Please Remember Rachel Corrie: April 10, 1979 – March 16, 2003

Rachel Corrie mural, Olympia, Washington.

Had she not been murdered in Gaza by Israeli Defense Forces on March 13, 2003, today Rachel Corrie would have been 43 years old.

In December 2020 we received Rachel Corrie’s book under the title Let Me Stand Alone ((Norton, 2008). Craig and Cindy Corrie, Rachel’s parents, wrote the following: “To Rachel and Raouf, with deep gratitude and for peace with justice.”

Born on April 10, 1979, in Olympia, Washington, Rachel Corrie, a liberal arts major, a peace activist, and a human rights volunteer/observer was brutally murdered by Israel Defense forces in Gaza on March 16, 2003.

A graduate of The Evergreen State College, Rachel’s brief life will go down in the annals of history as an exemplary testament to that rare human spirit of preached and lived by Jesus Christ, the Jewish Palestinian Prophet who preached  sacrifice, altruism, loving one’s neighbor,  standing up for injustice, sharing one’s resources, and  giving up one’s life in defense of the dispossessed, the weak, and the oppressed.

In the introduction to Rachel’s book, Let Me Stand Alone,  Craig and Cindy wrote the following:

Rachel was killed [at the age of 24] on March 16, 2003, in Rafah in the Gaza Strip, when she was crushed to death under an armored Caterpillar D-9R bulldozer operated by members of the Israel Defense Forces.

This book is about Rachel’s life. It is about Rachel the creator. It is her journey, told in her own words and illustrated with her own drawings. It is about Rachel the writer and artist, and also the daughter, sister, granddaughter, student, coworker, and friend. It is told through her writing; the letters, e-mails, journal entries, school papers, and sometimes paper napkins saved by Rachel or collected by her mother, stashed in tubs that sat for years in our attic. This book is not our daughter’s complete story. …

While in Rafah, Rachel and other activists stood between Palestinian municipal water workers trying to repair wells and Israeli military towers from which shots rang out harassing the workers and internationals. They spent nights sleeping at wells to protect them from demolition. Rachel documented the destruction of Palestinian olive orchards, gardens, and greenhouses and the harassment of Palestinians at check points. … She learned Arabic from Palestinian children and helped them with their English homework. … Rachel lived with Palestinian families whose homes were threatened with demolition and stood with other internationals to oppose this destruction – illegal under international law.

Attempts to seek justice in Israeli and American courts (Caterpillar) did not go anywhere. Further, American politicians, including Washington State Congressmen, did, as they usually do when it comes to Israeli criminal behavior, swept the matter under the rug.

Alaska composer Philip Munger wrote a cantata  (The Skies are Weeping) in 2004 to honor Rachel’s memory. The performance was scheduled for an April 27, 2004 presentation at the University of Alaska Anchorage.  “After objections to the upcoming performance were received, including from members of the Jewish community, a forum was held co-chaired by Munger and a local rabbi who claimed the work ‘romanticized terrorism.’”

How tragic it is that any and all supporters of Palestinian rights are labelled terrorists?   And, “after the forum ‘disintegrate[d]’, Munger announced, ‘I cannot subject 16 students … to any possibility of physical harm or to the type of character assassination some of us are already undergoing. Hence, ‘Performance of The Skies are Weeping at this time and place is withdrawn for the safety of the student performers.’” And later “Munger related that he had received threatening e-mails whose content he considered was [just] ‘short of what you’d take to the troopers’, and that some of his students had received similar communications. The cantata was eventually performed at the Hackney Empire theatre in London, premiering on November 1, 2005.” (Anchorage Daily News)

Other tributes to Rachel Corrie included My Name is Rachel Corrie, a play based on Rachel’s diary of her life In Gaza. The play was presented in London with  scheduled follow up performances in New York. As usual, politics interfered and the play was postponed indefinitely, a decision denounced by the British producers.  Singer Billy Bragg wrote The Lonesome Death of Rachel Corrie, a song styled after Bob Dylan’s The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll. In early 2005, My Name is Rachel Corrie, a play composed from Corrie’s journals and emails from Gaza and compiled by actor Alan Rickman and journalist Katharine Viner, in a production directed by Rickman, was presented in London. The play was to be transferred to the New York Theatre Workshop, but when it was postponed indefinitely, the British producers denounced the decision as censorship and withdrew the show. (Philip Weiss the Nation)  It finally opened Off-Broadway on October 15, 2006, for an initial run of 48 performances. In the same year, My Name is Rachel Corrie was shown at the Pleasance theatre as part of the Edinburgh (Fringe) Festival. The play has also been published as a  paperback, and performed in ten countries, including Israel. (Rachel Foundation for Peace and Justice)

Since 2004 there have been three deadly Israeli assaults on Gaza, each one more brutal and heinous than the previous ones. And, while the world has condemned Putin’s assault on Ukraine, precious little has been uttered about the Yemenis and Palestinians, victims of Saudi Arabian and Israeli blasphemous brutalities.

Albeit tragic, please read this beautifully illustrated book by Rachel Corrie.  Let Me Stand Alone is a treasured addition to our library.

And please observe 2 minutes of silence to honor Rachel Corrie’s memory and the memory of all the Rachel Corries of this world who’ve stood up for human decency in the service of Justice and the cause of Peace.

Raouf J. Halaby is a Professor Emeritus of English and Art. He is a writer, photographer, sculptor, an avid gardener, and a peace activist.