Rachel's story

This is a statement from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) which Rachel Corrie loved and for whose noble purpose she gave her life yesterday.

Today, Rachel Corey, a 23 year old student from Olympia, USA was killed by the Israeli army when a bulldozer drove over her as she stood protesting a house demolition in Rafah, Gaza Strip. She was one of six International Solidarity Movement (ISM) volunteers who have been staying in the city to provide international civilian protection to families at risk from the various forms of violence of the Israeli occupation.

Rachel (or ‘Racha’ as she was known to the many many Palestinians who had become her friends since she arrived in Rafah in late January) had spent most of the afternoon with the other ISM volunteers patrolling a small stretch of the border area where dozens of homes have been demolished in recent weeks and months. The group had been clearly, audibly and visibly following the tanks and bulldozers up and down this strip for three hours, using banners and megaphones to alert the soldiers to their presence, a strategy that has been employed uniformly since the start of the ISM presence in this region last December.

Occasionally the bulldozer drivers waved to the protesters.

At around 5pm the army bulldozers moved towards this house. Rachel was the first of the international group to arrive in front of the house. She stood on top of a mound of earth, wearing a bright orange jacket and waved to the bulldozer driver, shouting at him to stop. He didn’t. The group report that the driver tipped sand over her, at which point she fell down. He then drove the machine over her while the rest of the group screamed at him to stop. After crushing her body with the forward motion of the vehicle, he then reversed. During this time the group heard her scream. She didn’t die at the scene. With Rachel crying ‘My back is broken’, the other internationals waited at the scene for an ambulance to arrive. The owner of the house in question attempted to give Rachel first aid, but said that her skull was too damaged for it to be effective. She was dead on arrival to the hospital in Rafah, where her activist colleagues stood numbed with shock at the sight of her disfigured body.

The house that Rachel was killed defending is a house that internationals have been staying in frequently over the past three months. These houses are NOT homes of suspected militants. They are simply houses close to the Israeli controlled border with Egypt, the sight of a proposed concrete wall and ‘buffer zone’, similar to the Apartheid Wall now under construction around the West Bank.

Rachel Corey was the first International Solidarity Movement volunteer to be killed in this intifada. Over 2,200 Palestinians have been killed by the state of Israel since September 2000. Shot, bombed, crushed in their homes, left to die in ambulances at checkpoints. The instruments and policies of occupation and murder are numerous.

Random killings and house demolitions are part of the systematic violence that is an everyday reality for Palestinians. Today that violence became a reality for internationals.

The rationale of international protection rests upon the assumption that Israel cannot remain unaccountable for the killing of international civilians as it is unaccountable for the killing of Palestinians. Today this assumption has been challenged.

An activist for justice and for peace, Rachel joins the list of history’s martyrs, who through non-violent protest have been struck down by the forces of oppression and military power that we will continue to struggle against until Palestine is free.

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Published on March 17, 2003 5:22 PM.

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