In the waning months of 2002, Rachel Corrie embarked on a mission that would forever link her name with the struggle for justice in Palestine. A student at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, Rachel chose her hometown and Rafah in Gaza, Palestine, as the subjects of her sister city project. Little did she know that her journey would lead her to the front lines of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ultimately sacrificing her life in the pursuit of peace.
Rachel’s involvement in the Palestinian cause began when she heard stories from a fellow activist involved with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Inspired, she chose to twin Olympia with Rafah, hoping to foster understanding and support between the two communities. Her dedication to the cause led her to join the ISM and travel to Palestine.
Upon arriving in Rafah, Rachel and her fellow activists faced suspicion from both Israeli forces and local Palestinians, who viewed them as potential spies. Undeterred, they worked tirelessly to integrate into the community, learning Arabic phrases, teaching English, and engaging in cultural exchanges. Despite initial resistance, they gradually gained acceptance.
Rachel became a vocal advocate for Palestinian rights, often putting herself in harm’s way during Israeli military operations. With a megaphone in hand, she pleaded for the safety of civilians, positioning herself as a human shield. Despite their efforts, Israeli military actions continued, leading to the destruction of Palestinian homes and the displacement of hundreds.
On March 14, 2003, Rachel and her colleagues were tasked with guarding wells damaged by Israeli bulldozers. While doing so, they received news that two Israeli Caterpillar D9R bulldozers were approaching the home of pharmacist Samir Nasrallah, a location Rachel frequently visited. Conflicting accounts claim the bulldozers were either searching for bombs or targeting Palestinian homes.
Rachel rushed to the scene with other activists, unfurling banners and using a megaphone to demand the bulldozers stop. In response, Israeli forces threw stun grenades and tear gas at the activists and the Palestinians resisting the operation. As one bulldozer advanced towards Nasrallah’s home, Rachel stood her ground, signaling for it to halt. Tragically, the bulldozer continued, and she was crushed beneath the rubble.
Rachel’s death sparked international outrage and calls for an investigation. Her parents filed a civil lawsuit against Israel in 2005, claiming their daughter was intentionally killed by the military. The legal battle, spanning 15 trials and involving 23 witnesses, concluded in 2012 with the Israeli government absolved of responsibility. The court deemed Rachel’s death an accident, causing controversy and condemnation.
Despite the court’s decision, Rachel Corrie is remembered as a martyr in Palestine, particularly in Rafah. Her name adorns a street in Palestine and a vessel in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, symbolizing her enduring legacy in the struggle for justice. The annual sports event in Rafah dedicated to her memory reflects the impact she had on the community, ensuring that Rachel Corrie’s name lives on as a symbol of resistance and courage.