On August 28th, the day that an Israeli Judge absolved the military of any responsibility in the 2003 killing of peace activist Rachel Corrie as she stood to protect a Palestinian home from demolition, the majority of the small Palestinian village of Khirbet Zanuta was demolished. In the South Hebron Hills, the Israeli military destroyed homes, animal shelters and water wells. Villagers tried unsuccessfully to stop the demolition by sitting on the excavator’s shovel. Eight villages in the region are currently at risk of evacuation because the Israeli military intends to use the area for military exercises.
The verdict in the Corrie civil case, that was handed down as the bulldozers tore through Khirbet Zanuta, confirmed that the Israeli legal system supports the military’s ability to act with impunity in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This verdict, which has been condemned by Amnesty International and the Carter Center, proves the necessity of international civil society to take action in the hope that justice will one day be served. On August 10th the Rachel Corrie Foundation put out the following Call to Action. It reads in part:
“The Israeli policy of home demolitions, sometimes extending to entire villages, remains as urgent an issue now as it did when Rachel defended homes in Rafah, Gaza… We call on you individually and as organizations to mark the week of the trial verdict with actions to end the housing demolitions that deny Palestinians the basic human right of being secure in their homes.”
Human rights advocates worldwide have responded to the call and are taking such action across the globe
“The same bulldozer that crushed Rachel is still demolishing our homes,” said one of the representatives of the Popular Resistance Committee of the South Hebron Hills, while protesting in Mufaqarah, just hours after the destruction of the nearby village of Khribet Zanuta. “What we ask today is dignity and justice for Rachel and for our communities.” Demonstrations also occurred in Nablus and Kufr Qaddoum in the West Bank, at the location of Rachel’s killing in Rafah, Gaza, and outside the courthouse in Haifa, Israel.
Activists in the US, Italy, Germany, Palestine/Israel took action to demand corporate accountability. Letters were delivered and demonstrations held outside of TIAA-CREF offices in Houston, Honolulu, Boca Raton, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Palo Alto, Chicago, Washington DC and Phoenix as part of the We Divest campaign, a national coalition demanding pension fund giant TIAA-CREF divest from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands. In a major victory this summer, TIAA-CREF dropped Caterpillar from their social choice funds. However, they still have over $1 billion invested in Caterpillar in their general fund. In response to the Corrie verdict, We Divest has vowed to intensify the campaign for TIAA-CREF to divest completely from Caterpillar.
Actions were also held outside of Caterpillar dealerships, the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles and other related locations in Eureka, San Francisco, Hilton Head South Carolina and Oak Creek Wisconsin. A demonstration outside the State Department, organized by CODEPINK, is occurring today. The Occupy Movement, Students for Justice in Palestine, Women In Black, Jewish Voice for Peace and a growing number of community-based organizations heeding the 2005 Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions have mobilized in response to the verdict.
As activists took to the streets, social media actions intensified. On the eve of the verdict a videofeaturing women from Gaza spread worldwide with a broad call to support BDS and divestment from Caterpillar. “Rachel gave her life for justice, the least you can do is take action against companies supporting injustice.”
In the United States, #RachelCorrie was among the ten most used hashtags on twitter the day of the verdict. The following day, between #BestMovieQuotes and #votebieber, #divest4justice trended in the top ten topics worldwide. A Tumblr blog was created and solidarity images uploaded from individuals and actions worldwide. Palestine solidarity activists were able to participate from home, in a growing democratized form of social action.
“I don’t think that Rachel should have moved. I think we should all have been standing there with her,” said Cindy Corrie in response to Judge Gershon’s comment that Rachel should have moved out of the way of the Caterpillar bulldozer. Rachel wrote from Gaza, “The international media and our government are not going to tell us that we are effective, important, justified in our work, courageous, intelligent, valuable. We have to do that for each other, and one way we can do that is by continuing our work, visibly.” May we continue to take Rachel’s words to heart, find ways to successfully mobilize ourselves, strengthen our networks, utilize new forms of communicating to affirm the just cause of the Palestinian people and stand with the movement for universal human rights in Palestine and Israel.