Activists remember Rachel Corrie

Foreign peace activists have held a ceremony at the Erez crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip, to mark the anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie, who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer a year ago.

    The Israeli army routinely bulldozes Palestinian homes

    The 23-year-old American member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) was killed by the machine in the southern Gaza town of Rafah on 16 March 2003, as she was trying to prevent the demolition of Palestinian homes.

    Several ISM members paid their respects to her by reading out e-mails that she had written about her experiences in Gaza to her family and friends back home in Olympia, Washington.

    They all wore t-shirts bearing the names of Palestinian victims of the Intifada as well as of Corrie herself.

    "We are here to honour and respect her life," the ISM said in a statement. 

    "In her honour, this event will illustrate the continued killing and collective punishment within the Gaza Strip and the continued refusal of the international community to intervene".

    Similar commemorative events were to be held on Tuesday in Ram Allah on the West Bank and Rafah as well in US cities such as New York, Washington and California, Toronto in Canada and a few cities in Italy.

    Petition

    The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation has circulated a petition, calling upon "the US government to undertake a full, fair and expeditious investigation into the death of Rachel Corrie".

    "This investigation is necessary because of contradictions between the results of an IDF investigation and eyewitness accounts of her death", the campaign said.

    A symbolic protest on Tuesday at 
    killing of Corrie and other activists 

    Corrie, the campaign adds, was an American citizen "killed by a foreign army and a US investigation is necessary to determine the circumstances of her death and ensure that this type of incident does not happen again".

    Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) added weight to the campaign by also condemning the incident and called for an independent investigation into her death.

    "As Rachel Corrie was an American citizen, the US government has a particular responsibility to ensure a thorough, proper and impartial investigation," said Christine Bustany, AIUSA's Advocacy Director for the Middle East.

    The organisation renewed a call for a suspension of US transfers to Israel of military equipment, including bulldozers, which have been used to commit human rights abuses.  "US-made bulldozers have been 'weaponised' and their transfer to Israel must be suspended."

    "Accident"

    According to an Israeli newspaper, an Israeli Defence Forces spokesperson was quoted as saying Corrie's death was "a regrettable accident", adding that "we are dealing with a group of protesters who were acting very irresponsibly, putting everyone in danger."

    Corrie's kin received posthumous
    honour in her name from Arafat  

    But ISM Media Coordinator Michael Shaik issued a statement subsequent to her death stating "the confrontation between the ISM and the Israeli army had been underway for two hours when Rachel was run over."

    Rachel and the other activists had clearly identified themselves as unarmed international peace activists throughout the confrontation, Shaik said.

    The Israeli army, the ISM spokesperson added "are attempting to dishonour her memory by claiming that Rachel was killed accidentally when she ran in front of the bulldozer. Witnesses to the murder insist that this is totally untrue".

    He said Rachel was sitting in the path of the bulldozer as it advanced towards her.

    Flourescent jacket

    "When the bulldozer refused to stop or turn aside she climbed up onto the mound of dirt and rubble being gathered in front of it wearing a fluorescent jacket to look directly at the driver who kept on advancing. The bulldozer continued to advance so that she was pulled under the pile of dirt and rubble".

    Hurndall, a British peace activist,
    was killed by a bullet to the head 

    After she had disappeared from view, "the driver kept advancing until the bulldozer was completely on top of her. The driver did not lift the bulldozer blade and so she was crushed beneath it".

    Then the driver backed off and the seven other ISM activists taking part in the action rushed to dig out her body, the ISM spokesperson continued.

    Corrie died upon arrival at a nearby hospital. 

    After her death, Corrie became a symbol among Palestinians of support from foreign civilians for their cause, and received posthumous honours from Palestinian president Yasir Arafat.

    Tom Hurndall

    "When the bulldozer refused to stop or turn aside she climbed up onto the mound of dirt ...the bulldozer continued to advance so that she was pulled under the pile of dirt and rubble"

    ISM statement

    A 22-year-old British activist from the same group, Tom Hurndall, died in January after sustaining critical head injuries from a bullet fired by an Israeli soldier in Rafah in April 2003 as he was trying to pull Palestinian children out of danger.

    In both Hurndall's and Corrie's cases, witnesses were adamant they had been easily identifiable as they were wearing fluorescent orange jackets.

    The Israeli army has cracked down on activists from the International Solidarity Movement, charging that they obstructed "military operations" in the occupied territories.

    They are involved in almost daily protests against Israel's construction of the West Bank separation barrier which have often resulted in clashes with troops. 

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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