Somerville Divestment Revisited – Charity

27 Aug

At one point during our 2005 campaign against a divestment ballot initiative in Somerville, I discovered where the local BDS group was receiving some of its funds.  Here is what I had to say about the matter at the time.

For those of you fretting that the So-Called Somerville Divestment Project (SC-SDP) may not have the money required to fund their campaign; fear not!  In addition to whatever other sources of income the group has, the organization has also been making use of at least $8000 from the Boston-based charity foundation The Haymarket People’s Fund.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “Here is where he starts slamming the divestment crew for raising and spending dollars on lawyers, paid signature gatherers and other expenses related to getting their anti-Israel measure onto the November ballot.”  Well surprise!  In today’s era of politics, I fully recognize that it’s people, organization AND money that are required to run a modern campaign, and I would never condemn Israel’s critics for trying to raise needed money for their activity, just as the SDP would – I’m sure – never criticize it’s opponents for any fundraising we do to stop their efforts.

While it’s no mystery why the SC-SDP would try to solicit funds from wherever it can, the more interesting question is why the Haymarket People’s Fund would give $8000 – it’s largest grant of the year – to an organization like the Somerville Divestment Project.

As background, Haymarket People’s Fund (hereafter “Haymarket”) was founded in 1974 with a generous contribution from the heir of the Pillsbury Flour fortune, as a reaction to the irresponsible way other rich individuals made use of inherited wealth.  The mission of Haymarket was to fund groups working on projects related to community activism.  Established organizations trying to start a newsletter or produce a video, while worthy, are asked to look elsewhere for funding.  Haymarket exists to help underwrite action, especially political action, on the ground.

One of Haymarket’s major innovations was the way it chose to make decisions regarding who gets funded.  In contrast to larger and more bureaucratic charitable institutions, where decisions are often made by an elite executive group, Haymarket would make its funding decisions through local committees in each New England state, committees made up of activists working in their own communities.  As they state proudly on their Web site: “Haymarket is an activist-controlled foundation committed to radical social change.”

Haymarket’s techniques in democratic decision-making have been emulated by other organizations, and are growing in popularity thanks to resources like the Internet (see, for example, the Funding Exchange). [Note: Global Exchange went out of business in 2013.]

Yet despite these worthy methods and goals (or, perhaps, because of them), groups like Haymarket are particularly vulnerable to appeals by organizations like the Somerville Divestment Project.  Because for a program like Haymarket’s to work, it requires that all participants – granters and grantees – be acting in good faith, looking out for what’s best in their communities.

But what if someone is not acting in good faith?  What if a person or organization is, in fact, motivated not by charity but by ruthlessness, masquerading (as always) in limitless self-righteousness?  What if, for example, an organization is ready to make an appeal based on the most highly truncated, highly politicized version of events (such as events in the Middle East) and eradicate any trace of fact that might counter their arguments?  What if a group like SDP was willing to challenge the progressive credentials of groups like Haymarket, just as they have challenged the worthiness of progressive cities like Somerville, by demanding such institutions wholeheartedly accept their view of the world?  How can an institution built on consensus, one that assumes the language of human rights will be used as a tool for social activism, not a political weapon, withstand the lures of the ruthless?

Haymarket’s official flirtation with Middle East issues started with funding of the Boston Committee for Palestinian Rights (BCPR), yet another ad hoc coalition of the same anti-Israel activists and organizations that form, break apart and reform based on the latest news from the Middle East (like the violence of the last five years) or the latest tactics (like divestment).  According to Haymarket: “The BCPR was formed shortly after the Al-Azsa Intifada arose in September 2000, when women of Arab and Jewish descent from Boston, distraught about the turn of events, gathered to begin planning a response.”  Yet those of us familiar with the people and groups that make up this “spontaneous” new “grassroots organization” recognize all of the familiar names and faces that have been at the forefront of anti-Israel activism for at least two decades.

When the decision was made to provide the SDP with $8000, Haymarket crossed into new and particularly dangerous territory.  For, as the SDP has made clear on its Web site and communication (particularly to other divestment activists), the goal of the group is to get the city of Somerville to add it’s name, it’s “brand,” it’s reputation behind the SDP message that Israel is a racist, apartheid state, alone in the world at deserving economic punishment.  While Haymarket has made pains to say their funding of BCRP and SDP do not represent “taking sides” in the Arab-Israeli conflict, they have chosen to underwrite an effort to tie the city of Somerville to a message that Haymarket understands is too dangerous to officially state itself.

Haymarket’s commitment to the eradication of racism adds new ironic twists to their funding of SDP.  On page after page of the Haymarket Web site, the organization states unequivocally its opposition to bigotry and racism in any form.  Even their response to criticism of their funding of anti-Israel organizations (“Haymarket’s mission is to work for a world where these kinds of oppressions are obliterated and where we can finally live in a society free from the ravages of all forms of racism”) was couched in the language of the battle against bigotry.

And yet, as has been pointed out time and time again on this site, no organization has spent more time introducing the vile language of bigotry into Somerville’s political dialog than the SDP.  Whether it’s the open homophobia of Karin Friedemann, the ravings about “Ashkenazi primoridalism” of Joachim Martillo, or the rantings of America and Europe’s most discredited Jew baiters, from Pat Buchannan to Israel Shamir, SDP has not missed a single opportunity to introduce the views of some of the world’s most notorious spewers of hatred to the city.  Indeed, if the target of this endless onslaught was any minority group other than Jews, Haymarket would likely consider itself duty bound to fund any activity to counter such views.

This language, designed to set one ethnic and religious group against another, also demonstrates the hugely destructive influence of the tactics divestment has used on an ethnically diverse city like Somerville.  Again, groups like Haymarket pride themselves on building bridges and bringing communities together.  Yet their funding and support is going to an organization dedicated to having its way, even if that means tearing Somerville apart in the process.

The same tired refrain rings out whenever criticism like this comes up: of course community action, particularly political community action, will be controversial.  Yet who is most responsible for distinguishing between a charity with political ramifications and a political organization masquerading as a charity?  The decision makers at organizations like the Haymarket People’s Fund.

As noted in a previous essay, divestment asks of it’s supporters that they sacrifice everything they hold most dear at the alter of the divestment agenda.  In Haymarket’s case, it’s the battle against racism, the lofty goal to build and strengthen communities and the cause for human rights that have been jettisoned in order to show support for an organization that has shown no problem spewing bigotry, wrecking communities and cynically manipulating the language of human rights to achieve their narrow political ends.

Sadly, rather than face up to mistakes, groups that have supported (like the mainline churches) or underwritten (like Haymarket) the divestment agenda are more likely to embrace hostility to the Jewish state ever more tightly in order to avoid looking at the consequences of their actions.  For, after all, Israel’s crimes must be particularly heinous, indeed uniquely evil in the world, to justify everything divestment’s supporters have sacrificed in order to sign onto the movement.

As millions of moms would say in their simple, yet profound judgment: “Shame on them.”

Somerville Divestment Revisited – Ruthlessness

26 Aug

Closing in on the finish to a series of postings from many years ago regarding my first encounter with the BDS “Movement” in Somerville, MA, here was my first invocation of Lee Harris and his theories regarding ruthlessness (with a nod towards the kind of fantasy politics that defined the BDS movement that was resurrected in 2009).

In previous essays, I have described the tactics of the So-Called Somerville Divestment Project (SC-SDP) as “ruthless.”  Yet what does this term mean, beyond highlighting the aggressive, “by-any-means-necessary” nature of this group’s behavior?

For most of the ideas in this article, I am indebted to Lee Harris, author of “Civilization and It’s Enemies: The Next Stage of History,” whose remarkable book defines ruthlessness not simply as a way of engaging in activities involving power politics.  Rather, he sees ruthlessness as one of the great foes of civilization, indeed its oldest, original enemy.

Primitive man thought nothing of stealing food from his fellow pre-human, but only the ruthless were willing to murder others for food they could otherwise obtain through honest means or simple theft.  As mankind clawed its way to some kind of order, with civilization advancing, halting, reversing and advancing again, the ruthless were always there to threaten any progress towards establishing some kind of peaceful living space where trust and cooperation replaced bullying and butchery as the organizing principles of society.

The power of the ruthless comes from their willingness to engage in activities that the rest of us would never even imagine.  In a world traumatized by the global conflagration of World War I, Europe’s nations were willing to do anything to avoid another conflict of that scale or worse.  While a worthy sentiment, it provided ruthless actors, like Nazified Germany, the ability to have their way by simply threatening to trigger another World War if their demands were not met.

In a previous essay, I discuss the suicide bomber as a creative innovation, exported from Israel to the rest of the world complete with technology, tactics and ready-made apologies and explanations for their brutal behavior.  Yet the willingness to blow up school busses and nightclubs, or fly airliners into skyscrapers is not simply an example of de-civilization or nihilism.  Behind those that push the button or steer the aircraft are national and factional political leaders who understand that their willingness to detonate their followers at a Passover Seder or subway stop gives them a ruthless power over those who want nothing more than to help the world steer a course of ongoing progress via cooperation and the rule of law.

Contrary to their own self-image, highly radicalized groups like the Somerville Divestment Project have come close to meeting their goals not through imaginative political tactics or devotion to a cause, but through simple ruthlessness.

It does not require much creativity or organizational skill to bring a campaign like divestment into an open-minded, caring city like Somerville.  If, for example, I was committed to scoring points against Israel’s Arab foes, I could begin a drive tomorrow to have Somerville take an official position against the brutal discrimination against homosexuals in Islamic lands.  I could blanket the city with images of gays being hung in Iran or thrown off high buildings in Egypt and demand that progressives take a stand on the issue.  I could set gay rights groups against Arab citizens, liberal churches against mosques, demand that the Mayor who was so supportive of gay marriage publicly condemn anti-gay violence in the Middle East or be accused of hypocrisy, or of having the blood of murdered homosexuals on his hands for not supporting my position.

It would not be difficult to take these steps, except for the fact that I (and everyone else who forcefully battle anti-Israel divestment) would never inflict the pain and conflict such a campaign would cause on the city just to publicly embarrass Israel’s critics.  Indeed, not only would I never do such a thing, I would never even have imagined this kind of behavior before the SDP provided us all a template from which to work.

And there lies the difference.  What most of us, until recently, could not even imagine, ruthless players like the SDP wake up every morning and do.  Subverting the language of human rights for short-term political gain, forcing religious and political organizations to take a stand or risk possibly permanent schisms, dragging the bitterness of the Middle East into a struggling, multiethnic city, these are all acts with potentially long-term damaging effects.  Yet the ruthless do not care about the consequences of their actions.  To them, the leaders and citizens of Somerville are mere props to be manipulated so that leaders (and a few followers) of the divestment movement can feel part of some great, global, revolutionary struggle.

Even the Palestinians, in whose name hate groups like the SDP profess to speak, are simply props in a vulgar, political game.  As anyone with eyes can see, the only path the Palestinians have from their present misery is through peaceful negotiations.  Yet by holding out the prospect of victory through war, supported by propaganda efforts like divestment, these “friends of the Palestinian people” are leading them towards an even darker blind ally than the one into which they want to drag the city of Somerville.

While divestment proponents might be able to convince themselves that the ends justify the means as part of some fantasized higher, noble calling, in truth their means have become their ends.  For what defines such movements outside of their willingness to say anything, do anything, hurt anyone, sew conflict, corrupt democracy, abuse the language of human rights and free speech, i.e., to behave in a manner that defines ruthlessness?

While some may wish for a day when mankind has evolved to a point where ruthlessness has been eradicated from the human species, there is nothing more dangerous than imagining that such a day has already arrived when it so clearly has not.  Ruthlessness has been with us since humans first interacted, and wishing it away or blaming its victims for keeping us from an imagined utopia has been a recipe for the 20th (and now the 21st) century’s most unimaginable disasters.

Somerville Divestment Revisited – Pantograph

25 Aug

Closing in on the finish to a series of postings from many years ago regarding my first encounter with the BDS “Movement” in Somerville, MA, here was an attempt to draw broader conclusions of what the fight for Israel means to the rest of the world.

The pantograph is a centuries old mechanical device used to create enlarged images.  When an artist uses a pen attached to one end of the pantograph to draw a sketch or illustration, the device automatically draws a larger version of the same image on another piece of paper.

A friend once noted how this ancient gadget reminded him of Israel’s relationship to the rest of the world.  A curious observation, I thought, which he fleshed out by noticing that many of the tragedies we are dealing with today, including the recent mass murder of scores of civilians whose only “crime” was riding on the London Underground, were first enacted (albeit on a slightly smaller scale) within the Jewish state.

This export of innovative methods of cruelty such as the suicide bomber from Israel to the rest of the planet is no accident.  As noted in a previous essay, tyrants or tyrannical wannabees have a habit of singling out the Jew (or, in today’s world, the Jewish State) in order to determine just how far humanity can be pushed to abandon its humane principles.

The threat of Europe’s fascists WAS ignored when their repression was limited to “merely” putting the full force of the state behind the suppression and eventual murder of its Jewish minority.  It was only after the Nazis had sharpened their claws on the Jews that the world realized a nation steeped in such brutality was a threat to the entire planet and dealt with the problem at a cost of fifty million lives.

Today’s dictators have similarly used Israel as a staging area to determine just how far they can push a brutal agenda, hoping that the non-Jewish powers (i.e., the other 6+ billion people in the world) will avert their gaze until it is too late.

The suicide bomber, whether in London, Tel Aviv or Thailand, needs more than explosives to do his or her job.  They also need a culture that glorifies death (so long as it accompanies mass murder) to create the people willing to strap on the belt and push the button.

Most importantly, they need the intricate web of explanation, toleration and apologia that always manage to justify mass murder with that critical “but” (“Of course the attacks in London were a crime, BUT shouldn’t they be expected given British actions in Iraq?”  “9/11 was certainly awful, BUT didn’t America’s support for Israel make it a target?” “I condemn the ninety-ninth blowing up of an Israeli bus, BUT what else can the Palestinians do to “defend” themselves in the face of Israeli might?).

Such apologists have been on full display since the bombs started going off in London (and as of today, show no signs of ending), trying to find “root causes” for turning commuters into ash in the treatment of Muslim minorities in the UK or in Britain’s foreign policy.  Yet if Britain contributed anything to its current suffering, it was in trying to put as much distance as it could between Israel’s plague of terror and the terror that afflicts the rest of the world.  Not only are the two linked, but the former is the proving ground for the latter, the small pen on the pantograph.

Today in Somerville, a small group of hate-filled fanatics is hoping that they can twist the language of human rights and confuse the uninformed enough to get the city to join their crusade in condemning the Jewish state for the “crime” of defending itself against this onslaught.  Yet in trying to get the city to condemn a victim for not allowing himself to meekly be killed, they are trying to justify the notion that no person, no group, no nation has the right to defend itself against indiscriminate terror.  If that is the new rule written on tiny Israel by the small end of the pantograph, one does need to think hard to guess to whom the magnified version of such a rule will apply.

Somerville Divestment Revisited – Links

24 Aug

Note: This is the last week where I’ll be republishing pieces written in the 2000s regarding my first encounter with the BDS “Movement” in Somerville, MA.  The web site for the Somerville Divestment Project mentioned below still exists as a cobweb, with many of the items referenced in this piece departed, but not forgotten.

Well it looks as though the So-Called Somerville Divestment Project (SC-SDP) Web site ( has gone through a substantial clean up recently.  Gone without a trace are their original links to the bigoted race-rantings of Joachim Martillo and the work of Israel Shamir.

One wonders if it is their upcoming petition campaign, or pressure from donors that has caused them to bury their previous showcasing of the outlandish bigotry of Mertillo and Shamir with the innocence of those who have never heard of an Internet “cache” (or Internet Explorer’s File -> Save As command) which means previous versions of their Web site remain available for all to see and appreciate.

Note to the SDP Webmaster: You missed one!  Your Thinkpiece section contains Lasse Wilhelmson’s delightful essay “Anti-semitism as a Political Weapon,” available from the Marwen Media Web site.  This is what one commentator had to say about Marwen:

“I have now had a chance to take a closer look at this site and consult Jewish friends on their views of it. There was nothing anti-semitic on the home page, which was all I was linking to; but buried in other pages on this site is some pretty nasty stuff which borders on Holocaust denial and further nasty stuff which crosses the border from anti-Zionism into anti-semitism. I’m happy to pull the plug on it.”

Lest anyone think this criticism of Marwen comes from a member of the Zionist Cabal ™ or associated sympathizers, this quote comes from Sue Blackwell, one of Europe’s most deranged Israel-hating fanatics who earlier this year dragged her academic organization, the UK Association of University Teachers (AUT), down the same divestment black hole where her American equivalents want to yank Somerville.  Apparently, hate-filled ravings too extreme for one of Britain’s most extreme extremists (which, given British attitudes towards the Jewish state, is saying a lot) are still just fine for the Somerville Divestment Project.

Even with its recent disinfection, the SDP Web site is still quite a piece of work.  Looking over it’s many pages and links, you would never have the slightest idea that over 1000 Jews have been murdered in the Middle East in recent years, and that the actions they decry in page after page, commentary after commentary, might have something to do with Israel choosing not to allow another thousand citizens to perish under the relentless attack of the suicide bomb.

I understand that militant activists are not required to present both sides of any argument, but for a movement which claims its mission is one of “educating the public,” their Web site, indeed their entire campaign, is predicated on finding a population ignorant of the fact that the Middle East consists of anyone other than Israeli brutes and pristine, innocents Arab victims.  Given that Somerville’s aldermen almost bought the SDP’s unbelievably lopsided view of the world last year, it’s entirely possible that their strategy to dump every piece of information that counters their propaganda down the memory hole will bear fruit.  However, I continue to maintain confidence that the citizens of Somerville at least know enough to know when they are being played for fools.

The Web site’s links page provides a particularly hilarious example of the level of concern the SDP has for “the other side.”  Buried at the end of a long list of links to dozens of organizations that share their agenda (what was that about divestment proponents being tiny, unsupported “voices in the wilderness?”) is a link to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI – link to which provides unedited translations of the Arabic press to the public.  Just to make sure this one dissenting opinion (which just provides access to the Arab media in their own words) does not “infect” their visitors, SDP lists it under “Curiosities” with the following description:

“News organization run by former (?) Israeli intelligence officers with a Zionist agenda.”

As my mom might say: “Why do they even bother?”

As a final note, when the aforementioned Sue Blackwell removed the work of Marwen, Israel Shamir and others from her own Web site, she announced their removal on her site’s Home page and in a special section called “Nazi Alert,” informing her readers that those she removed, while posing as simply Israel haters were actually right-wing bigots.  In quietly eradicating embarrassing views they previously championed, and hoping they left no footprints, the SC-SDP fails to show even Blackwell’s shred of integrity, not to mention shame.

Somerville Divestment Revisited – Reputation

23 Aug

This next set of essays were written during the second year of campaigning against BDS in Somerville, MA (2005) when divestment proponents tried to get a divestment measure they failed to get past the legislature onto the city-wide ballot.

A description of how that issue played out can be found here.

Few outside of British academic circles had ever heard of the Association of University Teachers (AUT), a UK-based union of university level instructors and professionals, until earlier this year when the organization voted to boycott two Israeli universities on a series of trumped up charges.

For veterans of divestment debates in the US and abroad, the details of the AUT debate will sound familiar.  An organization whose primary mission is support of its members through collective bargaining and other union services, the AUT also had a “social justice” constituency that was hijacked by a group of anti-Israel activists, led by Birmingham lecturer Sue Blackwell (an declared anti-fascist with a preference for Palestinian Flagwear who nevertheless links her Web site to various Nazi organizations).

Through relentless parliamentary maneuvering within a bureaucratic organization, Blackwell and her allies managed to pass a resolution calling for British academics to break all ties with Bar-Ilan and Haifa Universities.  World reaction to the move was swift.  Jewish groups scorned the decision while anti-Israel activists hailed it as another “victory.”  More importantly, academics worldwide condemned the AUT’s assault on intellectual freedom, and AUT members revolted against the usurpation of their name by a small group of fanatics, overturning the decision in an overwhelming vote that reversed the short-lived AUT boycott policy.

By then, the damage was done.  If AUT is known outside of UK and teaching circles today, it is known as an organization that was willing to sacrifice the one virtue upon which its reputation rested, the value of unimpeded academic freedom, upon the alter of anti-Israel activism.

Seen through the AUT prism, the Somerville divestment debate represents a similar attempt to “leverage” the reputation of an institution, in this case the city of Somerville, towards a narrow political end.  All of their talk of “fairness” and “evening the playing field” is simply a ruse to appeal to the better nature of Somerville’s leaders and citizens, the better nature that is the basis of the city’s reputation as a friend of human rights.  The goal (as boasted on various anti-Israel Web sites during last year’s divestment debate) is to “sign on” Somerville to their cause so that the city’s name, a name built on its reputation, can be used to maneuver other cities and towns to also join the boycott-Israel bandwagon.

I’ve thought a lot about reputation recently as more and more “mainline” Protestant churches have followed the lead of the Presbyterian Church which last year started the machinery that would lead to divestment of church assets in companies doing business with the Jewish state.  As bragged on the So-Called Somerville Divestment Project’s (SC-SDP’s) Web site, the New England Methodist Church and Anglican Church in the UK are ready to follow the Presbyterian’s down divestment’s blind alley.

As with the AUT, these churches have convinced themselves that an economic attack on a tiny Jewish state is a demonstration of the highest virtues of their faith: fairness, peace, human rights.  Yet one only need look at the spurious charges, the faux history, the absolute unwillingness to consider the other side that underlay each church’s resolution to understand that divestment is a gross example of little more than institutional bullying.

As we were all taught in Saturday morning cartoons from the 1970s, most bullies are actually cowards.  And these “mainline” churches certainly have a lot to fear.  Their flocks are diminishing rapidly, even as competing faiths like evangelical Christianity and Islam are expanding rapidly.  It’s been years since these churches had a major voice in a political or moral debate and when they have tried (as in their stand on the Iraq War or last year’s presidential election), they have found themselves on the losing side.

As their relevance declines as rapidly as their numbers, the leadership of the churches pushing divestment have found they can do something: they can bully one of the smallest states in the world, even as they fail to put their assets where their mouths are when confronting the rich and powerful.

Yet in taking these actions, these churches are mortgaging more than their own reputations.  Just as the AUT that was willing to wreak havoc on academic freedom under the guise of protecting it, these bullying mainline churches are using the voice of religious moral authority in general, the same voice that proved so important during the desegregation, anti-Vietnam War and anti-Apartheid movements (movements supported in partnership with American Jews) to support narrow and partisan ends pushed by a small but highly vocal minority.

If it’s been hard to take the voice of the Church of England or the Presbyterians seriously during serious moral and political debates in recent years, how much harder will it be to listen to any religious authority in the future when the public realizes that this authority is susceptible to hijacking and moral blackmail by the rich and powerful against the small and vulnerable?

Even worse, these churches are also mortgaging assets they do not own: the ethical power of social investment, the economic power of the boycott, responsibly wielded as it was during the anti-Apartheid era, in order to float a morally bankrupt Israel divestment policy.  One can imagine a time in the near future when a corporation or nation that truly deserves censure can point to the actions of the churches as a demonstration of how legitimate boycotts directed at them are just another example of partisan politics wrapped in ill-fitting moral garments.

Just as Somerville’s aldermen (and, one hopes, its citizens) realize that the reputation of the city was not theirs to give away, one hopes that leaders and followers in cities, churches, schools around the world will reject the cynical lures of divestment, refusing to sell their reputations, and the reputations of what they represent, to those most willing to ruthlessly exploit the language of virtue.

Somerville Divestment Revisited – Rachels

22 Aug

This next set of essays were written during the second year of campaigning against BDS in Somerville, MA (2005) when divestment proponents tried to get a divestment measure they failed to get past the legislature onto the city-wide ballot.

A description of how that issue played out can be found here.

“A combined fundrasing event for BostontoPalestine and the BootCAT campaign against Caterpillar will be held on Friday, May 27, at the Clarendon Hill Presbyterian Church,” read the announcement.    “The event will feature the premiere showing in Boston of the new film: ‘Rachel Corrie – An American Conscience.’”

For those of you who missed this event, or the many other attempts to put Rachel Corrie on the cultural and political landscape (including a London play and a lawsuit by Rachel’s parents against the state of Israel), a bit of background:

Ms. Corrie was a young student from Washington State who joined one of the more virulent anti-Israel organizations, the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), which (among other activities) has attempted to block the Israeli destruction of Palestinian homes with their bodies.  Rachel was engaged in such a “human shield” operation in the Gaza Strip when she was allegedly crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer.  Her death sparked numerous political campaigns, including a political movement against Caterpillar Tractor that formed part of the So-Called Somerville Divestment Project’s (SC-SDP) divestment agenda in Somerville.

ISM supporters are fond of using this picture, the vision of a fresh-faced, smiling young Rachel, to present their case.   They have had less use for this picture or similar ones that show that once-smiling face twisted in rage as she torches the American flag, surrounded by like-minded supporters.  They also never quite explain why ISM “anti-demolition” activities are focused on protecting Palestinian homes that have been used as cover for tunnels for smuggling weapons from Egypt to groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Israel (as opposed to houses, say, on the West Bank).

As a parent, the death of Rachel Corrie is meant to illicit my sympathies for a girl who perished so young under the treads of a piece of industrial equipment in a faraway land.  But as a parent, I must also reflect on what adults must have filled this young girl’s head with to turn her from a happy child to a furious flag burner, and what kind of people would put such a girl in harm’s way, then capitalize on her death by turning her into a martyr.

Let’s focus on those weapons tunnels for a moment, for the explosives and munitions that came into Israel via the those tunnels may have intersected with the lives of six other Rachels who have never received the media attention given to Rachel Corrie.

These include:


Rachel Levy was 19 when a Palestinian rammed a bus into a crowded Israel bus stop, killing Rachel and five others on February 14, 2001.   She left behind her parents and two younger sisters.


Rachel Thaler, 16, the daughter of US-and UK-born Israelis, was enjoying dinner with her 14-year old brothers and friends at an Israeli pizzeria when a suicide bomber detonated himself at the restaurant.  While her brother survived, Rachel was less fortunate, leaving behind a family of four.


Rachel Gavish was 50 when a Palestinian terrorist infiltrated her home in Israel, shooting dead Rachel, her husband David, her son and Rachel’s father.  This triple-generational murder left Rachel’s six other children orphaned.


This second Rachel Levy, 16, was a high-school student who was killed when a Palestinian suicide bomber detonated herself at an Israeli supermarket.  Her death came on the heels of the death of Rachel’s cousin once month earlier in a terrorist shooting attack.


Rachel Charhi, 36, was critically wounded in a suicide bombing attack in Israel on April 4, 2002.  Her husband, survived the assault to care for Rachel’s three orphaned children Kinneret (14), Ariel (13) and Barak (7).


Rachel Shabo, 40, (top right) and three of her sons were murdered on June 20, 2002 when a Palestinian terrorist entered the family home and opened fire.

So many Rachels, all mourned in sad silence by surviving friends and relatives who have chosen respectful grieving, rather than turning their murdered love ones into cause celebes to further a political agenda.

What a sharp contrast to those who continue to brandish the “martyrdom” of Rachel Corrie to further their political agenda without ever stopping to consider their own responsibility for Corrie’s death.