Palestine: Dying for Peace

— Louisville Middle East Peace Delegation

[This statement was written by the Louisville Middle East Peace Delegation: Dennis Bricking, Sharon Wallace, Angelyn Rudd, Cindy Sheldorf, Carla Wallace, Almarie Calvert and John Morrison. It is slightly abridged.]

IN PALESTINIAN WEST Bank and Gaza Strip, non-violent resistance to the Israeli military occupation is a growing phenomenon that is not receiving media attention.

For two years the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a Palestinian-led, non-violent movement based in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip has received hundreds of international volunteers from around the world, including the United States and Israel.

The volunteers participate in non-violent direct actions protecting Palestinian civilians and their homes and neighborhoods from attacks and harassment by the Israeli army. The ISM leadership and volunteers support an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the establishment of safe and secure borders for Israel and Palestine.

In recent months the Israeli Army has begun to target international volunteers with deadly force. ISM volunteers have been killed and seriously injured. One of the ISM volunteers was Rachel Corrie, a 23-year old American college student, killed by the Israeli army on March 16, 2003 while trying to protect the home of a Palestinian doctor and his family.

The Israel Army says her death was a “regrettable accident.” Eyewitness reports prove this statement to be false.

According to eyewitness accounts Rachel was wearing a bright orange vest and standing in an open area. An Israeli armored bulldozer came from some distance away and there was nothing obstructing the driver's view of her.

When the bulldozer continued forward to destroy the family's home, Rachel knelt down at least fifteen yards in front of the dozer and began waving her arms and shouting, as peace activists had successfully done dozens of times that day.

But this time the driver did not stop. He used the dozer's blade to push a mound of earth towards Rachel. When it reached her, she stood up and climbed onto the mound so that she was at eye-level with the driver and looking directly at him. Her head and torso were above the bulldozer's blade, and the driver could see her clearly.

Rachel's friends were shouting at the driver to stop, using a bullhorn. Instead of stopping the driver continued forward, and Rachel was snagged by debris and pulled under the mound of earth and then under the blade of the dozer.

The driver continued forward until Rachel was completely under the tracks of the machine. He then backed up, with the blade pressed down so it scraped over her body a second time. He continued backing up for about 100 yards and parked the bulldozer.

When her friends dug her out, Rachel's body was in a mangled position. She was bloody, her mouth and cheek were torn open and her skin was turning blue. She was gasping and in great pain. She said, “My back is broken.”

Her friends called an ambulance and tried to comfort her. An Israeli tank drove up and the soldiers looked at Rachel but expressed no concern and did not offer any assistance. The tank drove away and parked next to the bulldozer. Rachel died at the hospital of massive internal injuries.

International Activists Targeted

As members of the Louisville Middle East Peace Delegation who traveled to Palestine in April and December, 2002 and March of this year, we know that the murder of Rachel Corrie is entirely consistent with the deadly violence that the Israeli army and settlers routinely inflict on Palestinian civilians. Too often we have seen it with our own eyes. Now Israel is targeting Americans and other internationals.

This month (May 2003) two more Louisville peace activists will travel to the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip to join ISM. Another and larger delegation is scheduled to leave in the fall of 2003.

The purpose of killing Americans and other international observers is to make sure no one sees or interferes with the daily violent actions of the Israeli Army against Palestinian civilians. Three weeks after Rachel was killed the Israeli army shot another American in the head while he was standing with his hands up. Brian Avery of Albuquerque, New Mexico survived, although half his face is gone.

Six days later, an Israeli sniper shot [British ISM volunteer] Tom Hurndall in the head while he was escorting two Palestinian children across a street. Tom is now clinically dead and on a respirator with severe brain damage.

Americans need to realize that our aid to Israel is funding an extremely brutal military occupation of Palestinian land in the West Bank and Gaza. With our aid the Israel Army has systematically demolished over 8000 Palestinian homes and built Israeli settlements in their place; turned the West Bank and Gaza Strip into the largest concentration camp in the world, depriving the captive population of food and water, and causing chronic malnutrition in over 40% of
Palestinian children; imposed lock downs in which anyone, even a child, who ventures out of his house is automatically shot; and has carried out weekly military incursions into the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

As of May 2, 2002, 2,078 Palestinian civilians have been killed including 402 children, and 5916 have been wounded since September 29, 2000. The actions carried out by the Israeli Army are defined as war crimes and crimes against humanity according to the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The recently published road-map, aimed at resolving the Palestinian Israeli conflict through reciprocal steps by the Israeli government and the Palestinian National Authority under the auspices of the Quartet [the United States, European Union, United Nations, and Russia], does not impose parallel measures on both sides.

It places severe security conditions on the Palestinians to eliminate their uprising and national resistance, without implementing any measures to truly deal with the brutal Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza until 2005.

Israel must immediately end the illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and the United States must pressure Israel to abide by international law and UN resolutions. The Bush Administration must also demand that Israel stop killing and injuring peacemakers. If Americans knew the truth, they would make these demands.

ATC 105, July-August 2003