Israel News

Saints or sinners? Meet Rachel Corrie’s allies

Palestinians hold pictures of Rachel Corrie in the southern Gaza Strip on July 28 at the end of a local football match named the "Rachel Corrie Cup", in honor of the U.S. activist who was run over by an Israeli bulldozer at a pro-Palestinian demonstration in 2003. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
Palestinians hold pictures of Rachel Corrie in the southern Gaza Strip on July 28 at the end of a local football match named the "Rachel Corrie Cup", in honor of the U.S. activist who was run over by an Israeli bulldozer at a pro-Palestinian demonstration in 2003. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.

I am writing this column with great reluctance. In a rational world, the accidental death of Rachel Corrie, the pro-Hamas activist who was crushed by a bulldozer in Gaza almost 10 years ago, would no longer have a place in the news cycle. Sadly, we do not live in a rational world, and therefore Corrie’s fate—along with her insidious group of allies that mushroomed following her death—continues to plague us.

Here’s what we know: After much careful deliberation, an Israeli court in Haifa finally dismissed a civil suit brought by Corrie’s parents, ruling that her death was not a homicide, but a consequence of Corrie’s decision to stand in front of an armored bulldozer whose driver could not see her.

Further, we know that Israel is a country where the clear separation of powers that is essential to democracy exists. Israel’s courts are not beholden to the government or the IDF. Rather, they are robustly independent, unafraid of reaching decisions that might be unpopular with the imperatives of whomever happens to be in government.

Case-in-point: In 2003, Israel’s Central Elections Committee (CEC) banned Balad, an anti-Zionist party based among Israeli Arabs, from running in the elections of the same year. The CEC argued that Balad’s rejection of Israel’s character as a Jewish state disqualified the party’s participation. But Israel’s Supreme Court overruled that decision, thereby allowing Balad to run in the elections. One of Balad’s leaders, Ahmad Tibi, praised the court for “blocking the anti-democratic avalanche of the right-wing.”

Yet, when an Israeli court arrives at a decision that the “Zionism is racism” chorus disagrees with, all of a sudden the entire judicial system is corrupt. In responding to the Corrie verdict, Amnesty International talked, ludicrously, of a “pattern of impunity” when it comes to alleged violations by the IDF. (Clearly, Amnesty does not remember the case of Lt. Col. Ya’akov Gigi, who was imprisoned and demoted in 2008 after being convicted in the wrongful killing of a Palestinian civilian.) Former President Jimmy Carter, who depicts Israel as an apartheid state, dutifully chimed in with similar wording: “The court’s decision confirms a climate of impunity, which facilitates Israeli human rights violations against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Territory.”

Frankly, we shouldn’t expect anything else from individuals and groups like these. They are predisposed to believe the slander that Israeli institutions are built on the principle that Jews are more equal than non-Jews. Still, the cumulative effect of these statements leads unwitting readers to believe that the only issue worth considering is Israel’s behavior. Their authors do not—indeed, will not—ask what Corrie was doing in Gaza in the first place, nor do they question the ugly, genocidal politics that this deeply misguided young woman subscribed to.

Corrie was a member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM)—a misnomer if ever there was one, since Palestinians are the sole subject of the dubious “solidarity” which they offer. You will not find ISM volunteers in Syria, documenting the unspeakable atrocities committed by Bashar al Assad’s regime. You will not find them in Russia, monitoring the kangaroo court that recently convicted the feminist punk band Pussy Riot to two years imprisonment on the charge of “hooliganism.” Nor will you find them in Venezuela, the homicide capital of the world, standing alongside the innocent civilians murdered by gangsters aligned with the tyrant Hugo Chavez.

And you will not find them in these places for two reasons. Firstly, the ISMers have a soft spot for authoritarian regimes, so long as these are sufficiently anti-American. Secondly, they are cowards: Israel and the Palestinian territories are ideal spots for war tourists of this ilk, since, statistically-speaking, there is very little chance of death or injury at the hands of the IDF, and you can get a shower and a decent meal at the end of a day’s “solidarity” work.

At the same time, the ISM is not stupid. It is an integral part of the current of opinion that has essentially beatified Rachel Corrie. Since she died, her supporters have portrayed her as an unimpeachably noble soul, on a par with—unbelievably—Anne Frank. Writing this week in Counterpunch, an online anti-Semitic rag that is a favored destination for the ISM, Jennifer Loewenstein had the temerity to conclude, “I believe Anne Frank would have agreed with Rachel’s mother, Cindy, who—when asked if she thought Rachel should have moved away from the bulldozer—replied, ‘I don’t think that Rachel should have moved. I think we should all have been standing there with her.’”

Raiding the memories of the Holocaust to score points for the Palestinians is a long-established tactic of the ISM and similar groups. But what really matters here is the moral gulf that separated Anne Frank from Rachel Corrie. Read Anne Frank’s diary, and what comes across is a humanism extraordinarily rare for someone so young. Corrie, by contrast, frequently accused Israel of practicing genocide—an absurd claim, given the year on year increase in the Palestinian population—while happily taking up membership in a group that seeks to destroy Israel with what it euphemistically terms the “one-state solution.”

There are few examples in history of nations giving up their right to self-determination without bloodshed. A single state from the Mediterranean to the River Jordan would have to be imposed on Israelis, and most of them would have to die or be expelled for it to take shape. That bald reality is the true legacy of Rachel Corrie, one that leaves her and her allies not as saints, but as sinners.

Ben Cohen is the Shillman Analyst for His writings on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics have been published in Commentary, the New York Post, Ha’aretz, Jewish Ideas Daily and many other publications.

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