The Struggle for Rachel Corrie’s Legacy

by PATRICK O. STRICKLAND

Ramallah.

Two weeks ago, an Israeli court ruled that the death of Rachel Corrie, a Palestinian solidarity activist crushed by an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) armored bulldozer in Gaza in 2003, was her own fault and not the result of military negligence. Brendan O’Neill, blogging for The Telegraph, wrote a scathing critique of Rachel Corrie, her posthumous supporters, and the broader Palestinian solidarity movement.

According to O’Neill, Corrie’s “cheerleaders,” as he smugly describes them, have engaged in her “secular beatification” and “turned [her] into Saint Rachel of the Put-Upon Palestinians” which “captures everything that is wrong with the modern day solidarity with Palestine.”

O’Neill does not spare Corrie herself either, launching a full on assault on her character as well as her legacy—he is, after all, a self-proclaimed warrior, battling “misanthropy, priggishness, prejudice, luddism, illiberalism and irrationalism in all their ancient and modern forms.”

He dismisses her motivations for joining the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and suggests that she was nothing more than a present day Rudyard Kipling, solemnly carrying out what she perceived as her moral duty to protect an oppressed people which she felt were incapable of surviving on their own.  “The transformation of Corrie’s life and death into a black-and-white morality tale…sums up the boneheadedness of modern-day Palestinian solidarity,” he concludes.

Throughout his exaggerated and nauseatingly self-righteous polemic, O’Neill never once addresses the actual issues surrounding Corrie’s death: was she truly invisible to the soldier behind the wheel of the bulldozer, who proceeded to back up over her lifeless cadaver? Did the Israeli military conduct a satisfactory investigation, as it assured the US government it would? Should the international community stand with folded arms as Israel demolishes civilian homes in the occupied territories?

In other words, Israel’s ostensibly endless policy of ethnic cleansing is exempt from criticism. The 23-year-old American activist who felt a moral obligation to protest the crimes in which her government was complicit, however, is the truly guilty party.

Rather than attacking Palestinians, the strategy employed by Israel’s advocates within the corporate media establishment is to launch a thorough smear campaign against those who support Palestinian rights, whoever they may be: journalists, academics, politicians, intellectuals, activists. In order to do so, they consciously ignore the possibility of Israeli injustice or Western complicity.

These supporters tout the country’s Supreme Court as a bulwark of its democratic institutions. Yet, it is the exception and not the rule that the Supreme Court condemns state violence—in any case, the IDF has a long history of noncompliance with court rulings that the military elite deemed unfavorable. Indeed, the old trope originally applied to Algeria—rather than a state with a military, it was a military with a state—paints a stunningly accurate portrait of Israel today.

The besieged Gaza Strip, a regular target of Israel’s lengthy carpet bombing campaigns and frequent land incursions, is now an open air prison, a place from which news of dozens of civilian casualties alights each week. In the West Bank, settler violence has soared over the last few years, and the daily theft of private Palestinian property is rendering a two-state solution closer and closer to impossibility. The Palestinian economy, a market shackled by asymmetrical agreements to its Western benefactors and its much larger Israeli counterpart, is in ruins.

According to O’Neill, it is the late Rachel Corrie and those who demand justice for her death, however, who deserve condemnation. When she died, she was acting as a human shield to prevent the demolition of homes and water wells in the Rafah refugee camp—O’Neill dismisses this as a brand of Western racism akin to Christian missionaries in Africa; Judge Oded Gershon, who rejected  the Corrie family’s lawsuit, describes this as “de-facto violence.”

The IDF, on the other hand, justifies the ongoing expansion of West Bank settlements on security grounds, arguing that they serve as barriers between Palestinians and the state of Israel.  Settlers, in other words, are Israel’s frontline human shields. As they decry the ISM’s strategy of using international activists to prevent home demolitions and settler violence, neither O’Neill nor Judge Gershon mention the IDF’s use of over 350,000 Israeli citizens as human shields.

“We will continue,” said Craig Corrie, Rachel’s father, addressing a crowd of Palestinians and internationals last week at the Alternative Information Center in Beit Sahour.  “The judge accepted the testimony that the bulldozer had a blind spot. The real blind spot is Israel’s towards humanity.”

It appears that Brendan O’Neill, along with likeminded pundits, also lacks 20/20 vision. His longwinded assault on Rachel Corrie’s legacy “sums up the boneheadness” of Israel’s modern-day allies in the corporate media establishment.

Patrick O. Strickland is a freelance journalist living and traveling on both sides of the Green Line in Israel and Palestine. He is a weekly Israel-Palestine correspondent for Bikya Masr.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
July 30, 2015
Bill Blunden
The NSA’s 9/11 Cover-Up: General Hayden Told a Lie, and It’s a Whopper
Richard Ward
Sandra Bland, Rebel
Jeffrey St. Clair
How One Safari Nut, the CIA and Neoliberal Environmentalists Plotted to Destroy Mozambique
Martha Rosenberg
Tracking the Lion Killers Back to the Old Oval Office
Binoy Kampmark
Dead Again: the Latest Demise of Mullah Omar
Kathy Kelly – Buddy Bell
No Warlords Need Apply: a Call for Credible Peacemaking in Afghanistan
Ramzy Baroud
Darker Horizons Ahead: Rethinking the War on ‘IS’
Stephen Lendman
The Show Trial of Saif Qaddafi: a Manufactured Death Sentence
John Grant
The United States of Absurdity, Circa 2015
Karl Grossman
The Case of John Peter Zenger and the Fight for a Free Press
Cesar Chelala
Cultural Treasures Are Also Victims of War
Jeff Taylor
Iowa Conference on Presidential Politics
July 29, 2015
Mike Whitney
The Politics of Betrayal: Obama Backstabs Kurds to Appease Turkey
Joshua Frank
The Wheels Fell Off the Bernie Sanders Bandwagon
Conn Hallinan
Ukraine: Close to the Edge
Stephen Lendman
What Happened to Ralkina Jones? Another Jail Cell Death
Rob Wallace
Neoliberal Ebola: the Agroeconomic Origins of the Ebola Outbreak
Dmitry Rodionov
The ‘Ichkerization’ Crime Wave in Ukraine
Joyce Nelson
Scott Walker & Stephen Harper: a New Bromance
Bill Blunden
The Red Herring of Digital Backdoors and Key Escrow Encryption
Thomas Mountain
The Sheepdog Politics of Barack Obama
Farzana Versey
A President and a Yogi: Abdul Kalam’s Symbolism
Norman Pollack
America’s Decline: Internal Structural-Cultural Subversion
Foday Darboe
How Obama Failed Africa
Cesar Chelala
Russia’s Insidious Epidemic
Tom H. Hastings
Defending Democracy
David Macaray
Why Union Contracts are Good for the Country
Virginia Arthur
The High and Dry Sierras
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, the Season Finale, Mekonception in Redhook
July 28, 2015
Mark Schuller
Humanitarian Occupation of Haiti: 100 Years and Counting
Lawrence Ware
Why the “Black Church” Doesn’t Exist–and Never Has
Peter Makhlouf
Israel and Gaza: the BDS Movement One Year After “Protective Edge”
Carl Finamore
Landlords Behaving Badly: San Francisco Too Valuable for Poor People*
Michael P. Bradley
Educating About Islam: Problems of Selectivity and Imbalance
Binoy Kampmark
Ransacking Malaysia: the Najib Corruption Dossier
Michael Avender - Medea Benjamin
El Salvador’s Draconian Abortion Laws: a Miscarriage of Justice
Jesse Jackson
Sandra Bland’s Only Crime Was Driving While Black
Cesar Chelala
Effect of Greece’s Economic Crisis on Public Health
Mel Gurtov
Netanyahu: An Enemy of Peace
Joseph G. Ramsey
The Limits of Optimism: E.L. Doctorow and the American Left
George Wuerthner
Bark Beetles and Forest Fires: Another Myth Goes Up in Smoke
Paul Craig Roberts - Dave Kranzler
Supply and Demand in the Gold and Silver Futures Markets
Eric Draitser
China’s NGO Law: Countering Western Soft Power and Subversion
Harvey Wasserman
Will Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Anti-Green Resume Kill His Presidential Hopes?
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode 4, a Bowery Ballroom Blitz