Israeli Bulldozer Kills U.S. Woman, 23


GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip. March 16, 2003 - An American woman in Gaza to protest against Israeli operations was killed Sunday when she was run over by an Israeli bulldozer, witnesses and hospital officials said.

Witnesses said Rachel Corrie, from Olympia, Wash., was trying to stop the bulldozer from tearing down a building in the Rafah refugee camp, witnesses said, when she was buried. She was taken to Najar hospital in Rafah, where she died, said Dr. Ali Moussa, a hospital administrator.

For further details see the International Solidarity Movement website.

     


Click here for
Rachel Corrie
Memorial Website

 

A clearly marked Rachel Corrie, holding a megaphone, confronts an Israeli bulldozer driver
attempting to demolish a Palestinian home, Rafah, Occupied Gaza, 16 March 2003.

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One Year Later: No one sees and no one hears

Dr. Samir Nassrallah writing from Rafah, occupied Gaza, Live from Palestine, 22 March 2004
http://electronicintifada.net/content/one-year-later-no-one-sees-and-no-one-hears/5031

Dr. Samir Nassrallah is a pharmacist and father of three from Rafah. Rachel Corrie died defending his home.

My family and I will never forget March 16, 2003, the day we lost our dear friend Rachel Corrie. A volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), Rachel lived with us in Rafah as if she were a member of our family. She helped us even when we did not need help. She tried to bring optimism and happiness into our lives.

Every morning she would leave with her friends to confront the bulldozers of occupation and to defend houses from their destructive reach. Every evening she would return to us, tired, after a hard day of work.

On the day of her murder, I was returning from work when I saw her and her friends trying to prevent the bulldozers from demolishing the homes adjacent to mine. Then, the bulldozers were approaching my home, and I was surprised to see Rachel standing in front of the bulldozers, with all her courage, strength, and determination. Small as she was, she stood like a mountain, steadfast before those giant machines.

Flanked by two tanks, the bulldozer came closer and closer to my home, and throughout all this, Rachel stood there with a megaphone in her hand repeating loudly that she was not going to move. The driver could see her clearly and he continued to approach the house. She spoke louder and louder: "Stop! Stop! Don't Move!" She identified herself as a member of the ISM, but to no avail. She started to scream at the top of her lungs, but the driver continued to approach her. I could see her clearly when the bulldozer had nearly reached her. It hurled a pile of sand at her, and she lost her balance and fell. That is when I lost sight of her. She was no more than 10 meters from me.

Then, I found myself screaming, feeling that I had lost her, in the way we had lost so many Palestinians before her. I called the paramedics to send an ambulance immediately. I opened the ambulance doors as quickly as I could and took out the First Aid kit and ran towards Rachel to try and save her. I found her ISM friends gathered around her, and together we removed the sand from on top of her and lifted her into the ambulance to rush her to the hospital. I knew from the first instance that she was in critical condition. I was with her friends, Alice and Tom, when a seven member medical team finally gave up trying to revive her.

Now there are no internationals with us in Rafah, this isolated town on the Egyptian border. The last ones left to renew their visas, intending to return, but the Israeli army prevented their re-entry into Gaza. The hardships my family and I experience continue and have, in fact, worsened since the internationals left. We lost our house soon afterwards, as if the Israeli army was just waiting for the ISM to leave.

As for Rachel and the message she delivered to us and to the world, she was in pursuit of the truth. She dedicated her life to that. She conveyed the truth as she saw it, reporting the crimes of the Israeli army against innocent Palestinian civilians. The hands of the occupation killed her in cold blood as if to say to us, "I will deny you your spoken voice." I don't feel safe as long as our voice does not reach the outside world.

I call on my ISM friends to return to us. I ask you to come back because Rafah needs you. Tanks roll in and out with total ease, killing and destroying at will. And, without you, no one sees and no one hears.

There is not a day when my family and I don't think of Rachel. I told her family when they came to visit us that Rachel was a loss to my family, a loss to the whole Palestinian people, just as she was to them. Everyone lost her.

We still see that bulldozer that took her away from us.

As much as I speak about her, I still cannot do her justice.

 


March 16, 2004

Message from Rachel's parents, Craig and Cindy Corrie,
on the first anniversary of Rachel's death.

Thank you to all who have paused today to remember our daughter Rachel Corrie and to call for an end to the occupation-an occupation which took her life, as surely as it has taken the lives of thousands of Palestinians and Israelis.

Rachel looked for purpose and found that in Gaza when she went there in January 2003.  Brutally killed one year ago today, she was an unarmed, nonviolent, peace activist trying to prevent the demolition of the home of a Palestinian pharmacist, his wife, and three children.  She believed that the nonviolent activism that she was doing and supporting would make not only Palestinians but also Israelis and Americans more secure-- by supporting Palestinians who practice nonviolent rather than armed resistance and by speeding an end to this conflict that has so damaged both U.S. and Israeli images in the world.  Rachel stood there that day because the United States government and Israel rejected a proposal in the UN to send international human rights monitors to the region. She and other activists went in their place, and they continue to go.  Rachel stood there that day protesting illegal home demolitions that the U.S. opposes on the record, yet fails to stop-devastating demolitions that we, in fact, contribute to with billions of U.S. tax dollars annually that fund the Israeli military with its bulldozers, apache helicopters, F-16s, and more.  In fact, the U.S. Government, with our tax dollars, surely purchased the Caterpillar D9R bulldozer that killed Rachel.

Rachel's case is closed in Israel and only the "Conclusions" to the military police report have been given to the U.S.  We have been able to view the report at the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco.  It contains inconsistencies and fails to satisfactorily reconcile the differences between the Israeli soldiers who say they did not see Rachel and the seven international eyewitnesses who say she was clearly visible.   We believe that only an independent U.S. investigation can produce a result that we can trust.  We continue to call for support and passage of House Concurrent Resolution 111 (HCR111) that calls for such an investigation and now has fifty-six co-sponsors.

Rachel wrote, "When I am with Palestinian friends I tend to be somewhat less horrified than when I am trying to act in a role of human rights observer, documenter, or direct-action resister.  They are a good example of how to be in it for the long haul.  I know that the situation gets to them-- and may ultimately get them-- on all kinds of levels, but I am nevertheless amazed at their strength in being able to defend such a large degree of their humanity - laughter, generosity, family-time - against the incredible horror occurring in their lives and against the constant presence of death...I wish you could meet these people.  Maybe, hopefully, someday you will."

In September we traveled to Gaza and visited the families in whose homes Rachel had stayed.  All were threatened with demolition because of their location near the Egyptian border and the giant steel wall being built there.  We shared meals with these families and played with their children.  In recent months all of their homes have been demolished.

In the West Bank, we witnessed the strategy of separation taking physical form in the web of fences, walls, identification cards, and checkpoints that separate not only Palestinians from Israelis, but Palestinians from Palestinians, farmers from their fields, children from their classrooms, workers from their jobs, the sick from their healthcare, the elderly from their grandchildren, municipalities from their water supplies, and ultimately a people from their land.  In Jerusalem we met members of an Israeli-Palestinian organization "Bereaved Parents" who have lost relatives to the conflict and now work together to end the occupation, and then for peace and reconciliation.  In Israel, we met with peace activists who asked us to return home and work to end U.S. funding of the occupation.

After a year spent learning more, and after experiencing so personally the loss that thousands of Palestinians and Israelis share with us, we echo once again Rachel's plea for it all to end, "This has to stop.  I think it is a good idea for us all to drop everything and devote our lives to making this stop.  I don't think it's an extremist thing to do anymore.  I still really want to dance around to Pat Benetar and have boyfriends and make comics for my co-workers.  But I also want this to stop."

 


RAFAH, March 18, 2003 (ISM) - The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) today used tanks and heavy equipment to disrupt a memorial being held for slain ISM activist Rachel Corrie, who was killed by an IOF armored bulldozer two days ago.

The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) sent the same bulldozer that killed Rachel Corrie to torment her mourners, report ISM-Vancouver activists in Rafah.

Click here for details

 


From Craig and Cindy Corrie, parents of Rachel Corrie
March 16, 2003

We are now in a period of grieving and still finding out the details behind the death of Rachel in the Gaza Strip. We have raised all our children to appreciate the beauty of the global community and family and are proud that Rachel was able to live her convictions.

Rachel was filled with love and a sense of duty to her fellow man, wherever they lived And, she gave her life trying to protect those that are unable to protect themselves. Rachel wrote to us from the Gaza Strip and we would like to release to the media her experience in her own words at this time.
     Thank you.

Excerpts from an e-mail from Rachel Corrie to her family on February 7, 2003

I have been in for two weeks and one hour now, and I still have very few words to describe what I see. It is most difficult for me to think about what's going on here when I sit down to write back to the United States - something about the virtual portal into luxury. I don't know if many of the children here have ever existed without tank-shell holes in their walls and the towers of an occupying army surveying them constantly from the near horizons. I think, although I'm not entirely sure, that even the smallest of these children understand that life is not like this everywhere. An eight-year-old was shot and killed by an Israeli tank two days 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. The children also love to get me to practice my limited Arabic by asking me "Kaif Sharon?" "Kaif Bush?" and they laugh when I say "Bush Majnoon" "Sharon Majnoon" back in my limited Arabic. (How is Sharon? How is Bush? Bush is crazy. Sharon is crazy.) Of course this isn't quite what I believe, and some of the adults who have the English correct me: Bush mish Majnoon... Bush is a businessman. Today I tried to learn to say "Bush is a tool", but I don't think it translated quite right. But anyway, 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.

Nevertheless, I think about the fact that no amount of reading, attendance at conferences, documentary viewing and word of mouth could have prepared me for the reality of the situation here. You just can't imagine it unless you see it, and even then you are always well aware that your experience is not at all the reality: what with the difficulties the Israeli Army would face if they shot an unarmed US citizen, and with the fact that I have money to buy water when the army destroys wells, and, of course, the fact that I have the option of leaving. Nobody in my family has been shot, driving in their car, by a rocket launcher from a tower at the end of a major street in my hometown; I have a home. Ostensibly it is still quite difficult for me to be held for months or years on end without a trial (this because I am a white US citizen, as opposed to so many others). When I leave for school or work I can be relatively certain that there will not be a heavily armed soldier waiting half way between Mud Bay and downtown Olympia at a checkpoint -a soldier with the power to decide whether I can go about my business, and whether I can get home again when I'm done So, if I feel outrage at arriving and entering briefly and incompletely into the world in which these children exist, I wonder conversely about how it would be for them to arrive in my world.

They know that children in the United States don't usually have their parents shot and they know they sometimes get to see the ocean. But once you have seen the ocean and lived in a silent place, where water is taken for granted and not stolen in the night by bulldozers, and once you have spent an evening when you haven't wondered if the walls of your home might suddenly fall inward waking you from your sleep, and once you've met people who have never lost anyone - once you have experienced the reality of a world that isn't surrounded by murderous towers, tanks, armed "settlements" and now a giant metal wall, I wonder if you can forgive the world for all the years of your childhood spent existing - just existing - 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 you from your home. That is something I wonder about these children. I wonder what would happen if they really knew.

As an afterthought to all this rambling, I am in Rafah, a city of about 140,000 people, approximately 60 percent of whom are refugees - many of whom are twice or three times 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 returned to Egypt Currently, the Israeli army is building a fourteen-meter-high wall between Rafah in Palestine and the border, carving a no-man's land from the houses along the border; Six hundred and two homes have been completely bulldozed according to the Rafah Popular Refugee Committee. The number of homes that have been partially destroyed is greater.

Today as I walked on top of the rubble where homes once stood, Egyptian soldiers called to me from the other side of the border, "Go! Go!" because a tank was coming Followed by waving and "what's your name?" There is something disturbing about this friendly curiosity. It reminded me of how much, to some degree, we are all kids curious about other kids: Egyptian kids shouting at strange women wandering into the path of tanks. Palestinian kids shot from the tanks when they peak out from behind walls to see what's going on International kids standing in front of tanks with banners. Israeli kids in the tanks anonymously, occasionally shouting - and also occasionally waving - many forced to be here, many just aggressive, shooting into the houses as we wander away. In addition to the constant presence of tanks along the border and in the western region between Rafah and settlements along the coast, there are more IDF towers here than I can count - along the horizon, at the end of streets. Some just army green metal. Others these strange spiral staircases draped in some kind of netting to make the activity within anonymous. Some hidden, just beneath the horizon of buildings. A new one went up the other day in the time it took us to do laundry and to cross town twice to hang banners Despite the fact that some of the areas nearest the border are the original Rafah with families who have lived on this land for at least a century, only the 1948 camps in the center of the city are Palestinian controlled areas under Oslo But as far as I can tell, there are few if any places that are not within the sights of some tower or another. Certainly there is no place invulnerable to apache helicopters or to the cameras of invisible drones we hear buzzing over the city for hours at a time.

I've been having trouble accessing news about the outside world here, but I hear an escalation of war on Iraq is inevitable. There is a great deal of concern here about the "reoccupation of Gaza." Gaza is reoccupied every day to various extents, but I think the fear is that the tanks will enter all the streets and remain here, instead of entering some of the streets and then withdrawing after some hours or days to observe and shoot from the edges of the communities. If people aren't already thinking about the consequences of this war for the people of the entire region then I hope they will start. I also hope you'll come here. We've been wavering between five and six internationals. The neighborhoods that have asked us for some form of presence are Yibna, Tel El Sultan, Hi Salam, Brazil, Block J, Zorob, and Block O. There is also need for constant night-time presence at a well on the outskirts of since the Israeli army destroyed the two largest wells. According to the municipal water office the wells destroyed last week provided half of Rafah's water supply. Many of the communities have requested internationals to be present at night to attempt to shield houses from further demolition. After about ten p.m. it is very difficult to move at night because the Israeli army treats anyone in the streets as resistance and shoots at them. So clearly we are too few. I continue to believe that my home, Olympia, could gain a lot and offer a lot by deciding to make a commitment to Rafah in the form of a sister-community relationship. Some teachers and children's groups have expressed interest in e-mail exchanges, but this is only the tip of the iceberg of solidarity work that might be done. Many people want their voices to be heard, and I think we need to use some of our privilege as internationals to get those voices heard directly in the US, rather than through the filter of well-meaning internationals such as myself. 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. Thanks for the news I've been getting from friends in the US. I just read a report-back from a friend who organized a peace group in Shelton, Washington, and was able to be part of a delegation to the large January 18th protest in Washington. People here watch the media, and they told me again today that there have been large protests in the United States and "problems for the government" in the UK. So thanks for allowing me to not feel like a complete Pollyanna when I tentatively tell people here that many people in the United States do not support the policies of our government, and that we are learning from global examples how to resist.

 


Statement by the Parents of Rachel Corrie,
at March 19 press conference arranged by Rachel's Congressman, Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA)

We are speaking out today because of Rachel’s fears about the impact of a war with Iraq on the people in the Occupied Territories.  She reported to us that her Palestinian friends were afraid that with all eyes on Iraq, the Israeli Defense Forces would escalate activity in the Occupied Territories.  Rachel wanted to be in Gaza if that happened.

Press Release from the Parents of Rachel Corrie
19 March 2003

Our daughter Rachel, a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement in the Occupied Territories, died Sunday in the Gaza Strip while courageously trying to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home. Our loss is immense, but we are buoyed by the outpouring of support and love that we’ve received from around the world. We understand that Rachel is being remembered in many places in many beautiful ways, and we are grateful. We are comforted and heartened by the compassionate expressions of love that we have received from both Palestinian and Israeli people. We will forever remember and be thankful for Rachel’s ISM and Palestinian friends who cared for her and who held her for us as she died.

We are speaking out today because of Rachel’s fears about the impact of a war with Iraq on the people in the Occupied Territories. She reported to us that her Palestinian friends were afraid that with all eyes on Iraq, the Israeli Defense Forces would escalate activity in the Occupied Territories. Rachel wanted to be in Gaza if that happened.

In the last six weeks, Rachel became our eyes and ears for Rafah, a city at the southern tip of Gaza. Now that she’s no longer there, we are asking members of Congress and, truly, all the world to watch and listen.

One week ago I came rather timidly to members of Rachel’s delegation in Congress, expressing my concerns for the safety of those in the International Solidarity Movement. A piece of me wonders if I had spoken louder or sooner, if this week’s tragedy might have been averted. So today I am speaking up in memory of my daughter and on behalf of all her friends in Gaza.

We are greatly concerned for the non-violent internationals volunteering in the Occupied Territories. We ask that members of Congress call upon the Israeli government to cease harassment of these individuals and, specifically, to cease firing upon them when they are engaged in protecting the Palestinian water supply, protecting Palestinian homes from illegal demolitions, and retrieving bodies of murdered Palestinians for return to their families – all events Rachel witnessed.

In my last phone conversation with Rachel, she expressed that when we fail to support and protect the Internationals who resist non–violently, we also undercut the non-violent initiatives of the Palestinians. We are, therefore, asking our members of Congress to demand that the American Embassy in Tel Aviv, when called upon for assistance, provide all reasonable support to non-violent, American volunteers in the Occupied Territories, as well as support to other internationals as appropriate.

We are asking members of Congress to bring the U.S. government’s attention back to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis and to recognize that the occupation of the Palestinian territories is an overwhelming and continuous act of collective violence against the Palestinian people. We ask that military aid to Israel be commensurate with its efforts to end its occupation of the Palestinian Territories and to adhere to the rules of international law.

Rachel would not want her death to overshadow that of others. In barely glancing at headlines since word came of Rachel’s death, I note that many have died this week in the Occupied Territories – one a four-year-old child. I would like to be able to hold the mother of that child and to have her hold me.

Yesterday, I looked at a publication entitled "Who Will Save the Children?" with photos of children who have died since September 2000 in Israel and in the Occupied Territories. I understand that the next publication will be dedicated to Rachel and will include her photograph.

I want the mothers of these children to know that I have looked at the beaming faces of each of their babies and that I know how much the world has lost with the passing of each one of them.

In one of her e-mails Rachel wrote, "Today as I walked on top of the rubble where homes once stood, Egyptian soldiers called to me from the other side of the border, ‘Go! Go!’ because a tank was coming. Followed by waving and "what’s your name?" There is something disturbing about this friendly curiosity. It reminded me of how much, to some degree, we are all kids curious about other kids: Egyptian kids shouting at strange women wandering into the path of tanks. Palestinian kids shot from the tanks when they peek out from behind walls to see what’s going on. International kids standing in front of tanks with banners. Israeli kids in the tanks anonymously, occasionally shouting - and also occasionally waving – many forced to be here, many just aggressive, shooting into the houses as we wander away." How I wish that the young man in the bulldozer that killed Rachel could have just stopped, hopped out, and talked to her. He would have met a beautiful soul.

In another e-mail, Rachel wrote, "This has to stop. I think it is a good idea for us all to drop everything and devote our lives to making this stop. I don’t think it’s an extremist thing to do anymore. I really want to dance around to Pat Benatar and have boyfriends and make comics for my co-workers. But I also want this to stop. Disbelief and horror is what I feel. Disappointment. I am disappointed that this is the base reality of our world and that we, in fact, participate in it. This is not at all what I asked for when I came into this world. This is not at all what the people here asked for when they came into this world. This is not what they are asking for now. This is not the world you and Dad wanted me to come into when you decided to have me."

Rachel’s brutal death illustrates dramatically the madness of war.
 
Craig and Cindy Corrie

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