On March 16 2003, Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old American peace activist, was killed by an Israeli bulldozer while attempting to protect a Palestinian house in Gaza. Either way, it would be easy for Corrie to be forever defined by her death. She clearly loved to write from an early age, and some of her poetry is charming. It would be easy to get the impression, from this, that Corrie was someone who needed to get a life of her own as well as worrying about other peoples. She is also delighted by the details of the world around her, and often writes of the salmon that spawn in the local rivers, about water and sunshine, and about people seen on a bus, landscapes, the town at night. In a piece written sometime after she was 18 (again, her parents cant date it exactly), she writes that she wants to see people in tutus. In a long plain-verse poem written when she was 23, she describes taking patients to Dairy Queen and having to admonish them for their behaviour: And he cried some more And called me a hairy little bitch sabotaging his ice cream day So I refocused him On his own anxiety and I said I hear that youre feeling angry But youll have to use appropriate social skills and language Or there wont be any more Dairy Queen asked me just exactly what I was threatening to do to Dairy Queen You power-drunk little Overeducated slut Two months later, in late January 2003, Corrie arrived in Gaza, encouraged by a fellow-activist to join the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a group calling for peaceful non-violent protest against Israeli action that, at that time, included the destruction of Palestinian houses on the borders of Gaza; the Israeli Defense Forces stated that this was to prevent smuggling. However, in a long letter to her mother dated February 27 2003, she says: Speaking of words I absolutely abhor the use of polarities like good and evil especially when applied to human beings. Less than three weeks later Corrie stood in front of a bulldozer that was attempting to destroy the house of a Palestinian pharmacist and his brother; she knew the family. What does seem clear from this book is that she was not seeking martyrdom in any way; in fact, in her last emails, she was wondering what to do when she left Gaza. What she does have, though, is that deep sense of right and wrong, and a feeling that she must act where she sees things that are wrong; and I wonder how many older people read this book and sense a gentle reproach from their younger selves. This would be about the time she wrote a poem called For Gram with love: Over a fence by an old rusty rail came the whispery twitch of a cream-colored tail.
Reading this book was difficult because I knew and know that Rachel is dead and her journals have a very "present" feeling to them, even though they date back to the nineties. The two main reasons I enjoyed this so much are: (a) it sheds so much insight into the intelligence and love of an activist. The news that covers Gaza/Palestine/Rafah is hard to follow, and it is through activists like Corrie that help me understand it better.
These published journals seem to be a fitting tribute to Rachel Corrie's life and her development as an activist, although they are a somewhat disjointed collection of her poetry, diary entries, letters, and essays, many of which have only the vaguest of dates attached to them. I found on Wikipedia that Rachel's family brought several lawsuits against those in Israel who investigated her death, challenging the conclusion that it was an "accident" (she was run over by a bulldozer that was "clearing" a Palestinian neighborhood, an action she had been frequently protesting.) Although her father gives a prelude to the journals that details her death, this information is less resonant before we have gotten to "know" her through her writing, and I wish more of this sort of thing would have been included at the end, to help ease the reader out of the book and to give some opportunity for further reflection.
For those who don't know her story, Corrie was a college student from Olympia, Washington who joined a group called the International Solidarity Movement and worked with other volunteers as human shields in Palestine, protecting civilian homes and water wells.
But overall, it's definitely a book people should read.
i found this book really hard to read, for two reasons: 1) it's really hard to read a book full of writing by someone who died in such a horrible manner (rachel was a young american activist who got involved with the international solidarity movement & was helping to protect homes in palestine when she was crushed to death by an israeli bulldozer at the age of 23), especially once she actually gets to palestine & is writing all kinds of stuff about how weird it is that american privilege enables her to talk away whenever she wants, & maybe she'll hang out in sweden before she goes home, etc etc, & 2) it's a journal/collection of personal writings written by someone before the age of 23. rachel's family compiled this book after her death, drawing from e-mails she sent them from palestine, journals, letters from rachel's friends, & other sources for rachel's personal writing.
let me sit and stare at everything though my own eyes for a while. Let me dance in the lily petals and skim the trembling water and buzz like useless words in the air.
Her selfless act and commitment to human rights until the end, have inspired and educated many about the ongoing plight of the Palestinians under Israeli occupation.
Deciding that their presence was provoking the Israeli soldiers, not deterring them, Corrie and her colleagues hurriedly dismantled their tent and left the area.8 Qishta, a Palestinian who worked as an interpreter, noted that: "Late January and February was a very crazy time. There were house demolitions taking place all over the border strip and the activists had no time to do anything else."8 Qishta also stated of the ISM activists: "They were not only brave; they were crazy."8 The confrontations were not without harm to the activists; a British participant was wounded by shrapnel.8 Palestinian militants expressed concern that the "internationals" staying in tents between the Israeli watchtowers and the residential neighborhoods would get caught in crossfire, while other residents were concerned that the young activists might be spies. Even so, in the days before Corrie's death, a letter gained wide circulation in Rafah, casting suspicion again on the ISM members.