On Wednesday, March 16th, we mark the eighth anniversary of our daughter Rachel’s stand in Rafah, Gaza, to protect the right of a Gazan family to be safe and secure in their home and the rights of all Palestinians to self-determination, freedom, equality, and security in the same measure as their Israeli neighbors.
Here in Olympia, Washington – our hometown and Rachel’s – our family, the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice, and our community will mark this anniversary with an event that emphasizes three components: community-building, education, and action. Strengthening community connections was important to Rachel when she lived and worked here in Olympia, but, also, beyond, as she embraced the world as her community. As we pursue a more just global community, we must arm ourselves with solid information and knowledge. Rachel believed this profoundly and emphasized in her writing from Gaza the importance of seeking and communicating the facts and doing so without exaggeration. And it is not enough for us to think and talk. We must, also, act. Indeed, it is because of Rachel’s action on March 16, 2003, that we pause to mark this day.
As we consider where Rachel would want us to focus now, Gaza still remains high on the list. The UN Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that the number of weekly civilian injuries in Gaza was recently higher than it has been for any week since May 2010. The number includes injuries to five children. During the week of February 20-26, imports from Israel into Gaza were only 36 percent of the average amount that entered weekly before Israel imposed its blockade of Gaza in 2007. Exports and movement of people in and out of the Strip remain severely restricted. Collective punishment of the 1.7 million residents of Gaza by the Israeli government and military continues. We must, therefore, continue to focus on improving their situation and ending the blockade and siege under which they have suffered for so many years.
Rachel would want us to remember the courageous activists whose lives were claimed this past year in nonviolent actions against Israeli policies and those who have found themselves in prison because of their nonviolent resistance. They are American, Palestinian, Turkish, Israeli, and from elsewhere. We had the privilege recently of meeting Ahmet Dogan, the father of Furkan Dogan, the 18-year-old American citizen executed by the Israeli military aboard the Mavi Marmara in international waters. We spent an evening in Istanbul with the wives, children, and grandchildren of others struck down on the same ship. We have followed the stories of Jawaher Abu Rahma. fatally injured by teargas during protest in the Palestinian village of Bil’in and of Ahmad Suliman Salem Deeb, the 19-year-old Gazan shot and killed as he participated in a demonstration against the no-go zone east of Gaza. We have read of the fishermen and farmers injured and killed while grazing their sheep and plying the waters just off the shore of Gaza. We have followed the Israeli court actions against our friends Abdullah Abu Rahma of Bil’in and Jonathan Pollack of Tel Aviv, imprisoned in Israel because of their leadership and nonviolent actions to resist Israeli confiscation of land and the continuing presence of the wall in West Bank villages. With admiration, we have watched the courageous pursuit of freedom and democracy unfold and spread throughout the Middle East. We have celebrated the victories and mourned the losses. In keeping with our memory of Rachel, we are listening to the voices of young people as they struggle worldwide to assert their visions for a democratic, free, and peaceful future – in Gaza, the West Bank, in the Sheik Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem, in Kabul, Cairo, and beyond. We call on U.S. officials to listen, too. We ask for them to be consistent and strong in their demands that foreign governments and militaries be accountable for their actions, that they respect the right of people to assemble and protest, and that they respond only nonviolently to such protests.
The Corrie Family in Haifa
On March 10, 2010, our family’s civil lawsuit against the State of Israel and its Ministry of Defense opened in Haifa District Court. In sessions spread over the course of the past year, we have heard from four of the internationals who stood with Rachel in Gaza in 2003 and, also, from state’s witnesses who include the bulldozer driver, commander, and the lead investigator in the military police inquiry into Rachel’s case. The testimony has often been disturbing. We have recently learned that the case will resume on April 3rd. Six state’s witnesses remain to testify, including commanders who were in charge on March 16, 2003. As our family continues our quest for truth and accountability for Rachel, we demand it for all the others, as well. We know that for there ever to be peace, there must be an airing and resolution of the grievances.
Some of you – in Madison, Wisconsin, Marin County, California, in Turkey, in the U.K. and elsewhere – have told us that you, too, plan commemorative events for March 16th or during the upcoming weeks. Thank you for remembering Rachel with us. As you do, we hope you will, keep in mind the community-building, education, and action so important to her. We hope, too, that you will recall those others who have stood and been struck down, those imprisoned for their nonviolent action, and those who carry on the work – and that you will do what you can to support them all. With events this week and beyond that keep compassion, humility, and love at their core, together, we will honor Rachel’s commitment and spirit.
With appreciation always and in solidarity with all who pursue justice,
Cindy and Craig Corrie