Seven years ago today, Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by a Caterpillar D9R Israeli bulldozer while nonviolently protesting the demolition of Palestinian homes in Rafah, Gaza Strip, along with other members of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Now her parents, sister and brother are suing the State of Israel and the defense minister, claiming wrongful death.
The suit’s objective, according to Rachel’s mother, Cindy, "is to illustrate the need for accountability for thousands of lives lost, or indelibly injured, by [Israel’s] occupation…. We hope the trial will bring attention to the assault on nonviolent human rights activists (Palestinian, Israeli and international) and we hope it will underscore the fact that so many Palestinian families, harmed as deeply as ours or more, cannot access Israeli courts."
The State’s attorneys have decided to use any and all ammunition to undermine Corrie’s suit. They claim that there is no evidence that Rachel’s parents and siblings are indeed her rightful inheritors; they argue that she "helped attack Israeli soldiers," "took part in belligerent activities" and accompanied armed men who attacked Israeli soldiers. In defense of the soldiers, the lawyers even write that the state "denies the deceased’s pain and suffering, the loss of pleasures and the loss of longevity."
The Israeli state attorneys demonstrate yet again that when winning is everything, shame becomes superfluous.
As Corrie’s civil suit is being heard in a Haifa court, Simone Bitton’s movie Rachel is being shown at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque. Rendering, as it were, the trial public, Bitton’s subtle and nuanced movie also presents two narratives, one offered by the state of Israel and the other by the ISM activists and the Palestinian eyewitnesses who were with Rachel on that tragic day.
In a self-reflective moment, the film reveals that about an hour after Rachel was crushed to death, Salim Najar, a Palestinian street cleaner, was killed by an Israeli sniper in Rafah. The incident is important because it emphasizes that Palestinian blood is cheap–no media outlet bothered to cover the killing, and, as Bitton herself notes, no one will likely be making a movie about Najar. This incident also helps underscore that Rachel has become an iconic "Palestinian" of sorts as well as a symbol of the struggle for social justice. She dedicated the last part of her short life to the Palestinian cause, and, after she was killed, the memory of her human rights work in Rafah has helped internationalize the struggle. Rachel’s memory has thus itself become a site where several struggles continue to be played out.