I have been in Palestine for two weeks and one hour now, and I still have very few words to describe what I see. It is most difficult for me to think about what’s going on here when I sit down to write back to the United States. Something about the virtual portal into luxury. I don’t know if many of the children here have ever existed without tank-shell holes in their walls and the towers of an occupying army surveying them constantly from the near horizons. I think, although I’m not entirely sure, that even the smallest of these children understand that life is not like this everywhere. An eight-year-old was shot and killed by an Israeli tank two days before I got here, and many of the children murmur his name to me – Ali – or point at the posters of him on the walls.
No amount of reading, attendance at conferences, documentary viewing and word of mouth could have prepared me for the reality of the situation here. You just can’t imagine it unless you see it – and even then you are always well aware that your experience of it is not at all the reality: what with the difficulties the Israeli army would face if they shot an unarmed US citizen, and with the fact that I have money to buy water when the army destroys wells, and the fact, of course, that I have the option of leaving. Nobody in my family has been shot, driving in their car, by a rocket launcher from a tower at the end of a major street in my hometown. I have a home. I am allowed to go see the ocean. Ostensibly it is still quite difficult for me to be held for months or years on end without a trial (this because I am a white US citizen, as opposed to so many others). When I leave for school or work I can be relatively certain that there will not be a heavily armed soldier waiting halfway between Mud Bay and downtown Olympia at a checkpoint with the power to decide whether I can go about my business, and whether I can get home again when I’m done. So, if I feel outrage at arriving and entering briefly and incompletely into the world in which these children exist, I wonder conversely about how it would be for them to arrive in my world.
— Rachel Corrie
Rachel Corrie is the stuff legends are made of. This frail 23 year old from Olympia, Washington was crushed to death 9 years ago by a 20 ton steel monster. The monster, a fortified Caterpillar D9, is the IDF’s favorite mechanical beast used to demolish Palestinian homes and denude the landscape of Palestine as part of the Jewish Lebensraum project. They are supplanted by concrete blocks of Jewish settlements designed by the interior ministry’s grey suited clerks in charge of “judaization”. These mechanical beasts, the very symbol of Zionism and its relentless drive to erase the history and the people of Palestine, are the same ones that have been used since Israel’s creation to uproot centuries-old olive groves and to raze to the ground hundreds of scenic villages, turning their inhabitants into stateless refugees. It is not surprising that Israel’s greatest Palestinian killer, Ariel Sharon, was amicably nicknamed “The Bulldozer” by his fans. The Zionist project of erasure and its group of unscrupulous leaders have turned a pastoral Palestine into a giant ghetto surrounded and divided by walls and barbed wire, a reflection of the post WWII Jewish psyche and end product of Zionism’s ideals of separation between Jew and non-Jew.
Feeble hearted justice warriors seek out easier opponents. You can join the fight to save the rain forest and nobody will persecute and slander you. You can fight against Japanese whaling and your local Rep will have your back. You can fight against corporate corruption, Wall Street or Halliburton and you will have front page headlines exalting your deeds. You will not risk as much as a scratch on your finger. If you are looking for a safe battle, you can join any of these good intentioned people. It will not cost you a thing and at the end of the day you will go back safely to your home and to your job and you will feel great about your contribution to humanity.
Rachel Corrie however was made of different stuff altogether. She saw evil – a great big evil – and stared it in the eyes. She did not turn her head in the other direction as most people would do. The fact that her country supported this evil made her even more resolved to confront it. A meeker man would have just pretended that he didn’t see or dismissed it as the way nature goes, the strong devours the weak, the world is lawless and justice is just a fantasy. Let the lion eat the lamb, that’s how nature goes. Why get in the way and risk injury? But Rachel Corrie saw humans, not lions and lambs. Oppressor and oppressed. A struggle of a defenseless indigenous population against colonial oppression and dispossession, backed and supported by the world’s only superpower. Perhaps the most desperate odds of any struggle for justice in modern times and against the most powerful forces in world politics where the sadistic oppressor waves the eternal victim card and sees himself as unbound by the laws of humanity.
So what is a 23 year old girl from Olympia, Washington to do? Her father is not a Senator or a billionaire, she does not command an army, she has nothing to gain and everything to lose. Her own country and Congressmen are enthusiastic supporters of Israeli oppression and send their congratulations each time the Israeli bulldozers wipe another Palestinian neighborhood. All they see is campaign donation checks. Like trained lab rats, they know which lever to pull to make the cash pour in.
Fast forward a few months later and here we are at high noon, in a drama of Zionist production. The location: Gaza, 10,000 miles away from Rachel’s home. An impoverished strip of land, a cage for humans of Zionist creation, crowded by a million and a half people, half of which are refugees whose original homes and lands are in what is now Israel. These downtrodden people living in an open air prison, colonized by Jewish settlers and terrorized by the Israeli military, are the target of the insatiable Zionist drive for more land. The Israeli military commander has issued an order to demolish a row of houses for “security purposes”. The 20 ton grey armored beast, courtesy of American taxpayers, is driven by a recent Russian immigrant. Dozens of innocent families are to become homeless and join the millions of other homeless, stateless and destitute victims of Zionism. Between them stands the frail 23 year old from Washington, using the only weapon at her disposal: her body.
There are other actors in this high drama, but they are invisible. The Washington Senator, fast asleep in his bed with his lovely wife in his million dollar mansion. His job is to support the Israeli bulldozers and to repeat the Israeli official version verbatim; The Israeli General who gave the order, a rugged man in uniform who views the world through the barrel of a gun and for whom the faceless Palestinian families are the enemy, just an obstacle to be removed; And the ghost of Zionism and its invented mythology, that which views European immigrants as having exclusive rights to the land and the native inhabitants as hostile intruders who must be destroyed.
The Russian immigrant bulldozer driver, embodying the banality of evil, is just doing his job, probably eager to get back home to his family after the work is completed. Rachel Corrie is just a nuisance that stands in the way of his fulfillment of his loyalty test to his new country by crushing the houses of its native inhabitants, a sort of a macabre initiation ritual. Israel usually prefers to send new immigrants and the lowest classes of its society to “deal with Palestinians” as it knows they will be eager to assert their superiority over the untermensch and to prove their loyalty and curry favor with their benefactors, perhaps earning a chance to propel themselves into a higher sphere in the Israeli caste system, which they rarely do. They are the end product of Zionism and one of its perverse manifestations where a person can immigrate to Israel one day and the next day participate in oppressing the natives of the land, or as in the case of Moldovan immigrant Evet Lieberman, who leads a political party that calls for the expulsion of the people who have lived on the land for countless generations.
The end of this drama is known: Rachel is crushed under the tracks of the 20 ton machine, the houses get demolished and more Palestinians families, already living in abject conditions as a result of Israel’s decades long oppression, become homeless and destitute. The murderer and his commanding officer are never brought to trial, the investigation is whitewashed, Rachel’s representatives in Congress do their utmost to support the murderers (if they ever hear about her) and their campaign coffers fill up for the next elections where they will campaign as “lovers of Israel” to the tune of the great trumpeters of US media.
Rachel will never be forgotten – she is now part of humanity’s heritage of man’s eternal struggle against oppression. This courageous young maiden who gave her life to protect the people her own country was helping persecute, is what legends are made of, a symbol of personal sacrifice in a battle she could have avoided, like most people would do. She could have joined the battle to save the rain forests and the environment. She could have been living her comfortable middle class American life now just like her peers. She could have been a wife and a mother raising children. She could have turned her head and pretended that she just didn’t see. But Rachel was not you and me.