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Standing for justice — visiting family tells story of conflict

Presentation on non-violence in Israel-Palestine conflict sparks conversation
By Andrew Miner

Originally published in the Oregon State Daily Barometer

Rachel Corrie sacrificed her life hoping to bring peace through non-violence in the Israeli Palestine conflict. Craig and Cindy Corrie spoke Tuesday in the MU Journey Room about their daughter’s history.

Rachel Corrie was protecting the home of a Palestinian family, the Nasrallahs, when she was crushed to death by Israeli construction workers using an American-made D-9R caterpillar bulldozer in Rafah, Palestine on March 16, 2003. The workers were building an Israeli military wall on the border between Rafah and Gaza Strip.

“I feel it’s a very systematic destruction of the very ability for people to survive,” Rachel said in a video recorded before her death. “I feel it’s obvious that this government (of Ariel Sharon) is perpetuating the cycle of violence.”

Rachel believed that through the process of constructing the walls along Rafah and the Gaza strip the Israeli military destroyed 50 percent of the water supply for those living in the area, affecting the livelihood of 300 Palestinians.

“It’s amazing people are able to hold onto their humanity as much as they have,” said Rachel, whose shaky voice was barely audible over bulldozers which ravaged the homes below.

Human Rights Watch called the obliteration of 1,700 homes, “Razing Rafah,” where the Israeli military dealt “a pattern of destruction acting regardless of whether these homes posed an actual threat,” said Cindy Corrie.

Rafah, a city located on the tip of the Palestinian border with Egypt, has a population of 140,000, 10 percent of whom became refugees from the construction of these walls, Rachel said in the video.

The Corries have since dedicated their lives to fulfilling their daughter’s dream — of bringing permanent peace between Israelis and Palestinians — by telling their daughter’s story.

“Of the six homes we stayed at in Rafah, all but one have been demolished,” said Cindy.

Rachel, 23, was a student at Evergreen State College in the International Solidarity Movement when posted in Rafah to protest the destruction of Palestinian homes.

ISM has focused on two stipulations for the conflict: the right to freedom for Palestinians using only non-violent methods, and the strength in truth for the Palestinian cause.

“Sometimes I sit down and eat with these people (those Palestinians whose homes were being bulldozed) with the Israeli military machine surrounding them … No child should ever have to live like that,” Rachel said on screen.

Rachel and the other students in ISM slept in these Palestinian homes along the border — with efforts to sleep often hindered by tank shelling near them.

“An 8-year-old was shot and killed by an Israeli tank two days before I got here,” Rachel said. “I am really scared for the people here.”

Two men who have participated in this resistance along the border are Ghassan Andoni and Jeff Halper, both of whom have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

“Israel is the only country in the world to prevent housing based on race,” Cindy said.

The U.S. military supports Israel through U.S. tax dollars to pay for Caterpillars, used as military machines in the destruction of Rafah homes, Cindy said.

“Craig believes we paid for the Caterpillar that killed Rachel,” Cindy said.

“Rachel’s death was a call for action on our part,” said Cindy, “to not simply talk of peace, but to get our hands dirty… and Rachel got her hands dirty.”

As the emotional presentation ended, Dr. Mohamed Mohamed, a physician at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center, stood up.

“I have two children of similar age, and my heart bleeds for the both of you,” Mohamed said.

As tears welled up in his eyes, Mohamed became more impassioned. “A country that bases its citizenship on religion is wrong … what is happening in Israel is apartheid,” he said, referring to the crippling racial segregation in South Africa which involved economic, political and legal discrimination against non-whites.

“We are not anti-Jewish, we are anti-Zionist,” said Mohamed.

According to the Zionist Organization of America, one of the oldest pro-Israel organizations in the United States, Zionism was founded in 1897 to support the re-establishment of a Jewish state in Israel.