Wednesday, April 27, 2005


Jerusalem Post columnist Tom Gross (via Andrew Sullivan) reacts predictably to the new play about activist Rachel Corrie, currently being staged in London:

For those who don't recall the story, Rachel Corrie was a young American radical who burned mock-American flags at pro-Hamas rallies in Gaza in February 2003. A short while later she died after jumping in front of an Israeli army bulldozer that was attempting to demolish a structure suspected of concealing tunnels used for smuggling weapons.

Notice that Gross states that the "structure" (he can't even bring himself to call it a house, which is what it was, home to an extended family) was "suspected of concealing tunnels used for smuggling weapons." We'll have to be satisfied with "suspicion" here, given that the IDF regularly undertakes the destruction of multiple family houses based on secret evidence. Furthermore, if a smuggling tunnel had in fact been discovered beneath the Palestinian home that Corrie was trying to protect, I think we might have heard something about it.

The rest of Gross' hit-piece contains similar distortions. I won't bother with all of them, but this one deserves attention:

ISM is routinely described as a "peace group" in the Western media. Few make any mention of ISM's meeting with British suicide bombers Omar Khan Sharif and Assif Muhammad Hanif, who a few days later blew up Mike's Place, a Tel Aviv pub, killing three and injuring dozens – including British citizens.

This is a lie which has unfortunately persisted in right-wing circles. The only known connection Sharif and Hanif had with ISM consisted of the two of them attending a large ISM meeting which was open to the public.

I personally don't get with the beatification of Corrie, to the extent that this is even happening outside of a small sector of the Left, but I find the smearing of her by the Israel-phile right, exemplified by Gross and abetted, unfortunately, by Sullivan, to be reprehensible. I have serious problems with the philosophy of ISM myself, but I respect Corrie for putting deeds to her beliefs and trying to help a people who have been severely abused by recent history. I think it was pretty dumb of her to burn an American flag while abroad(to say nothing of letting herself be photographed while doing so) but implying, as her critics persistently do, that she left the safe, comfortable confines of college life in the Pacific Northwest to share the squalid conditions and dangerous day-today existence of Palestinians under Israeli occupation, where you may be shot merely for walking outside of your house at the wrong time (when is the wrong time? That's part of the surprise!), merely to indulge some kind of burning hatred for Israel and/or the United States is profoundly cynical, stupid, and frankly disgusting.

As for the circumstances surrounding Corrie's end, the fact is that her death happened as a direct, if unintended, result of Israel's commission of a crime: the collective punishment of Palestinians, specifically the destruction of their houses, in the course of an illegal military occupation. This is, by my understanding, murder. If one accidentally kills another, for instance, while committing a burglary or kidnapping, it's no defense to say "Oh, I only meant to commit burglary or kidnapping." The killing attaches to the original crime and can and would be charged as murder. This isn't legalistic hair splitting, it goes to the tragically underreported fact that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has, for the past 38 years, taken place against the backdrop of an ongoing crime by Israel: its illegal and brutal military occupation, collective punishment against the Palestinian people, and expropriation of Palestinian land and resources. Focussing on the alleged bad acts and questionable beliefs of some of Corrie's associates is merely an attempt to draw attention away from those facts.

I strongly agree with Gross, though, that the other young Rachels he mentions deserve our sympathy and sorrow, but for reasons other than he intends. Like Rachel Corrie, they are unintended victims of the occupation.

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