago, on the eve of the Jewish festival of Purim, invoking the slaughter of Persians, an American student protesting house demolitions in Gaza, Rachel Corrie, was killed by a bulldozer (March 16, 2003).
Shortly after this festival had ended, the Iraq War, waged primarily on behalf of Israel — and still in progress on a more covert level — began on land amidst much media fanfare, including live television coverage. Around the time of the vernal equinox on March 20, 2003, multiple tank formations entered from staged positions in Kuwait, and even now there is still no end in sight to the ongoing slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent people in that region.
To commemorate and possibly even celebrate the tenth anniversary of this disastrous debacle, of “Neocon” inspired servitude to Zionism, Israel will welcome Obama on his first official state visit on March 20, yes, just at the time of the equinox (11:02 GMT), a key reference point used in astronomy, astronautics, and astrology.
Here is the planned itinerary:
Obama is scheduled to land in Ben Gurion International Airport around noon on Wednesday, March 20.
This scripted event should not be lost on the alternative media. Ten years ago it used to be taboo to openly talk about the “War for Israel” because a large segment of the population was still enthralled by the lies (for instance, “Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction” and “war for oil”) the media deployed in order to trick them into supporting the operation. Now, after the lies have been exposed, it’s a brazen “in-your-face” attitude that is regularly on display, and Obama’s planned ceremonies in Israel next month will only highlight the obsequious stance of the US government vis-a-vis Israeli leaders dictating their demands.
Since the symbolism is important, though shameful, beware of “coincidence theorists” who will want to deny the intent of the timing!
- Israeli lies on Iranian nuclear program exposed
- Israel instructs Obama: “Iranian and Syrian sanctions are not painful enough!”
- The politics of aggressive war
- Israel may rely on US ‘scalpels’ to contain Iran – defense minister
- Tony Blair’s Iraq war was a shameful abomination. Ten years after the London march, it’s time for him to admit it
Blaming the Victim
On Tuesday, Judge Oded Gershon of the Haifa District Court dismissed the civil lawsuit I brought on behalf of Rachel Corrie’s family against the State of Israel for the unlawful killing of their daughter, an American peace activist and human rights defender who legally entered Gaza to live with Palestinian families in Rafah whose homes were threatened by demolition.
While not surprising, the verdict is yet another example of impunity prevailing over accountability and fairness and it flies in the face of the fundamental principle of international humanitarian law – that in a time of war, military forces are obligated to take all measures to avoid harm to both civilians and their property.
It is not the first time courts have denied victims of Israeli military actions the right to effective remedy. Just ask the many Palestinians who have faced a myriad of legal hurdles and fought for decades simply to have their day in court. Thousands of legitimate claims continue to be denied based on the controversial legal theory – which Judge Gershon adopted – that soldiers should be absolved of civil liability because they were engaged in military operational activities in a war zone.
Rachel’s case is unique because she was the first foreign national to be killed while protesting Israeli occupation, though she was hardly the last. Tom Hurndall, a British peace activist, was shot in the head and killed by an Israeli sniper less than three weeks after Rachel was killed. And less than a month after that, James Miller, a British cameraman was also shot and killed by the IDF in Rafah.
In reaching his decision in Rachel’s case, Judge Gershon accepted virtually all of the government’s legal arguments and either ignored or distorted critical facts in order to reach his decision. For example, he concluded that Rafah was a closed military zone, as declared by the Israeli military’s southern command (never mind that no such order was presented in court, and the ground unit commander testified he was unaware of the area’s designation as a closed zone). And that conclusion had implications.
When the former Gaza Division’s Southern Brigade Commander Colonel Pinhas (Pinky) Zuaretz, who was in charge in 2003, testified, he confirmed that the rules of engagement at the time Rachel was killed were to “shoot to kill any adult person on the [Philadelphi] route.” As another Israeli colonel who testified put it: “There are no civilians in a war zone.” By accepting the testimony of Zuaretz and others, Judge Gershon essentially accepted that the “shoot to kill” order was acceptable, which violates the fundamental tenets of international humanitarian law, mandating that soldiers distinguish between combatants and civilians.
We knew from the beginning that it would be an uphill battle to find truth and justice, but we are convinced that this verdict not only distorts the strong evidence presented in court, but also contradicts fundamental principles of international law with regard to protection of human rights defenders. In denying justice in Rachel Corrie’s killing, this verdict is part of a systemic failure to hold the Israeli military accountable for continuing violations of basic human rights. As former U.S. President Jimmy Carter put it: “The court’s decision confirms a climate of impunity, which facilitates Israeli human rights violations against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Territory.”
The Corrie family has always stressed that the purpose of this lawsuit was larger than compensation for their loss. For them, it was about understanding exactly what happened to Rachel and exposing the injustices their daughter and her friends in the International Solidarity Movement stood against. They filed suit on advice of Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who, on behalf of the State Department, told the family in 2004 that the United States did not consider the investigation into Rachel’s death to be “thorough, credible and transparent.”
The U.S. government has repeatedly reiterated its position regarding the failed investigation, and after nearly seven years of mounting evidence since the case was initially filed, it has become even clearer that the military conducted its investigation not to uncover the truth of what happened, but rather, to exonerate itself of any blame.
In his decision, Judge Gershon concluded that because Rachel put herself in harm’s way, she is to be blamed for her own death. That conclusion puts at serious risk the lives of human rights defenders and it creates yet another dangerous precedent regarding the protection of civilians in war. Not surprisingly, the court avoided any analysis of international law obligations.
The verdict ensures that the Israeli culture of impunity will continue unchecked. Rachel Corrie lost her life standing non-violently with those who have been subject to Israel’s systematic policy of destruction and demonization. Like the Freedom Riders in the United States who, during the civil rights movement, joined oppressed black communities in their struggle for equality, Rachel and her friends in the ISM presented a new challenge and model of non-violent activism, solidarity and resistance to the longest military occupation in modern history.
In a country in which the judicial system has enabled the occupation for almost 50 years, I suppose it’s not surprising that the judicial system blamed the victim for her own death.
Hussein Abu Hussein is a human rights lawyer and co-founder of the Arab Association for Human Rights. He represented the Corrie family in their case against the Israeli government and the Israeli Ministry of Defense.
- International Solidarity Movement’s response to the Rachel Corrie verdict (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Rachel Corrie and the Kosher Legal Stamp (alethonews.wordpress.com)
We Palestinians have been struggling for a long time. I am not speaking of the struggle to be recognized as an independent state, or the struggle to be recognized in the United Nations, or even the struggle to be recognized in international courts. I am speaking, rather, of the struggle to be recognized as human beings.
I am a comedian, and I travel to Israel and Palestine often to perform, visit, and conduct workshops. I have, to this point, done all of my work for Palestinian audiences and participants. My first job is to be funny. But I also hope to show that Palestinians can laugh just like everyone else, especially at ourselves. If I do my job well, maybe I can show that we can be funny too.
The legal decision handed down yesterday in Israel, absolving the government of any and all responsibility in the 2003 death of American Rachel Corrie in Gaza, confirmed something to the world that we Palestinians are already acutely aware of: We, and those who dare to stand with us, are simply not human beings.
In the past few weeks, this phenomenon has become all too clear in Israel. On August 16, a group of teenagers beat a Palestinian boy to near death in a Jerusalem square. One of those arrested for that crime publicly declared his astonishment for being held accountable for beating an Arab. On that same day, a taxi carrying a family of Palestinians was firebombed near Hebron in the southern West Bank. Six Palestinians were injured in that attack.
Rachel Corrie was killed while she was decrying the demolition of homes in the Gaza Strip. She was engaging in something that we Americans have been politically and socially bred to have pride in: non-violent protest. She stood in front of a bulldozer, only to have the driver run her over, viewing her life as no more worthy than the owners of the house he was destroying.
It is no small thing to say that the state of Israel views Palestinians as subhuman. I do not say it lightly. I have traveled to Israel many times, encountering the various checkpoints, border crossings, and security personnel. I am always shocked by how Palestinians deal with this everyday. I am never shocked by, sadly, the subhuman manner in which Israel treats them.
The Qalandia checkpoint from Ramallah to Jerusalem consists of cages and steel revolvers. Palestinians are let through at the whim of the Israeli soldiers manning their stations. The checkpoint itself is filthy and unsanitary. Arab towns inside Israel are many times rundown, almost completely neglected by the Israeli government, while Jewish towns are generously funded and kept up, resembling upscale American suburbs. Studies have shown that the Israeli government spends three times as much on schools populated by Jewish students as it does on schools with Arab students.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once referred to the Palestinian citizens of Israel as a “demographic threat.” That remark, is, of course, utterly racist. But one has to wonder how someone like Mr. Netanyahu, who graduated from both high school and college in America, could refer to a group of people that existed in that land for centuries before the establishment of Israel as a “demographic threat.” The answer is simple: Palestinians are simply not human.
Newt Gingrich has called us “invented,” Barack Obama was attacked in 2008 for having a “Palestinian friend,” Ehud Barak referred to us as “crocodiles,” and former Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who famously made peace with Egypt, said that Palestinians were “beasts.” Why would we expect Israel to hold anyone responsible for killing a young woman foolish enough to protect the rights of these creatures?
Amer Zahr is a Palestinian-American residing in Dearborn. He is a comedian and graduate of the University of Michigan Law School.
- Rachel Corrie and the Kosher Legal Stamp (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- International Solidarity Movement’s response to the Rachel Corrie verdict (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Still no justice for peace activist Rachel Corrie (morningstaronline.co.uk)
In coming days, ten ships will take part in a flotilla attempting to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. Among the ships will be the U.S.-flagged “Audacity of Hope,” carrying 36 U.S. citizens. Last year, the Israeli navy attacked a previous humanitarian flotilla in international waters, killing nine passengers, including one American.
Passengers on the “Audacity of Hope” have contacted the State Department, the White House, and members of Congress to notify them of the flotilla. They have urged the government to work to ensure the safety and free passage of the ships and to warn Israel against attacking unarmed civilian vessels with U.S. citizens on board who are exercising their legal rights. Instead, the State Department – whose mission in part is to protect and assist U.S. citizens traveling abroad – has issued numerous statements labeling the flotilla as an “irresponsible and provocative” action that risk[s] the safety of their passengers” and “creat[es] a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves”. The administration has also alluded to prosecuting the passengers, who will be delivering thousands of letters of solidarity and friendship to the people of Gaza, for providing material support to a designated terrorist organization. 
Though Israeli state violence against foreign nationals is often portrayed as an aberration, over the past 8 years alone, Israel has killed and/or severely injured a number of American citizens. Below are 10 such examples:
19 year-old American Furkan Dogan was on the Mavi Marmara, a 600-passenger ship sailing as part of a flotilla headed to the Gaza Strip with humanitarian aid. In the early hours of May 31st, 2010, Israeli commandos dropped onto the ship in international waters and attempted to commandeer it, leading to a struggle for control of the ship. Among others, Dogan was shot at close range with 4 bullets to the head and 1 to the chest.
New York, NY
On May 31st, 2010 21-year old Emily Henochowicz was hit in the face with a tear gas projectile fired directly at her by an Israeli soldier during a demonstration at the Qalandiya checkpoint. Henochowicz was taking part in a demonstration against the widely-condemned Israeli attack on a humanitarian aid flotilla. As a result of the attack, Emily lost her left eye.
On March 13th, 2009 in the Palestinian village of Ni’lin, American peace activist Tristan Anderson was critically injured after Israeli forces shot him in the head with a tear-gas canister. Anderson, 37 years old and from California, was taken to Israeli hospital Tel Hashomer, near Tel Aviv.
He was unconscious and bleeding heavily from the nose and mouth. He sustained a large hole in the right part of his forehead where he was struck by a tear gas canister. After 15 months in Tel Hashomer, some of that time in a coma, and at least one surgery, Tristan recently returned to his home in Northern California, still quasi-paralyzed.
On April 5, 2003, Israeli troops shot peace activist Brian Avery in Jenin. Avery, a 24-year-old American citizen from Albuquerque, New Mexico, experienced serious wounds to his face after Israeli troops shot at him with heavy machine gun fire from an armored personnel carrier (APC).
There were no reports of clashes on the street where the shooting took place and Avery was clearly marked as an observer. Avery’s cheek was torn and his eye socket and jaw bones were smashed, leading to at least 6 rounds of surgery. In a rare occurrence in November 2008, the Israeli government paid Avery $150,000 to settle a lawsuit he filed against them.
On March 16th, 2003 in Rafah, occupied Gaza, 23-year-old American peace activist Rachel Corrie from Olympia, Washington, was murdered by an Israeli bulldozer driver. Rachel was in Gaza opposing the bulldozing of a Palestinian home as a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement.
According to a Palestine Monitor report of the incident, “Other foreigners who were with her said the driver of the bulldozer was aware that Rachel was there, and continued to destroy the house. Initially he dropped sand and other heavy debris on her, then the bulldozer pushed her to the ground where it proceeded to drive over her, fracturing both of her arms, legs and skull.”
New York, NY
In April of 2002, while participating in a peaceful march along with other internationals in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, New York City resident Zaid Khalil was struck in the leg as Israeli soldiers opened fire.
On June 1, 2011, 19-year-old Tufts University student Lucas Koerner was assaulted and arrested by Israeli police while he peacefully protested the annual Jerusalem Day march, an official Israeli holiday when Israelis parade through occupied East Jerusalem to celebrate its 1967 occupation by Israel. Police grabbed, punched, choked and then threw Koerner to the ground. After being arrested he was taken to the emergency room to be treated for the wounds inflicted by police.
A 22-year-old Geology student at the American University of Beirut, Munib Masri was shot in the back with live ammunition by Israeli forces along the Lebanon border on May 15, 2011. Participating in a march to mark the 63rd anniversary of the Nakba – the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes during the establishment of Israel – Masri was leaving the demonstration when he was shot. Treated in a Beirut hospital, the bullet destroyed Masri’s left kidney, his spleen and broke apart in his spine. During the demonstration, eleven people were killed by Israeli forces and more than 100 wounded.
On May 13, 2011, 25-year-old Christopher Whitman, a Master’s student of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Hebrew University, was shot in the head at close range with a high-velocity tear gas canister by Israeli Border Police. He was in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah, at the weekly nonviolent demonstration against the construction of Israel’s separation wall in the village. That week’s demonstration also commemorated the 63rd anniversary of the Nakba – the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes during the establishment of Israel. Whitman was treated at Ramallah Hospital.
Sandra Quintano After assault
On May 1, 2011, Sandra Quintano, 60, was assaulted by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank village of Izbet al-Tabib in the Qalqilya district during a peaceful demonstration against the construction of a fence which would cut off villagers’ access to their land. She suffered a gash to the top of her head and both her wrists were broken, one severely. She was treated in an Israeli hospital and continues to undergo physical therapy in the U.S.
- Rachel Corrie and the Kosher Legal Stamp (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- International Solidarity Movement’s response to the Rachel Corrie verdict (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Still no justice for peace activist Rachel Corrie (morningstaronline.co.uk)
- Israeli court acquits IDF in 2003 death of American pro-Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie (rt.com)
Judge Oded Gershon’s ruling earlier this week that the state of Israel is not to blame for the death of Rachel Corrie, came as no surprise. In fact it reaffirms everything we know about the Jewish state – its politics, legal system and spirit. Israel is surely a most peculiar state – it is impervious to ethical thinking and humanist thought. Accordingly, Judge Gershon gave this week a kosher stamp to a cold-blooded murder and by so doing, he proved, once again, that Israeli criminal actions are consistent with the most vile interpretations of Old Testament and Talmudic Goy-hating.
As one would predict, Judge Gershon, restricted himself to legalism and litigation as opposed to ethical thinking – he actually blamed Corrie for not ‘behaving reasonably’. Yet, one may wonder what is this ‘reason’ or more precisely, what does an Israeli mean when he or she refers to ‘reason’.
Rachel Corrie was bulldozed to death by an Israeli military D9 Caterpillar on 16 March 2003. She was part of ISM (International Solidarity Movement), a non-violent pro-Palestinian peace activist group. Being an American youngster, Corrie mistakenly believed that Israeli soldiers were humanly driven. Being a reasonable person she must have believed that an Israeli bulldozer driver would never drive over her body. She was wrong. Corrie clearly failed to grasp that Israeli ‘reasoning’ was lethally fuelled by psychosis and fantasies of destruction.
Corrie failed precisely where so many solidarity activists fail. Israel is no normal state. It is a state of one people only – and a people who believe themselves to be chosen. The meaning of this is both simple and devastating. The people of Israel believe that their lives and security is a cosmic asset that must be maintained at the expense of the rest of humanity. However, make no mistake, Israeli psychosis is consistent and even driven by reason, but this ‘reason’ is somewhat different to that of the rest of us. It is certainly far from being universal.
Rachel Corrie, on the other hand, is a universal symbol. She is the epitome of solidarity, empathic thinking and courage, but her tragic death is also a clear indication that something is fundamentally wrong with Israel. Rachel Corrie’s death makes it clear that it isn’t just the Israeli leadership or military elite who are blind to human life and moral conduct. It isn’t just Netanyahu or Barak who are in a state of dismissal of human life. We are dealing here with a murderous continuum; it is the leadership, the anonymous soldier, the bulldozer driver – and also Judge Gershon and the Israeli legal system.
Israel could have used Corrie’s family legal appeal to mend its ways. But Judge Gershon was actually honest enough to admit that the murder of Rachel Corrie was the ‘right thing to do’. It was her fault, she shouldn’t have been there in the first place, he said. Judge Gershon provided us this week with the true meaning of ‘Israeli reasoning’. The murder of Corrie was consistent with Israeli survival philosophy and with Israeli interpretation of Jewish statehood. This week, Judge Gershon left us with a kosher stamp for a cold-blooded murder.
Rachel Corrie – American Hero!
Video shows it was cold blooded murder:
- International Solidarity Movement’s response to the Rachel Corrie verdict (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Still no justice for peace activist Rachel Corrie (morningstaronline.co.uk)
- Rachel Corrie, crushed to death by Israeli bulldozer, was not unlawfully killed – court (independent.ie)
The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) is deeply concerned by the verdict of Judge Oded Gershon that absolved Israel’s military and state of the 2003 murder of American ISM activist Rachel Corrie. Rachel was crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer while protesting the demolition of a Palestinian home in the Gaza Strip.
Despite the American administration stating that the Israeli military investigation had not been “thorough, credible and transparent” and the Israeli government withholding key video and audio evidence, Judge Gershon found no fault in the investigation or in the conclusion that the military and state were not responsible for Rachel’s death. Judge Gershon ruled that Rachel was to blame for her own murder and classifies her non-violent attempt to prevent war crimes as proof that Rachel was not a “thinking person”.
By disregarding international law and granting Israeli war criminals impunity Judge Gershon’s verdict exemplifies the fact that Israel’s legal system cannot be trusted to administer justice according to international standards. The ISM calls on the international community to hold Israel accountable by supporting the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) and continuing to join the Palestinian struggle in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Describing the situation in Gaza 2 days before she was killed, Rachel said, “I’m witnessing the systematic destruction of a people’s ability to survive. It’s horrifying.” Rachel’s analysis holds true today, confirmed by the United Nations a day before this ruling, which reported that Gaza would not be “liveable” by 2020 barring urgent action.
The verdict is a green light for Israeli soldiers to use lethal force against human rights defenders and puts Palestinian and International human rights defenders in mortal danger.
This will not deter us. As long as our Palestinian sisters and brothers want our presence, the ISM will continue to find ways to break Israel’s siege, and stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people. As Rachel’s mother Cindy put it, “There were children behind the walls of the home Rachel was trying to protect… We should have all been there”.
Judge Gershon’s verdict is a travesty of justice but it is not exceptional. As a rule the Israeli legal system provides Israeli soldiers impunity to commit murder. The only Israeli soldier convicted of manslaughter since the outbreak of the second Intifada in 2000 was Taysir Hayb, a Bedouin citizen of Israel for shooting British ISM volunteer Tom Hurndall in the back of the head with a sniper rifle as Tom was carrying a child to safety. At least 6,444 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli occupation forces in this period, with no justice for them or their families.
For more information Contact: Aide Mormech 059228094 or Huwaida Arraf 0598336215