Commentary Magazine


Topic: International Solidarity Movement

Rachel Corrie Was No Peace Activist

The verdict handed down today by a Haifa court in the lawsuit filed by the parents of Rachel Corrie will be denounced by Israel-bashers everywhere, and taken as confirmation of their dim view of the country’s justice system. For them, Corrie, a 23-year-old member of the International Solidarity Movement who was killed in 2003, is a martyr to the cause of peace and freedom for the Palestinians. They continue to believe Corrie was deliberately run over by an Israeli bulldozer knocking down the homes of innocent Arabs. But, as the court rightly pointed out, the truth is that though her death was regrettable, it was an accident caused by her own rash behavior.

The structures that she was attempting to protect by lying down in front of a bulldozer were fronts for tunnels along the border between Egypt and Gaza through which munitions and explosives intended to kill innocent Israelis were being smuggled. Even more to the point, the idea that Corrie was in Gaza to promote peace is a myth. The purpose of the International Solidarity Movement’s activities in Gaza was to shield Hamas and Fatah terrorists and to prevent the Israel Defense Forces from carrying out measures intended to stop the flow of arms and terrorist activity. If Corrie’s parents, who have pursued efforts to hold the state of Israel responsible for her death, should sue anyone it is the group that led the foolish American to Gaza and deliberately placed her in harm’s way.

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The verdict handed down today by a Haifa court in the lawsuit filed by the parents of Rachel Corrie will be denounced by Israel-bashers everywhere, and taken as confirmation of their dim view of the country’s justice system. For them, Corrie, a 23-year-old member of the International Solidarity Movement who was killed in 2003, is a martyr to the cause of peace and freedom for the Palestinians. They continue to believe Corrie was deliberately run over by an Israeli bulldozer knocking down the homes of innocent Arabs. But, as the court rightly pointed out, the truth is that though her death was regrettable, it was an accident caused by her own rash behavior.

The structures that she was attempting to protect by lying down in front of a bulldozer were fronts for tunnels along the border between Egypt and Gaza through which munitions and explosives intended to kill innocent Israelis were being smuggled. Even more to the point, the idea that Corrie was in Gaza to promote peace is a myth. The purpose of the International Solidarity Movement’s activities in Gaza was to shield Hamas and Fatah terrorists and to prevent the Israel Defense Forces from carrying out measures intended to stop the flow of arms and terrorist activity. If Corrie’s parents, who have pursued efforts to hold the state of Israel responsible for her death, should sue anyone it is the group that led the foolish American to Gaza and deliberately placed her in harm’s way.

Over the past decade, pro-Palestinian groups and activists have done their best to burnish Corrie’s legend as an American idealist whose death shone a spotlight on Israeli evil. Her diary was adapted by actor Alan Rickman and Katherine Viner into a play–“My Name is Rachel Corrie”–which earned raves in London and a slightly less enthusiastic reception in New York. The play was the centerpiece of a propaganda campaign aimed at convincing the world that Israel was committing barbarous acts in Gaza against helpless people.

But the truth about the International Solidarity Movement was something very different than what has been depicted on stage. Rather than advocating a two-state solution, the group is opposed to the existence of the State of Israel and opposes all measures of self-defense on the part of the Jewish state. What was going on in Gaza during Corrie’s time there was a terrorist war of attrition in which Palestinians sought to bring Israel to its knees with a campaign of suicide bombings and other attacks which, over the course of the second intifada, took the lives of over 1,000 Israelis. You hear nothing about this in “My Name is Rachel Corrie” or any of the accounts of her activities by her fans. Nor do you see the Rachel Corrie captured in a photo of her at the time, face contorted by rage as she joins Palestinians in burning an American flag.

But, as British journalist Tom Gross memorably wrote back in 2005 in his piece, “The Forgotten Rachels,” those promoting the cult of Rachel Corrie don’t seem to care about the Jewish girls by the same name who were slaughtered by the terrorists the ISM activist sought to shield.

As for the particulars of the incident, Corrie’s death was unfortunate. But, as the judge said in his verdict, her death was an accident that occurred during “a military activity meant to prevent terrorist activity.” As the Times of Israel noted:

The commander of the troops on the scene, an infantry major, testified last year that the activists had ignored repeated warnings to leave and were endangering his troops. “It was a war zone,” he told the court. The judge repeated that description in Tuesday’s decision, saying that from the outbreak of violence in September, 2000, and until the day of Corrie’s death Israeli forces counted some 6,000 hand grenades thrown at them in the area, as well as 1,400 shooting attacks, 150 explosive devices, 200 anti-tank rockets and more than 40 instances of mortar fire.

As the judge said in his verdict: “She chose to put herself in danger. She could have easily distanced herself from the danger like any reasonable person would.”

The Jewish Rachels who died at the hands of Ms. Corrie’s Palestinian friends had no such chance. They were blown up or shot by Palestinians with munitions like those smuggled in the same tunnels that Corrie was protecting, while driving in a car, sitting in a pizza parlor, waiting for a bus, shopping in a grocery store or just sitting in their own home. But there are no plays about them.

Rachel Corrie should not have put herself in front of a bulldozer in the middle of the confusion of a military action in a war zone in which she was taking a side. Her death was as unnecessary as the intifada itself. Had the Palestinians accepted Israel’s offers of an independent state in 2000 and 2001 (and repeated and turned down again in 2008), there would have been no need for any hostilities in Gaza. But they chose war instead of peace and were aided by fools like Corrie in this futile endeavor. Peace will never come to the Middle East so long as Palestinians devoted to destroying Israel can count on the support of Western elites and pilgrims like Corrie to support their murderous activities.

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