Rachel Corrie Joins Palestinians in Longing for Justice
By Hanan Ashrawi
March 17, 2004

The oppressive nature of a military occupation eventually victimizes the occupier much like it does the occupied. Gradually, the stench of moral decay overwhelms, internalizing a warped system of “values” that erodes the fabric of the occupying power’s society from within. Generations, haunted by a history of murder, will have to acknowledge, and bear the consequences, that the source of their deprived humanity was their very own elected leadership. The tragedy, of course, is the realization that this could have been prevented.

Israel, the patron of the longest occupation in modern history, is on a steady course to moral bankruptcy. A staggering absence of any critical self-examination and assessment within Israeli society, which has long surrendered to panic politics and an ingrained belief that they are the sole victims, has allowed the generation of a horrific pattern of “legalized” injustice, turning the Palestinian territory into killing fields. In rationalizing and distorting the horrors of its occupation, Israel has unashamedly resorted to perhaps the most indicative sign of guilt, blaming the victim.

When Israeli troops ruthlessly murdered Rachel Corrie, she became the victim of both Israel’s brutal occupation and the full force of its “spin machine.” It is a common trait of the cowardly to malign the victim, in this case, accusing her of having brought about the deserved cruelty of the crime. A ruthless campaign was pursued to distort the truth, despite irrefutable evidence, resulting in the total dehumanization of the victim and the elimination of her most basic rights and attributes as well as claims to protection.

Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old student from Olympia, Washington, was murdered while attempting to prevent an Israeli army bulldozer from demolishing a Palestinian home near the southern Gaza city of Rafah. Despite being dressed in a bright colored orange vest, with reflective stripes, and carrying a bullhorn in broad daylight, Israel claimed the soldier driving a 52 ton D-9 bulldozer “could not see” his victim, as he mercilessly crushed her.

When photographs emerged clearly depicting this horrific crime, the Israeli military immediately accused Rachel Corrie of being “irresponsible,” as though this justified deliberate death. Adding insult to injury, in a recent tasteless commentary printed in Israel’s most popular English language newspaper, The Jerusalem Post, the writer is appalled by the exploitive use of the photographs, rather than the murder they so clearly document.

Rachel Corrie was the first US citizen to fall victim to Israel’s indiscriminate lethal force; her death remains ruled as an accident, without any objections from the American government. In fact, the perpetuation of the most brutal (and last remaining) military occupation in history “enjoys” the cover of impunity provided by its strategic alliance with the US, which has produced an alarming formula for lawlessness, radicalization, violence, and destabilization.

And so, it is with the blessings of the US that Corrie’s killer walks free. As Israeli tanks roll through Palestinian villages, towns, and refugee camps; as Apache gunships shell homes and assassinate their human targets; as Palestinian land is stolen and Israeli settlements are expanding; as Israeli prisons swell with Palestinians and the separation wall turns all Palestinian areas into prisons and isolation cells; Washington turns a blind eye.

Rachel Corrie came to the Palestinian territory armed with only her humanity. She believed in non-violent resistance and paid for it with her life. While her family and friends continue calling for an independent investigation, perhaps knowing that Palestinians remember the selflessness and bravery of a young woman, whose life was callously frozen at 23, brings some comfort.