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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Did Rachel Corrie get college credit for joining the ISM? (updated)

There is an interesting detail in this 2003 article from a local Olympia, Washington newspaper that profiles a number of Evergreen College students who traveled to Rafah along with Rachel Corrie:

Rafah is one of the most dangerous places in the Gaza Strip--"a combat zone," according to Captain Jacob Dallal, the Israeli army spokesperson.

...My Jewish ass has been to Israel several times, but never to Gaza, and I am a bit scared. I have been told not to use any of my Arabic, lest I be suspected of being an Israeli spy. Above all, I have been told not to mention my religion.

[Corrie's] cohorts at ISM Rafah were an international group, with members from both Europe and the U.S. It was a young group--most people were under 30, and many were closer to 20. And it was a group that held the potential for romance--a Swedish ISMer named Stefan Villkatt would soon become Rachel's boyfriend.

...In addition to Stefan, there was Chris Allert, 31, also from Olympia, who joined the ISM in April 2002 after hearing about the intense fighting in the West Bank town of Jenin.

...There was Will Hewitt, 25, another Evergreen student who arrived in Israel around the same time as Rachel.

..And then there was Joe Smith, 21--yet another Evergreen student who, with his thick beard and red-checked kaffiyeh, looks like a better-fed, Palestinian-territory version of John Walker Lindh. Joe is from Kansas City, Missouri, and says he (like other Evergreen students) is getting independent study credit for his time in Rafah.
At the time, the US State Department had a travel warning against Americans going to Gaza.

If true, Evergreen College was rewarding students to go to a war zone and put their lives in danger.

(h/t Daled Amos via email)

UPDATE: MThis was noticed in 2010 in this JPost article:
Corrie arrived in Israel as part of an independent study program during her senior year at Evergreen State College. It was there that Corrie first heard of going to Gaza with the loosely affiliated assortment of left-wing radicals known as the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Evergreen’s faculty also displayed gross negligence in allowing her to spend a semester abroad, for course credit, in the West Bank and Gaza during the height of the second intifada. After a mere two days of ISM “training,” Corrie and her fellow activist trainees were sent to the Rafah crossing, described by IDF spokesman Capt. Jacob Dellal as “the most dangerous area in the West Bank and Gaza.”

And Evergreen still has an independent study program that could include study abroad.

I wonder who the academic supervisor of the Evergreen students was?(h/t Nevet)

UPDATE 2: Maybe Simona Sharoni?
 Corrie "was one of Sharoni’s “dear and beloved” students who Sharoni influenced to go to Gaza to serve what Sharoni has called “compassionate resistance."

A citizen of Israel who served in the IDF, [Sharoni] worked closely with Rachel Corrie before she left to Gaza while Sharoni was teaching at the Evergreen State College.
And this from Commentary:
Corrie’s school, the progressive Evergreen College, irresponsibly encouraged her participation with ISM. Corrie wrote that the course that most affected her was “Local Knowledge,” whose primary purpose was to get students involved in community activism for progressive causes. ...

She had had no particular interest in the Middle East or knowledge about it, but spurred by the class, she began attending Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace (OMPJ) meetings since anti-Israel activism was one of the smorgasbord of causes. There she uncritically absorbed OMPJ’s ideology and learned about “people offering themselves as human shields in Palestine,” and heard ISM activists talk about their “Freedom Summer” in Palestine in September 2002. She was inspired: “They say we are invited there. I can’t believe this can be true. Even me?”

She eagerly signed up, and her indoctrination continued. She began ISM training and reading ISM recommended tracts about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and staple anti-Israel narratives from Amira Hass, Sarah Roy, Noam Chomsky, Al-Ahram Weekly, and journalist Graham Usher. The three Evergreen faculty and staff members she consulted included Simona Sharoni, an Israeli who co-founded Women in Black. They did not try to dissuade her from going.

There is an air of unreality in all of this. Neither Corrie, nor the faculty, nor the ISM activists ever acknowledged she would be entering a war zone. Suicide bombing in Israel had reached a peak in early 2002, and Israel had launched Operation Defensive Shield to wipe out the terrorist networks in late March and early April. The violent conflict was still intense when Rachel chose to go to “meet the people who are on the other end of the portion of my tax money that goes to fund the U.S. and other militaries”—and to “get the learning that comes from traveling while hopefully having my trip have some use to the people I am going to see.” No one warned her that entering a war zone was not just an interesting travel experience.
Sharoni has been the faculty member who has most associated herself with Corrie, but it appears that there were three Evergreen teachers who could have been involved.

Here are Sharoni's Facebook and homepages. From her many interviews, it does not appear that she feels bad at all about her role in Corrie's death. But then again, Corrie is a martyr, and martyrs should be celebrated, right?

UPDATE 3: A book about Corrie says that the three teachers who encouraged her were Simona Sharoni, Steve Niva and Jean Eberhardt.

(h/t Ian)