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For many Israelis, Rachel Corrie was a nuisance

Since Rachel Corrie’s death, the Israeli establishment has been losing patience with activists of any kind.

(This op-ed was originally published in The Guardian on August 29 here and in the print edition here)

The state of Israel is not to blame for the death of Rachel Corrie – this is the decision an Israeli court reached yesterday. The ruling, made by Judge Oded Gershon of the Haifa district court, may have come as a shock to some, but anyone following Israel’s path on a slippery slope, particularly over the past decade, could hardly be surprised when the court literally blamed the victim for her own death. “An unfortunate accident,” is what Gershon chose to call the tragedy. “She did not distance herself as a reasonable person would have done.”

Corrie, bulldozed to death by a massive D9 Caterpillar on 16 March 2003, was part of an activist group called ISM – International Solidarity Movement. This is a group of international activists who advocate nonviolent demonstrations in the West Bank (and Gaza back then, before the disengagement in 2005) in solidarity with Palestinians opposing the occupation.

A nonviolent movement, you say?

Well, isn’t that what Israelis were always looking for? For their enemies to abandon terror, suicide bombings and rockets and to go down the route of Gandhi? Yet, in reality the ISM is probably one of the most hated organisations roaming the roads of Judea and Samaria these days. Seen as foreigners who have come from afar to meddle in local affairs, they have been accused of antisemitism, supporters of terrorists and allies of Hamas. For a majority of Israelis, these people have nothing to do with peace. They’re a nuisance.

A recent example of that attitude is the case of a young Dane called Andreas Ias, who took part in a nonviolent ISM demonstration this year in the West Bank. Footage of IDF colonel Shalom Eisner ramming Ias in the face with his rifle as he was slowly walking around the protest area went viral, and showed clearly the true feelings Israelis have for the Rachel Corries of the world.

The Israeli establishment has less and less patience for activists of any kind of late. As part of the recent government offensive on human rights in Israel, freedom of expression has been hit hard. Not only are leftwing activists who oppose the occupation summoned for interrogations – even J14 activists, those who lead the peaceful social protests against the cost of living, have been interrogated by police long before they take to the streets in an attempt to intimidate citizens of “the only democracy in the Middle East” to exercise their freedom to protest.

As news of Judge Gershon’s decision broke, and as it spread like wildfire across social networks, the local Hebrew media barely batted an eyelid. The items covering the Corrie verdict on websites of Israel’s largest newspapers barely lasted an hour on the home page. Corrie’s story may be well known to Palestinians and leftwing activists, but one would be hard pressed to find people in Israel who actually know who she is to begin with.

Another reason for the sparse media attention in Israel could be the fact that this is a long drawn out case which probably isn’t over – as the Corrie family intends to appeal to the supreme court. And with the American ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, saying only a week ago that the investigation so far into the incident has not been sufficient, the Corries may feel they have the administration’s support to pursue this further. One can only hope that Gershon’s ruling was indeed an “unfortunate accident” as well, to be amended in the future.

For the Corrie family this is, of course, another horrible blow in its attempt to bring someone, anyone, in the IDF to accountability. On that day in 2003, a D9 driver demolished a young girl and her family. Yesterday in Haifa, with what may seem like a single court decision, a judge pushed forward the ongoing demolition of the Israeli justice system and the remainders of Israeli democracy itself.

In a country where the military is considered sacred and investigates itself, and where the judicial system has enabled occupation for over 45 years, could one have seriously expected a different outcome?

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    1. Gil Franco

      So Israelis don’t know who Rachel Corrie is but consider her to be a nuisance. Is that like being a capitalist and a bolshevik at the same time?

      Reply to Comment
    2. One of your right wing commentors, Aaron, has pointed out several times that this conflict is not like the Civil Rights Movement. He is correct, or right. This is an attempt at a new form of nonviolence, where the costs of failure could be quite high; bombings have a way of combining many things into a single, fused thing. There is such fear and anger over the past that most Israelis, I venture, want no true resistence to exist. So Corrie is not “reasonable,” spoiled, an ally of terrorists. What Israel aggregate fails to understand is that such resistence is their true ally. That such as Corrie were and can be again should be an almost awed hope, not cause to silence others into “only this may be.” So I keep saying.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bluegrass Picker of Afula

        So, Mr Greg Pollack, how much resistance are ==you== willing to welcome to…. your occupation of the home of an indigenous person? Please measure that out for us. Can the tribes people stone your kids as they walk to school? Will you give us at least that? Or is it not a problem anymore because y’all COMPLETED the genocide? Maybe I can learn from your strategy!!

        Reply to Comment
        • The United States had slaves; not now. It had Jim Crow; not now. It’s time to find a way to move beyond these things.

          Reply to Comment
    3. Guy Montag

      “In a country where the military is considered sacred and investigates itself … could one have seriously expected a different outcome?”

      Like Pat Tillman’s 2004 friendly-fire death, the nature of Yoni Netanyahu’s 1976 death at Entebbe was covered up the IDF. Yoni and Pat Tillman were eerily similar characters, both driven by a sense of integrity, honesty and conviction. As was Rachel Corrie, who was Pat Tillman’s hero.

      In his mother’s book, “Boots on the Ground by Dusk,” Mary Tillman wrote: “I remember picking up the article [about Rachel Corrie’s death] from the same spot more than a year ago [in 2003] and asking Pat, “Who’s this?” “That’s my hero,” Pat said. “She was a stud; she had a lot of guts.”

      It’s ironic that while Rachel was a hero to Pat Tillman, she is viewed with contempt by Yoni’s family. Iddo Netanyahu said that he feels “that there is an inherent incompatibility in the joining together, in one evening, of a play based on my brother Yoni’s letters [“To Pay the Price”] with the play ‘My Name Is Rachel Corrie.”

      [For more, see the June 2010 post, “That’s My Hero”: Pat Tillman, Rachel Corrie, and Yoni Netanyahu, posted at the feralfirefighter blog]

      Reply to Comment
    4. Laurent Szyster

      After so many wars, thousands of deads and injured, why can’t Israelis care about the moronic “martyrdom” of an hysteric “antizionist” activist in Gaza ?

      I have no stupid answer to offer for that idiotic question.

      But things like the support to George Ibrahim Abdallah by ISM-France may give you a clue why diaspora Jews like me would be glad to beat the antisemitic shit out of those hypocrits.

      Reply to Comment
      • JG

        Diaspora armchair-wannabe-IDF fanboys like you are a greater thread for Israel than thousand Rachel Corries will ever be.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          Fascinating. Please extrapolate how a diaspora armchair-wannabe-IDF fanboy can be a threat for Israel.

          Reply to Comment
          • JG

            There is and there will never be discussion from my side with hasbara-bots. Deal with it

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Hahahaha. M’kay. Love your righteous indignation covering up an inability to reply. Have a wonderful day!

            Reply to Comment
      • sh

        What Georges Ibrahim Abdullah has to do with Corrie is difficult to discern, but bear in mind that the very person who led the investigation that led to Abdullah’s arrest in the 1980s agrees that he had already served his sentence 13 years ago and should long have been released. Protesting unjustified imprisonment because France is being pressured by the USA to continue to old him is not being pro-terrorist. Like ’em or hate ’em this does not prove that ISM supports terrorism.

        Reply to Comment
    5. Kolumn9

      Either a nuisance or an enemy. Given that she was ISM, an organization explicitly dedicated to anti-Israel activism in support of Palestinian terrorism, I would put her in the latter category. As such, I have no sympathy for St. Pancake or any of her dead and suffering fellow travelers.

      Reply to Comment

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