Remember Rachel Corrie: Five Years Later

Next week, five years will have passed from two events that deserve to be remembered, understood, and mourned. The more infamous is the launching of the U.S. invasion and subsequent Occupation of Iraq.

 The other event was the death of a Washington State college student – Rachel Corrie. On March 17th 2003, two days before the U.S. invaded Iraq, Rachel was killed – crushed by an armored Caterpillar bulldozer in the Palestinian town of Rafah, while she was trying to prevent it from destroying the home of a Palestinian family.

Rachel was standing in front of that house – one of hundreds that the Israeli Defense Forces have demolished in Palestine – for at least two reasons: one was to use her privileged position as a US citizen to help that particular family; the other was to send a message back to us.

That message is very simple: ‘we are responsible for the actions of our own government.’ It is becase we do not act upon that responsibility that our government gives more military aid to Israel than to any other country in the world, over two billion dollars a year. Despite the fact that Israel currently violates over 30 UN Security Council Resolutions; that Israel has a stockpile of about 200 nuclear warheads, and has repeatedly invaded Lebanon causing thousands of deaths; that during its four decade long occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel routinely violates the Geneva Conventions, particularly with its colonial project of “transferring parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” And so on.

Our mass media routinely minimizes or ignores the deaths of Palestinian civilians – most recently the more than 100 people who were killed during Israel’s latest incursion into the Gaza Strip – but when Rachel was killed, it was front page news in the Seattle dailies. We could have heard Rachel’s message then, and asked questions about the role our government plays in the Middle East. We could also have found out that the Palestinian struggle for self-determination is met with simpathy from vast sectors of the Israeli public, which wants the Occupation to end and understands that this would drain much of the support for the militant groups in Palestine who target civilians in Israel.

The ferocity of the US-sponsored Israeli Occupation has not abated since 2003, and as our campus is swept with fervor for the upcoming election, we should pay heed to Rachel’s message, and challenge the candidates who wish to represent us to be true to their promises of “change.” Their foreign policy positions include “defend and support the annual foreign aid package […] to Israel” [Obama], and “support the annual foreign aid bill […] for Israel” [Clinton] – with no qualifications to demand respect for the Geneva Conventions or the United Nations. This would perpetuate a foreign policy that crushes the idealism of youth with the bulldozers of militarism. Rachel could not prevent the demolition of that house – will we at least heed her message?

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