Home > israel, occupation, Palestine, peace, politics, Uncategorized > On the 9th anniversary of Rachel Corrie’s death in Gaza

On the 9th anniversary of Rachel Corrie’s death in Gaza

Nine years ago today a small group of us spent several hours using our bodies to non violently defend family homes in Rafah, Gaza, from Israeli bulldozers. And then one of those bulldozers just kept on going, crushing Rachel Corrie, 23, beneath it; she died within an hour.

Rachel wasn’t fearless – I remember one day when we were standing as human shields as municipal construction workers were rebuilding a well that had been destroyed by the IDF (Israeli army) seriously compromising the Rafah water supply. We were there every day over several weeks as the work was carried out, and while mostly this was incredibly boring (ever hung out at a construction site?) at times it was terrifying as snipers would shoot towards us. Because we were clearly identified as internationals and were standing between an IDF watchtower and the workers, these were warning shots; on other occasions municipal workers had been killed by IDF snipers hence our presence. I imagine that the IDF soldiers are pretty bored too. They’ve been subjected to years of propaganda dehumanising Palestinians and this together with the sure knowledge that they can get away with it means that putting a rifle into the hands of an 18 year old kid is a recipe for such killings.

Well one day the watchtower snipers started up, but didn’t just shoot their normal couple of shots, but kept going. We had our banner declaring in English, Arabic and Hebrew something about us being internationals and Rachel used the megaphone to shout over and over again in the direction of the shooting that we were international human rights volunteers and to please stop shooting at us; we never knew if they could hear us or not. The shots were whistling past our ears. Sometimes they hit the ground just in front of our feet sending up bits of rock. Rachel’s voice was getting increasingly shakey. I was trying to work out how accurate a sniper could be at that distance – they were clearly trying to scare us as the shots got closer and closer and I know that they can shoot killshots at that range, but supposing the wind suddenly changed? The distinctive crack meant it was high velocity bullets whistling past so surely they wouldn’t be affected by wind? But supposing one of the soldiers did slip, or just thought “screw it” – our lives were in their hands. We were all terrified. Rachel would pause and we would talk about how we wished we had a cigarette and that we could leave and try and cheer each other up. Finally, approximately 40-60 minutes later, the shooting stopped and we went to a nearby friend’s flat for a very shakey cup of sweet tea with maramiya (sage).

The wells were rebuilt; infrastructure is repairable, unlike destroyed lives. And there have been so many lives destroyed by the occupation. Thousands and thousands of Palestinians killed. Millions of children growing up in traumatising environments in Gaza and the West Bank* A 27 year old friend in Rafah has lost dozens of friends over the years to IDF bullets. These are not necessarily fighters; they could have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Like the street cleaner who was shot from a watchtower while smoking outside his house about an hour after Rachel died. We visited his family; apparently he had learning difficulties and still lived with his parents, and had no relationship with politics. And like so many other Palestinian deaths there has been nothing about him in the news, no accountability from the IDF, just another senseless murder in Gaza.

This post is a bit rambly, and that would probably have been a good place to end it, but I want to talk a bit more about Rachel. I only met her 6 weeks before she was killed, and got to know her a lot better after she was killed through reading her emails and other writing, and spending time with her family. To be honest I don’t know if we’d have been close friends if we’d just met normally. She had a very quirky sense of humour that didn’t match mine. I doubt very much that given a choice, it would have been my arms that she would have died in. But I did have that role, I stroked her hair and told her that she was loved as her body shut down.

I wish I had been closer to her, because from her writing an intelligent, compassionate and complex figure emerges. Within a short time she was aware of the complexity, the nuance, the conflicts of the situation. I’m going to stop with some of Rachel’s words. Please do as she did, and put the humanity back into how you think about other people. We are all individuals, with families, hopes, dreams, loves, fears, background contexts that affect our trajectories, and the ability to do amazing things in the world.

“we are all kids curious about other kids. Egyptian kids shouting at strange women wandering into the path of tanks. Palestinian kids shot from the tanks when they peak out from behind walls to see what’s going on. International kids standing in front of tanks with banners. Israeli kids in the tanks anonymously – occasionally shouting and also occasionally waving – many forced to be here, many just agressive – shooting into the houses as we wander away.” (Rachel Corrie, February 7 2003, accessible at http://rachelcorriefoundation.org/rachel/emails)

 

EDITED TO ADD : We’re having an event in Glasgow tonight to celebrate Rachel’s life. Its at Glas Uni but you don’t have to be a student to come :
Boyd Orr. Lecture Theatre E.
University Avenue just up from Byres Rd.
http://www.facebook.com/events/314851021908411/

* I will write about the effect that the occupation is having on Israelis soon. I absolutely condemn all civilian killings.

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  1. March 16, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    Thank you for writing this. Thinking of everyone who knew Rachel today.

  2. March 16, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    Cheers for your comment. Lets remember all whose lives are wrecked by the occupation. x

  3. Peter Burns
    March 16, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    Good post Alice, thanks for this. Respect for sharing what, undoubtedly, must be very painful memories. Solidarity with all people under military oppression.

  4. jon_from_shef
    May 28, 2012 at 4:11 am

    Thank you for sharing this.

  1. March 16, 2012 at 5:04 pm

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