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Parents continue daughter’s cause

By Jennifer Moody
Originally published in the Albany Democrat-Herald

Cindy Corrie used to think the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians had no beginning, no end and no solution — if she thought about it at all.

That was before her daughter Rachel was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer as she stood in protest in front of a Palestinian home about to be razed.

Rachel Corrie was a writer who went to the Gaza Strip as a peace activist with the International Solidarity Movement. She died March 16, 2003, about three weeks shy of her 24th birthday.

Since then, her parents, Craig and Cindy of Olympia, Wash., have been accepting invitations to talk about their daughter and the conflict that led to her death.

They spoke Wednesday at Linn-Benton Community College in a talk sponsored by the Institute for Peace and Justice at LBCC, the Albany Peace Seekers, and a student group, Linn-Benton Peace Studies.

Since her death, Rachel has inspired sharply conflicting opinions. Her critics describe her as a misguided defender of Palestinian terrorists and say the house she was protecting may have been used to smuggle arms to Gaza from Egypt.

The parents’ goal, her mother said, is to remind people in the United States to “really pay attention to what’s happening in the Israeli-Palestinian situation, and to learn more about our role in it, and to find ways to actively try and take personal action on it … not to tune out on all of this.”

People are beginning to understand, Cindy added, but she thinks more people would take notice if they understood that the need to find a solution to the conflict directly affects this country.

“What the world sees is a very strong U.S. bias in support of the Israeli government. That’s viewed as being unjust,” she said. “That’s very damaging to us, in terms of world opinion.”

About 20 people attended the two-hour presentation, which centered on Rachel’s life and death and on the experiences her parents have had in the region on subsequent visits.

Rachel was in the area for about 10 weeks. She lived in Rafah, a city of about 140,000.

She wrote her parents often about the destruction she witnessed: homes bulldozed to clear the way for roads or walls, wells for drinking water destroyed by the Israeli military, an economy devastated by division and isolation. On one of her first calls home, as Israeli forces fired shells into the night, she held up the telephone and let her parents listen.

The Corries stressed they are horrified by suicide bombs and other Palestinian atrocities and in no way mean to defend them.

At the same time, however, they said they don’t believe such bombs are a threat to the very existence of the Israeli people in the same way that Israel is capable of threatening Palestinian existence.

They also question the solutions Israel has said it needs for security, such as putting walls and checkpoint terminals on Palestinian — not Israeli — property, and demolishing homes to make way for those efforts. American tax dollars, they said, are used to purchase some of the equipment for that work and may have paid for the very bulldozer that killed their daughter.

“We are motivated by Rachel to do what we can to work for a just resolution that will support all the people of this region, and I think before the whole world as well,” Cindy said.

Added her father: “We can’t do anything about Rachel, but we can do something about these children.”