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Nine years since Rachel Corrie’s death – and little has changed in Gaza - by Noreen Sadik

‘I can’t cool boiling waters in Russia. I can’t be Picasso. I can’t be Jesus. I can’t save the planet single-handedly. I can wash dishes.’
Rachel Corrie, September 2003, before going to Gaza

The death of Rachel Corrie in Rafah, in the Gaza Strip, nine years ago is not an unusual occurrence. The circumstances of her death are.

Rachel, a 23-year-old American pro-Palestinian peace activist, was volunteering for the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), when she was crushed by a US-made, Israeli-driven Caterpillar bulldozer, almost two months after arriving in Gaza.

Rachel’s parents filed a suit against the Israeli Ministry of Defense. All they asked for was a symbolic $1 for damages and legal expenses. Their search for accountability amounted to nothing when, contrary to witness reports, Judge Oded Gershon said the driver of the bulldozer did not see Rachel. He described Rachel’s death as a ‘regrettable accident’, and concluded that Israel was void of responsibility.

Nearly ten years have passed since Rachel died, and the verdict of ‘not guilty’ came out last month. So, you may ask, what is the point of writing this now? Well, over the years the world has seen many changes – political conflicts, environmental disasters, mass murders, economic disasters – but one thing that has not changed is life in Gaza.

Rather than experience the life endured by Palestinians through a television screen from the comfort of her home in the US, Rachel went to Gaza to protect Palestinian homes from being demolished.

According to the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), since 1967, Israel has demolished over 25,000 homes in the West Bank and Gaza, resulting in over 160,000 internally displaced Palestinians. During Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s three-week war against Gaza in 2008-09, a staggering 6,268 houses and 186 greenhouses (and livelihoods) were destroyed.

In an email to her family, Rachel wrote in February 2003: ‘No amount of reading, attendance at conferences, documentary viewing and word of mouth could have prepared me for the reality of the situation here. You just can’t imagine it unless you see it – and even then you are always well aware that your experience of it is not at all the reality.’

Rachel described Rafah as a series of Israeli military watchtowers. She noted the destruction of city wells, home and greenhouse demolitions, checkpoints and lack of freedom of movement, rocket attacks, shooting of children, assassinations, which all ‘constitute a somewhat gradual – often hidden, but nevertheless massive – removal and destruction of the ability of a particular group of people to survive.’

She wrote: ‘I am in the midst of a genocide which I am also indirectly supporting, and for which my government is largely responsible.’

If Rachel were still here today, nine and half years later, and visited Gaza, she would see little change.

Gaza is populated by 1.6 million people, and that number is expected to rise to 2.13 million by 2020. The Palestinian Ministry of National Economy claims that the Israeli-imposed blockade has caused the lack of economic security that Gaza had reached prior to 2000. Imports have decreased, and exports are almost at a standstill, creating disaster for this small area that is dependent on trading goods and the unrestricted movement of workers.

Published in August this year, the United Nations report ‘Gaza in 2020 – a liveable place?’ lists Gaza’s woes: unemployment currently stands at 29 per cent, with women and young people most affected; 60 per cent of households are food insecure; 71,000 housing units and 250 schools are needed; only 10 per cent of the aquifer water is safe for drinking (and by 2016 it will be unusable) and by 2020 the damage could be irreversible; by 2020, the electricity supply will need to double to meet demand. Gaza’s future looks bleak.

Rachel’s thoughts turned to Gaza’s children: ‘They know that children in the US don’t usually have their parents shot and they know they sometimes get to see the ocean. But once you have seen the ocean and lived in a silent place, where water is taken for granted and not stolen in the night by bulldozers, and once you have spent an evening when you haven’t wondered if the walls of your home might suddenly fall inward waking you from your sleep, and once you’ve met people who have never lost anyone, once you have experienced the reality of a world that isn’t surrounded by murderous towers, tanks, armed ‘settlements’ and now a giant metal wall, I wonder if you can forgive the world for all the years of your childhood spent existing – just existing – in resistance to the constant stranglehold of the world’s fourth largest military – backed by the world’s only superpower – in its attempt to erase you from your home.’

Standing strong against inhumanity, Rachel became a number – one of many who died while selflessly searching for worldwide justice.

Isn’t it a paradox that the strong remain immune, and there is no accountability in the death of one who searches for justice for others?

Printed in New Internationalist Blog - Sett. 27, 2012
Please share the link below on FB if you like it...................thanks!!!


Kara-Amena's picture

Powerful and sad

Thank you for posting this article. What a powerful story! Seeing the tragic situation in Gaza through Rachel's eyes and in Rachel's memory really helps to lend a human perspective to this ongoing and seemingly endless struggle. When these issues are politicized and full of hateful and attacking words against an entire population (from any side of the conflict), my sympathy is compromised. But when the story is presented as you have done, it's so much easier to keep an open mind and to see and feel and empathize with the human suffering of this unjust situation.

These stories need to be humanized - like you have so beautifully done. We need to know and understand each other better. We can't view these situations through our own personal cultural lenses as Christians, Jews, Muslims, Americans, Israelis, Palestinians - we have to step out of our shoes and try to walk in the shoes of others. Only then can we truly have compassion and understanding for our brothers and sisters in this large human family.

In a more global context, it saddens me that the Israeli-Palestinian crisis adds fuel to the fire of hatred and animosity between the West and East, between Muslims and non-Muslims. The hatred blinds people - prevents them from seeing and thinking clearly. I wish people could see beyond those labels and look at this problem more objectively, more compassionately. This is a human problem... a human tragedy. There is no room for hate.

Your post brings this quote to my mind:

"Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me. To see reality is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we do not really live very satisfactorily; that there can really be life only where there really is, in just this sense, love." ~Frederick Buechner, Author and Presbyterian minister

noreens's picture

In this conflict, millions

In this conflict, millions have been affected, and in all of my stories I show the human side. How else can we understand each other and the effects of the conflict? Rachel Corrie was there only for a couple of months, but no one can know how life is there better than the citizens who live the conflict on a daily basis.

I agree with you............there is way too much hatred in the world.

Thanks so much for reading!


Mukut's picture



Thank you so much for sharing the story of Rachel and Gaza.I hope life changes in Gaza for good and people fighting for inhumanity do not end suffocated like Rachel.

Let us spread this story far and wide so that the authorities who indulge in brutal acts, take note and realize that such unfair justice would not be tolerated.

Thank you for writing.
Much love,

Mukut Ray

noreens's picture

Thanks for reading and

Thanks for reading and commenting, Mukut! Yes, what happened to Rachel and so many others is inexcusable. Her message, however, lives on. Her family started a foundation in her memory.


Nusrat Ara's picture

It is so frustrating, how can

It is so frustrating, how can they do it. But the fact remains that not only is Rachel yet to get justice, there is no end to the injustice and atrocities on people of Palestine.



noreens's picture

Hi Nusrat!! It has been a

Hi Nusrat!! It has been a while since I was here. It is more than frustrating..........what more can I say ? I think my articles say it all............


Sharontina's picture

Frustrating but lets be hopeful

Dear Noreen,

Lets all be hopeful doing our bit. Lets be the drop in the ocean and hope the rest is taken care of at its best. Though frustrating and heart wrenching this is the lesson that i have learned. You see every drop makes a difference. Rachel has made it and lets make it too.


Merlin Sharontina

noreens's picture

That's right, Sharontina. I

That's right, Sharontina. I am doing my very best to make a difference, and I especially feel that I have when I know that my articles are read. So thanks for taking the time to read it!


Cali gal Michelle's picture

I am thankful...

I LOVE LOVE LOVE that phrase...."I can wash dishes". That's right! We can all do one thing, and nothing is too little or too small. Many drops together make a huge splash. And that is what you and the WP community are doing now.

Thank you and bless you for your article, heart-wrenching as it is!

Let us Hope together-
aka: Cali gal


noreens's picture

Hi Michelle, Every bit

Hi Michelle,

Every bit counts, and when we all work together we can make an impact. Rachel did ore than "wash dishes" and her name lives on.




Jess Theobald's picture

Thank you, perfect timing

I just wanted to say thank you for posting this. I'm taking a class called Women, Activism & Social Change and we were given a list of books from which we're to choose one to read then write a paper about it. I chose Rachel Corrie's journals, "Let Me Stand Alone."

It's sad to hear that not much has changed since she was killed. Thank you for sharing.


noreens's picture

Hi Jess, I have not read the

Hi Jess,

I have not read the book but you chose a good activist. I hope my article gave you a bit of insight to life in Gaza then and now. Have you seen the site of the foundation her parents opened in her name?

I hope I was able to help you, and good luck with your paper!


Stella Paul's picture

Here again

I have been waiting for this moment you know, to see you come here and write again, even if it's just an already published work. Call me juvenile or paranoid or whatever else comes to your mind, but I just get jittery thinking of how many of us have stopped sharing on WP, where we first met.

Anyway, that covered, I always that subtle style of yours. But you know that already. What's new though is the timeliness of the story. I was just reading that out of every 5 American voters, foreign policy guides every 3. Will the voters then allow a pro-peace, no war policy guide them in this election? Worth a thought.

Mitt Romney has just attacked Obama for not being proactive enough on Syria. Romney is promising to be very active. So active, that he wants a military intervention. Will the American voter allow that? If yes, how many more lives -including the likes of Rachel - will be lost and at risk?

The whole Palestine issue has become like an old wound for many. They got used to it. The tragedy is, it still hurts.

So glad you keep pointing that. Love!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

noreens's picture

Hi Stella,I didn't leave

Hi Stella,

I didn't leave World Pulse!! You know I was following the tour and was with you guys in spirit. I just have not written much since the VoF ended. I put so much of my energy into it, and I felt kind of burned out after it, but I am getting back to my writing again so you will see more from me - even if they are already published, but that is okay, isn't it??!!.

I think its right when you say people have gotten used to the Palestinian issue. It's not new, people stopped understanding it - why it is what it is - and they move on to other conflicts, and ours stays as it has always been. I wish that I can see a silver lining on the horizon but I don't.........

Love to you!

Stella Paul's picture

Silly me!

Dear Noreen

I should really be not writing anything when I am sleepy! That 'even if its published' comment was so crude! Starve me for a day for that! But, I am happy you didn't let that cloud your mind.You should not. What I was trying to say it that, some just post a link to their story, instead of copy/pasting the whole text (which really helps). I am so glad you are different!

It truly is tragic to see that tragedies are now judged by their 'novelty' value. Amounts to cruelty,if you ask me. Personally I feel bad that Arafat had to die before concluding the revolution. And also that Palestine hasn't tried giving the world another leader since then. I don't live there. But you do. Tell me, why can't we see another leader emerging from the ruins?

I also know that the silver line isn't anywhere in the sight. But, don't let it go away from your mind's sky. In a weird comparison, many people did die without believing that apartheid would ever end. But it did, though at long last.


Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

noreens's picture

Hi Stella I really didn't

Hi Stella

I really didn't think anything about your "even if it's published" comment. A piece of writing is a piece of writing, and it's better for me that my writing gets published, so don't think twice about it - I took NO offense to that and didn't even give it any thought.

I'm not even going to attempt to answer your question simply because I can't!! Who knows what is at the end of the road for this conflict but things can't stay as they are. Things are bad and getting worse. We'll keep waiting for the silver lining....

Hugs to you too!!

hanasazi's picture

Thank you...

My family and I have followed the situation in Palestine since the leadup to the first gulf War. We learned about Rachel Corrie and she became a hero to us. We had another hero, Jean Calder, an Australian woman who had lived in Gaza for over 20 years and cared for kids with disabilities there. We haven't heard anything about her in a long time and wonder if she is still there. It is hard to imagine her surviving some of the vicious attacks that have happened in recent years, but then it's hard to imagine ANYONE surviving them! And yet the Palestinian people remain strong and alive, and occupying as much of their land as possible. We admire their tenacity so much. It is heartbreaking that despite all the work all, the summits, and all the deaths and injuries, STILL nothing has changed. Thank you for writing about it, I hope to connect so I can see everything you write when you post it!

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