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Blaming Rachel Corrie

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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.

Sami Suleiman

Sami Suleiman is a graduate student at Brown University and a member of the National SJP Conference Organizing Committee.

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3 Responses

  1. Blake on August 28, 2012, 3:49 pm

    Democracynow have just uploaded a video regarding this verdict (with an interview with her parents from Haifa):

  2. douglasreed on August 28, 2012, 6:36 pm

    The latest judicial decision from this Likud-Zionist administration that authorised the killing at point blank range of nine unarmed political activist passengers on board the Mavi Marmara carrying humanitarian supplies to the 1.6 million denied essential supplies in Gaza for over five years, was not unexpected.

    Far from being the claimed ‘only democracy in the Middle East’ this government has become more reviled than even the most oppressive non-democratic regimes extant today. From holding thousands of political prisoners without trial, to the use of banned chemical weapons against schools and hospitals, Netanyahu and his sidekicks still maintain that they act in the interests of the worldwide Jewish Diaspora. The truth is that they speak only for the minority who choose to live in Israel and then for only maybe half of that minority, for there are more critics of his extremist policies within his own country than outside of it.

    At this time, when Israel threatens to manufacture a war against Iran and to put hundreds of thousands of lives in danger, including those of his own people and of American soldiers, we need to speak out against this warmongering. Time is of the essence. Once nuclear weapons of mass destruction are deployed by Netanyahu, the world will have changed irrevocably. Radiation and its effects can contaminate human and plant life for decades, decimating food crops and stores.

    Rachel Corrie was just 23 when the IDF killed her. An idealist, she tried to prevent violence and uphold human dignity. She failed in the former but succeeded beyond doubt in the latter. RIP

  3. ritzl on August 28, 2012, 8:03 pm

    Yeah, I thought the “provocative dress” rape defense, where the perp is out of the loop and only nondescript yet immutable “innate” forces shape events, went out with disco (i.e. is a completely discredited concept in the community of nations into which Israel so desperately wants to shoehorn itself).

    To accept (and rule) that the CAT D9 driver, as merely the random biological part of the immutable force, had no choice but to kill Corrie because she was in the wrong place (“provocatively dressed”) is obscene. If he didn’t have a choice then some effort should have been made to find out who did. Everyone knows this even, I would guess, the judge that handed down this decision.

    I hope that the Euros are taking notes on how complete the disconnect seems to be between Israel and “Western” legal operations (I hesitate to call them principles) in case some future integration is proposed or inveigled. I hope there’s a price to be paid in Israel’s “legitimization” ambitions for the obvious “show-trials R us” nature of Israel’s legal system.

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