Friday, August 28, 2009

Rachel Corrie - A Trigger Event

In spite of being condemned by Amnesty International, International Red Cross, Save the Children, the International Court of Justice, it’s own B’Salam and such world leaders as Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu plus numerous Resolutions by the United Nations, Israel still does everything it can to make life miserable for the Palestinians: including bypass “For Jews Only” roads, checkpoints and closures, a separation wall, settlements, land and water confiscation, imprisonment, torture, home demolitions, brutality by military and settlers, and the theft of 77 percent of its lands, the issue of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is a taboo subject in the US. (Wow! What a sentence. It took up the whole paragraph. I just couldn’t find a place to put a period.)

We can talk about human rights violations in China or an out of control government in North Korea, but we can’t talk about Israel, either in the media, or Congress or from our pulpits.

People often ask, “What good does it do? You write your little blogs, show a heart wrenching video every chance you get and thank God for Jimmy Carter, but when you have done it all, nothing has changed.” I remember being asked that same question during the Viet Nam war. Yet, thousands of insignificant preachers in pulpits all across the US kept questioning the morality of continuing to sacrifice so many lives for such an uncertain cause. People, by the dozens would ask us, “What difference does all your preaching make?”

Then suddenly, a 1972 photograph appeared… just a picture of an absolutely terrified little girl, probably nine years old, completely naked, severely burned, and running from a napalm attack. That picture became a trigger event. Almost overnight, Americans turned against the war. But it wouldn’t have happened had not thousands upon thousands of ordinary people continued to declare their hopes for peace in spite of so many asking, “What good are you doing?”

Another example of “What good are you doing?” which sounds more like an accusation than a question, follows the multitude of white preachers and teachers who joined their black brothers and sisters in proclaiming the evils of segregation and discrimination. Then suddenly, Rosa Parks said, “I’m sorry, but I am tired and I am not going to move to the back of the bus.” Had it not been for those pulpits crying out for justice, she would have probably been simply arrested and the whole incident ignored by the media. However Rosa Parks became a trigger event following years of seemingly useless education.

Now, across the land, more and more ordinary people are beginning to speak up for the Palestinians. I had hopes that the story of Rachel Corrie would have become the trigger event to wake up America.

Rachel Corrie, a young human rights activist from Olympia, Washington dared to hope for a change. She went to Rafah in the Gaza Strip and joined a group dedicated to preventing the demolition of Palestinian homes by the Israeli military. Early afternoon, March 16, 2003, wearing a fluorescent jacket, she went out to face a sixty ton bulldozer with a seven pound bullhorn, somewhat like the student in Tiananmen Square. Only, she faced a Zionist, “chosen by God.” to steal someone else’s land. After stopping and considering his options, the driver revved up his 410 horsepower machine of destruction and crushed her to death. Rachel Corrie was 23 years old.

In the meantime, home demolitions continue in the seized territories, not by the dozens or even by the hundreds, but by the thousands, usually at night without warning with little time for the owners to salvage their belongings.

A month before her death, Rachel Corrie emailed home:

No amount of reading, attendance at conferences, documentary viewing and word of mouth could have prepared me for the reality of the situation here. You just can’t imagine it unless you see it and even then you are always well aware that your experience is not at all the reality: what with the difficulties the Israeli army would face of they shot an unarmed US citizen, and with the fact that I have money to buy water when the army destroys wells and, of course, the fact that I have the option of leaving. Nobody in my family has been shot, driving in their car, by a rocket launcher from a tower at the end of a major street in my hometown., I have a home. I am allowed to see the ocean…”[1]

Two weeks later, she wrote:

I really can’t believe that something like this can happen in the world without a bigger outcry about it. It really hurts me.[2]

So, Rachel Corrie became one more martyr for justice. The rest of us will keep on plugging away, asking others to join us while we wait for the trigger event that will change things in spite of those who keep asking, “What difference are you making?”

Thomas Are
August 28, 2009

[1] Huwaida Arraf, Rachel Corrie (1979-2003): An American Martyr for Palestine, Quoted in The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, May 2003, p.13
[2] Ibid., p.12

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