Only a year ago, the approach of the month of March would have held the same positive associations for me as it has for many–the beginning of the end of winter, the promise of springtime and even summer not too far behind. This year, and for every year for the rest of my life, the approach of March will mean something else entirely–the anniversary of the brutal death of my cousin, Rachel Corrie. On March 16th, 2003, an Israeli soldier and his commander ran over Rachel with a 9 ton, Caterpillar bulldozer while she stood–unarmed, clearly visible in her orange fluorescent jacket–protecting a Palestinian home slated for demolition by the Israeli army.
The death of Rachel Corrie, and the response that her case has–and has not–received, reveal several disturbing, indeed immoral and criminal, truths. First, Rachel died while attempting to prevent a home demolition, a common practice of the Israeli Army’s collective punishment that has left more than 12,000 Palestinians–men, women, and children–homeless since the beginning of the second uprising in September 2000. This practice violates international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Second, Rachel was run over by a Caterpillar bulldozer, manufactured in the United States and sent to Israel as part of the United States’ regular aid package to the State of Israel, which amounts to at least $3-4 billion annually, all of which comes from U.S. taxpayers. The use of Caterpillar bulldozers to destroy civilian homes, not to mention to run over unarmed human rights activists, violates U.S. law, including the U.S. Arms Export Control Act, which prohibits the use of U.S. military aid against civilians.
Third, the self-acquittal of the Israeli Army for Rachel’s death and the resistance of the State of Israel to an independent investigation into this case reveals both the Sharon administration’s unwillingness to take responsibility for the death of a US citizen and the Bush administration’s cowardice in allowing another nation to attack US citizens with impunity.
Fourth, Rachel’s death was in fact only the first of several Israeli attacks on foreign citizens in the West Bank and Gaza–Brian Avery, from New Mexico, was shot in the face on April 5th, Tom Hurndall, a U.K. citizen, was shot in the head on April 11th, and died on January 13th, and James Miller, another U.K. citizen, was shot and killed in April as well. To date, in only Hurndall’s case will the Israeli soldier responsible for the attack face trial, and this because the British government, after several months, finally responded to the overwhelming evidence presented by the Hurndall family.
As we approach March 16th, residents and citizens of the United States should ask themselves how it is that an unarmed United States citizen can be killed with impunity by a soldier from an allied nation receiving massive United States aid, using a product manufactured in the United States by a United States corporation and paid for with United States tax dollars. When three Americans were killed, presumably by Palestinians, in an explosion on October 15th, 2003 as they traveled through Gaza, the FBI came within 24 hours to investigate the deaths. After one year, neither the FBI, nor any other US-led team has done anything to investigate the death of an American, knowingly killed by an Israeli.
Why the double standard? Perhaps this reveals the most disturbing truth of all.
ELIZABETH CORRIE is Rachel Corrie’s first cousin. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.