Recent anniversary: Rachel Corrie (1979-2003), useful tool… useful idiot…

A few days ago the anniversary of the accidental killing in 2003 of Rachel Corrie by IDF ‘sappers’ in Gaza was marked by the usual peak in posts on social media networks by folks who actually seem to care about Corrie – useful tool of the pro-Palestinian propaganda machinery. It is an anniversary that encourages sentiment and excitement. Indeed, in Scotland two years ago (early weeks of 2013) a nation-wide theatre tour of the play My name is Rachel Corrie saw visits from Tobermory to Glasgow, to Ullapool to Skye, to Greenock to Musselburgh and Edinburgh, and to Dundee and Dunfermline, and many places between all of these.

It was a one-woman play composed from Rachel Corrie’s own journals, letters and emails. It created a portrait of the 23-year old American  woman from  Olympia, Washington – often described as a ‘girl’ –  who was supporting what has also often been described as ‘non-violent resistance to Israel’s military occupation’. Corrie was killed during operations carried out by an Israeli military bulldozer in the Gaza Strip on 16 March 2003. Today, in 2015, her parents (Craig and Cindy Corrie) continue to travel around the world giving talks maligning Israel, quite blind to the malign intent of their daughter.

It is important to remember what Rachel Corrie was actually all about – she was certainly no saint, and as a 23-year old adult she herself knew indeed what she was all about.

Corrie was an activist (her Wikipedia article describes her as activist and diarist) associated with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a body which has harboured known terrorists and which has openly advocated violence against Israel and the destruction of that country. On the day of her death she was not demonstrating for peace or trying to shield innocent civilians – as one might expect of a peace activist – instead she had entered an area where Israeli forces were carrying out a military operation. Her death occurred while Israeli forces using a bulldozer were removing shrubbery along the security road near the border between Israel and Egypt at Rafah to uncover explosive devices, and destroying tunnels used by Palestinian terrorists to illegally smuggle weapons from Egypt to Gaza. Corrie died while interfering with a military operation to legally demolish an empty house used to conceal one of these tunnels… a demolition not unlike these undertaken recently by Egyptian troops around the Gazan border with Sinai.

Much of the ‘sainthood’ and myth surrounding Corrie – a useful tool of the Palestinian propaganda machinery in Gaza – centres round a photograph wired by the Associated Press (AP) giving the impression that Corrie was standing in front of the bulldozer and shouting at the driver with a megaphone, trying to prevent the driver from tearing down the building concealing the tunnels. This photograph, which was taken by a member of ISM (Corrie’s organisation), was not shot at the time of her death however, but hours earlier. Indeed the bulldozer involved in her accidental death was a different one from the one she had been photographed in front of earlier.  The photographer admitted that at the time of her death, Corrie was actually seated.

An investigation into her death concluded that Corrie (whether standing or seated) could not have been seen by the driver of the bulldozer because she was behind debris which concealed the driver’s view.

The accidental death received worldwide publicity in large part because it was the first such incident where a foreign protester was killed, and because the protester was female, and often described as innocent. Corrie and her family would have been aware that the US State Department had warned Americans not to travel to Gaza, and Israel made clear that civilians who entered areas where troops were engaged in counter-terror operations were putting themselves at risk unnecessarily. The Israeli  army had told Corrie and other demonstrators from the ISM to move out of the way.

The organisation which Corrie supported – the ISM – claimed to be a humanitarian organisation dedicated to the principles of non-violent resistance, but it had demonstrated no interest in peace for Israelis. The ISM has acted as an apologist for terrorism, and has, at times, actively abetted militants. ISM is an organisation wholly opposed to the two-state solution envisioned by parties truly interested in peace.

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