Saturday, March 18, 2006

My Name Is Rachel Corrie

Rachel CorrieSurprisingly few people on the left have heard of Rachel Corrie. Rachel was a peace activist uncompromisingly committed to her ideals who died for her convictions. It is now the third anniversary of her murder in Gaza, Palestine.

Rachel was a member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). She joined this direct action network of young activists in order to lend support to the Palestinian cause. As a member if the ISM, she participated onsite in a monitoring and obstruction exercise targeting the illegal clearing of land by Israeli forces. On March 16, 2003 Rachel tried to stop a Caterpillar bulldozer operated by Israeli security forces from smashing the house of a politically active Palestinian doctor (in Rafah, Gaza). Eyewitness Tom Dale describes the event as follows:
The bulldozer drove toward Rachel slowly, gathering earth in its scoop as it went. She knelt there, she did not move. The bulldozer reached her and she began to stand up, climbing onto the mound of earth. She appeared to be looking into the cockpit. The bulldozer continued to push Rachel, so she slipped down the mound of earth, turning as she went. Her faced showed she was panicking and it was clear she was in danger of being overwhelmed.

All the activists were screaming at the bulldozer to stop and gesturing to the crew about Rachel's presence. We were in clear view as Rachel had been, they continued. They pushed Rachel, first beneath the scoop, then beneath the blade, then continued till her body was beneath the cockpit. They waited over her for a few seconds, before reversing. They reversed with the blade pressed down, so it scraped over her body a second time. Every second I believed they would stop but they never did.

I ran for an ambulance, she was gasping and her face was covered in blood from a gash cutting her face from lip to cheek. She was showing signs of brain hemorrhaging. She died in the ambulance a few minutes later of massive internal injuries. She was a brilliant, bright and amazing person, immensely brave and committed. She is gone and I cannot believe it.
The Nation's Philip Weiss reported this week in his article To Hot for New York on a book which is currently available called "My Name is Rachel Corrie." The book is a play, which has yet to premiere in New York for unclear reasons, but American Jewish unease over the recent Hamas victory was cited. Weiss describes the book as "[a] self-portrait of a sensitive woman struggling to find her purpose, and a polemic on the horrors of Israeli occupation."

Apparently not available from the corporate (apolitical?) juggernaut Amazon, anyone interested in getting a copy of the play can purchase it from the union friendly Powell’s Books or you can get a copy of Rachel's Letters on which the play is based from AK Press. (Correction: Powell's, Amazon, and other American booksellers have the screenplay "My Name is Rachel Corrie" available for pre-order, it should be released in April, 2006).

I would recommend that anyone participating in anti-war movements or protests consider linking the tragedy of Rachel's murder with the generalized message against all war and specifically the Global War on Terror (GWOT). Rachel died fighting against state terror (systematic destruction of homes and lives). The youth of America who entered the Armed Forces to escape poverty and find purpose, and the youth of Iraq fighting for the freedom of their country against imperialism are killing, dying and being maimed in the same way. As Karl Marx brilliantly wrote "we must make the frozen conditions dance by singing to their own melody," namely that the GWOT is not a Global War on Terror, but a Global War of Terror.

The late, great Phil Ochs sings in "I Ain't Marching Anymore" that "It's always the old who lead us into war, and always the young who die." I believe that Rachel's story is the epitome of this sentiment.

Rachel reminds us that the fight against the evil of capitalist imperialism is not one that we can take lightly nor do at our own convenience. Through solidarity, which is the reflective love and respect of our fellow men and women regardless of differences, we can achieve peace and prosperity for all.

And yes, like Rachel, we have to be willing to be martyrs in this struggle.

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