Whatever sour emotions I entertained while reading accounts of the funeral of Marla Ruzicka had nothing really to do with the sad death on April 16 of a brave young woman in Baghdad. On many accounts–and I have had a detailed conversation with a close friend of Marla’s whose judgment I trust entirely–she was an idealistic person whose prime political flaw seems to have been the very forgivable one of naïveté.
Both in Afghanistan and Iraq, in furtherance of her humanitarian schemes, Marla Ruzicka elected a stance of studious neutrality in ascribing responsibility for the victims of US bombings and ground fire. This pursuit of “credibility” certainly yielded its ironic reward in the political range of those who publicly mourned her.
A US senator–Barbara Boxer–attended Ruzicka’s funeral in Lakeport, in northern California. Bob Herbert of the New York Times poured out an emotional column honoring Ruzicka, and Robert Pollock wrote for the Wall Street Journal editorial page, “America has lost a peerless and unique ambassador.”
The sourness in my heart stemmed from a contrast. Almost exactly two years earlier, on March 16, 2003, another brave young woman in a foreign land lost her life, not to a suicide bomber but under the blade of a forty-nine-ton bulldozer made in America by the Caterpillar company specifically for house demolitions and driven by an Israeli soldier, who surely saw Rachel Corrie, clearly visible in her fluorescent orange jacket.
No US senator attended Rachel’s funeral. They ran in the opposite direction. The Corries disclosed that after their return home to Washington State with their daughter’s body, they contacted their senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, both Democrats, and told them how their daughter had been deliberately murdered while peacefully demonstrating against a house demolition, such demolitions being violations of international law. Murray and Cantwell, the Corries recall, were quick with expressions of outrage and promises of investigations. The Corries never heard from Murray or Cantwell again.
Cindy Corrie’s mailbox filled with disgusting letters abusing her for being a bad mother, and the Israel-right-or-wrong crowd began an unrelenting campaign of abuse of Rachel, to the overall effect that she had it coming to her, that she was defending terrorists who smuggle weapons across the border to kill Israelis, that the International Solidarity Movement, of which she was a member, was a terrorist symp group.
As Professor Steve Niva of Evergreen State College in Olympia wrote on the CounterPunch website shortly after Corrie’s death, the house of Dr. Samir Nasrallah, which Rachel was defending, “was being demolished because, like dozens of others that have been bulldozed in Hay Salaam, his home was near the ‘Apartheid Wall’ Israel was building.”