Rachel's death screams for justice

Rachel Corrie uses a loudspeaker as she stands between an Israeli bulldozer and a Palestinian physician's house in the southern Gaza town of Rafah.

The Israeli bulldozer ran over her and then backed up to crush her again.
                                   Photo from miftah.org

It is the responsibility of the High Contracting Parties to ensure Israel's respect of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in the Time of War.

Part IV, Section I, Article 142 of the Convention states that "representatives of religious organizations, relief societies, or any other organizations assisting the protected persons, shall receive from these Powers, for themselves or their duly accredited agents, all facilities for visiting the protected persons, for distributing relief supplies and material from any source, intended for educational, recreational or religious purposes, or for assisting them in organizing their leisure time within the places of internment."

It's disheartening to see how international law is being abused by those whose selectively in interpreting the law the governs our world has rendered it "irrelevant" a long time ago.

The above references to the Fourth Geneva Convention, which remains the most important frame of reference to the conduct of war, mostly dealing with the responsibility of an occupying power, is of no concern to the United States, apparently, for the most upfront violator of such a law is the state of Israel.

Israel has violated a long list of UN Resolutions, whether Security Council or General Assembly. Even the repeated American veto throughout the years were hardly enough to safe Israel from its duty before international law. In fact, Israel's legitimacy as a member of the international community was never obtained in the first place, since the state of Israel was a conditional member, whose membership was conditioned on the implementation of UN Resolution 181 and 194, both are nowhere near being fulfilled.

Of course, the everyday practices of the Israeli army and government are good enough reminders of the failure of the so-called international community to uphold its own principals, and good enough indications of the continuing violations of international law. But today, was a louder reminder that will most likely catch the attention of many.

Sunday, March 16, Rachel Corrie, a sweet, 23 year old American activist, was run over by an Israeli army bulldozer, and then buried by the debris, in the refugee camp of Rafah, to the south of Gaza City.

Rachel, from the town of Olympia, in Washington State, stood before Israeli bulldozers, as they tore down a building that belongs to a "protected person" because no one else, but Rachel and a few of her comrades dared to challenge the Israeli army. There is a bittersweet irony in her tragic death. Rachel should not have been in Palestine, she should have been at home, studying for her exams. The United Nations should have been blocking Israeli bulldozers, since they were the institution designated to provide protection to the refugees. Rachel's death does not only reflect the depth of her humanity, but it also reflects the tremendous failure of the United Nations, or perhaps their indifference, to this crucial task. 

I don't think that Rachel was thinking of Geneva Conventions or had a particular UN resolution in mind when she laid down before the Israeli bulldozer, and before the Israeli driver buried her under the sand and then ran over her, despite the pleas of people to stop. But I can imagine the rage that went through the young woman's head as she decided to use her body to stand between the army bulldozer and the Palestinian refugees.

"Rachel was alone in front of the house as we were trying to get them to stop," Greg Schnabel, 28, from Chicago told the Associated Press. "She waved for bulldozer to stop and waved. She fell down and the bulldozer kept going. We yelled 'stop, stop', and the bulldozer didn't stop at all. It had completely run over her and then it reversed and ran back over her," he said. 

I recall my interview with Um Jamal Al-Shalabi, of Jenin, as she narrated her own story with the bulldozers that also refused to stop and demolished the house over her paralyzed son, Jamal. "We have a schedule to keep," Um Jamal was told by the bulldozer driver, who along with his colleague demolished entire neighborhoods, and on many occasions, did so while people were still inside.

Although tragic, nothing is out of the ordinary as far as Israeli conduct in the occupied territories is concerned. Just recently an Israeli sniper in Jenin shot and killed Ian Hook, a United Nations coordinator who was dispatched to help the refugees put their lives back together after the historic invasion of the camp in April of 2002. Israel claimed that it appeared as if Hook had a gun in his hand, not a cell phone. But they failed to explain why they left the British worker to bleed to death, as his Palestinian colleagues tried to save his life. I wonder how Israel plans to explain to media the death of Rachel, did her frail body pose a threat to the safety of the Israeli army? Or was it just another "honest mistake"?

While well over 200,000 American and nearly 50,000 British soldiers are ready to invade Iraq, regardless of how such an invasion is interpreted under international law, people like us, students, mothers and fathers from all over the world are flooding the Occupied Territories to provide some sort of protection to the Palestinian people. Like Rachel, their bodies are their only ammunition before the mammoth Israeli Merchava tanks and D-9 bulldozers. They're angry, like many of us, because of this untold hypocrisy of the United States government, and the failure of the "High Contracting Parties," to live up the law they drafted and to the resolutions for which they voted.

A great deal is told about the brutality of any army that doesn't mind running over a young woman for simply protesting the demolishing of a house in Rafah or a paralyzed man in Jenin. But also stories of courage are told, not only by the Palestinian people, but also by those amazing individuals who literary sacrifice their lives to stand by another people, forgotten by the international community and deemed irrelevant when laws are implemented.

I am sorry, Rachel, that you had to die such a death; your screams on al-Jazeera broke my heart, as they broke the hearts of many. But it's not the bulldozer driver, a war criminal under every law, that I am angry at, but the US government that supplied Israel with the weapons and political cover to kill you and thousands of other innocents.

Today, Rachel our blood is united; you stood and fell defending what is just and honorable. Maybe we will not be able to give you the honor and gratitude that you deserve, but Rachel, I promise you, that every Palestinian, but every human being of conscience is paying tribute to you. Rest in peace.

Baroud is the editor-in-chief of PalestineChronicle.com and the editor of "Searching Jenin: Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion."

  Category: Middle East, World Affairs
  Topics: Fourth Geneva Convention, International Law
Views: 2152

Related Suggestions

The opinions expressed herein, through this post or comments, contain positions and viewpoints that are not necessarily those of IslamiCity. These are offered as a means for IslamiCity to stimulate dialogue and discussion in our continuing mission of being an educational organization. The IslamiCity site may occasionally contain copyrighted material the use of which may not always have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. IslamiCity is making such material available in its effort to advance understanding of humanitarian, education, democracy, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, and such (and all) material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

Older Comments:
ON MArch 16-2003.. we were all Palistanians. WHat kind of person can have such hatred to run over anyone . God Bless RAchel for her bravery and resolve.

This deplorable,an obvious disregard for human life!!!
How can this happen time and time again without the perpertrators being held to account for their actions. This is murder! why is the individual responsible still at large?
Why is the world community standing aside and letting this happen time and time again????
Act such as this sicken me to the very pit of my stomach, we are supposidly civialised human beings with as much compassion for our fellow human beings as we have when we swat a fly.

I pray that she goes to heaven. She is truly a brave and courageous women.


The plan would seem to be to get as many devout Jews as possible wedged into a shoebox and then resented by their neighbors. That certainly sounds like a bold plan - but would it be considered the soundest strategy for a continuation of Jewish Heritage?

Also, would that still remain the best bargain that could still be driven for the tremendous price that was paid? I (for one) believe that the Jewish people still have a lot "credit" in their accounts, so to speak, with a great many persons including myself. For the sake of Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala), if any Jews distrust my motives, before Allah (swt) I hope and pray that they would receive (nothing but) peace and blessings - five times per day in fact.

If I am wrong about this, well, then I am wrong about this, but I believe that Israel is, in effect, maintaining (what I believe to be) the "Holy Grail" of terrorism: the justification of any sort of objectives which would also include the liberation of Palestine. Please, at least, consider this perspective.

If I am right, well, that would suggest that citizens of Israel ought to consider this situation - because I am telling you now it would not be me - but Allah (who is unequaled and without partner) - who was right. Please note that if I am wrong it would only be me who was wrong.

Also please note that everything that there is comes from G-d, who is incomparable. Therefore, G-d alone would be deserving of all praise.

Shalom Aleichem. (Love, Yahya)

NOREEN said:
None, youre right you have no logic, none.
Funny how the Isrealis can beg the US government for $10 billion dollars on top of the $55 million dollars they receive PER DAY of American tax payers money, and then claim that Americans have no business in Isreal's issues.

You should be grateful to Americans like Rachel Corrie for paying taxes to the US governemnt, so Israel can leech off of it.

Youre right Rachel Corrie was emotionally concerned, thats what happens when you have a heart and are a mind to tell the difference between right and wrong.
She was also brave and compassionate enough to speak up and stand up to one of the most undisciplined armies in the world, the Israeli army.

The insane bulldozer driver intentionally drove over her TWICE. She was wearing fluorescent orange, and people yelled at the insane, heartless driver to stop.

If thats what the Israeli army does to American citizens, imagine what they do to Palestinian people.

If Isreal wants security and peace, they should stop stealing land in Palestine and put their natzi-jewish fanatical settlements somewhere else.
Isreali brutality and oppression has been around alot longer than suicide bombers.

May she rest in peace.

Even from YOUR version of the story, it sounds like Rachel allowed herself to be worked into an emotional frenzy over an issue that was really none of her business, lost situational awareness and common sense, and died as a result of it.

I just read the article today. The Bulldozer driver committed murder. He had a choice, and he chose to kill another human being instead of stopping, with intent.

Israel, with it policies, is no different than Nazis mistreating the Jews in WWII. What sympathies it tries to evoke, has no weight, a morally corrupt and hypocritical regime such as this - has no right to the world's sympathy.

Israel is a blight on the face of all humanity.

NOREEN said:
Rachel Corrie was a person of immense courage and compassion.
According to Islamic teachings, any innocent person that is killed by a wrongful hand, is a shahid, and is blessed immediately with heaven, without having to answer for anything.

Rachel Corrie suffered brutally, as she was still alive when the bulldozer retreated after going over her TWICE. Inshallah she will be greatly rewarded for her humanitarian efforts.

As she says in her letters home to her mother,
she was witnessing hell on earth, but felt she was safe as the Israeli military wouldnt harm a "white person."

After receiving billions in American taxpayers dollars, you would think the Israeli military would show an American citizen some gratitude.

This month ALONE- the Israeli military has killed 85 people, including 11 children. The Palestinian people have been under occupation for over 35 years, while suicide bombings are a relatively new reaction to their oppressors.

Many of them are refugees 3 or 4 times over, because when they build permanent homes to settle and area, the Israeli military bulldozes their homes, orchards and farmer's fields to make way for illegal settlements and their walls, and roads.

According to Dr. Gabor Mate, a former Zionist youth leader, Israeli settlers are given 6 times more water than Palestinians who have lived there for centuries.
The Israeli military has repeatedly destroyed water wells, orchards, farms, shops, businesses, banks, schools, police stations, and killed almost 2500 Palestinians since last March.

Israel is an apartheid state, with grave human rights violations, and is in contempt of numerous UN resolutions.

If Americans stopped sending waves of settlers to the West Bank, there would be less to undo later. If so, there might also be a reduction in the demand for such "commandment-compliant?" forms of retaliation as depriving people of their homes and property. Surely, Jews of all people are familiar with that particular form of deprivation, I should think.

Personally, I'm not sure that I could look anybody in the eye while I was telling them that their departure from their homeland was deemed by Americans to be preferrable to terrorism. Can you?

With all of these settlers we keep sending them, it certainly seems like Palestinians have to make a choice sooner or later - or (by default) accept the choice that my fellow Americans have (by default) made on the behalf of the Palestinians. What sayest thou? (Is that the kind of people we are?)

Now then, my solution would be to have as many, of these religiously motivated settlers, as possible move move next door to me - Sharon, too. Period. I like Jews. Peace be upon them. G-d help Palestinians.

If palistinians will stop terrorism, they will not need any protections.

Sham....God bless you and give us Muslims the means and opportuinity to fight our oppressors to the death.....we are deadly willing.

May God Almighty bless her soul and accept the pure humane intentions that she had. I wish I had the courage to stand against injustice like her.

Mike - if I had not found the Quran, I doubt very much I would have agreed that our armed forces belonged back in Iraq - either for liberation or protection of our friends in that region. In fact I was quite impressed that our George H. W. Bush responded to international and regional sensibilities the first time around. Indeed, my commitment (to the finishing the job, for the liberation of Iraq) comes from verses from the Quran that were first pointed out to me by Palestians - seeking deliverance for persecution themselves.

What if someone decided you needed to leave Texas? I haven't live in Texas for some time but I still happen to love Texas (and simple Texans, as well.) Would you mind it so much if I interferred on your behalf - in a place that others might think doesn'tt look like all that much to them? Have you no appreciation for hopeless causes - by people that the local authorities don't seem to feel belong there?


Dear Brothers & Sisters. The time is upon us now when we have to cease our peaceful protests aimed at our own governments. It seems the more we plead with these Munafiqoons the more they beat and imprison and torture Muslims. My dearly loved brothers and sisters we have been protesting peacefully for over 50 years, all we have in return are missing family members, humiliated sisters and beaten and broken brothers. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

Now the time has come to change our peaceful protests into violent operations of insurgency. During protests NO MERCY should be shown to the police and army personnel who are there to beat Muslims. Quite frankly I don't know how these vile little piglets, who beat Muslims can sleep at night. We should treat these people as Non-Muslims, and what does the Quran say about Non-Muslims who oppress Muslims??. It commands us to butcher them so badly that it becomes a lesson to the others. I'm hearing of large protests in Egypt, which is one of the few things happening in the world rite now that gives my heart some happiness. Ooooh how I wish I could migrate there and be with you! But brothers while I don't know the exact situation, I would like to say this, you guys need to become more organised and need to also strategically plan your actions. Do not just go out in one big group from one direction. i.e send in an advance group and then see how the authorities react then go in from the left and right and from behind. If you have nothing else take your BUTTER KNIVES. What are 10,000 police going to do against 200,000 men even if they have guns. Maybe they kill 40 or 50 thousand of us, but we'll wipe them out too!

What is happening in the Muslim world is sickening and I personally have not had a proper night's sleep since the war in Iraq started, I've had a constant headache. And now more than ever we need to make painful sacrifices to reclaim our dignity, our freedom, our right to live in peace, and our countri

Believe it or not, I believe in the Palestinian people and pray for them and hope that they soon get their own independent state and freedom from Israel's aggression. I also totally support our efforts to remove Saddam Hussein and his evil regime. A regime which is just as evil and has been just as cruel as Israel has been to the Palestinian people.

When Palestinian Americans in my city protested, I stood with them. I want their people to be free and happy. I also want the people of Iraq to be free and happy. America needs to stand up for Palestinians just as they are fighting for the future of Iraq. I wish we could help more than we are helping now. I am afraid we may be a puppet of Israel's wishes. We don't want this, and we are trying to help the Palestinian people as much as we possibly can. Believe me. The people of America want to help you.

P.S. - I am a Christian. Peace to you all!

salaam,i just would like to say that its not just Blair&Bush that seem pre-occupied with Iraq-it is evryone. we protest against the war on Iraq but nobody has done any similar events for the war on palestinians. inshallah, the muslims will rise and stand before its too late.ONE Rachel can't do anything but a HUNDRED may make a difference!May Allah have mercy, ameen.

Assalamulaikum, I am saddened and angered over this tragic event. I am disappointed that this tragedy has not been more publicized. If not for Islamcity.com I don't believe we would know anything about this incident. Although I am sure there are many more incidents like this that occur and the public is unaware of, it is time that someone make the U.S. government take notice. To the many volunteers who take time to go to places and protest I say, keep up the good work. Even though it doesn't appear anyone hears, Allah hears you and is aware of your deeds and attempts to help your fellow man. For this you shall be rewarded. Israel must be put on notice that their civil rights violations will no longer be tolerated and that they must leave the occupied territories of Palestine. May Allah give the leaders of Palestine wisdom to do their part in ending this war, and may Allah grant the Israeli leadership wisdom to know that they cannot win this war without suffering major devastation.

This girl was a protester, she had absolutey no business being where she was doing what she was doing. In America the bulldozer would have stopped but in a very large portion of the world the opposite would be true. If this girl had wanted to attend Jihad University she should have brought the proper tools. The Geneva convention has no application here at all. This was an individual American sticking her nose somewhere it didn't belong and while I pray for her family she was old enough to know better.
While it may sound great to decide to give up your life to a cause half way around the world but the truth of the matter is - the Israeli's and Arab's want each other dead. I see America as leveling the playing field for all concerned.
I know I'm ignorant of these causes, because none of them make sense to a simple Texan but can someone explain why a group of people would live in refugee camps in abject misery for 50 years and not want to get on with life? Is the value of life so little in the middle east?

We are in the process of forcing Palestine's only friend into political retirement (Saddam Hussein). Let us not allow our brothers and sisters to be ravaged by wild animals (in Palestine).

Please, Muslims, do not confuse the issue by referring to these wild animals as Zionists. They are merely wild animals. If they would believe that they themselves are merely persecuting animals (when they are in fact persecuting human beings) then that would prove that they themselves are animals. Surely, that would be obvious to anyone, including them. May peace be upon them.

If you happen to be Israeli citizen - especially one who is resisting service, in the IDF, within the occupied territories - I sincerely ask you to please at least reconsider your stand. Please - consider placing yourself in harms way, for G-d's sake (in ways you that personally believe are best), that the occupied territories might know the rule of law.

Help is coming, so to speak, but I am begging you for help now, until help arrives (so to speak). I beg of you - mercy please, on my behalf - please help the Palestinian people.

I have sincerely expressed, face to face, to a dual citizen of both the U.S. and Israel, while at a forum sometime last autumn, at the "Gonzaga" campus in my home city, that I would sooner have my own city destroyed (with my family and myself in it) than desire the same fate to befall Tel Aviv. I have tried to help you with what I presume is your cause (the defense of Israel) - as an outspoken advocate of a war that I had initially assumed was primarily intended to protect the State of Israel.

May G-d grant my loved ones what I would wish for my enemies. Muhammad is G-d's messenger.

Sholem Aleichem.

Yahya (John) Bergum
Spokane, Wash. (USA)