In the last note that 23-year-old American college student Rachel Corrie wrote to her father from a Palestinian community on the Gaza Strip, she thanked Craig Corrie for stepping up his antiwar activism in the United States and urged him to continue speaking out against a US-led attack on Iraq. Four days later, on March 16, Rachel was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer as she attempted to prevent the destruction of a Palestinian physician’s home. Even as he and Rachel’s mother mourned the death of their daughter, they carried out her wish Wednesday on the terrace of the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, DC.
With three Democratic members of Congress from Rachel Corrie’s homestate of Washington — Jim McDermott and Brian Baird, who voted against the October resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq, and Adam Smith, who voted for it — standing behind them, Craig and Cynthia Corrie read a statement that poignantly added their daughter’s voice to the chorus of corncern regarding the Bush Administration’s launch of a preemptive war with Iraq.
“We are speaking out today because of Rachel’s fears about the impact of a war with Iraq on the people in the Occupied Territories. She reported to us that her Palestinian friends were afraid that with all eyes on Iraq, the Israeli Defense Forces would escalate activity in the Occupied Territories. Rachel wanted to be in Gaza if that happened,” explained Cynthia Corrie. “In the last six weeks, Rachel became our eyes and ears for Rafah, a city at the southern tip of Gaza. Now that she’s no longer there, we are asking members of Congress and, truly, all the world to watch and listen.”
The Corries expressed particular concern for international activists and Palestinians who are seeking to prevent home demolitions, as Rachel Corrie was on the Sunday she was killed. “We are asking members of Congress to bring the US government’s attention back to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis and to recognize that the occupation of the Palestinian territories is an overwhelming and continuous act of collective violence against the Palestinian people,” said the Corries. “We ask that military aid to Israel be commensurate with its efforts to end its occupation of the Palestinian Territories and to adhere to the rules of international law.”
Rachel Corrie, who was due to graduate this year from Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, was a longtime activist on environmental, social justice and peace issues. Before traveling this winter to the Gaza Strip to join International Solidarity Movement protests against the tactics used by the Israeli military in Palestinian refugee camp, she was active in Olympia’s antiwar movement. Her parents said they had learned from Rachel that they must speak out loudly against violence. “Rachel’s brutal death illustrates dramatically the madness of war,” explained Craig Corrie, an insurance actuary.
Rachel Corrie’s parents are not the only ones being inspired to action by her death. Baird, the congressman who represents the Olympia area, said he would introduce a House resolution calling for an investigation by the US State Department of Corrie’s death. “I am a strong supporter of Israel, but that doesn’t mean you look away,” said Baird. “It is incumbent for our State Department to conduct a thorough and comprehensive investigation” of the incident, added Baird, who described the circumstances of Corrie’s death as “profoundly troubling to me” and said “I think people should be held accountable.”
Baird ripped into conservatives who have criticized Rachel Corrie for placing herself in harm’s way as part of a political protest. “To suggest a nonviolent person should be run over by a bulldozer because she said and did things we don’t agree with, I find that morally repugnant,” argued the congressman. “This is not just about Israeli policy, this is about Israeli conduct against an unarmed American citizen engaged in nonviolent action.”
McDermott echoed the call for an investigation and for respect of Rachel Corrie’s nonviolent activism, saying, “We must look at this event in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King. A girl took action against a policy (home demolitions) that needs to have the light of day shown upon it.”