World Bulletin / News Desk
Fourteen years after their daughter was killed by an Israeli bulldozer, Rachel Corrie’s parents remember her as someone who gave the world an insight into the caring nature of Americans.
In a time when most of the globe views the U.S. through the prism of its foreign policy, Rachel surprised many of those with who she came into contact.
“Much of the world remembers Rachel as an example of an American that feels differently than what our foreign policy would make you think all Americans feel,” her father Craig told Anadolu Agency in a telephone interview from the family home in Olympia, Washington.
“I am glad she is remembered that way.”
Rachel was 23 years old when she travelled to the Gaza Strip on a twinning project between Olympia and Rafah in January 2003. Less than two months later she was dead -- killed as she tried to protect a Palestinian home in Rafah from illegal demolition.
Israel has never accepted responsibility for her death.
For retired insurance executive Craig, 70, and Rachel’s mother Cindy, the loss of their daughter is still felt “tremendously, every day”.
“She was very human person,” former music teacher Cindy, 69, said. As well as being a fun and “a bit messy” as a girl and young woman, Rachel “had an ability to understand things on a very deep level” that belied her youth.
In a video of Rachel as a 10-year-old fifth-grader, she tells school conference on world hunger: “I’m here for other children. I’m here because I care… We have got to understand that people in Third World countries think and care and smile and cry just like us.”
While a student at Evergreen State College in Olympia, the state capital situated around 100 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of Seattle, Racheljoined Olympians for Peace and Solidarity that, in turn, led to her going to Gaza.
“She talked about how important that time in Gaza was to her and how it wasn’t about her,” Cindy said.
“It really was her effort to learn how to be in solidarity with people that live days, months, years under oppression.”
Two days before her death, Racheldescribed seeing children shot and killed, greenhouses and homes demolished and water wells bulldozed.
“I feel like what I am witnessing here is that there is a systemic destruction of people’s ability to survive and that is incredibly horrifying,” she said.
On the day she died, Rachel was among a group of International Solidarity Movement activists standing against bulldozers sent to raze Palestinian homes in Rafah.
She was kneeling in front of an armored bulldozer in a bid to save the home of a local pharmacist when the machine ran over her. She was pronounced dead shortly after reaching hospital.
Then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised a credible and transparent investigation. “Our government still says that never happened,” her father told Anadolu Agency.
Over the years, the Corries have struggled to hold someone accountable for Rachel’s death.
They filed a civil lawsuit in Israel in 2005 but it was rejected, as was their appeal in 2015.
Although unsuccessful, the family, which established the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice, believes the lawsuit exposed the problems within the Israeli government and military.
“It was challenging those institutions,” Cindy said. “And our attorney Hussein Abu Hussein was very successful in exposing all the problems that exist with that system.”
The case also revealed the role of Israeli courts in supporting the occupation, Craig added.
“The generals in Israel know that there are certain countries in Europe that they can’t travel to because they would be hauled into court but they never suspect they would have to go to an Israeli court,” he said, citing a conversation with a former Israeli soldier.
“It doesn’t do me any good to throw a bulldozer driver into jail because the bulldozer driver, of course, is the instrument that is barely more responsible than the bulldozer itself.
- Trump administration
“It is a whole chain of command in which that military operates and what you want to do is change that.”
The election of Donald Trump has done little to boost the Corries’ expectations of a just outcome -- either in relation to Rachel’s death or the oppression of Palestinians.
“For the Israelis that I know, there is a conflict there because they are living on some other person’s indigenous land but the last best hope for Israel is that somebody stop them from the madness they are going through,” Craig said.
“And of course, for the last month or so in the U.S., it is a little hard to think our government is going to be the one to save somebody from madness.”
A UN report this week that declared Israel to be operating an “apartheid regime” should be “a great place to start to learn”, Craid said, rather than be denounced out of hand, which was the Trump administration’s response.
The family also expressed concern over Trump’s choice of David Friedman as ambassador to Israel.
“The support the current U.S. government is lending to basically whatever the Israeli government wants to do is disturbing,” Cindy said.
She added: “What we ask of the current government is for them to tread lightly and make room to learn. Our concern is for the Palestinian people.”
Rachel’s life and work in Palestine has been made into a play titled My Name is Rachel Corrie, based on the emails she sent to her family from Rafah.
Her family now hope that there can be some restitution for the people of Palestine, if not for Rachel.
“In some ways, there is nothing we can do for Rachel,” Craig said. “You have to have the justice going forward.”