“Happy Birthday, Rachel!” This is what she would have heard in her hometown, Olympia, Washington. Her family and friends would have cheerfully flocked around her as she blew out forty candles on April 10, 2019. However, Rachel Corrie deserves a warm international celebration on this day to appreciate her dedication to expressing the value of solidarity.
Rachel Corrie, who was born to a middle-class American family on April 10, 1979, could have had a normal life in which she did not care about what was going on in her world, but she knew she had a responsibility to express and take action, imposed on her by her humanity and values. Rachel expressed her moral responsibilities as a child, as revealed in the moving speech she gave when she was 10, known as the fifth-grade speech. She talked about childhood pains in her world and the need to take action. “I’m here for other children. I’m here because I care. I’m here because children everywhere are suffering,” she said in 1990.
This schoolgirl grew up with an alert human conscience, and as a university student, she joined the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). She joined at a time when the Israeli occupation forces were committing constant killings and daily widespread destruction campaigns in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
READ: Rachel Corrie remembered
On one of her trips, the American woman travelled to the Gaza Strip. She saw the Israeli army’s armoured bulldozers destroying Palestinian homes and razing their agricultural land.
On March 16, 2003, Corrie held the loudspeaker and by one of the army’s bulldozer in Al-Salam neighbourhood in Rafah, located near the Egyptian border in the southern part of Gaza. She repeatedly urged them to stop the destruction, which, throughout a few years, led to the destruction of the basic life needs for thousands of Palestinians in Rafah alone. Some Israeli commentators described the destruction of houses and civilian facilities and the bulldozing of trees and farmlands as giving the area a “zero buzz cut” because it removed everything in their path.
Rachel Corrie wore an orange high visibility vest, required to identify her as a volunteer in solidarity work, as she issued multiple appeals. However, the bulldozer continued to approach her without slowing down until it crushed this 24-year-old American civil activist. This tragedy embodied how the successive Israeli governments and its military forces typically behaved, i.e. disregard for international appeals and their continued occupation, oppression, war crimes, and countless violations without any regard for any appeals.
The Israeli occupation army resorted to its habit of evading responsibility for this crime by opening an investigation into what happened and absolved itself from causing the brutal murder of Corrie. It considered it to be an unintended accident. This conclusion was rejected by the most prominent human rights organisations in the world, including Israeli and Palestinian organisations. In 2012, an Israeli court acquitted the occupation army and the bulldozer driver of any responsibility for what happened after Rachel’s parents filed a lawsuit in this regard. This was denounced by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Richard Falk. It is sickening that the Israeli reports continued to downplay the crime, justify it, and even blame the victim, even though the army bulldozer driver buried Rachel Corrie alive as she screamed into the loudspeaker while wearing her orange vest, visible to everyone.
Time did not stop on March 16, 2003, the day on which the tragic incident occurred in Rafah. Rachel Corrie grew in the human conscience and became a symbol of solidarity in the world after she was buried alive as the price for her solidarity. As for her family, they are no longer just the loving family living in Olympia, as Rachel has become an inspirational international icon. She has also become a Palestinian given her attachment to a fair cause that cannot be extinguished. Her name lives in Palestine in the names of many facilities.
It is true that President Donald Trump will not find time on Rachel’s 40th birthday to commemorate his fellow American who was brutally crushed by the Israeli occupation army, while the congressional sessions will avoid mentioning her name on this occasion. However, through this young brave woman, America presented a loyal face in its international expression of noble human values, as Rachel Corrie’s name inspired a generation of solidarity activists after her who then carried loudspeakers to defend human rights, justice, and the people’s freedoms and to combat injustice, aggression and war crimes.
On April 10, 2019, there will be an international celebration honouring the sacrifices of activists showing solidarity with Palestine around the world, with forty candles for Rachel Corrie.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.