On March 16 2003, an American activist called Rachel Corrie was killed by an IDF tank, manufactured in the United States.
Because she was young, white, female, active online, and American, she became possibly the single most famous fatality of the conflict: one of the ships in the Gaza freedom flotilla to relieve the Gaza blockade was called MV Rachel Corrie, and no one had to explain why.
Water: Israel has not permitted supplies into the Gaza Strip to rebuild the sewage system. Amnesty International reports that 90-95 percent of the drinking water in Gaza is contaminated and unfit for consumption. The United Nations even found that bottled water in Gaza contained contaminants, likely due to the plastic bottles recycled in dysfunctional factories. The lack of sufficient power for desalination and sewage facilities results in significant amounts of sewage seeping into Gaza’s costal aquifer–the main source of water for the people of Gaza.
Food: A 2010 World Health Organization report stated that “chronic malnutrition in the Gaza Strip has risen over the past few years and has now reached 10.2%. Micronutrient deficiencies among children and women have reached levels that are of concern.” According to UN OCHA: “Over 60 percent of households are now food insecure, threatening the health and wellbeing of children, women and men. In this context, agriculture offers some practical solutions to a humanitarian problem. However, Israel’s import and access restrictions continue to suffocate the agriculture sector and directly contribute to rising food insecurity. Of particular concern, farmers and fishers’ lives are regularly put at risk, due to Israel’s enforcement of its access restrictions. The fact that this coastal population now imports fish from Israel and through tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border speaks to the absurdity of the situation.” 72 percent of Gaza’s fish profit comes from beyond the three nautical mile mark, but further restrictions by Israel’s naval blockade prevents Gazans from fishing beyond that mark. Between 2008 and 2009 the fishing catch was down 47 percent.
The Death of Rachel Corrie, in Mother Jones, is where I got the quote that forms the title of this blogpost.
A regular right-wing commenter on Obsidian Wings cited a post by Tom Gross, The Forgotten Rachels, listing “forgotten victims” – young people killed in Israel by Palestinian terrorists, as an example of anti-Israel bias in the media, citing Helen Thomas‘s outburst as an example of anti-Semitic feeling among US journalists.
As I noted on Feministe:
Helen Thomas should have known that while many of the white colonists who first began the 63-year-war against the Palestinian people were indeed from Eastern Europe and from North America, that was 63 years ago: it’s their descendants, and the descendants of the Middle Eastern refugees who came to the new state at the beginning of the war, who continue it now.
“Go back to where you came from” applies to Helen Thomas, the descendant of white immigrants, as much as it does to the dscendents of the white immigrants in what is now Israel.
Still, it’s worth noting that many American journalists have openly supported the murderous campaigns by the Israelis against the Palestinians, and supported the denial of citizenship to Palestinians and the maintenance of the apartheid state of Israel, without needing to announce that they are retiring immediately.
Tom Gross lists Rachel Thaler, killed age 16 by a Palestinian suicide bomber on February 27th, 2002. But he doesn’t mention Inas Ibrahim Saleh, age 7, who was struck by IDF shelling of Jabalya Refugee Camp, North Gaza district, on February 13th 2002, and who died on March 2nd 2002. He doesn’t mention Mahmoud Hassan Ahmad a-Talalkah, also age 7, who was killed on March 1st 2002 next to Nissanit, North Gaza district, by gunfire. He does not mention Maryam ‘Awad al-Bahabsah, age 30, who was killed by IDF gunfire, from a tank, in her home in Khan Yunis, on February 18th, 2002: nor does he mention Muna al-Bahabsah, Maryam’s 10-year-old daughter, also killed by the same IDF gunfire that killed her mother.
Tom Gross lists Rachel Levy, killed age 17 by a Palestinian suicide bomber on March 29th, 2002. But he doesn’t mention Fares ‘Anad Fares a-Zaben, killed age 13 on April 1st 2002 in Jenin Refugee Camp, when the IDF attacked it. He doesn’t mention Fa’iz Khaled Saleh, killed age 14 on April 2nd 2002 next to Neve Deqalim, Gush Katif, when Israeli soldiers fired at a group of children who were throwing stones. He doesn’t mention Mahmoud Abu Yassin, killed age 15 by IDF gunfire on March 12th 2002 when attending the funeral of those killed in an earlier IDF operation in Jabalya refugee camp, Mahmoud’s home.
Tom Gross lists Sergeant Rachel Levi, killed age 19 by a Palestinian bus driver who crashed his bus into 8 Israelis waiting at the stop, on February 14 2001. He does not mention Ziad ‘Ali Muhammad Abu Sawi, killed age 22 on February 12th 2001, in al-Khader, Bethlehem district, when the IDF shot at a bus he was travelling on. Some of the other Palestinians killed around that time whom Gross doesn’t mention: Obei Muhammad Mahmoud Derj, killed age 9 when his home in al-Bira was shelled by the IDF on March 2nd 2001. Husam ‘Emad ‘Adel a-Dissi, shot in the chest by Israeli soldiers on February 26th 2001, in al-Quds district, during a confrontation between stone-throwing Palestinian children and armed Israeli soldiers. Isma’il Ahmad al-Talbani (40) and Saber Furij Abu Thaher (34), killed by IDF gunfire at the Netzarim Junction on January 31st 2001. Muhammad Sharif Muhammad a-Sharif, killed by the IDF at age 15 while participating in a demonstration in Gaza City on January 21st 2001. Ahmad Muhsein Muhammad Shahadeh, killed by the IDF at age 18 while participating in a demonstration in Gaza City on February 2nd 2001.
Tom Gross lists Rachel Gavish, killed age 50, with her husband David Gavish (50), and their son Avraham Gavish, (25), shot by a Palestinian gunman who infiltrated the West Bank settlement Kedumim where they lived, on March 28th 2002. Some other people whom Tom Gross does not list who were killed in the Nablus district where Kedumim is located, around that time: Aiman Hawaldi, killed by the IDF age 23, in Zawata, on March 23rd 2002. Muhammad Iyad Mughrabi, age 11, shot in the head on March 17th 2002 in ‘Askar, by soldiers who opened fire on a group of children throwing stones. Died on March 20th, 2002. Witnesses say Muhammad wasn’t one of the stone-throwers. Mahmoud Teysir Ghanem, killed age 16 in Sarra, when he was shot by Israeli soldiers for throwing stones at an army jeep. Yihya a-Shatiyeh, killed age 26 in Salem, by IDF gunfire, on March 7th 2002. Ahmad Fakhri Hashhash, killed age 15 by IDF gunfire, injured on March 2nd 2002 in in Balata Refugee Camp and died on March 4th 2002. I chose those five out of the many listed as having been killed in the West Bank by the IDF in the month before the Gavish family were killed because they were all killed in the same district as the Gavishes: none of them took part in hostilities when they were killed (unless you count throwing stones at a car “hostilities”.) There was also the tragedy of Muhammad Hussein Abu Kwek, killed age 8 while travelling in a car through Ramallah, on March 4th 2002, by gunfire from an IDF tank: he, four other children also in the car, and his mother, were all killed. But Tom Gross doesn’t mention the murder of that family.
Tom Gross lists Rachel Charhi, critically injured on April 4th 2002 by a Palestinian suicide bomber, died April 9th 2002 aged 36. Some of the people he doesn’t mention: ‘Abd a-Razeq Satiti, age 23, critically injured by IDF gunfire on February 28th 2002, died on March 6th 2002, almost exactly a month before Rachel Charhi was attacked and died. Ibrahim Muhammad Ass’ad, age 25, and Kamal Salem, age 36, killed by IDF gunfire on an ambulance medical team on March 7th 2002. Mahmoud Fa’iz, age 10, critically injured on March 7th by IDF gunfire, died on March 8th 2002. Nida Suleiman al-‘Aza, age 15, ‘Issa Faraj, age 20, Sa’id ‘Eid, age 35, Ahmad N’uman Sabiyah, age 38, and Huda Isma’il al-Khawajah, age 36, killed by IDF gunfire in Bethlehem on March 8th 2002. In Tulkarm: Bassem Darsiyeh, age 40, critically injured on March 7th, died on March 9th 2002. Ghassan Salem, age 36, critically injured on March 7th, died on March 9th 2002. Ahmad Abu Tamam, age 50, critically injured on March 7th 2002, died on March 9th 2002, Khaled Harun, age 27, critically injured on March 7th, died on March 9th 2002. Heijar Persh, age 70, critically injured on March 7th, died on March 9th 2002. Seyd Fa’iz Abu Seifin, age 14, who threw stones at soldiers on March 8th 2002 in al-Yamun, Jenin district, and was killed for it by gunfire from an IDF tank. Aiman Saleh Muhana, age 18, bypassed an IDF checkpoint in Hebron in his car and was killed on March 11th 2002 by gunfire from an IDF tank. Rowan ‘Abd al-Quader Jabrini, age 16, critically injured by IDF gunfire in Hebron on March 3rd 2002, died on March 12th 2002. In Qalqiliya, Yusef al-Aqr’a, age 29, and ‘Atef al-Biari, age 50, killed on March 11th 2002 by IDF gunfire. Na’im a-Zabaineh, killed by IDF gunfire to the head while he was riding in his car in Halhul, Hebron district, on March 11th 2002. Jamil ‘Abdallah ‘Abdallah, age 37, critically injured on March 5th 2002 in Ramallah, by IDF gunfire, died on March 14th 2002. In Hebron: Amjad Bahajat al-‘Almi, age 20, a press photographer, killed by IDF gunfire on March 18th 2002. Nidal al-‘Almi, age 19, killed by IDF gunfire on March 22nd 2002. Mahmoud Abu Yassin, age 15, critically injured on March 12th 2002 by IDF gunfire during the funeral of those killed in an earlier IDF operation in Jabalya refugee camp, died March 25th 2002. Abu Gharbiya, age 21, killed by IDF gunfire when she and her children fled from their home on March 29th 2002 when the IDF attacked Ramallah. Jud Dar Salim, age 52, shot in the chest by the IDF on the same day, the same attack, just 6 days before Rachel Charhi was attacked. Rachel Charhi did not take part in hostilities, and neither did these people who were killed in the month before her.
Tom Gross lists Rachel Shabo, killed age 40 with three of her sons (Nerya, 15, Tzvika, 12, and Avishai, 5) in the Itamar community in Nablus district on the West Bank on June 20th 2002, by a Palestinian who infilitrated the settlement. On the same day in Qalqiliya, Sahar Mahmoud al-Hindi, age 28, was killed in her own home by IDF gunfire. On the same day in Jenin, Fares Husam Fares a-S’adi, age 12, was killed when he was buried under the ruins of his home when the IDF blew up a neighbouring house. Tom Gross also does not mention Bassam Ghassan Rajib a-S’adi, killed age 6 in Jenin by the IDF on June 26th 2002. Nor does he mention Hilal Shita, age 60, or Ahmad Yusef Ghazawi, age 9, Sujud Ahmad Turki Shuhaneh, age 8, or Jamil Yusef Ghazawi, age 6, all killed by IDF gunfire in Jenin to enforce curfew on June 21st 2002. On June 18th, Yusef Muhammad Abu Khader Basharat, age 22, was killed by IDF gunfire when he was stopped at a surprise checkpoint. On June 13th, Khader ‘Abd al-Fatah al-Gharbi, age 62, was killed in his home in East Jerusalem when he inhaled gas from more than 20 grenades thrown into his house. On June 11th, ‘Ali Khalil Abu Sitah, age 19, died after he was shot in the head by the IDF on June 2nd in Bethlehem. On June 7th, Naji Yusef Khaliliya, age 44, was killed by IDF gunfire in Jenin district. On June 4th, Murad Jamil Mahmoud Alex, age 16, threw stones at soldiers in Hebron district and was killed by IDF gunfire. On May 26th, Ziad Raf’at ‘Ali Yamin, age 43, was on his way to the pharmacy in Qalqilya, when he was shot by the IDF: he died of his wounds on June 7th 2002. Again: none of these people are listed by Tom Gross.
Tom Gross lists Rachel Ben Abu, killed age 16 by a Palestinian suicide bomber on July 12th 2005, and Nofar Horowitz, her friend, also 16, killed with her. He lists Ayala-Haya Abukasis, age 17, killed in Sderot on January 15th 2005. Tom Gross does not mention Nur a-Din Fares Nijem, age 17, critically injured on July 6th 2005 in Nablus district, died on July 10th. Nor does he mention Ihab Salah Salim a-Nabahin, killed age 17 on June 20th 2005 next to Netzarim, Deir al-Balah district, while bird hunting with a friend. Nor does he mention U’dai Mufid Mahmoud ‘Asi, killed age 14, or Jamal Jaber Ibrahim ‘Asi, killed age 15, on May 4th 2005 in a demonstration near the Separation Barrier in the area of Beit Liqya, Ramallah and al-Bira district. Nor three teenagers from Rafah who were killed by the IDF while playing football a hundred meters from Philadelphi Route: Khaled Fuad Shaker Ghanam, age 15, Ashraf Samir Ahmad Mussa, age 15, Hassan Ahmad Khalil Abu Zeid, age 16, all killed on April 9th 2005. Nor Fadi Hassan Raja Kreini, age 17, shot in the stomach by the IDF on January 28th 2003, died on March 2nd 2005. Nor Muhammad ‘Abd al-Hamid Hashem Basha, age 17, critically injured by Israeli Border Police officers on January 26th 2005 in Qalqiliya, died on February 26th 2005. Nor Ibrahim Fathi Yusef Abu Jazar, killed age 19 on February 9th 2005, near his house, about 400 meters from the Gaza perimeter fence. Nor Muhammad Shehdeh ‘Ayad al-Bahri, killed age 18 on February 5th 2005, when he tried to sneak through the Gaza perimeter fence to find work. Nor Muhammad Kamel Muhammad Ghiben, age 17, critically injured on January 4th 2005 in Beit Lahiya, by gunfire from an IDF tank, who died on February 3rd 2005. Nor Fatah a-Deen Muhammad ‘Ali al-Khuli, killed by Israeli gunfire on January 22nd 2005 when he approached too near to the Separation Barrier. He was mentally disabled. Salah a-Din ‘Ikab Saqer Abu Muhsin, age 13 (nor his 12-year-old cousin Abu al-‘Ish), who was killed in Tubas on January 20th 2005, doesn’t get a mention either: apparently the soldiers who shot them thought the toy they were playing with was a real gun. Sixteen teenagers all killed in the same time-frame, none of them participating in hostilities, none of them with the fame of Rachel Corrie – but Tom Gross only seems to care about three of them being remembered.
Tom Gross lists Rachel Kol, age 53, and her husband Dov, age 58, killed July 23 2005 when travelling through Gaza on a settler-only road. He doesn’t mention Muhammad Hamdan ‘Abd al-Qader Keshtah, killed on his way to go shopping by the IDF in Rafah on August 7th 2005, two days before his wedding. Nor Hamed Muhammad Harb a-Dah, age 21, critically injured on July 15th in Gaza City, while working in a shop, dead of his injuries on July 22nd 2005. Nor does he mention Ragheb ‘Abd a-Rahman Ahmad al-Hamari, age 13, killed on July 18th 2005, when soldiers opened fire on detained cars.
Between 2000 and 2008, 952 Palestinian minors have been killed by Israeli security forces in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. I’ve listed some of their names above, but for any range of dates you choose, there will always be so many deaths the heart breaks to list them. In the same period of time, 490 Israeli civilians – minors and adults – have been killed by Palestinians. For every Israeli death, nearly two Palestinian children have been killed.
Rachel Corrie went to do what she did because, at that time, it was still believed that the additional publicity the death of a foreigner would receive would mean the IDF would be cautious about killing her or others with her. She was killed when she tried to stop a house demolition party by the IDF – the kind of party that killed ‘Aziza Dib al-Qeyser.
Her death was not unique, except in that she died trying to use her privilege as a white American to save others.
But there is always more hope in the world:
The German-Jewish organization Jewish Voice for Peace in the Middle East is preparing a Jewish flotilla to the Gaza Strip. “We intend to leave around July,” a member of the organization, Kate Leitrer, said to Ynet. “We have one small craft so far, in which there will be between 12 and 16 people, mostly Jews.”
Leitrer, herself Jewish, said there was great interest in joining. “Getting another boat means more expenses, and we’re discussing this possibility,” she said. “Because of limited space, there will be school equipment, candy, and mainly musical equipment, and there’ll be musicians aboard who’ll teach the children of Gaza. They need to see that Jews are not what how they are drawn in their eyes.” (Ynetnews)