Rachel Corrie: In Her Own Words

A sad but courageous statement from the parents of Rachel
Corrie, the American ?human shield? killed Monday by an Israeli
army bulldozer, followed by a moving ?letter from Palestine? which
she sent them on Feb. 7, two weeks after her arrival in the Gaza
Strip.

--------------
Date sent: Mon, 17 Mar 2003 01:27:48 +0000 (GMT)
From: ism rafah
Subject: Statement from Rachel Corrie?s parents

March 16, 2003

We are now in a period of grieving and still finding out the
details behind the death of Rachel in the Gaza Strip.

We have raised all our children to appreciate the beauty of
the global community and family and are proud that Rachel was able
to live her convictions. Rachel was filled with love and a sense of
duty to her fellow man, wherever they lived. And, she gave her life
trying to protect those that are unable to protect
themselves.

Rachel wrote to us from the Gaza Strip and we would like to
release to the media her experience in her own words at this
time.

Thank you.
Craig and Cindy Corrie,
Parents of Rachel Corrie

............

LETTER FROM PALESTINE
By Rachel Corrie

Excerpts from an e-mail from Rachel on February 7, 2003.

I have been in Palestine for two weeks and one hour now, and
I still have very few words to describe what I see. It is most
difficult for me to think about what?s going on here when I sit
down to write back to the United States?something about the virtual
portal into luxury. I don?t know if many of the children here have
ever existed without tank-shell holes in their walls and the towers
of an occupying army surveying them constantly from the near
horizons. I think, although I?m not entirely sure, that even the
smallest of these children understand that life is not like this
everywhere. An eight-year-old was shot and killed by an Israeli
tank two days before I got here, and many of the children murmur
his name to me, Bali?or point at the posters of him on the walls.
The children also love to get me to practice my limited Arabic by
asking me ?Kaif Sharon?? ?Kaif Bush?? and they laugh when I say
?Bush Majnoon? ?Sharon Majnoon? back in my limited Arabic. (How is
Sharon? How is Bush? Bush is crazy. Sharon is crazy.) Of course
this isn?t quite what I believe, and some of the adults who have
the English correct me: Bush mish Majnoon... Bush is a businessman.
Today I tried to learn to say ?Bush is a tool?, but I don?t think
it translated quite right. But anyway, there are eight-year-olds
here much more aware of the workings of the global power structure
than I was just a few years ago?at least regarding Israel.

Nevertheless, I think about the fact that no amount of
reading, attendance at conferences, documentary viewing and word of
mouth could have prepared me for the reality of the situation here.
You just can?t imagine it unless you see it, and even then you are
always well aware that your experience is not at all the reality:
what with the difficulties the Israeli Army would face if they shot
an unarmed US citizen, and with the fact that I have money to buy
water when the army destroys wells, and, of course, the fact that I
have the option of leaving. Nobody in my family has been shot,
driving in their car, by a rocket launcher from a tower at the end
of a major street in my hometown. I have a home. I am allowed to go
see the ocean. Ostensibly it is still quite difficult for me to be
held for months or years on end without a trial (this because I am
a white US citizen, as opposed to so many others). When I leave for
school or work I can be relatively certain that there will not be a
heavily armed soldier waiting half way between Mud Bay and downtown
Olympia at a checkpoint?a soldier with the power to decide whether
I can go about my business, and whether I can get home again when
I?m done. So, if I feel outrage at arriving and entering briefly
and incompletely into the world in which these children exist, I
wonder conversely about how it would be for them to arrive in my
world.

They know that children in the United States don?t usually
have their parents shot and they know they sometimes get to see the
ocean. But once you have seen the ocean and lived in a silent
place, where water is taken for granted and not stolen in the night
by bulldozers, and once you have spent an evening when you haven?t
wondered if the walls of your home might suddenly fall inward
waking you from your sleep, and once you?ve met people who have
never lost anyone?once you have experienced the reality of a world
that isn?t surrounded by murderous towers, tanks, armed
?settlements? and now a giant metal wall, I wonder if you can
forgive the world for all the years of your childhood spent
existing?just existing?in resistance to the constant stranglehold
of the world?s fourth largest military?backed by the world?s only
superpower?in it?s attempt to erase you from your home. That is
something I wonder about these children. I wonder what would happen
if they really knew.

As an afterthought to all this rambling, I am in Rafah, a
city of about 140,000 people, approximately 60 percent of whom are
refugees?many of whom are twice or three times refugees. Rafah
existed prior to 1948, but most of the people here are themselves
or are descendants of people who were relocated here from their
homes in historic Palestine?now Israel. Rafah was split in half
when the Sinai returned to Egypt. Currently, the Israeli army is
building a fourteen-meter-high wall between Rafah in Palestine and
the border, carving a no-mans land from the houses along the
border. Six hundred and two homes have been completely bulldozed
according to the Rafah Popular Refugee Committee. The number of
homes that have been partially destroyed is greater.

Today as I walked on top of the rubble where homes once
stood, Egyptian soldiers called to me from the other side of the
border, ?Go! Go!? because a tank was coming. Followed by waving and
?what?s your name?? There is something disturbing about this
friendly curiosity. It reminded me of how much, to some degree, we
are all kids curious about other kids: Egyptian kids shouting at
strange women wandering into the path of tanks. Palestinian kids
shot from the tanks when they peak out from behind walls to see
what?s going on. International kids standing in front of tanks with
banners. Israeli kids in the tanks anonymously, occasionally
shouting?and also occasionally waving?many forced to be here, many
just aggressive, shooting into the houses as we wander
away.

In addition to the constant presence of tanks along the
border and in the western region between Rafah and settlements
along the coast, there are more IDF towers here than I can
count?along the horizon, at the end of streets. Some just army
green metal. Others these strange spiral staircases draped in some
kind of netting to make the activity within anonymous. Some hidden,
just beneath the horizon of buildings. A new one went up the other
day in the time it took us to do laundry and to cross town twice to
hang banners. Despite the fact that some of the areas nearest the
border are the original Rafah with families who have lived on this
land for at least a century, only the 1948 camps in the center of
the city are Palestinian-controlled areas under Oslo. But as far as
I can tell, there are few if any places that are not within the
sights of some tower or another. Certainly there is no place
invulnerable to apache helicopters or to the cameras of invisible
drones we hear buzzing over the city for hours at a time.

I?ve been having trouble accessing news about the outside
world here, but I hear an escalation of war on Iraq is inevitable.
There is a great deal of concern here about the ?reoccupation of
Gaza.? Gaza is reoccupied every day to various extents, but I think
the fear is that the tanks will enter all the streets and remain
here, instead of entering some of the streets and then withdrawing
after some hours or days to observe and shoot from the edges of the
communities. If people aren?t already thinking about the
consequences of this war for the people of the entire region then I
hope they will start.

I also hope you?ll come here. We?ve been wavering between
five and six internationals. The neighborhoods that have asked us
for some form of presence are Yibna, Tel El Sultan, Hi Salam,
Brazil, Block J, Zorob, and Block O. There is also need for
constant night-time presence at a well on the outskirts of Rafah
since the Israeli army destroyed the two largest wells. According
to the municipal water office the wells destroyed last week
provided half of Rafah?s water supply. Many of the communities have
requested internationals to be present at night to attempt to
shield houses from further demolition. After about ten p.m. it is
very difficult to move at night because the Israeli army treats
anyone in the streets as resistance and shoots at them. So clearly
we are too few.

I continue to believe that my home, Olympia, could gain a
lot and offer a lot by deciding to make a commitment to Rafah in
the form of a sister-community relationship. Some teachers and
children?s groups have expressed interest in e-mail exchanges, but
this is only the tip of the iceberg of solidarity work that might
be done. Many people want their voices to be heard, and I think we
need to use some of our privilege as internationals to get those
voices heard directly in the US, rather than through the filter of
well-meaning internationals such as myself. I am just beginning to
learn, from what I expect to be a very intense tutelage, about the
ability of people to organize against all odds, and to resist
against all odds.

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