‘Rachel, who came to Rafah to stop the tanks, we remember her with love and honour as an inspiration’.
These are the words painted on the cement walls of Gaza. On a wall filled with bullet holes the name of Rachel Corrie serves as an act of resistance and light amongst the darkness. Rachel was exactly that, a light – a hero amongst the darkness of an illegal military occupation.
A hero, who came to fight the struggle of others as her own, who refused to remain idle as her own government aided Israel in orchestrating a genocide.
Rachel Corrie was murdered by the ‘state’ of Israel in 2003. Her young body was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer as she attempted to stop the demolition of a Palestinian family’s home. This year marks 14 years since her death, but until today Rachel’s family hasn’t received justice. The IDF soldier driving the bulldozer knew exactly what he was doing. He saw her waving her hands and screaming into the megaphone. He looked her in the eye, before he ended her life.
Rachel was on a visit to Palestine to document and partake in non-violent resistance in solidarity with the people of Gaza. She was there because her morality didn’t give her an option of staying quiet in the face of genocide and war. She saw the world in a collective manner, where we are all connected by humanity whether it’s in happiness, pain or struggle. This way of thinking is what the name Rachel Corrie has come to define today. At the mere age of 11-years-old she did a speech in school on world poverty in which she stressed this belief:
‘We have got to understand that people in third world countries think and care and smile and cry just like us. We have got to understand that they dream our dreams and we dream theirs. We have got to understand that they are us. We are them.
During her time in Gaza, Rachel continuously wrote to her parents back home in Olympia, Washington. After her death, these emails became the voice that was taken from her and were used to shed light on the plight of Palestinians. These emails were compiled and directed into a play by Alan Rickman and played in theatres all over the world in countless languages.
As Rachel Corrie relays in one of her emails to her parents:
‘I’m witnessing this chronic, insidious genocide and I’m really scared, and questioning my fundamental belief in the goodness of human nature. This has to stop. I think it is a good idea for us all to drop everything and devote our lives to making this stop. I don’t think it’s an extremist thing to do anymore. I still really want to dance around to Pat Benatar and have boyfriends and make comics for my co-workers. But I also want this to stop. Disbelief and horror is what I feel.
Disappointment. I am disappointed that this is the base reality of our world and that we, in fact, participate in it. This is not at all what I asked for when I came into this world. This is not at all what the people here asked for when they came into this world. This is not the world you and Dad wanted me to come into when you decided to have me.’
To speak such powerful words, she would’ve had to witness the greatest form of injustice, the lowest point of humanity. What greater injustice than that of a now, 69-year military occupation and apartheid state. As you read this article a Palestinian child is being stopped at a checkpoint restricting him from going freely to school. A hospital in Gaza has patients slowly dying away as the continuous cuts to electricity deny doctors the ability and equipment to treat patients. A Palestinian is wearing away in prison, under solitary confinement without being charged with any crime. The oppression of Israel towards Palestinians is a continuous crime, therefore in response our opposition towards it needs to also be continuous until true peace and liberation is achieved. As Rachel said, ‘we need to drop everything and devote our lives in making this stop’.
The charm that Rachel possessed and the factor that compelled a young American girl to pack her bags and go to Gaza was her defiant determination to make a difference to what seemed impossible to change. At the age of 11 she wanted to work towards ending poverty, and at the age of 23 she placed her feet firmly on the ground and looked in the eye of the world’s greatest unjust system. She wasn’t naive or idealistic, she simply refused to accept that our world was meant to be this way and in doing so she truly showed us all the way we ought to live. Unapologetically and courageously intolerant of injustice anywhere, towards anyone. That is what a hero of justice is.
In her second last email before her murder, Rachel further illustrated this heroic view of society when she said0
‘I look forward to…when civil society wakes up en masse and issues massive and resonant evidence of its conscience, it’s unwillingness to be repressed, and it’s compassion for the suffering of others’.
Through her final act of defiance, Rachel achieved that dream on a personal scale. Her ‘compassion for the suffering of others’ led her to giving the ultimate sacrifice; her life. Now it’s our turn to fulfil the collective dream Rachel had for society and those that live within it. To challenge the powers that no one dares question, to tackle the oppression that no one believes can be ended, to refuse to see social decline as natural and rather see social progression as the inevitable; in her honour and for the sake of humanity. Rest in Power Rachel Corrie, ‘the girl who came to Rafah to stop the tanks’.