Ah, Rachel Corrie. We all remember the late Rachel Corrie, the American martyr, the heroine of the anti-Israel (and America) far left, who traveled to the Gaza Strip in early 2003 as part of the International Solidarity Movement, and was killed while attempting to impede an Israeli D-9 bulldozer from demolishing… it’s not clear: was it the house of Samir Nasrallah or was it a tunnel through which minitions for attacks on Israeli civilians were being smuggled? She became an icon for Palestinians and their international supporters. Plays were written in her honor, and scholarships and babies carry her name in Arab countries.
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.
Ah would some Power the giftie gie them to see their daughter as others see her. Yes, a beautiful soul. And what an example for the little Palestinian children around her.
An interview with Rachel two days before her death in Gaza does not portray an introspective, discerning young woman, but rather shows a girl in over her head offering slogans and cliches about Israeli brutality, virginal Palestinian innocence, etc. Wherever she is now, I wonder how she is twisting Hamas’ brutal takeover of the Gaza Strip into a product of Israeli colonialism to whoever has the patience to listen to her force a line of reasoning through her ‘ums’ and ‘uhs’.
She says that Israel is systematically destroying the Palestinians ability to survive. The Palestinian economy has crumbled since Israel left — gone are the jobs in Gush Katif, and even the greenhouses that the Israelis left for them were destroyed.
Rachel’s parents write:
Rachel’s brutal death illustrates dramatically the madness of war.
They should have written, “Rachel’s brutal death illustrates dramatically the madness of parents who let their initially well-intentioned young daughter be brainwashed by the dominant activist scene at her college (Evergreen State), and then let her go to a war zone to protect terrorists and be used by them as a propaganda piece… to prolong the madness of war.”
On Commentarymagazine.com, Roberta Seid reviewed the recently released diary of Rachel Corrie, entitled Let Me Stand Alone: The Journals of Rachel Corrie. Seid’s finds an idealistic student who allowed herself to be indoctrinated by the activists at Evergreen, who never dealt with events that ran counter to the narrative taught to her, and who was oblivious to the gap between her notion of cruel Israelis and her actual experiences with them.
Her more rebellious teen and college years were filled with intermittent depression, struggles with her mother, neo-beat activities, all-night drug and alcohol parties, a job on the graveyard shift of a mental health service for low-income clients, cigarette smoking in the early dawn streets with the town’s derelicts after her shift, and bouts of agoraphobia.
The diaries demonstrate little introspection. Rachel Corrie rarely questioned herself, her opinions, or her motives. In her writings, she attempted no human portraits, except very brief ones of her first love, Colin, and even these are about how he reacts to her. Hers is a hermetic world, and her idealism was similarly focused inward — an inchoate, vague passion that fastened on a variety of the progressive causes espoused by her family, home town, and college, Evergreen.
A fairly good description of at least one dimension of moral autism.
All this made Rachel ripe fodder for the ISM. This Palestinian-led organization callously recruited idealistic, naïve “internationals” to break Israeli law, violate IDF security zones, indoctrinate them with its peculiar version of the conflict, and to groom them as future speakers for its anti-Israel cause. While soothing volunteers by insisting that ISM engaged only in non-violent resistance, the organization nonetheless defended and abetted Palestinian violence (its website affirmed the “right to armed resistance against occupation”) and was committed to dismantling Israel’s counter-terrorism measures which were intended to prevent the mass murder of Israelis…
The second culprit should be Corrie’s school, the progressive Evergreen College, which irresponsibly encouraged her participation with ISM. Corrie wrote that the course that most affected her was “Local Knowledge,” whose primary purpose was to get students involved in community activism for progressive causes. The class focused on the “links between historic repression, racism, propaganda campaigns and xenophobia to our present situation.” She concluded that “it’s important that human rights and resistance to oppression be included in the way we define ourselves as a community.”
Maybe it was in this class, too, that she learned that the United States is “perhaps one of the most racist countries in the world.” …She was oblivious to the larger context of the conflict and to her surroundings, and her apparent lack of curiosity about them, is breathtaking. There is not a word in the journals about the terrorist campaign unleashed on Israel in September 2000, not a word that reveals that Gaza, especially Rafah (where Corrie stayed) was a hotbed of terrorism and arms smuggling. She apparently never watched the videos of suicide bombers’ last statements, or questioned the increasing radicalization of Palestinian society. Rachel never mentions the Palestinian Authority or Yasser Arafat, and gives no inkling of Gaza as a clan-based society with competing clans vying for power. There is no sense that she tried to understand or was even aware of the society in which she now lived.
This may have something to do with the fact that ISM severely discourages their youthful activists from challenging the morality of suicide terror among their hosts. On the contrary:
As an ISM volunteer we expect you to be in contact with local activists and leadership and to respect the guidance of those around you. Respect for their views and guidance should be your highest priority.” (International Solidarity Movement Information Pack, p. 44)
In other words, someone like Rachel, with her exquisite concerns for justice and prejudice could not afford to be curious about the culture she was protecting. Indeed, one wonders how long she, or her parents after her, would receive the warm welcome they got were they to show even the slightest disapproval of the moral tactics of their heroic “resisters”.
Nor did she make any effort to analyze Israel’s predicament. Her radical sources convinced her that Sharon’s “fingerprints” were on Palestinian suicide bombings: Sharon’s policy is “assassination-during-peace-negotiations/suicide attack within the green line/land grab strategy, which is working well now to create settlements all over the Occupied Territories….” – and again–“Sharon has I think pretty much admitted that suicide bombings are a way of getting more land under the guise of security.”
She continually imposed her own grid of beliefs to interpret facts on the ground. She defended terrorism when she acknowledged it existed, claiming that “international law…recognizes the right of people to legitimate armed struggle.” If people in her hometown of Olympia faced the dire conditions Gaza faced, she rhetorically asked her mother, don’t you think “we might try to use somewhat violent means to protect the edge of the greenhouses, to protect whatever fragments remained?”
The language here is quite revealing: “…somewhat violent means” is her euphemism for blowing “ourselves” up in the middle of civilians? As for the greenhouses… who destroyed them in the first place?
Unless her family excluded them from the published journals, she also made no mention of Israeli terror victims. Instead, she claimed that “the vast majority of Palestinians right now, as far as I can tell, are engaging in Gandhian non-violent resistance” — a counterfactual observation that led Times of London reviewer Clive Davis to write that “Even the late Yassir Arafat might have blushed at that one.”
Finally, what is most curious about Corrie’s Journals is that hard as she tried to impose the ISM narrative on what she saw, her reports constantly contradicted this narrative, though she didn’t recognize the contradictions.
She wrote that decades of occupation had oppressed Palestinians, yet Gazans kept saying that their difficult situation was due to the Intifada and to Israel’s subsequent counterterrorism measures, not to a decades-old occupation. One Gazan said, “There was a peaceful time in the late seventies and early eighties…things were better before Sharon” — that is, before Sharon became Prime Minister in 2001. (253) Another told her: “Before — no tanks, no bulldozers, no gunshots. Quiet….No noise. After Intifada, daily. Gunshots daily.”
She even confirmed that conditions in Gaza worsened only with the Intifada. She wrote that 60,000 people from Rafah had worked in Israel in 2001, but that the number had dropped to 600 by 2003. But she never drew the logical conclusion that her Gazan informants kept repeating — the terrorist campaign had forced Israel to take defensive measures.
Similarly, Corrie demonized the Israeli soldiers, but they hardly appear demonic. When she and other internationals stand in front of the tanks, the soldiers “open their weird tank lids and wave at us.” The Israeli district command officer worked to “ensure the safety of Palestinian workers.”
Nor, to her surprise, were Palestinians afraid of the soldiers. When a Gazan runs from his home with his two children after ISM mistakenly informed him that his house was to be demolished, she “was terrified to think that this man felt it was less of a risk to walk out in view of the tanks with his kids than to stay in his house.” She tried to interpose herself between him and the tanks, yet he clearly did not need her protection. Children play in full view of the tanks, apparently unafraid. (She was stunned to find that despite tanks and bulldozers passing by, “all of these people are genuinely cheerful” — even though this did not fit into her preconceived notions. When IDF soldiers entered a house to position themselves on the roof, no one was bothered or harassed. The children just watched cartoons on TV.
Indeed, despite Israel’s counterterrorism measures, Palestinians were free to carry on their usual activities and even anti-Israel rallies. While she was there, Eid celebrations were held, and so was the anti-Israel, anti-US rally where Rachel burned a paper replica of the American flag. Such rallies were held even though, according to Corrie, a former IDF commander expressed concern that “terrorists would sneak into our ‘political protest’ and attack settlements.”
While she claimed that the IDF bulldozed homes even though families were still inside, she also admitted (on page 311) that most of the homes were empty during these IDF operations. While she and other internationals denounced the checkpoints, they nonetheless described them as similar to the security checks at international airports.
Oddly, too, while Rachel condemned various IDF actions that she witnessed, she inadvertently revealed that they were justified. When she and other ISM internationals ran to retrieve the body of a “martyr,” she did note that the terrorist group, DFLP, had sent him on his mission to attack soldiers. While she bemoaned the IDF’s destruction of Gazan homes, she admitted that most were located near tunnels — the arms smuggling tunnels the IDF was trying to destroy — or just along the border, precisely where Israel was trying to create a buffer zone to prevent more arms smuggling. She blamed the IDF for blowing up a Palestinian greenhouse, even while she acknowledged that someone from the “Palestinian resistance” had planted an explosive there and the IDF was merely defusing it.
“The surreal thing is that we are safe” here, she wrote. More surreal is the fact that Rachel Corrie, indoctrinated by the ISM, her college, and suspect sources, imposed her preconceived notions on a situation that did not match those preconceptions. Tragically, anti-Israel activists are exploiting her accidental death to promote this surreal narrative.
The greater tragedy is that her parents are doing the same. Their lack of curiosity about the ISM and their wholesale acceptance of its propaganda are startling, especially given that the ISM put their daughter in danger. Nor has evidence that the ISM activists sheltered known suicide bombers and terrorists, and was barred from entering Israel, dampened their defense of the organization. Instead of using their bitter experience as a warning to parents of other would-be ISM recruits, they are using their position as bereaved parents to win sympathy for the group most responsible for their daughter’s death.
I met Rachel Corrie’s parents. They are sad and angry people who deal with their pain by striking out at the enemy as their daughter defined it. It is their way of dealing with their loss. It is a sad testimony to the human need for scapegoats as a way to avoid painful truths — that their daughter did not have to die, and, in particular, had she wanted a heroic death, she could not have chosen a more ignominious cause.
I am currently reading about the excellent and depressing research of David Collier into the Palestinian Solidarity Commission, England’s largest and most “prestigious” “pro-Palestinian” group with Read More »