Creating new perspectives since 2009

Remembering Rachel Corrie ten years on

January 23, 2014 at 4:52 am

On March 16, activists will be remembering the day when Israeli soldiers annihilated the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) activist Rachel Corrie’s life. Ten years ago, whilst striving to protect a Palestinian family home from possible demolition by Israeli soldiers, Corrie was crushed to death by a bulldozer – an act which so far has not elicited any semblance of responsibility on behalf of Israel.

The ruling issued by an Israeli judge absolved Israel of this crime, citing a flawless internal investigation carried out by the Israeli army regarding the killing. It accepted the military’s version of events, including that soldiers on scene ‘did everything they could’ to minimise possible harm to activists engaged in non-violent resistance.

Conversely, the Israeli army’s history has portrayed the opposite. The impunity enjoyed by Israeli forces includes investigations carried out privately which exclude testimony from witnesses not pertaining to the military. Apart from contradictory testimony by the soldier driving the bulldozer, in which Corrie appeared and disappeared at random intervals and supposedly explained why he was unable to see an activist standing on a pile of rubble above the bulldozer’s blade, Israeli soldiers described activists as ‘terrorists’ or ‘tourists’ who might have been armed. The driver also stated he was obeying directives ‘not to stop work’, hence Corrie’s death was not regarded as murder but rather as collateral damage.
An innovative approach in Israeli judicial history was the association of activism with violence. Judge Oded Gershom  deemed ISM activists to become ‘practically violent’ through association with the Palestinian struggle, accusing them of intentionally distorting human rights discourse in order to sustain ‘financial, logistical and moral aid to the Palestinians, including terrorists and their family members’.

The Israeli concept of ‘civilians’ is clearly distorted when applied to Palestinians or activists in solidarity with the Palestinian cause. The area targeted for home demolitions was verbally transformed into a war zone – according to the Israeli army ‘There are no civilians by definition’.  Impunity has allowed the military to obliterate the definition of civilians unless applied to their own people – a trend manifested repeatedly in countless assaults on Palestinians and resonating further during military action against Palestinian people.
Judging by the reaction to Corrie’s death, activism will continue to be perceived as a threat by Israelis. The occupation’s insistence on treating activists as terrorists will serve to flaunt Israel’s hypocritical response to a democratic activity. Despite efforts to manipulate discourse in order to appear victimised and therefore authorised to use force against the illusion of threat to its military, scorn is garnered, rather than sympathy. The issue at stake is governments’ undemocratic measures to protect and maintain relations with an illegal state instead of providing protection to its citizens according to international human rights law.
The anniversary will probably go unmarked by corporate media, owing to its vested interests in portraying Israel as a democracy. In the sphere of social movements and resistance, Rachel Corrie’s death will be a reminder of wilful aggression and revenge, thus uniting the Palestinian struggle within an internationalist framework of resistance, whilst Israel wallows within its constructed fortress of oblivion.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.