Rachel Corrie: Justice for Palestinians is only way forward, say US activist’s parents
After exhausting every avenue possible to seek justice for the death of their daughter at the hands of Israeli forces in a bulldozer 20 years ago, the parents of activist Rachel Corrie say the only way forward is to keep pushing for Palestinian rights.
“If you talk about justice for Rachel, I’m brutal about that. There’s nothing we can do,” Craig Corrie, Rachel’s father, said Wednesday during an online webinar hosted by the Jerusalem Fund and marking the 20th anniversary of Corrie’s death.
“If we want justice for Rachel, what we have to work for is the justice that Rachel wanted to get for the people of Palestine when she went there. And unfortunately there is still a long way to go.”
Rachel Corrie was a US citizen and activist who was crushed to death by an Israeli military bulldozer on March 16, 2003 in Rafah, Gaza Strip, while trying to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home belonging to the Nasrallah family.
‘[Rachel] he left us a lot of work to do’
– Cindy Corrie, mother of Rachel Corrie
After her death, her parents searched for justice over the killing for the last ten years, but they continued to die.
Since her death, however, Corrie’s family has received a range of support from inside and outside Palestine, and her parents continue to do advocacy and community work within Gaza.
Cindy Corrie recalled how Rachel once wrote to her and her husband: “I think that freedom for Palestine could be an incredible source of hope for struggling people around the world.”
“She taught us that we can all make a difference. She left us a lot of work to do,” Cindy said.
US citizens killed without accountability
Rachel, originally from Washington state in the US, joined a small group of international activists trying to stop the Israeli army from demolishing homes in Rafah during the Second Palestinian Intifada.
Her friends said she was wearing a bright orange vest as she faced the bulldozer and was standing on a mound of dirt, but she lost her footing as the bulldozer advanced and eventually ran over.
During Wednesday’s online webinar, Corrie’s mother Cindy said the actor’s last words were: “I think my back is broken.”
Stories of Palestine: Humanity against an unjust world
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Rachel’s death made her a symbol of the Second Intifada, and her story was dramatized on stage in a dozen countries and told in the book, Let Me Stand Alone.
Her parents shared Wednesday the many ways they tried to seek justice. After hearing that Israel had promised an investigation into her death, the Israeli military closed its inquiry without finding anyone guilty or responsible for the killing.
The family also tried to push for a US investigation with no luck. The Department of Justice in 2006 refused to open an investigation.
After failing to get an investigation from the United States, they tried to sue Caterpillar, the company that manufactures bulldozers, but that lawsuit was dismissed in the American court system.
They then tried to file a case in Israel, which ultimately failed. Israeli courts have ruled that the state of Israel cannot be held responsible for actions that occur during wartime.
Corrie’s parents noted the similarities between their daughter and other American citizens killed by Israeli forces, including Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and Palestinian-American Omar Asaad.
“Our government should be acting to support these hurting Americans,” said Cindy Corrie.
Abu Akleh’s family had a similar relationship with the US government, including the State Department, and requested an investigation into the journalist’s death, which occurred during an Israeli raid on the Palestinian town of Jenin in the occupied West Bank.
In the State Department’s most recent human rights report, Abu Akleh’s death is mentioned in the second section, and despite independent investigations saying it was targeted, the administration has not labeled it an extrajudicial killing.
Meanwhile, Asaad’s death was not mentioned in the report.
Although the ways to achieve justice for the death of their loved ones have been almost unsuccessful, public opinion has changed in recent years.
A Gallup poll from last week found that more US Democrats sympathize with the Palestinians than they do with the Israelis.
Cindy Corrie said activists and rights groups should use this momentum to pressure members of Congress and the US government to introduce more legislation that supports Palestinians as well as punishing Israel for rights abuses against of Palestine.
“We know that the discourse in this country has changed and the number of people who support Palestinians and Palestinian rights is increasing,” she said.
“But it’s not going through yet, well enough, for members of Congress. And it will take time.”