Saturday, March 22, 2008

I found this essay on

March 22, 2008 at 9:19 am (Guest Post, Israel, Palestine, Peace)

The following essay was written by a very dear friend…

The renegade lexicographer
By Deb Reich

People continue to refer to Israel as Israel, no matter onto whose land it expands or how far, as if Palestine could be made to disappear by neglecting to mention it, ever again. In fact, at this writing (March 2008), Palestine is alive and well, if excruciatingly battered and beleaguered, just beneath the surface of Israel, and is rising up all over the place, through the cracks in the sidewalk, in the most unstoppable manner imaginable. Palestine will not be suppressed. Whether we stand for it or against it, Palestine is unsuppressable. However new or not new the Palestinian identity may be, however indigenous or imported the name itself, Palestine is a fact, and Palestinians likewise. We Jews are not the only ones here. However long we have been here, in numbers large or small, we have never been alone here! Get used to it! I deal with this problem by referring to the country as Israel/Palestine, for now. Sometimes (for parity) I call it Palestine/Israel. Not a perfect solution, but not bad.

Aliya / Yerida
Incredibly, Jews around the world still sometimes decide to “make aliya to Israel.” An “aliya” is literally an ascent; the same word is used when a Jew is honored with the chance to read aloud, to the assembled congregation in a synagogue, a text from the Torah. For a believing Jew, immigrating to Israel is also deemed an ascent in spiritual terms. Meanwhile, the actual Israeli land mass is gradually sinking under the weight of its own grotesque moral dilemmas, combined with all that heavy ordnance, the giant home-razing bulldozers, the grim forty-foot Separation Barrier slabs of solid concrete, and the despair in Gaza, a burden too heavy for even geology to bear. To come here these days from Boston or Cincinnati or Buenos Aires must certainly involve descending, not ascending. “Yerida” (descending), which in Israel hitherto meant “emigration from Israel,” is what we should be calling immigration to Israel nowadays; and “making aliya” (heading for higher ground) should refer not to the new arrivals in Israel but to the tens of thousands of Israelis who decamp every year for saner havens abroad. If we don’t get our act together soon, the whole country will finally sink below sea level like the Jordan Rift Valley, and we’ll have to import Dutch experts to help us build dikes along the entire Mediterranean shore. (Won’t the guild of foreign labor import contractors have a field day with that one!)

Devout Jews will doubtless insist that immigrating to Israel is still an ascension in the spiritual sense, but - to put it as courteously as possible - they are utterly, absolutely wrong. Basic Jewish values are under severe and continuing assault here by the dark powers, and as of this writing, the dark powers are way ahead. You have to hunt heroically to find a public figure not accused of, or under indictment for, or about to be indicted for, some gross and sleazy act of corruption or moral turpitude (attention, younger readers: that means, like, you were caught stealing the taxpayers’ money or raping your secretary, or maybe starting a cruel and futile war with the neighbors, while holding a high public office). The military’s mismanagement of its outrageous power in this land has lately given rise to an organization called “Combatants for Peace,” a group of Israeli (and Palestinian) former soldiers and commandos who understand that force is never a permanent solution. They know that two peoples are going to have to live together here and that shedding more blood is not going to teach them how to do it. I wouldn’t be surprised to read one fine day that the saner generals and admirals in the USA who are appalled at the Bush cabal’s Dr. Strangelove-like scenarios for Iran, etc., have invited Combatants for Peace to teach them how to rebel against their own gang of power-crazed politicians drunk on the fantasy of imperial dominion via military adventurism.

A Jew / an Israeli
When I first came to Israel in 1966 as an American Jewish teenager in search of her ethnic roots, I noticed one peculiar thing about the language here, right off the bat. Israeli Jews, speaking Hebrew, often used the words “Israeli” and “Jew” interchangeably. I could not help but wonder about that. I knew, in a vague sort of way, that some Israelis were not Jewish, although I had not yet learned about the large population of Arab citizens of Israel who had been subject to a military administration in their own communities within the State of Israel until well into the 1960s; this community today numbers about 1.1 million. Meanwhile, there I was, definitely Jewish but not Israeli (I acquired Israeli citizenship much later: in 1984). As green as I was at the time, as lacking in context, still I could see that this basic conflation of identity labels probably boded no good, and indeed nothing good has been boded thereby in the forty-plus years that have since elapsed.

Zionism / Zayyinism
The packaged fantasy about this country that is sold to Jews abroad still features “Zionism” as something especially positive and inspirational. Jews outside Israel either don’t know, or don’t care, that for over a million citizens of the State of Israel, a sixth of the population, Zionism is about as positive and inspirational as Columbus Day is for native American (“Indian”) nations. The yin of Zionism is “hooray for us Jews!” but the yang of Zionism is “can’t all those [native-born] Arabs find some other place to live?” Purely on a logical basis, there is no special reason why Zionists or Zionism should be popular with the Palestinian Arabs in Israel, many of whose great-grandparents, even if they did not call themselves Palestinian, were already here when the Zionists began arriving. Immigrants are never all that popular, no matter where on earth they appear; the more immigrants who appear all at once, the less popular they tend to be with the pre-existing population; and newcomers who arrive with the declared intention of asserting sovereign rights in place of the existing local authorities are certainly never going to win any popularity contests. When Zionism said, in effect, “Move over, Rover; we’re coming, and we’re taking charge,” its cool reception by the locals was foreordained.

When I learned Hebrew, I was amused to discover that the sacred word “Zionism” is pronounced entirely differently in Hebrew: tsee-yo-NOOT. The closest Hebrew phonetic match to the English name “Zion” (which denotes biblical Israel, birthplace of Judaism, etc.) is the Hebrew word “zayyin” which means two things: (a) the letter “z” in Hebrew; and (b) a weapon; but in colloquial usage: a slang term for penis.

Yes, indeed. In popular parlance, “zayyin” means “dick.” Ergo, “zayyinism” can be fairly construed as “dickism” – in other words, aggressive male domination: leading with one’s dick; screwing people over; coercion as the preferred style of interaction; brutality as default mode. Sad to say, “zayyinism” in that sense is a reasonably accurate description of the Israeli Jewish zeitgeist circa 2008. You see it in the nasty way people elbow each other aside in a checkout line at the supermarket; you see it in the arrogant way so many drivers routinely endanger other drivers on the highways; you see it in the abusive way so many off-duty Israeli soldiers talk to their families; and you see it in the brutal way too many on-duty Israeli soldiers relate to Palestinians young and old, lame, sick, pregnant, bleeding, whatever. Today’s Israeli Zayyinist in uniform points his (or even sadder, her) phallic-looking weapon at helpless civilians and gives orders. Aggressively.

Yes, Zayyinism lives. But Zionism? As originally envisioned, as a noble movement of national renaissance, Zionism is effectively dead. Depending on your background, you may find this statement very hard to accept - honestly, I sometimes find it hard to accept, myself - but denying the reality is not going to change it. At best we could say that Zionism in 2008 is a dream fulfilled, or anyhow a dream whose time has come and gone. At worst, from the other side of the wall, it’s a continuing nightmare, a golem, a grotesque caricature of itself. That is terribly sad; no question about it.

A new dream in search of a name

A dream shared by millions of people over multiple generations makes very significant waves when it dies. The Kubler-Ross model is apt: First there is denial (“Zionism lives!”); then anger (“How dare you, you self-hating Jew!”); then bargaining (“If those other countries will ignore our little human rights quagmire here, we’ll ignore theirs”); then depression (“They all hate us anyway, what’s the point of even trying”); and finally - acceptance.

Nothing good can grow on a grave until the body is buried. When Zionism morphed into Zayyinism, the noble movement for Jewish national renaissance in the land of our ancestors effectively died. When we accept the fact of its demise and bury it, a supremely worthwhile new dream can grow on the grave of the old one.

Here is what the new dream is about: It is about fashioning a new, inclusive, imaginative, shared civil society in this land where every single human being, and all their myriad individual and group identities - religious, national, ethnic, linguistic, and otherwise - can flourish. (No more war! Onward with synergy and pluralism!) If we can just once glimpse, all of us, however dimly, a shared dream in those terms, we can begin the real work of co-creating a shared homeland of which we can all be proud.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Date: Tue, 11 Mar 2008 14:18:19 +0000
The Israel Litmus Test

Why do so many American Jews demand unwavering commitment to Israel from their politicians?By Aaron David Miller
March 9, 2008
'You're nothing but a self-hating Jew, and your boss is an anti-Semite.' It was the spring of 1990. I was an advisor to then-Secretary of State James Baker, and I was briefing a Jewish group from Atlanta -- and I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Baker was tough on Israel when he needed to be, but he was no anti-Semite. I told Mr. Atlanta that if he wanted to argue about policy, fine; otherwise, we should keep the ad hominem out of it.

Almost 20 years later, here we go again. This time, a Democratic candidate for president, not even the official nominee of his party, is under attack from some deeply confused and ill-informed American Jews. Again, the charges of hostility toward Israel are being irresponsibly bandied about.

Some of this, to be sure, is the seasonal silliness associated with political campaigns. But the persistent attacks on Sen. Barack Obama -- and especially on former Clinton administration official Robert Malley, one of his many informal advisors -- shouldn't be casually dismissed as crackpot commentary. They reflect two troubling reactions, or, more precisely, overreactions, within the American Jewish community that undermine its credibility and harm American interests in the process.

First, some full disclosure. I'm not associated with any political campaign and am not running for anything. For nearly 20 years, I worked at the Department of State, under Republican and Democratic secretaries of State, on the Arab-Israeli peace negotiations.

What's more, I am a close friend of Malley, who served as special assistant to President Clinton for Arab-Israeli affairs between 1998 and 2001. Malley and I continue to collaborate on Op-Ed articles and conferences.

In recent weeks, I've been extremely disturbed to see him attacked as an enemy of Israel and as an apologist for the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Perhaps most offensive, several publications have run personal attacks on Malley because his father, in the 1960s, founded and edited a left-wing magazine called Afrique-Asie, which was friendly toward the Palestine Liberation Organization and other Third World movements.

But so what? These charges are ridiculous. There's no question that Malley has been critical of certain Israeli actions and behavior (as have I). He was criticized, for instance, for an article he wrote in the New York Review of Books that took issue with the notion that Arafat was solely responsible for the failure of the Oslo peace process. But he is not 'anti-Israel,' let alone the Israel hater his critics portray him to be. He is well-respected by Arabs and Israelis alike, and he believes deeply in the idea and the reality of Israel's right to exist as a sovereign and secure Jewish state. He would never do anything to jeopardize that.

In a joint letter last month, five of his longtime colleagues (former Clinton national security advisor Samuel R. Berger; former U.S. ambassadors to Israel Martin Indyk and Daniel Kurtzer; former U.S. peace negotiator Dennis Ross; and myself) made Malley's commitment to Israel unmistakably clear. As for the mean-spirited guilt-by-association charges having to do with his family, Malley told the Forward, a Jewish newspaper, that while he loved and respected his father -- who died in 2006 -- he did not agree with him on everything.

The attacks on Malley (which are, of course, really attacks on Obama) don't merely reflect concerns about the views of a single mid-level advisor; they flow from a deeper dysfunction. The first piece of that dysfunction is what you might call the 'cosmic oy vey' -- the tendency of many American Jews active in pro-Israeli causes to worry about everything, without a capacity to identify what is important and what isn't.

Don't get me wrong. Jews -- and yes, I am one of them -- worry for a living. Their history compels them to and to be always vigilant. Yet in America, where they have achieved a level of security, acceptance and power unparalleled in their history, their existential worries paradoxically seem to have grown even greater. When Jimmy Carter writes a book -- a bad book, incidentally -- comparing Zionism to apartheid, many American Jews go crazy. When two university professors, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, write another bad book -- about what they call 'the Israel lobby' -- many Jews react as if the sky is falling.

The fact is (and many American Jews are reluctant to accept it), the conflict in the United States between Israel's supporters and its detractors is over. And the pro-Israel community has won. No figure in American mainstream politics can be viable without being firmly supportive of Israel. Americans overwhelmingly back Israel's right to exist safely and securely as a Jewish state. For reasons of shared values, as well as strong domestic political support, Israel has become an organic part of American culture, religion, politics and foreign policy for Jews and non-Jews alike. Our most recent presidents, Clinton and George W. Bush, have been the most pro-Israel presidents -- ever.

For too many American Jews, these successes haven't created a greater sense of security; they have only persuaded them to keep up the fight to ensure their good fortune continues. Too often this means stigmatizing people who criticize, or even question, particular Israeli policies as detrimental to U.S. interests or to the peace process or to Israel's security itself. There is a strong tendency even in parts of the mainstream American Jewish community to interpret any such questioning -- of the type that occurs every day in Israel itself -- as outright hostility.

I've lost count of the number of times Jewish activists or friends have said to me that this official or that journalist or this academic must be anti-Semitic. On other occasions, I have been told that I myself should not to be so publicly critical of Israel, lest we give our enemies grist for their propaganda mills.

This 'us versus them' mentality still runs deep, and it is particularly harmful when it comes to the Arab-Israeli issue. That conflict is not some kind of morality play in which the forces of evil do battle against the forces of light. It is a conflict in which both sides have legitimate needs and requirements and do both good and bad things in pursuit of them.

To be called an Israel hater for speaking out against Israeli actions when they are wrong and counterproductive -- actions such as building settlements and bypass roads or confiscating land -- or to be called an anti-Semite for suggesting alternative ways of thinking when the status quo is leading nowhere is not only absurd, it's dangerous.

In the end, American Jews who impose a litmus test of boundless commitment to every single Israeli action hurt not only their community but the United States as well. Israel is a tiny country living in a dangerous neighborhood. The U.S. and Israel need a special relationship based on confidence and trust to further their mutual interests -- but that does not mean we need an exclusive relationship in which America acquiesces to everything that Israel or its supporters in the United States think is wise. This is a critical distinction. One can only hope that, next time around, we are fortunate enough to get a president and Middle East advisors who understand it.

Aaron David Miller, who served at the State Department as an advisor to six secretaries of State, is a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center and the author of the forthcoming 'The Much Too Promised Land: America's Elusive Search for Arab/Israeli Peace.'

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Friday, March 07, 2008

Subject: Greens urge economic pressure and cutoff of all military aid to Israel as Gaza situation worsens Date: Thu, 6 Mar 2008 15:25:59 -0500

Press Release

Greens urge economic pressure and cutoff of all military aid to Israel as Gaza situation worsens

For Immediate Release:
Monday, March 3, 2008

Scott McLarty, Media Coordinator, 202-518-5624, cell 202-904-7614,
Starlene Rankin, Media Coordinator, 916-995-3805,

Demanding an end to illegal occupation of Palestinian lands, Greens urge widespread grassroots support for the Palestine BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) Campaign

Greens blast Clinton, Obama, and McCain for uncritical support of Israel despite mounting crimes

WASHINGTON, DC -- Calling the Siege of Gaza an international emergency, the Green Party is urging Congress to reject President Bush's FY2009 budget request for $2.55 billion in Foreign Military Financing for Israel, and reiterated the call for a cut-off of all US military aid to Israel.

"The Siege of Gaza is an ongoing atrocity, with mounting civilian casualties, especially children, killed and maimed by Israeli Defense Forces," said Holly Hart, secretary of the Green Party of the United States and member of People for Justice in Palestine, responding to the mass killing of Palestinians during the past weekend. "Greens are demanding an end to the siege and to the occupation of Palestinian lands, to Israel's collective punishment of Palestinians, and to targeted assassinations, all of which violate international law."

Greens noted that the death toll of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces has doubled since the Annapolis peace talks sponsored by the US in November 2007. In some areas of the West Bank, home invasions by IDF since January 1 have resulted in the kidnapping and detention without charges of nearly 400 civilians, including children. 1.5 million Gazans, mostly refugees from Israel in 1948, live in an open-air prison, unable to exit, and with electricity, fuel, and water under Israeli control.

"Peace talks are a sham as long as Israel refuses to discuss the construction of new housing units for Jewish settlers throughout occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank," said David J. Kalbfleisch, a Green congressional candidate in Illinois' 10th district . "Israel must meet its obligations under U.N. security council resolution 242."

The Green Party has already called for an economic boycott and divestment of Israel until the occupation is ended and full human rights and equality are realized throughout historic Palestine, including Israel , and recognition of the right of return.

Green leaders, emphasizing the need for popular pressure on the US government similar to the campaign against South African apartheid two decades ago, have supported the efforts of Palestinian and Israeli peace groups to seek negotiation and a halt to violence, and are urging participation in the Palestine BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) Campaign .

The President's FY2009 request would enact a 9% increase over 2007 spending, and would be the first installment of a ten-year agreement between the US and Israel, signed in August 2007, to increase military aid by 25%, totaling $30 billion by FY2018.

The arms purchased through Foreign Military Financing are being used to enforce Israel's 40-year military occupation and siege of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, and for violation of human rights in the Occupied Territories and against civilians in Lebanon. Such use of weapons purchased with US money violates of the Arms Export Control Act and Foreign Assistance Act.

"The Green Party has repeatedly called for an end to Israel's illegal occupation, for enforcement of human rights laws consistently violated by Israel, and for an end to all attacks against unarmed civilians by either side," said Justine McCabe, co-chair of the party's International Committee.

"Under the influence of AIPAC and other pro-Israel lobbies, John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama have bent over backwards to support the Israel government and avoid criticism -- even as Israel warns that it may invade and Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai threatens Palestinians in the Gaza Strip with a 'holocaust.' If the national debate on the Middle East is restricted to Democratic and Republican positions in 2008, the crisis and the atrocities will continue regardless of who wins the White House," Dr. McCabe added.


Green Party of the United States
202-319-7191, 866-41GREEN
Fax 202-319-7193

Video of Green presidential candidates

Green candidate database for 2007 and other campaign information:

Green Party News Center

Green Party Speakers Bureau

Green Party ballot access page

2008 Green National Convention: Live Green, Vote Green

Media credentialing

Green Party International Committee

Green Party Peace Action Committee (GPAX)

Wheels of Justice Tour: Nonviolent education and action against war and occupation in Iraq and Palestine for justice and universal human rights

"Israeli minister threatens "holocaust" as public demand ceasefire talks"
Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, February 29, 2008

Palestinian deaths double since Annapolis
By Mel Frykberg, Middle East Times, January 16, 2008

~ END ~
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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Subject: The Observer: Five years on, Corrie's diaries are being released Date: Mon, 3 Mar 2008 22:33:44 +0000

She was a girl from small-town America with dreams of being a poet or a dancer. So how, at just 23, did Rachel Corrie become a Palestinian martyr?
Five years on, her diaries are being released
Louise France
The Observer,
Sunday March 2 2008

Peace activist Rachel Corrie is shown at the Burning Man festival in a photo from September 2002, in Black Rock City, Nevada. Photograph: Denny Sternstein/AP
It is impossible to underestimate quite how much life for Rachel Corrie's family has changed since she was killed by an Israeli army Caterpillar D9 bulldozer in the Gaza Strip on 16 March 2003. As Rachel's elder sister Sarah puts it: 'What was normal doesn't exist for us now.'
'After Rachel was killed.' When I meet the Corries, it swiftly becomes clear that there is a great deal they want to speak out about, but it is these four words, heavy with loss, that they have repeated most over the past five years.
Before Rachel was killed trying to prevent a Palestinian home in Rafah from being demolished, they were a pretty ordinary West Coast American family. It has been said in the past that she came from a left-leaning, alternative background, but this is not strictly accurate. Craig Corrie is an insurance executive, who has spent 24 years of his career working for the same firm. Cindy Corrie is a musician and teacher. Since the mid-Seventies they have mostly lived in the same slate-grey house in Olympia, a small town with many coffee shops an hour's drive out of Seattle, and it was here that they raised their three children, Chris, Sarah and Rachel. True, the Corries liked to debate politics around the kitchen table. They also liked to talk about the cats and the chickens, going skiing at the weekend, the vegetable plot, the family holiday cottage in Minnesota. Whenever the conversation did turn towards the Palestinian issue, Craig and Cindy's sympathies would instinctively fall on the Israeli side.
After Rachel was killed, life changed abruptly. Over the past five years they've had to deal with the loss of their youngest daughter, at the age of 23. Cindy, a quietly spoken woman not given to over-statement or, indeed, self-pity, describes a period of mourning that will never really end.
Rachel's parents and sister have not returned to their jobs, although their schedule is relentless. Last week Craig and Cindy were in Vancouver. Next week they're heading to Alabama. As part of their work for the Rachel Corrie Foundation, an organisation they set up after their daughter died, to promote peace and justice in the Middle East, there are school talks and early-morning radio interviews about the human rights situation in Gaza and the West Bank, lobbying to have her death properly investigated and campaign meetings supporting their bid to fulfil Rachel's ambition to establish a sister city project between Rafah and Olympia. Twice they have visited the contentious 40km by 10km strip of land where Rachel died. Before Rachel was killed, Cindy had never been to Europe, let alone the chaotic, squalid, potentially dangerous refugee camp that is Rafah.
The routine of day-to-day life has been cast aside. Their two-acre garden, from where you can see the creek where the children used to swim in the summer and the rushes in which they'd play hide-and-seek, has an elegiac, abandoned feel. They're away so often the family cat now lives with Sarah. Even if Cindy had the time to cook dinner, she'd have nowhere to serve it up. Every surface of the house is smothered with paperwork.
Rachel had been a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement, a non-violent pro-Palestinian activist group. Within days of her death, the eloquent and vivid emails that she had sent from Gaza were published, with the consent of the Corries, in the Guardian. In 2005 they became the inspiration for an acclaimed play, My Name Is Rachel Corrie, based on Rachel's writing. Following two sell-out runs in London and a controversial last-minute cancellation in New York, the dramatic monologue, which follows Rachel's life from messy teenage bedroom through to Palestinian refugee camp, has been performed across America and Canada. Later this month, on the fifth anniversary of Rachel's death, it will be staged in Israel and the Corries will be there to watch the first performance in Arabic. This is a typically frenetic month. Next week sees the publication of Let Me Stand Alone, a collection of Rachel's writing and drawings from the ages of 10 to 23, the final piece written four days before she was killed.
Craig and Cindy Corrie have become well known in Olympia. This modest middle-aged couple with silver hair and sensible waterproof anoraks - in the winter it rains so much in this part of the world that umbrellas are pointless - are stopped in the street. Teenage girls in skinny jeans hover, wanting to say hello to the parents of Rachel Corrie. Cindy, in particular, lights up, as though caught in the glow from a torch beam. I ask Sarah if her mother and father are often approached.
'All the time,' she says. 'I've got used to it.'
'In the first hour after Rachel was killed,' Cindy recalls, 'I remember saying: we have to get her words out.'
I'm sitting with Cindy and Sarah in one of Olympia's oldest coffee shops, a place where the Corries used to come as a family when the children were growing up. One by one they piece together the events of 16 March 2003. It was a humdrum Sunday. Sarah, not long married to her husband, Kelly, was living in the family home while her parents were based temporarily in North Carolina, where Craig was working.
'I caught the end of a message on the answer machine, someone saying, "I just heard the sad news,"' says Sarah, 'and it dawned on me. It was something to do with Rachel.' She found out her sister had died by reading the ticker tape along the bottom of the television screen: 'Olympia woman killed in Gaza.'
'My first thought was that maybe it wasn't Rachel. My next was that Mom and Dad didn't know. I started trying to dial and I remember looking at the handset and thinking, "I don't know how to punch in the numbers."'
Meanwhile, in North Carolina, Craig was doing the laundry when the phone rang. Cindy picked it up. It was her son-in-law, Kelly.
'I could hear that there was something wrong in his voice,' recalls Cindy. 'I could hear Sarah crying hysterically in the background. She came onto the phone and said, "It's Rachel." And I said, "Is she dead?" I just knew I had to ask about the very worst possibility so that maybe that option would go away.'
While she took the phone to her husband, the news was confirmed on the television screen back in Olympia. 'It says her name,' Sarah told her mother. 'It says her name.'
It would be days before they had a chance to mourn in private. First they flew to Washington DC to be with their son, Chris - 'He was the only one who could function,' recalls Craig - from where they began the logistical nightmare of organising the return of their daughter's body. Craig was in such a hurry to pack he slung a pillowcase into his overnight bag mistaking it for a shirt. A journalist pitched up on their driveway in Olympia. There were more in Washington. A congressman suggested they hold a press conference. The death of an American citizen in Gaza was front page news - all this at a time when the atmosphere in America was already intense. The Iraq war would begin four days after Rachel was killed.
Craig recalls how, at one point, he picked up the telephone to learn that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was on the line. 'He told me: "She is your daughter but she is also the daughter of all Palestinians. She is ours too now."'
'If someone had told me 10 years ago that this was going to happen to us,' says Cindy, 'I'd never have predicted any of the things that we have done. I would have said, "You're crazy. If anything happened to a child of mine I would not draw another breath." But, amazingly, you do take the next step.'
For Cindy, as for the rest of the family, that next step seemed to be exploring the words Rachel had written. 'Immediately I was drawn to the writing,' she says. 'Because the writing was what we had, and what we still have, of Rachel. Nobody was thinking of a book back then but, even early on, when we were in such searing pain, we were drawn to what Rachel had written. As a comfort, as a connection.'
Most of Rachel's words had been kept in plastic tubs in the garage, or the attic. Journals, email printouts, poems, letters, assignments for creative writing classes, scraps written on paper napkins. Sarah, who has painstakingly edited the book over the past year, recites one of the first lines she read after Rachel died: 'There is something that I'm supposed to do. I know there is something big that I am supposed to do. I just don't know what it is yet.'
In the early pages of Let Me Stand Alone there is the sense of someone comfortable with the notion of revealing her inner world on the page: the style is uninhibited, experimental, confident. While it's clear this is a dreamy little girl who likes to dance and to visit her grandmother, she also has an easy relationship with words. Her parents don't describe themselves as writers but they remember their daughter sitting on the floor with pens and crayons before she went to nursery.
What emerges is someone who could be variously idealistic, knowing, self-deprecating, earnest, quirky, pretentious, fanciful, melodramatic, obsessive, flip and wise. Some of the pieces are uneven - whose private musings wouldn't be? - but at its best Let Me Stand Alone is a window into the private preoccupations of a singular girl growing up in middle-class America in the Eighties and Nineties, a girl discovering her own lucid and original voice. Some of the passages, particularly her accounts of her intense love affair with a young man called Colin, are breathtakingly vivid and personal.
It is impossible to read about how Rachel lived without thinking about how she died. There are times when her words are chillingly prescient as she describes dreams about falling, fears of tumbling, being out of control. 'Death smells like homemade apple sauce as it cooks on the stove. It is not the strangling sense of illness. It is not fear. It is freedom,' she writes on 19 May 1993. Aged just 14.
Early on there is a surprising empathy for outsiders and I realise that in a media obsessed with the Paris Hiltons of this world, we don't often get to hear about young, politicised American women. 'Maybe,' writes Rachel, aged 11, 'if people stopped thinking of themselves, and started thinking of the other sides of things, people wouldn't hurt each other.' But there is a healthy streak of self-obsession too, and a wicked sense of humour. She grows up into a chain-smoking Pat Benatar fan. Some of the most poignant moments are Rachel's 'to do' wish lists. A teenager who imagines there are years and years ahead of her.
A trip to a remote part of Russia as a teenager, just after the fall of Communism, is clearly a catalyst. So are stints staffing telephone crisis lines and volunteering for mental health organisations. 'I know I scare you,' she writes to her mother when she's 19. 'But being on a tightrope, with a safety net and a costume, doesn't work for me... I have to do things that scare you. I'm sorry I scare you. I hope I'm not ugly in your eyes. But I want to write and I want to see. And what would I write about if I only stayed within the doll's house, the flower world I grew up in?'
She is a student at Evergreen State College, a famously liberal university with a tradition of activism, when the two planes fly into the Twin Towers. Rachel Corrie, blonde, skinny, high cheek-boned, carelessly beautiful, is already looking beyond the claustrophobic confines of Olympia and into the world beyond.However, when it emerges that she is saving up to go to Gaza in order to volunteer for the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) the rest of the family are dead against the idea. Her sister remembers the tension: 'I didn't want her to go. It was extremely stressful; I couldn't talk to her about it.'
Her mother adds: 'I think all of us hoped that Rachel would not quite get her act together to go.'
Her father: 'I was concerned. Why not work in a soup kitchen or something like that, I said to her. But if that is what she really wanted to do, you can't ask your child to do less.' This quietly thoughtful man, a former Vietnam veteran who masks his sadness with a droll sense of humour, pauses. 'I was concerned. But not really, really frightened. To be honest, it wasn't until she got there that I got really, really frightened.'
The writing from Rafah, Gaza, steps up a gear. Her emails home are passionate, articulate and forensic. She's been criticised for being naive about the dangers. I suspect many people, even seasoned war reporters, might admit to being blindsided by the situation on the ground in Gaza. She researched the region before she got there and attended an ISM training session, but the shock of being in the midst of chaos is immediately apparent. A day after arriving she's helping someone move the body of a child. She describes a colleague with shrapnel in her shoes.
Gradually Rachel seems to adapt to this new level of anxiety. She makes friends with Palestinian families, looks after their children, learns bits of Arabic. Television footage of Rachel from this time shows her draped in the traditional black and white kaffiyeh, looking drawn. A tank rumbles by in the background. She sounds resolute: 'I feel like I'm witnessing the systematic destruction of a people's ability to survive,' she tells the reporter. 'It takes a while to get what's happening here. Sometimes I sit down to dinner with people and I realise there is a massive military machine surrounding us, trying to kill the people I'm having dinner with.'
I wonder if the family understood that, along with other ISM volunteers, she was acting as a human shield - or 'a bulldozer cowgirl' as she puts it. Cindy says: 'We knew what she was doing. We knew she was staying at different houses.' Initially Craig believed that the worst that might happen was that she would be arrested. 'But then when she started reporting back, I realised that this was a military out of control, where there was no discipline. I said to her brother a week before she was killed: "She can't continue to do this sort of thing. Sooner or later it's not going to work."' Cindy adds, 'You were just holding your breath.'
It sounds agonising for the family left behind. Sarah agrees. 'You may not be talking about it every day, but you're thinking about it. She knew that was what we would be doing. I don't think it was an easy decision for her to be there knowing how worried we were going to be.' Has Sarah ever been angry with her sister? 'People ask that,' she replies. 'I never feel angry about Rachel because she didn't intend to die. There was no part of her that intended to die. I can't be mad at Rachel for something she didn't intend to happen. So, no.'
This kind of bereavement, premature and violent, is hard to imagine. Now add the fact that Rachel swiftly became both a worldwide news story and a debating point and it's difficult to comprehend the amount of stress the family must have been under. Within a few hours, Cindy's email account had crashed. Absurdly, in the first hours of mourning they were trying to work out how to set up a new computer inbox. They received 10,000 emails in the first fortnight alone. In one of what must have been many dream-like moments, Craig recalls a candlelit vigil held three days after his daughter died: a stranger carried a huge poster-sized picture of Rachel, a photograph he hadn't even seen before.
Overnight in Rafah there was graffiti dedicated to the young woman who believed there would be a democratic Israeli-Palestinian state in her lifetime - 'Rachel was a US citizen with Palestinian blood.' She had become a victim of their intifada, a heroine who had stood up to the mighty Israeli army. New mothers christened their daughters Rachel. A kindergarten was named after her. Palestinians living in America would approach the Corries crying, barely able to speak. 'It should have been me,' they told them.
Elsewhere the response was more mixed. The death of a young blonde female American in the Middle East aroused extreme reactions. Angry messages to pro-Israel websites suggested 'she should burn in hell for an eternity'. Critics of the Palestinian cause suggested that the houses in Rafah hid tunnels which supplied arms. A picture of Rachel burning a makeshift American flag in front of Gaza schoolchildren was circulated. There was heated debate on the campus at Evergreen. Sarah and her brother Chris began filtering out some of the hate mail that arrived.
'I don't think people understand how divisive this issue is, and how much people care,' says Craig. 'I don't think we did.'
Rachel Corrie was both lionised and demonised. 'In some ways,' says Cindy, 'both reactions are threatening. Because Rachel was a very human person. I used to worry about the adulation - what happens when they find out that the real person was as flawed as we all are? On the other hand, I know she has given a lot of people hope and something to aspire to. I think it is important to people to have figures in their lives that provide that for them.'
The Corries take me around Olympia in their car, past the places where Rachel grew up. While Craig drives he recalls descriptive passages from her journals and tries to retrace his daughter's steps in his mind's eye. Even on a winter's day you can see how beautiful it is: noble Douglas firs, a glint of water, secluded wooden houses with verandas.
Two years ago some of the Nasrallah family visited Olympia. They were the owners of the concrete house, pockmarked with tank shell holes, that Rachel had died defending. The two families were invited on a speaking tour to talk about the situation in the Middle East. When Khaled Nasrallah saw where Rachel had grown up he turned to her parents and said, wide-eyed: 'She gave up this paradise, for us?'
In turn, the Corries have twice visited Gaza since Rachel was killed. 'My feeling,' says Craig, 'was that she wrote about those people with warmth. Going to Gaza was a real need to see who Rachel wrote about and to thank them for the care they took of her while she was there.' They negotiated the same checkpoints, the same rubble-strewn streets as their daughter had done. Armed men in watchtowers looked down on them. At night they slept through the sound of tracer fire. I imagine how proud, and perhaps astonished, their daughter would have been (on occasion she'd railed against her father for having 'his head in the sand' politically). The Corries' instinct is to play down the danger they were in: gunfire whistled past Craig and, one evening, dinner with the Nasrallah family was interrupted by the menacing sound of a bulldozer outside the window. On their second visit in 2006 they were woken in the middle of the night by men with Kalashnikovs. Craig and Cindy Corrie would be valuable bargaining tools in an area that has become even more desperate since Rachel was killed. As it was, the Nasrallahs managed to persuade the men to go on their way. It was said that they killed two security guards on the Egyptian border instead.
In one of her final emails home Rachel said, 'This has to stop! I think it is a good idea for us all to drop everything and devote our lives to making this stop.' It's clear that her parents have taken her at her word. Sarah says, 'She wanted them to go there. In her writing she says you need to meet these people. Now our lives are intertwined with what goes on in Rafah and Gaza and Israel and Palestine.' Meanwhile, in the five years since Rachel was killed, the humanitarian situation in Gaza - effectively imprisoned by Israel, with limited fuel, electricity and medical supplies - has grown worse, not better.
The family is still seeking information about what happened to Rachel and to have her death accounted for. According to former US secretary of state Colin Powell's chief of staff, the Israeli government's report was not 'thorough, credible or transparent', yet there is no sign that the US government plans to take any further action. Four months ago Sarah discovered distressing reports that Rachel's autopsy was not carried out according to their stipulations. The Corries, along with four Palestinian families, are waiting for court action against Caterpillar Inc, the American company that makes the bulldozer that killed Rachel, to be reheard.
Sarah recalls, three weeks after Rachel died, her mother meeting the family of Amy Biehl, an American anti-apartheid campaigner killed in South Africa in 1993. 'I remember Mom asking Amy's mother, "Do you ever get the normal back?" She paused for a long while and in the end she said, "No, not really." I knew then that this is what was going to happen to our family. First you have to mourn Rachel. Then you have to mourn the loss of your family and the life that you had.' © Guardian News and Media Limited 2008

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Monday, March 03, 2008

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Date: Fri, 29 Feb 2008 13:07:56 -0500
To: "ADC Updates"
From: "Nabil Mohamad"
Subject: Israeli Minister Says Palestinians Bringing Holocaust Upon Themselves
ADC Press Release:

Israeli Minister Says Palestinians Bringing Holocaust Upon Themselves

Washington, DC | February 29, 2008 | | The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) strongly condemns the deplorable comments made by Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai. Speaking on Israel's army radio yesterday, Vilnai said: "They (the Palestinians) will bring upon themselves a bigger holocaust because we will use all our might to defend ourselves." ADC calls on the US and Israeli governments to take immediate action and publicly condemn, reject, and repudiate the Holocaust comment made by Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai.

Vilnai’s comments were reported in numerous international media sources, see below:

ADC National Executive Director Kareem Shora said, “The Holocaust represents the darkest moment in human history. It included the systematic detainment, torture, and extermination of approximately six million European Jews by the Nazi regime during the Second World War. The statement made by Vilnai echoes the darkest of eras and should be immediately rejected.” Shora added, ”During this horrible time in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, it is shameful for an Israeli Government official to say the Palestinians are bringing a Holocaust upon themselves. Israel should be working to end its 41-year occupation of the Palestinian territories.”

According to reports, in the three months since the peace talks at Annapolis, Maryland more than 205 Palestinians have been killed, many of them civilians and children; and five Israelis have been killed. Additionally, Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which has been in effect since January 12, has left the Gaza Strip without supplies essential to purify water, increasing the risk of contamination and disease. Residents in Gaza are being urged to boil all drinking water to avoid the spread of disease because more than one-third of Gaza's water supply is now untreated. United Nations officials have warned the situation could lead to a health disaster for Gaza’s 1.5 million residents. Now, media reports indicate Israel is believed to be preparing a major military ground operation in Gaza.

NOTE TO EDITORS: The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), which is non sectarian and non partisan, is the largest Arab-American civil rights organization in the United States. It was founded in 1980, by former Senator James Abourezk to protect the civil rights of people of Arab descent in the United States and to promote the cultural heritage of the Arabs. ADC has 38 chapters nationwide, including chapters in every major city in the country, and members in all 50 states.

The ADC Research Institute (ADC-RI), which was founded in 1981, is a Section 501(c)(3) educational organization that sponsors a wide range of programs on behalf of Arab Americans and of importance to all Americans. ADC-RI programs include research studies, seminars, conferences and publications that document and analyze the discrimination faced by Arab Americans in the workplace, schools, media, and governmental agencies and institutions. ADC-RI also celebrates the rich cultural heritage of the Arabs.


SAVE THE DATE: 2008 ADC Annual National Convention - Washington, DC June 12 to 15.
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
Organizing Department
1732 Wisconsin Ave NW.
Washington, DC. 20007, U.S.A.
Tel: (202) 244-2990
Web :

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