Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rachel Corrie in Wonderland: The Identity of Rachel Corrie's Killer kept Secret by Israeli Court

In Haifa, we have all fallen down the rabbit hole and into the Israeli legal system. Last Tuesday, the driver of the bulldozer who crushed Rachel Corrie testified in a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by the Corrie family. The former soldier has already been cleared of wrongdoing in an internal army investigation. This trial is last hope for the Corrie family to find justice for their daughter. It is one final opportunity for the Corries to hold the Israeli government responsible for what it has done and continues to do to unarmed civilians.

The driver gave this testimony from a screen designed to protect his identity. Cindy Corrie, Rachel's mother, said, “We were disappointed not to see the whole human being. It is a personal affront that the state’s attorneys and Israeli government, on the basis of security, chose to keep our family from seeing the witness.”

In this testimony, the driver of the bulldozer was unable to remember the facts of the case, like the date of Rachel's killing or the time of day when it took place. He seemed to struggle to read and understand his own affidavit and repeatedly contradicted his own statements. He couldn't even remember Rachel's name.

Curiouser and curiouser.

A couple of days after the testimony, my friend Amy and I attended a production of the controversial play “My Name is Rachel Corrie” organized by the DePaul University Students for Justice in Palestine chapter. Through the words Rachel's own journal entries, letters, and articles, this play reveals the motivations, fears, joys and vivid imagination of Rachel as she traveled to Gaza to stand in solidarity with Palestinians. The play is a little short, in the opinion of this activist, on the voices of Rachel's Palestinian colleagues. But it is a truly beautiful inquiry into the question of how one can lead a life mindful of the connections between all people. Over and over, Rachel asks herself how she, as a white, middle class, American, can live ethically in a world of such tremendous power imbalances. Here is one of my favorite lines in the play:

We are all born and someday we’ll all die. Most likely to some degree alone.What if our aloneness isn’t a tragedy? What if our aloneness is what allows us to speak the truth without being afraid? What if our aloneness is what allows us to adventure – to experience the world as a dynamic presence – as a changeable, interactive thing?

If I lived in Bosnia or Rwanda or who knows where else, needless death wouldn’t be a distant symbol to me, it wouldn’t be a metaphor, it would be a reality.

And I have no right to this metaphor. But I use it to console myself. To give a fraction of meaning to something enormous and needless.

This realization. This realization that I will live my life in this world where I have privileges.

I can’t cool boiling waters in Russia. I can’t be Picasso. I can’t be Jesus. I can’t save the planet single-handedly.

I can wash dishes.

Just as Rachel comes up with no easy answer, I can bring this essay to no real conclusion. Testimony in the Corrie's lawsuit continues. Meanwhile, an Israeli court sentenced Palestinian activist Adeeb Abu Rahmah to 18 months imprisonment for demonstrating against the wall in Bil'in. In Tuwani, settlers continue to attack Palestinians. And me? Honestly? I just miss my friends in Tuwani. I cried throughout the play, not because of any of Rachel's words, but just because I missed them. But here are a few more words for Rachel Corrie. As we linger, waiting on the Israeli court system to let the Corrie family out of Wonderland, may they be comforting.

We should be inspired by people... who show that human beings can be kind, brave, generous, beautiful, strong-even in the most difficult circumstances.

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