Thursday, August 30, 2012

Yesterday, I asked whether Rachel Corrie received college credit for joining the ISM in Gaza. I based this on a 2003 article that said that all Evergreen students in Rafah were getting independent study credit.

It looks like Corrie had set up her trip to Gaza as an independent study course at Evergreen. A lengthy 2003 article in Mother Jones tracing Corrie's journey says:
In the fall of her senior year a friend returned from five months in Gaza and talked enthusiastically to Corrie about the International Solidarity Movement, a pro-Palestinian activist group founded just the year before. A motley collection of anti-globalization and animal-rights activists, self-described anarchists and seekers, most in their 20s, the ISM upholds the right of Palestinians to carry out "armed struggle" and seeks "to establish divestment campaigns in the U.S. and Europe to put economic pressure on Israel the same way the international com- munity put pressure [on] South Africa during the apartheid regimes."

...Corrie proposed an independent-study program in which she would travel to Gaza, join the ISM team, and initiate a "sister city" project between Olympia and Rafah.
So indeed, Corrie went to Gaza with the expectation of receiving college credit for her work.

I still don't know which of her teachers sponsored her study program. Footnotes in the book based on her journals list three radical anti-Israel teachers who encouraged her to go: Simona Sharoni (who I mentioned in yesterday's post,) Steve Niva and Jean Eberhardt.

Steve Niva is a piece of work. In an article he wrote for Electronic Intifada on the first anniversary of Corrie's death, he defended her for burning the American flag - and made it sound like it was her patriotic duty!

Israeli apologists frequently circulate a picture of Rachel burning an American flag at a Palestinian demonstration, as if to prove that she was an irresponsible promoter of anti-American hatred.

Yet the most important point that her critics miss is that the symbol of an American questioning her government’s policy in the Middle East is extremely important and highly beneficial to Americans in general. It is very important for Americans to show people in this region that America is not monolithic and that some American civilians strongly disagree with their government’s policies. Lack of exposure to these voices is a major factor that increases the likelihood of terrorism and animosity towards American citizens.

Compared to the immensely dangerous impact on regional public opinion of the widely disseminated images of U.S. Marines placing flags on Iraqi government symbols during the recent war, Rachel’s act appears altruistic. Americans should be thankful for people like Rachel who uphold deeply rooted American values about freedom from illegitimate domination and for presenting a progressive image to the world.

Get that? Burning the symbol of America represents American values!

The Mother Jones article disputes the Corrie's parents contention that the area was not a war zone (they repeated this last night in a videoconference call): It also confirms the Haifa judge's contention that there were hidden explosives in the area that had to be cleared .
Masked militants from Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades prowl the city's sandy alleyways at night, past gray cinder-block homes and shops whose walls are covered with "martyr" posters and brightly painted images of assault rifles and exploding Israeli tanks. Nightly gun battles pit Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers (apcs) patrolling the border strip -- known by the Israelis as "Philadelphi Road" or the "Pink Line" -- against guerrillas firing anti-tank missiles, grenades, and Kalashnikovs. Roadside bombs lie buried in the sand, and a local Bedouin family controls a lucrative business smuggling weapons from Egypt via tunnels dug as deep as 100 feet and often concealed inside Palestinian homes.
And it appears that Corrie naively thought that her status as an international would be a kind of force field that would protect her, no matter what. As the article goes on to say:
Corrie had come to Rafah a paper radical, primed for outrage, but with little real-world experience. That changed immediately. On her first night in Rafah, she and two other human shields, a fellow Olympian and an Italian, set up camp in a heap of rubble inside Block J, a densely populated neighborhood along the Pink Line and frequent target of gunfire from an Israeli watchtower. By placing themselves between the Palestinian residents and the troops, and hanging up banners announcing the presence of "internationals," the activists hoped to discourage the shooting. But the plan backfired. Huddling in terror as Israeli troops fired bullets over their tent and at the ground a few feet away, the three activists decided that their presence at the site was provoking the soldiers, not deterring them, and abandoned the tent.
But even after this incident, Corrie still believed that she was invincible because she was an "international." She wrote on February 22, nearly a month after arriving in the Middle East:
People can’t get to their jobs and those who are trapped on the other side can’t get home; and internationals, who have a meeting tomorrow in the West Bank, won’t make it. We could probably make it through if we made serious use of our international white person privilege, but that would also mean some risk of arrest and deportation.
Joe Smith, another ISM member, admitted that they felt invincible:
It's definitely easy to get cocky in this war zone when a tank is shooting at people and you walk up to them and shout at them, 'Hey, I'm here!' and they pack up and leave. You get so used to this idea, 'Hey, they won't hurt us.' It [Corrie's death] has really made me realize how naive and cocky I was.

Corrie's professors and her ISM comrades told her that her "whiteness" would protect her, because Israeli  kill Palestinian Arabs purely for racist reasons.  She even wrote that in a February 27 email:
When I come back from Palestine, I probably will have nightmares and constantly feel guilty for not being here, but I can channel that into more work. Coming here is one of the better things I’ve ever done. So when I sound crazy, or if the Israeli military should break with their racist tendency not to injure white people, please pin the reason squarely on the fact that I am in the midst of a genocide which I am also indirectly supporting, and for which my government is largely responsible.
This is what Rachel Corrie was taught, and this is what she believed.

Her mentors encouraged her to risk her life for their anti-Israel cause, falsely telling her that she was protected because she was white and from America and had a magic fluorescent vest and a magic bullhorn and magic signs that can stop tanks and bulldozers.

No wonder that after her death, her martyrdom is celebrated. By dying, Rachel Corrie managed to make the difference she was indoctrinated to make. And, according to the same Joe Smith, it was all worth it:
The spirit that she died for is worth a life. This idea of resistance, this spirit of resisting this brutal occupying force, is worth anything. So the life of one international, I feel, is more than worth the spirit of resisting oppression.

(h/t Ian, Nevet)

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