Saturday marked the 10th anniversary of the death of a young woman standing in front of a tractor which was bulldozing a home. The bulldozer operator ran over the woman. The cause of death was described as “by pressure on the chest (mechanicalasphyxiation) with fractures of the ribs and vertebrae of the dorsal spinal column and scapulas, and tear wounds in the right lung with hemorrhaging of thepleural cavities.” Authorities later cleared the operator of any wrong doing…
These are the facts of Rachel Corrie’s death 10 years years ago. They are facts, but I have purposely left out other facts to illustrate a point. I have said in this forum that facts are not truth, and even truths can become lies when filtered through the bias of the human heart. A collection of facts may be truth or through omission, facts can absolutely portray a lie. That is what I did with the first paragraph. There are fcts. Keys facts are omitted to illustrate a point.
When human rights-all human rights-regardless of religion, nationality, gender, sexuality and race fails to be the stndard upon which all things are judged in society, judgement is at the mercy of arbitrary and ever changing filters.
Through news, nationalism and even religion, the words Palestine, Gaza and Palestinian takes on a much different dimension. All too aften they evoke images perpetuated by governments and media. But even images evoke a certain bias, but those biases become our individual crime against real truths about humanity. Those biases weaken us against the purveyors of war and violence and division and hatred. It draws us among their ranks.
The bulldozing of homes becomes the regrettable response to a nation and people who feel eternally victimized and besieged by Gazan and pPslestinian terrorists. This is the narrative promoted by those governments and their media. Is that the truth, however? It is, arguably to some, but when held against the standard of universal human rights, that assumed truth becomes a lie.
Rachel Corrie, a 23 year old college student from Olympia Washington and others went to Rafah Gaza where she was killed in 2003. An Israeli court denied, despite video and eyewitness testimony that the bulldozer drove over Corrie, concluding that she was “struck by a hard object, most probably a slab of concrete which was moved or slid down while the mound of earth which she was standing behind was moved.”
A witness, Joseph Carr, recalled that the “bulldozer driver and co-operator could clearly see her. Despite this, the driver continued forward, which caused her to fall back, out of view of the driver. He continued forward, and she tried to scoot back, but was quickly pulled underneath the bulldozer.”
A British activist, Tom Dale, also witnessed the incident. “Rachel could not have been more visible: standing, on a clear day, in the open ground, wearing a high visibility vest. On that day, she had been in the presence of the Caterpillar D9 bulldozers used by the Israeli army for some hours. She was standing in front of the home of a young family which was under threat of demolition by a bulldozer. Many homes were demolished in such a way at that time, and Rachel was seeking to protect her friends, with whom she had lived.
Whatever one thinks about the visibility from a D9 bulldozer, it is inconceivable that at some point the driver did not see her, given the distance from which he approached, while she stood, unmoving, in front of it. As I told the court, just before she was crushed, Rachel briefly stood on top of the rolling mound of earth which had gathered in front of the bulldozer: her head was above the level of the blade, and just a few meters from the driver.”
Corrie spent time with Rafah municipal workers who were struggling to repair a well damaged by Israeli bulldozers. It was one of two wells that accounted for more than half of the drinking water to the city in the desert region. The damage to the well resulted in severe water restrictions to the city. The Israeli’s routinly fired on workers attempting to repair the wells. Israeli soldiers frequently fired on homes as they were being bulldozed, resulting in some 240 deaths, including 78 children. Israeli regulations require that armored personnel carriers direct the bulldozers to their targets. An Israeli officer later testified that Corrie and others had tried for hours to stop the demolition, which took place under his command. Though it may be argued the bulldozer operator may have lost sight of Corrie at some point, it is clear that the Israeli army who was directing him knew she was there.
This piece is not about Israel or Palestine, or necessarily about Corrie, but rather the weight each of us brings to news stories. When we a hear descriptive word, what is the assumption and bias that we bring to that word? How do each of us come to the words Israeli, Palestinian, Jew, Muslim, Activist, Student, Gaza? There is a history in each of those words, and that history bears an undeniable weight upon each of us. But are we slaves to that history, or do we have the will and ability to challenge those histories? Are we filters for the news and the propaganda of governments, or are we judges of them? And as judges, what is the standard? Is it tribal loyalties, or human loyalties?
Saturday marked the 10th anniversary of the death of a American activist Rachel Corrie who attempted to stop the illegal bulldozing of an innocent Palestinian pharmacist’s home. Samir Nasralla was forced to flee from the home with his family to join some 17,000 Palestinians made homeless this way between 2000 and 2004. The land was being cleared for Israeli settlements. Despite being acknowledged by the bulldozer operator, the woman, wearing bright orange safety vest and appealing for mercy on the family with a bullhorn, was run over twice by the bulldozer. The demolition proceeded despite the dying woman still laying on the ground nearby. The cause of death was described as “by pressure on the chest (mechanicalasphyxiation) with fractures of the ribs and vertebrae of the dorsal spinal column and scapulas, and tear wounds in the right lung with hemorrhaging of the pleural cavities.” Authorities later cleared the operator of any wrong doing…
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