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Activist’s parents recall Palestinian strife

By Tony Lystra
Gazette-Times reporter

Originally published in the Corvallis Gazette-Times

Corvallis crowd hears legacy of nonviolent stance

When Rachel Corrie was 2, she looked up at her mother and asked an unsettling question: “Mom,” she said, “Is brave part of growing up?”

More than two decades later, just before her 24th birthday, Rachel was mowed down by an Israeli military bulldozer as she tried to protect a Palestinian home from destruction.

On Tuesday, her parents, Craig and Cindy Corrie, of Olympia, Wash., spoke at the First United Methodist Church in Corvallis about their daughter, her legacy of nonviolent protest and a Palestinian people who soldier on in the face of the Israeli occupation.

Rachel, Cindy Corrie said, stood for “the right of Palestinians and Israelis to be secure in their homes, in their restaurants and on their buses.”

The Corries said their daughter was inspired by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to become involved in the international peace movement, and she soon decided to visit the Palestinian territories.

Rachel settled in Rafah, a small town on the Egyptian border, which Cindy Corrie described as “the most forsaken part of the occupied territories.”

On Tuesday, the Corries showed video footage of their daughter standing on a rooftop, talking about what she had seen in Rafah.

“Children have been shot and killed,” she said.

The Israeli forces destroyed more than half of Rafah’s water supply, she continued. And people there were “economically devastated” by the closure of borders.

“What I’m witnessing here is a very systematic destruction of people’s ability to survive,” Rachel said.

On March 16, 2003, Rachel stood in front of a Rafah house, trying to save it and the family inside from an Israeli bulldozer.

The house, the Corries explained, was right on the border with Egypt, where the Israeli government was constructing a large, steel wall.

In the wake of her daughter’s death, Cindy Corrie said she could hear Rachel’s voice: “Get moving, mom.” And so she and her husband have made several trips to the region and begun talking publicly about the plight of people in the Palestinian territories.

In a presentation that was highly critical of Israeli and U.S. policy, the Corries talked of the warm hospitality of Palestinian families. They showed photos of smiling Palestinian children and their grinning grandmothers.

They also showed photos of Israeli bulldozers as they smashed houses.

“Craig and I believe it was our tax dollars that bought the Caterpillar that killed our daughter,” Cindy Corrie said.

Only a small portion of the homes destroyed by Israeli bulldozers are punishment for suicide bombings, she said. Many others are knocked down because, although Palestinians own the land upon which the buildings sit, Palestinian families have had difficulty getting permits to build there.

The couple also showed photos of Israeli checkpoints, walls and chain-link fences.

The Corries made little mention of the reasons Israelis build these walls, including the steel barrier blocking Rafah from Egypt. But a January International Herald Tribune story said that, during the last 25 years, arms smugglers have dug dozens of tunnels between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.

“Through them have come most of the weapons that fill this narrow Palestinian territory, threatening Israel and Palestinians themselves,” the Tribune reported.

Still, the Corries praised the efforts of nonviolent peace activists in the Occupied Territories, particularly a village called Bi’lin where Jews, Muslims and others from all over the world were gathering to peacefully protest the destruction.

“Something sensational is going on there,” Cindy Corrie said.