Women in Black mourned Rachel Corrie and stood with Free Palestine on High Street in Columbus, Ohio at the Ohio State University campus last Friday, the anniversary of Rachel Corrie’s killing in 2003.
We held signs, flew the Palestinian flag, and waved to passersby. We didn’t chant, but respectfully smiled. Our posters didn’t condemn Israeli occupation or U.S. support for it. We honored young, wise Rachel Corrie (killed in Gaza at age 23) and the valiant people of Palestine who resist attack by peacefully staying present. Some walkers and motorists—more than I expected–waved back, tapped horns, and gave a “thumbs-up.” More simply stared. Two motorcyclists, stopped at a red light–annoyed at a nearby driver’s upraised thumb—gunned their engines to a deafening grind and smothering stink. Pathetic self-parody: they only feebly aped the sound- and skunk-bombs with which the IDF assaults Palestinians.
Our numbers varied from 10 to 15, as people came when they could and left when they must. Stalwart Connie Hammond, our Central Ohio dynamo, brought both the signs and flag, inspiring all. We included: Anisa Abd el Fattal, the Peace Candidate for U.S. President, Amir (activist), Christa Gharbo (activist), Zaineb Alani (poet), Rebecca Calhoun (environmentalist), Sandy Bolzenius (O.S.U. grad. student), Beckie Mosher (antinuclear activist), and, later on, Mahmoud El-Yousseph and his son. All together, all different, we compared our varying perspectives, celebrating an hour and a half reminding our bit of High Street about the loss of one irreplaceable person helping a people liberate themselves. A few who happened on us joined in.
We spoke of ignorance about Palestine here in Columbus, where few facts penetrate. Becca lamented, “My ‘liberal’ church lit a candle in sympathy for Israel as it’s ‘shelled by rockets.’” We exchanged dismay at the gulf between fact and fallacy. We wondered when people of conscience will believe that Israel attacks, or that Palestinians lack artillery, shells, and pinpoint firepower. (Years ago, we corrected Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy when she mouthed that error; she was later defeated after the Emergency Committee for Israel ran ads against her, though she bowed to every AIPAC demand).
We deplored how seldom The Columbus Dispatch combats the myths. Becca countered that this time The New York Times is to blame: “it’s gospel” to the parishioner who chooses the candle-lit tributes. We compared the times this week NPR had perversely blamed the victims, the caged Palestinians of Gaza who kept the truce, rather than the imperious Israeli government that broke it. We sympathized about our many bemused friends, who hear our urgency about dissolving Israel’s occupation, but cannot fathom the utter reversal of aggressor and oppressed.
We aired our chagrin at President Obama’s dualism: public cowardice before the Israel lobby and secret power-grab under the Big Brother (“Patriot”) Act. A Comparative Studies grad student described the recent vigil at OSU—with symbolic “die-in” by 16–for the victims of the U.S. army in Afghanistan (OSU’s Spring Break began that day).
As we parted, I asked whether I could take photos for this site—checking specifically about our great 6-year-old volunteer. Her mom decided, “Yes.” Amir then poignantly unveiled a truth about Palestinian children:
“They are photographed all the time: we have to be.”