Oppressive and violent systems have different ideologies, different victims, different beneficiaries, and different experiences. But there are skeletal frameworks and forms that are present in them all. I cannot think of any more common than the rhetorical method used in the court decision surrounding the murder of Rachel Corrie. Rape, racism, colonialism, and so many other forms of oppression have all implemented it. It is the idea that if you are a victim/survivor to a violent system it is because you placed yourself in our crosshairs, in the body we violently lust, in the land we intend to expropriate, in the way of the home we intend to demolish. Because our use of violence is constant, it is the variable victim/survivor who is morally responsible for his or her tragedy.
Whether expressed through media, or, as in the case of Rachel Corrie, through legal opinion, the intention of this rhetoric is always the same. It is to create both a literal and metaphorical landscape of ethical suspension. It is to veil the perpetrator from moral accountability and plant the weapon of violence in the very soil of the land. The violent tool becomes a natural entity, and the the violent incident a natural phenomenon. The omnipotence and length of the occupation in Palestine veils its criminality and criminals. Being natural the violence is not meant to be questioned.
The judge of the decision to reject the suit said:
“The deceased put herself into a dangerous situation, she stood in front of a giant bulldozer in a place where the operator could not see her. She did not distance herself as a reasonable person would have done… Her death is the result of an accident she bought upon herself.”
The victim of the violent incidence is portrayed as a mere idiot, willingly or stupidly ignorant of his or her surroundings. By his or her choices, actions, dress and simply their location, they are the singular agent in their own suffering. Rachel Corrie’s choice to stand in the square foot where she stood, her choice to stand in the way of a bulldozer, her presence in Palestine, are the actions that led to her death. The very topography of the land and her supposed inability to be seen by the very bulldozer she was standing in front of was the main cause of her death. The soldiers around her and the soldier driving the bulldozer who could not see her are to be unseen or worst to be seen as vilified innocents.
Rachel Corrie died to prevent and expose one of the many criminal aspects of the occupation. Her parents have bravely sought to hold accountable Rachel’s murderers. The Israeli court’s decision has shown us what we already know: that the Israeli legal system is one of the greatest architects of the moral illusion that the victim is responsible. However exhausting, I pray that none of us will pause to pursue her justice by continuing to challenge the criminals who claim to be the bearer’s of justice.