Posts Tagged ‘war’

Fight War Not Wars. Rachel Corrie – the American girl killed defending a Palestinian home.

March 16, 2014 13 comments

The world, my world, narrowed to a single point. The war, the wars, that had filled my thoughts raged on around. The Iraq war buildup, occupation of Palestine, the assaults on Gaza, the poverty and inequality and sexism that for most exacerbated their desperate situation evaporated from my consciousness. The brutality of the occupation that for the past two months had crowded all else from my head, with its desperate importance – all that blurred to non existence.

“My back is broken.” The last words Rachel Corrie ever said. I dropped my mobile phone in the middle of dialling for an ambulance and took her head in my hands to stabilise her spine. Nearby the bulldozers and tanks were driving – normally impossible to ignore massive, armoured, roaring, military machines. Another international with incredible foresight took photo after photo.

We were in the Philadelphia Corridor. Land scraped clean of Palestinian homes over the past few years and made into a militarised buffer zone between the Israeli army’s newly erected steel wall and the half of Rafah that fell on the Gaza side of the border with Egypt. Even in overcrowded, desperate for space Gaza, this area was to be avoided. The only movement would be the frequent passage of tanks and APCs and armoured bulldozers and even then, even the Israelis wouldn’t tarry.

The world comprised of 4 people. I held Rachel’s head. On her right and left Greg and Will knelt beside her, focusing all they could to will her to survive. Four friends, one of whom’s life force was leaking out as we held her, told her we loved her and how awesome she was and how she was going to be ok. How she was going to do these awesome talks back in the states about how she’d survived being run over by an IDF bulldozer. As we desperately tried to keep our dying friend with us, while her body was breaking apart and there was nothing we could do. Helplessly I observed the thin skin around her eyes and ears blackened with blood from the bleeding in her brain. The depth and regularity fading from her breathing.

In less than an hour she would be declared dead and this tiny world would be the centre of global attention, as multinational media filled with news of an American girl killed defending a Palestinian home. Suddenly my world would be talking live on TV channels from every continent, confronting head on the USA and Israeli states when they tried to force us to hand over Rachel’s body to the IDF, the institution that had killed her. I would be on a call with a USA congressman. Emails and phone calls would flood in from around the world. We would give a packed out press conference to local and global media.

But at that moment there were just four of us in the world, and one was dying as we held her. Four kids from USA and UK whose life paths had happened to intersect in Palestine. Four kids in the most dangerous place in the Gaza Strip, and one of us was fading fast and there was nothing the rest of us could do about it.

This is what War means. This is the detail in every casualty statistic. People holding their loved ones as their soft flesh disintegrates from the sudden penetration of the hard metals of war; tanks, guns, bombs, shrapnel. Bodies and lives broken. For what?

Each war death is a unique human being, just like your mother, father, sister, brother and child. Communities deemed “war zones” by too powerful others living remote lives moving infantry pieces over plans of “strategic areas”. A little to the left and suddenly that village is ground underneath the caterpillar tracks of War. The tanks roll through. The fighter jets race overhead. Communities and lives are wrecked.

What possible question can this be the right answer to? How can destruction this brutal birth anything worthwhile? What dehumanising of other human beings, what racism must we hold to ever justify such slaughter?

Rachel was an incredible person. Please read from her own words. And know that the millions of others murdered for War are as unique and precious and their deaths as tragic and wrong.

Fight War Not Wars.

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

March 16, 2012 5 comments

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


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.

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