Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Corrie's legacy deserves to live long in the memory

Rachel Corrie is a hero to Palestinians. But why is she almost unknown in her own country, the US?

If you've never heard of Rachel Corrie, two YouTube clips should sum up this remarkable American woman.

In the first, a fresh-faced 10-year-old fifth-grader talks about her dreams of eradicating hunger for children around the world. "I'm here because I care."

The second, an interview by Middle East Broadcasting 13 years later, reveals a distraught 23-year-old peace activist talking of the desperation engulfing the lives of Palestinians in Gaza under Israeli occupation. "I feel like I'm witnessing the systematic destruction of a people's ability to survive," she says.

Two days later, on March 16, 2003, Corrie made herself a human shield, attempting to stop an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) bulldozer from demolishing the home of Palestinian pharmacist Samir Nasrallah. She was wearing a fluorescent jacket and speaking through a megaphone when she lost her balance and fell. Seconds later she was crushed by the advancing IDF vehicle. Her last words were: "My back is broken, my back is broken."

Nine years on, Corrie's family are still awaiting official acknowledgement of this injustice. Not surprisingly, an investigation by the state of Israel absolved the driver of any wrongdoing, despite testimony of four eyewitnesses, Corrie's co-workers with the International Solidarity Movement, who said she had been clearly visible. The IDF blamed her death on falling debris.

A civil lawsuit, filed in 2005 on behalf of Rachel's parents Craig and Cindy Corrie and her sister Sarah Corrie Simpson, concluded last month. The suit charges the state of Israel with responsibility for Rachel's killing and failure to conduct a fair investigation. Next Tuesday, August 28, the Haifa District Court 's decision will finally be announced.

The case has already made a difference. CAT D9 bulldozers, like the one involved in Rachel's death, have come under increasing scrutiny for the part they play in destroying Palestinian homes. And no one has done more than the Corries, and The Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice, to raise awareness of the continuing demolitions.

Small victories have followed. In 2010, the Jerusalem Post reported that Caterpillar Inc, a US-based company, was withholding delivery of bulldozers to Israel for the duration of the case. And last year, at Caterpillar's annual shareholders' meeting in Little Rock, Arkansas, the firm's directors were questioned, mainly by the rights group Jewish Voice for Peace, about sales to Israel and the company's human rights practices.

Today, Caterpillar has become one of the main targets of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), an international economic campaign against Israel that began in 2005. Indeed, the BDS campaign was in part responsible for the downgrading of Caterpillar Inc's financial rating in June by MSCI, a company that analyses companies and stocks, and the subsequent decision by investment firm TIAA-CREF to drop the firm from its Social Choice Funds Portfolio.

But demolitions continue, as do settlement expansions in the West Bank. Sadly, even victory for the Corries next week is unlikely to stop the destruction of Palestinian homes, roads, farms and olive trees. The intentions of those who use the bulldozers remain a long way from being altered.

And yet awareness of Rachel Corrie's actions, and her family's tireless campaigning, have been priceless for Palestinians.

What is harder to comprehend is the lack of support for the Corries in the US, where the media in particular has been shamefully quiet on Rachel's death. Some outlets even accused her of protecting terrorists. Today, few in the US have a true understanding of her case.

Whatever the decision next week, Rachel Corrie's legacy deserves wider acknowledgement. Above all, she should be remembered as a hero by Americans, as she is by Palestinians.

 

akhaled@thenational.ae

On Twitter: @AliKhaled_

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Ali Benflis, opposition leader and main rival to Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika speaks to the press after casting his vote in the presidential elections at a polling station in Algiers on. Former prime minister Benflis ran against Bouteflika in 2004 but lost heavily, charging the vote was rigged 10 years ago and has said fraud will be his ‘main adversary’ during the election. Patrick Baz / AFP Photo

Best photography from around the world, April 17

The National View's photo editors pick the best images of the day from around the world.

 Above, the private pool of Ocean Heights' five-bedroom penthouse flat. Courtesy Christie’s International Real Estate

In pictures: Penthouse flat is height of Dubai luxury living

A five-bedroom penthouse in Ocean Heights in Dubai Marina is on sale for Dh25 million and comes with a private pool and an unparalleled view of Dubai.

Video: Local reactions to a national fishing ban

A federal fishing ban has been imposed by the UAE federal government, but local authorities are taking diiferent approaches to implementing the ban. Two fishermen tell two very different sides of the story. Produced by Paul O'Driscoll

 Southampton owner Katharina Liebherr is pictured before the Premier League match between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium in Southampton, southern England, on March 1, 2014. Glyn Kirk / AFP

New Southampton owner leading club’s resurgence from the shadows

Katharina Liebherr keeping with family tradition and letting others dominate the spotlight

 The new Bentley GT Speed convertible on display at a press event of the New York International Auto Show. Jason Szenes / EPA

In pictures: Hot cars at New York International Auto Show

With more than 1 million visitors annually, the New York International Auto Show is one of the most important shows for the US car industry. Here are some of the vehicles to be shown in this year’s edition.

 The cast of Fast & Furious 7, including Michelle Rodriguez and Vin Diesel, centre, on set at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Fast & Furious 7 filming in full swing at Emirates Palace

Filming for Fast & Furious 7 has started and we have the first photos of the cast and crew on set at Emirates Palace hotel this morning. Visitors staying at Emirates Palace say they have been kept away from certain areas in the grounds.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National