Somerville Divestment Revisited – Rachels

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

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

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

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.

rachel-levy-2

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

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

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.

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