Tag Archives: International Solidarity Movement

Two lives, two deaths, highlight Congress’ willful blindness

Taylor Force

Taylor Force

Taylor Force, 28 and a first-year student at Vanderbilt, was stabbed to death while visiting Tel Aviv in March 2016.  He was with 29 students and four staff members from the university who had gone to Israel to study global entrepreneurship.

Rachel Corrie, 23 and a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement, was crushed to death in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, in March 2003. She was standing with other ISM volunteers in front of a Palestinian home slated for destruction by Israel, along with other homes in the neighborhood.

Rachel Corrie
Rachel Corrie


The similarities in their deaths are striking.

Both Taylor and Rachel were Americans. Both were victims of deliberate attacks. Both were young, intelligent and, by all accounts, had tremendous gifts to give the world.  Both were unarmed and engaged in peaceful activities — Taylor was studying and Rachel was exercising Gandhian nonviolence resistance.

Taylor was killed by a knife-wielding Palestinian in the heart of Israel. Rachel was killed by an Israeli soldier driving a bulldozer in the occupied Palestinian territory outside of Israel.

Both families grieved their inexplicable losses, and sought some measure of justice.

This week, (March 2018) Congress will pass S.1697 and H.R.1164 — the Taylor Force Act. The bill ends $300 million in direct US funding to the Palestinian Authority if it does not halt payments to the families of “terrorists” who are either in jail or were killed carrying out their crimes.

In March 2003, Rachel’s parents asked Congress to help them get a full, fair and expeditious investigation into their daughter’s death, but Congress took no action on H.Con.Res.111. They also sued Caterpillar, Inc. alleging liability for Rachel’s death because the company supplied bulldozers to Israel knowing that they would be used in contravention of international law. The Ninth Circuit dismissed the lawsuit in 2009 based on the political question doctrine.

In 2005, the Corrie family also filed a civil lawsuit against the state of Israel. The lawsuit charged Israel with not conducting a full and credible investigation into the case and with responsibility for her death, contending that she had either been intentionally killed or that the soldiers had acted with reckless neglect. They sued for a symbolic one US dollar in damages.

In August 2012, an Israeli court rejected their suit and ruled that the Israeli government was not responsible for Corrie’s death. Former U.S. President Carter and some human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, criticized the ruling. 

I met Rachel’s parents in Gaza in November 2012 and asked if they were going to file an appeal. They both looked weary and said they didn’t know because of the costs and emotional toll it might entail. However, they did appeal and learned in February 2014 that it had been rejected by the Supreme Court of Israel.

The Corrie family established The Rachel Corrie Foundation to honor her memory, and to spread the values that their daughter embodied in her short life. In 2006, Alan Rickman’s play “My Name is Rachel Corrie” debuted in New York City. And every year, Palestinians remember Rachel and honor her as a martyr.

Congress continues to perpetuate the cycle of violence and trauma in Israel-Palestine that ultimately ended the young lives of Taylor Force and Rachel Corrie.*

They can’t stand back and view Israel-Palestine objectively, primarily because of the outrageous influence of the pro-Israel lobby in Washington (AIPAC). This is not in the best interests of the U.S., and I wonder how many more Americans, not to mention innocent Palestinians and Israelis, will pay the ultimate price by Congress’s willful blindness.

iStock 20492165 MD - American and Israeli flags

America and Israel flags

* Enacting Israel’s legislative agenda, funding Israel’s military to the tune of $3 billion+ each year, parroting Israel’s framing of the occupation which is contrary to international humanitarian law, and





Filed under IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Peaceful, People, Politics, Uncategorized, US Policy, Video

Remembering Rachel Corrie

“You shed tears, and take some pictures and leave, but nothing changes for us!”

My friend and I were standing in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip in 2004 looking at the barren parcel of land where Rachel Corrie, a young American woman, had stood her ground and died a year earlier. We were surrounded by curious children, each wanting their picture taken.

The old man wearing the traditional galabya was speaking directly to me in rapid-fire Arabic. Our eyes met, I stopped and listened.  Was he angry or frustrated?  I couldn’t tell and I had no clue what he was saying.  He threw up his hands and walked away.

In the car driving back to Gaza City, our driver translated.  “That old man was telling you that many foreigners have come to Rafah to see the miserable conditions, to take pity on the people and sympathize. They take pictures and then return to their countries, but nothing changes for the Palestinians.”

That was 2004 and the turning point for me.

Shamefully, I knew that old man in Rafah was right. Too often, people who are privileged to travel, to see the world and understand the horrific injustices that exist elsewhere, return to their comfortable lives and forget.

Then there are people like Rachel Corrie who was killed in Rafah on March 16, 2003. She had arrived two months earlier as an International Solidarity Movement (ISM) volunteer.

On the day of her death, she was standing in front of the home of a local Palestinian pharmacist. Israeli bulldozers were destroying homes in the neighborhood to create a buffer zone near the Egyptian border for security purposes. Rachel, along with other ISM activists, stood in front of the house in an effort to stop the demolition. The driver of the bulldozer ran over her, not once, but twice.

Rachel was no ordinary traveler. She had the courage of her convictions.

By Rachel Corrie, aged 10 — 1990

I’m here for other children.

I’m here because I care.

I’m here because children everywhere are suffering and because forty thousand people die each day from hunger.

I’m here because those people are mostly children.

We have got to understand that the poor are all around us and we are ignoring them.

We have got to understand that these deaths are preventable.

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.

My dream is to stop hunger by the year 2000.

My dream is to give the poor a chance.

My dream is to save the 40,000 people who die each day.

My dream can and will come true if we all look into the future and see the light that shines there.

If we ignore hunger, that light will go out.

If we all help and work together, it will grow and burn free with the potential of tomorrow.” ― Rachel Corrie

Nearly ten years after Rachel’s death, I met her parents in Gaza. They had started the Rachel Corrie Foundation to carry on their daughter’s work for peace and justice, and they frequently brought delegations to Gaza.

They filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the State of Israel, symbolically asking for $1 in compensation but demanding a transparent and thorough investigation of their daughter’s death.

In August 2012, the Haifa District Court exonerated the driver of the bulldozer and the Israeli government. Upon reading the verdict, the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs said “the action described in the suit was ‘a military action in the course of war’ according to all criteria and that the state (therefore the Defense Ministry) is exempt from responsibility for it.”

There was worldwide condemnation of the verdict, including from former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. “The killing of an American peace activist is unacceptable. The court’s decision confirms a climate of impunity, which facilitates Israeli human rights violations against Palestinian civilians…”.

I knew very little about Israel’s apparent impunity from international law when I first visited the Gaza Strip in 2004. I tagged along with an American psychologist who had volunteered to bring an international award to Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj, a well-respected Palestinian psychologist.

Dr. El-Sarraj started the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme. When Israel refused to allow him to travel to Australia to receive the honor from his colleagues, my friend and I took the award to Gaza.

We had an informal ceremony in Dr. El-Sarraj’s office with some of his staff in attendance.  I didn’t have words to share my disbelief and anger, and so I remained silent. Why would Israel prevent this man from traveling abroad?  He was obviously influential both in and out of Gaza, and his writings showed a man who advocated peace and justice for both Palestinians and Israelis.

My friend said a few congratulatory words and presented the plaque to Dr. El-Sarraj who graciously accepted it and put it on his bookshelf along with other awards and memorabilia. I snapped some pictures.

I felt something snap in my gut too.

Rachel Corrie was killed as she stood waving her arms to stop the house demolition in Rafah.  Dr. El-Sarraj was imprisoned, along with thousands of other Palestinians, in this tiny enclave called the Gaza Strip. The old man in Rafah knew nothing would change. There was something profoundly wrong with this picture.

A few days later, we left Gaza through the Erez checkpoint into Israel. There was no line of people waiting to exit, only the two of us. We sat on our luggage waiting to be directed through the turnstile at the end of a long caged tunnel.  We waited and waited and waited.

We couldn’t see the Israeli soldiers but we knew they were watching us, and listening. My friend’s patience was wearing thin. I was passing the time by reading. Finally, after waiting more than an hour, a voice over the intercom instructed us to go through the turnstile.

I vividly recall the terrified eyes of the female Israeli soldier in 2004 who was checking my embarrassingly large suitcase for explosives. We didn’t say a word to each other, but I knew about the female Palestinian suicide bomber who had blown herself up and killed four Israeli soldiers at the Erez checkpoint just months earlier.

Why would people treat each other this way? Why couldn’t Israelis and Palestinians coexist peacefully? Was there a right side and a wrong side? One I could support and the other I could condemn?  Why had this “conflict” continued for so long?

I had many questions in 2004 and I knew I needed to educate myself.


Filed under Gaza, People