By Bessy Reyna
19 March, 2007
Corrie was a 23-year-old peace activist killed by a bulldozer driven
by an Israeli army soldier. The time, day and place of her death are
known, but, the question of whether she was murdered or whether her
death was an accident continues to be as controversial today as it was
when it happened March 16, 2003. With her death Corrie became an international
symbol in the struggle against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian
lands. Today, the anniversary of her death, she is being remembered
with vigils and readings of her writings in many cities.
Corrie, a member of the International
Solidarity Movement, a pro-Palestinian group, had gone to Rafah in Gaza
to help defend the houses of Palestinian refugees that were being demolished
by the Israeli army. As a student at Evergreen State College in Olympia,
Washington, Corrie had participated in anti-war and environmental movements
on campus. She was young and idealistic. She thought she could make
Four members of the International
Solidarity Movement, from England and the United States, who were with
Corrie at the time of her death, said she stood in front of the Caterpillar
bulldozer, waving to the driver to try to get him to stop. They testified
that the driver and soldiers in a nearby Israeli tank knew of her presence.
Corrie was crushed when the bulldozer went over her body twice. She
died at a hospital of her injuries.
While in Rafah, Corrie wrote
frequent e-mails to her family describing the living conditions in Palestine.
After her death, British actor Alan Rickman and writer Katherine Viner
used her letters and journals to create the play "My Name Is Rachel
Corrie." It premiered in London and had a sold-out run for more
than a year. Then, it was scheduled to open at the New York Theater
Workshop. Six weeks before the opening, however, it was postponed indefinitely.
This sudden postponement
of the play ignited a rallying cry against artistic censorship. On March
22, 2006, a letter signed by many Jewish writers including Nobel-prize
winner Harold Pinter was published in The New York Times expressing
their dismay at the cancellation. They asked "So what is it about
Rachel Corrie's writings, her thoughts, her feelings, her confusions,
her idealism, her courage, her search for meaning in life -- what is
it that New York audiences must be protected from?"
In the end, the theater made
meek attempts to defend its decision. It cited Israel Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon's coma, the controversial circumstances of Corrie's death
and the recent election of militant Hamas party representatives to the
Palestinian Legislative Council. Months later, the play finally found
a stage at the Minetta Lane Theater in New York and Corrie's voice could
once again be heard.
In an e-mail to her mother
dated Feb. 27, 2003, Corrie wrote about the daily struggles of Palestinians
who lost their lands, and of the Israeli-built wall which forced them
to drive for 12 hours to get from one city to another when that same
trip used to take only 40 minutes.
Corrie's is one of few voices
to get the Palestinian point of view expressed in the U.S. In a 2004
documentary, "Thomas L. Friedman Reporting," the New York
Times columnist explored the effect of Israel's wall. He left one to
question whether the wall has provided safety for Israel or has it served
as a symbol of Israel's ability to take action with impunity, which
serves to escalate hatred and hinder the peace process.
More recently, former President
Jimmy Carter has been attacked over the publication of his book Palestine:
Peace Not Apartheid. It is hard to believe that someone who has worked
so hard to bring peace to the Middle East would find himself being called
In his book, Carter writes
that the U.S. stands almost alone in its unwavering backing of Israel.
He condemns terrorist acts on the part of Palestinians against Israelis.
Equally he condemns the excessive civilian casualties and destruction
inflicted on the Palestinian homeland by Israelis. But Carter's message
is being lost, buried under a torrent of ridicule and controversy.
Regardless of past rights
and wrongs, what is happening to the Palestinians and the millions of
refugees who now live in Jordan and other areas, should be of interest
to all of us. It is a humanitarian crisis of catastrophic proportions.
Today, as I honor the memory
of Rachel Corrie, I will continue to wonder if the peaceful solution
to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will happen during my lifetime ...
perhaps, if both sides of the conflict are given equal voice.
Bessy Reyna is a free-lance writer whose column appears
monthly in the Hartford Courant, where this article was originally published
on 16 March 2007. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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