From Tragedy to Propaganda: Rachel Corrie and ISM

Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old student at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in the Gaza Strip on March 16, 2003. To mark the first anniversary of her death, the International Herald-Tribune (March 4) published a column by her cousin, Elizabeth Corrie; the Boston Globe (March 18) printed one by Cindy Corrie, Rachel’s mother; and the Seattle Times (March 14) and Seattle Post-Intelligencer (March 17) ran feature stories.

All four omitted key information regarding Rachel Corrie’s tragic death, and ignored or minimized the role of International Solidarity Movement, which recruited Corrie to be a “human shield” in Gaza.

On the day she died, Corrie and other ISM recruits repeatedly obstructed Israeli military bulldozers working along the Gaza-Egyptian border. In this area the Israel Defense Forces frequently uncover tunnels used for weapons smuggling. Bulldozers raze buildings that hide the entrances or serve as cover for snipers, and detonate explosives planted by Palestinian terrorists.

But on March 16, 2003 ISM interference in a closed military area caused the IDF repeatedly to halt its heavy machinery. According to an IDF investigation and American news reports, Corrie and others continued to hinder the work when it resumed.

ISM members would sit or stand in front of the machines and, when they began to inch forward, jump to safety. The last time, Corrie apparently fell into the rubble. An ISM photo of Corrie standing with a megaphone in front of a bulldozer seems to have been taken hours earlier.

Last June, a military investigation by the IDF’s Judge Advocate’s Office concluded that the woman’s death was accidental. “The driver at no point saw or heard Corrie,” an army source told the Jerusalem Post. “She was standing behind debris which obstructed the view of the driver and the driver had a very limited field of vision due to the protective cage he was working in.”

The investigation included extensive interrogation of the driver and his commanders, with use of polygraphs and video evidence. An autopsy “revealed that the cause of death was from falling debris and not from the tractor physically rolling over her,” the Post added.

An IDF spokesman told the Baltimore Sun that “there is nothing wrong with legitimate protests. But this was simply dangerous and irresponsible. This is a combat zone. We are really sorry about what happened.”

Rachel Corrie appears to have been duped by ISM. In published e-mails to her family, she claimed that she was “in the midst of a genocide which I am also indirectly supporting, and for which my government is largely responsible.”

This hyperbole paralleled the language of “human shields” in Iraq to protect Saddam Hussein’s regime. In fact, when Corrie was in Gaza, the current Palestinian terror war against Israel was in its 30th month. Of the approximately 1,700 Arabs who had died in the violence up to then, 53 percent were combatants, another 13 percent Palestinians killed by other Palestinians. But of the 650 Israeli dead, 78 percent were civilians. The side deliberately targeting non-combatants –a war crime, not what Corrie, echoing ISM, called “resistance”–was the Palestinian.

ISM claims to emulate peacemakers like Martin Luther King Jr. But according to NGO Monitor, a joint project of B’nai B’rith International and Jerusalem’s Institute for Contemporary Affairs scrutinizing non-governmental organizations, “the International Solidarity Movement’s blatant support for Palestinian incitement and rejectionism is the antithesis of a human rights organization.”

On April 30, 2003 Asif Muhammad Hanif murdered three people and wounded more than 50 in a suicide bombing at Mike’s Place, a Tel Aviv tavern. Five days earlier, he and his collaborator, Omar Khan Sharif, were among a group hosted by ISM members at their Gaza apartment.

ISM claims it had no knowledge of the two Britons’ intentions. But the Israeli prime minister’s office noted on June 4 that “the two terrorists were careful to base their presence in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] by forging links with foreign left-wing activists and members of the International Solidarity Movement.” The Foreign Ministry asserted that “ISM members take an active part in illegal and violent actions against IDF soldiers. At times, their activity in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip is under the auspices of Palestinian terrorist organizations.”

On ISM’s Web site last summer, “Palestine” was shown as including all the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Israel. ISM considered Hamas and Islamic Jihad–listed by the U.S. government as terrorist organizations–as “resistance groups.”

ISM now rhetorically opposes “terrorism by both sides.” Yet it refers to Hamas, which has staged numerous bus bombings and other murders of civilians, as a “political party.” ISM ignores the fact that Palestinians launched the current violence after rejecting an Israeli-U.S. offer of a state in virtually all the disputed West Bank and Gaza Strip in exchange for peace.

Before Corrie’s death, co-founders Adam Shapiro and his wife, Huwaida Arraf, characterized “suicide operations” as “noble” and wrote that non-violent opposition made a good public relations supplement to “armed struggle.”

In one such “noble operation,” just 11 days before Rachel Corrie died, a Palestinian suicide bomber murdered 17 people riding a bus near Haifa. One was 14-year-old Abigail Litle, daughter of an American Baptist minister. Her death was not an accident but a crime. The death of Rachel Corrie was a tragedy, a tragedy rooted in activism manipulated by ISM to supplement terrorism.

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