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Remembering Rachel, Recognizing Oppression

by Eric David Stein Thursday, Mar. 17, 2005 at 11:30 PM none Santa Cruz

SUMMARY:The West Coastrecently hosted a visit by Amy Goodman, spurring some debate but widespread admiration. On Wednesday March 16, Democracy now spotlights the Corrie killing, also hotly debated in these parts. Stein asks if we recognize "sowing of bitterness, suspicion and intolerance as crimes in themselves".



On March 16, 2003, two years ago today, Rachel Corrie was

crushed and killed under an American-made bulldozer operated by the

Israeli governement. This tragic event took place less than a week

before the first bombs fell on the City of Bagdad. Indeed, some

regard Rachel as the first casualty of that war.

Amnesty International is calling on Condolezza Rice for a State Department investigation but as yet Rice has not acted. Tommorow the Corries' attorney will be contacting US DOJ officials in this regard. The y are also suing the State of Israel and Catepillar, manufacturer of the bulldozer that was used to kill Rachel.

Amy Goodman is today featuring an interview with Rachel

Corrie's parents, their attorney, and Washington State US Congressman Adam Smith, who delivered a letter to the Israeli government requesting a thorough investigation of the matter. Smith has co-sponsored a bill with Bill Baird for the US to conduct it's own investigation, as the Israeli government was dismissive of the whole matter.

Rachel was an intense young activist who was deeply concerned

with the demolition of Palestinian homes, and the growing violence

directed toward Palestinian civilians, many of them children. The

policy of the (IDF) Israeli Defense Forces of destroying the homes

of Palestinian civilians has been held responsible for rendering

whole families homeless and contributing to high infant mortality

rates and other consequences. Rachel paid with her life for her

concern, and thereby joins the ranks of Mohandas Ghandi, Martin

Luther King, and Chico Mendes in the ranks of martyrs to the cause

of non-violence and justice.

Her parents have announced that they are now suing Caterpillar,

manufacturer of the deadly armored bulldozer, and the State of

Israel. On her nationally syndicated Democracy Now radio program,

available at, Goodman features this litigation

and speaks with Rachel's family and a US Congressman about the

suit and a transcript is posted on the website.

While Rachel's tragic death has been almost universally met

with grief and anger, a small coterie of individuals, who some would

characterize as extremists, have taunted the mourners with

suggestions that Rachel somehow deserved her fate. Sadly, some

otherwise peaceful and progressive individuals seems to have

generated often furious and even vituperative debate over the

matter. Often this is part of a pattern of highly emotional defense

of virtually every act of the Israeli government as essential to the

safety and security of Israelis and even of Jewish people in

general. Parties espousing those emotionally-charged defenses of IDF

actions often ignore harm done to Palestinian civilians and peace

activists, choosing to focus single-mindedly on that small fraction

of the Palestinian population which engages in armed struggle.

That minority viewpoint is that the incident was entirely

accidental and that contributory negligence on Rachel's part is as

much to blame as any callousness on the part of the Israeli Defense

Forces. But the majority of discussants in informed forums point out

that the Israeli government never adequately investigated the

incident, and the mainstream media has quietly swept the matter

under the rug. Others allege that the killing was deliberate and

authorized at the highest levels of the Israeli government,

to "teach a lesson" to international activists. Such persons point

to the pattern wherein other international activists from nominally

nuetral countries have been beaten, shot and even killed by IDF


Rachel was a charismatic and intelligent college student who

sacrificed a great deal for her beliefs. Certainly no one can deny

that she will remain a noble figure in the eyes of history, whether

or not one supports her specific priorities. And reasonable persons

can differ on priorities in the region - for instance, whether the

guerilla tactics of the Palestinian armed factions should be

condemned equally, greater than, or less than the predations of the

IDF (Israeli Defense Forces).

But would any reasonable person would let a shrill tone

suggest disrespect to someone who has sacrificed themselves in such

a striking manner?

The tragedy is compounded by the occurence of her death at the

commencement of hostilities in Iraq. The run-up to the Iraq war was

marked by a never-ending series of disgraceful revelations: Bush

lies in the State of the Union speech, the outing of a CIA agent,

the inexcusable neglect of Condolezza Rice, who alleged that the

aluminum tubes imported to Iraq "could only" be used for nuclear

weapons, etcetera.

In a climate of saber rattling, Bible thumping and spurious

allegations, Rachels' spirit and her testament were run over with

rhetoric as ruthlessly as her body was run over by a Catepillar


George F. Kennan, former US ambassador to the USSR and Yugoslavia,

wrote, "until peoples learn to spot the fanning of mass emotions and

the sowing of bitterness, suspicion and intolerance as crimes in

themselves- as perhaps the greatest disservice that can be done to

the cause of popular governement - this sort of thing will continue

to occur."

Hopefully, we will, and it won't.

- The Steinasaurus

See also:

Also of interest:

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