As predicted, “the fog of war” is being used to obscure an Israeli atrocity — a circumstance of potentially enormous consequence if it continues.
On March 16th, an Israeli soldier driving a bulldozer two-stories high crushed to death 23-year-old Rachel Corrie, an American nonviolent human rights protestor. According to numerous witnesses and photographic documentation, she was killed intentionally.
Rachel and a handful of others practicing Ghandian nonviolence in the Gaza Strip had been pleading with Israeli soldiers for two hours not to destroy a Palestinian family home. Suddenly, the Israeli bulldozer operator began driving his giant bulldozer toward the home, Rachel sitting in its path. Witnesses report that she then stood up on the mound of debris and dirt pushed by the bulldozer blade and looked straight at the operator through the window. He continued, and she was pulled underneath the tractor, its blade crushing her. He then backed up, running over her again, burying her deeper into the dirt.
Three friends ran to Rachel and dug her out. According to an eye-witness report by Joe Smith of Kansas City: “Her body was in a mangled condition, she said ‘my back is broken!’ but nothing else her eyes were open and she was clearly in a great deal of pain.” A Palestinian ambulance made it through Israeli forces, and took her to the hospital, where she died. Reports are unclear whether it was her fractured skull or the suffocation caused by crushed lungs and being buried in the dirt that caused her death.
George Bush has yet to condemn this atrocity by an “ally” who receives more US funding than any other nation on earth, over $10 million per day. Congress has yet to pass a resolution condemning this use of American tax money to kill an American citizen. The U.S. State Department has yet to impose any diplomatic sanctions whatsoever against a government whose “apology” for one of its soldiers crushing a young, peaceful American student has consisted of calling it “regrettable,” and blaming Rachel for the Israeli soldier’s decision to kill her.
The American media have yet to accord this horror the attention it would normally merit, if it had been done by any other country on earth, including the U.S. government. We heard about Chandra Levy for many months. We read about the students in Tiananman Square for years. We heard news reports about Rachel Corrie for approximately two days. Apart from her hometown Washington state newspapers, there were virtually no follow up stories no stories about the memorial service held the next day in Gaza that was broken up by an Israeli tank, while the bulldozer that killed her drove slowly, exultantly past. No stories about Israeli forces blocking the ambulance carrying her remains from exiting Gaza. No stories about Rachel’s grieving parents and siblings, about their inability to travel to Palestine. No stories.
This erasing of Rachel, her message, and her death is unconscionable. It is also extremely dangerous. Such silence is giving Israel a green light to escalate its killing of civilians, of peaceful protesters, of young girls. The day after Rachel was killed the Israeli military killed another 9 Palestinian civilians, including three children, the following weeks still more.
Israel has killed Americans before. On March 29, 2002, Israeli forces killed a 21-year-old American in Ramallah as she held her baby on her lap. She was Palestinian-American, so perhaps that’s why mainstream media largely failed to report this death. On June 8, 1967, Israeli forces attacked a US Navy ship, the USS Liberty, killing 34 American servicemen, injuring 172. And nothing happened. The story was universally buried, the attack unmentioned in history books and reports on the Middle East. The families of those killed were given moderate sums for the loss of their young sons, husbands, brothers, fathers. After many years of finagling, Israel finally paid the US a minute fraction of the value of this ship with no interest for the years it had delayed.
Historians have since written that the fact that Israel was able to attack a US ship and kill and maim American servicemen, with virtually no consequences, convinced Israeli hardliners that Israel could, whenever it wanted, get away with murder.
Rachel Corrie’s death may prove to be another pivotal point of escalation. If the world — in particular, if Americans — allow this incident to go virtually unnoticed, then our lack of outcry will give a green light to an Israeli regime known for its brutality: If Israel can get away with using an American financed, American-built bulldozer to kill a young American woman, then it will feel it can get away with anything.
This may have already begun. Several months ago over 1,200 American and Israeli professors wrote: “We are deeply worried that “the ‘fog of war’ could be exploited by the Israeli government to commit further crimes against the Palestinian people, up to full-fledged ethnic cleansing.” Now, following Rachel’s death, Israel seems to have begun a trial run in Tul Karem, rounding up 1,000 to 2,000 Palestinians. Israeli Historian Ilan Pappe reports [April 2]: “Under the cover of the Iraqi war it seems that the Israeli government is stepping up its preparations for major operations against the population in the occupied territories.”
It is time for the world to send an unequivocal message: No more. This time we will stop it.
It is time for Americans to turn the light bright red:
Israel, we will not forget Rachel Corrie. No longer will we look the other way. No more may you use American money to kill children, American money to kill Americans, American money to crush young women to death, American money to kill peace.
ALISON WEIR, the founder of If Americans Knew, is a freelance journalist who traveled throughout the Palestinian Territories in winter, 2001. She is the mother of a daughter born the same year as Rachel Corrie.
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