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(Late) Saturday Art: Remembering Rachel Corrie on the 11th Anniversary of Her Murder

8:41 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Rachel Corrie - February 2003

I have posted my cantata, The Skies Are Weeping, here before.  It is my 2003-2004 tribute to the memory of Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall, killed by Israeli thugs in Gaza, during the run-up to the opening of the Iraq invasion, when the world was distracted elsewhere, and Brits and Americans could be murdered callously and with impunity.

Rachel was murdered 11 years ago Sunday.  Remember her.

More information on The Skies Are Weeping.

My denunciation before a joint session of the Alaska Legislature for having written the cantata.

You can donate to the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice here.

Obama’s Israeli Statement on Syrian Chemical Weapon Use Makes Me Want to Puke

6:51 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

I don’t watch much television and don’t trust any TV news outlet on the subjects of war, peace, economic justice or the environment.  But I turned the TV on early this morning, to watch how the media dealt with Obama’s visit to Israel.

I grazed NBC, CBS and ABC early news.  I was annoyed by FOX News coverage, which continues to portray Obama as not nearly loyal enough to Israel to qualify as an American president.  I turned to CNN, where live reports were coming in to the American News Desk from their senior reporter and former key employee of the Israel America Public Affairs Committee, Wolf Blitzer, who is traveling with the presidential entourage.

I watched, during the joint press conference held by Obama and Netanyahu in Jerusalem (not the seat of the Israeli government recognized by the government of the USA), as Obama was asked about reported use by the Syrian government, or by the rebels, of chemical weapons, within the past few days.  Obama addressed the reports:

With respect to chemical weapons, we intend to investigate thoroughly exactly what happened.

So I’ve instructed my teams to work closely with all other countries in the region and international organizations and institutions to find out precisely whether this red line was crossed.

The broader point is that once we establish the facts, I have made clear that the use of chemical weapons is a game changer and I won’t make an announcement today about next steps because I think we have to gather the facts. But I do think that when you start seeing weapons that can cause potential devastation and mass causalities and you let that genie out of the bottle, then you are looking potentially at even more horrific scenes than we’ve already seen in Syria, and the international community has to act on that additional information.

I wanted to puke.  Especially as it was being despicably uttered on the tenth anniversary of the beginning of our huge war crime in Iraq – shoved down the throats of Americans by the post-9/11 GWOT cabal, so directly related to the Project for the New American Century and A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm, and by a media and political establishment stock full of people who intensely believed our criminal Iraqi expedition would help Israel, no matter what it did to America, let alone Iraq.

Iraq is where we’ve been shown more horrific scenes than in Syria, time and time again, in spite of the firings, censorship and threats of retribution that have kept the media acquiescent, right up to the present.  Dahr Jamail, on Democracy Now this morning, described our use of what have to be regarded as “red-line”-crossing chemical weapons – depleted uranium and white phosphorus – in Iraq, particularly in the battles of Fallujah (emphasis added):

And going on to Fallujah, because I wrote about this a year ago, and then I returned to the city again this trip, we are seeing an absolute crisis of congenital malformations of newborn. There is one doctor, a pediatrician named Dr. Samira Alani, working on this crisis in the city. She’s the only person there registering cases. And she’s seeing horrific birth defects. I mean, these are extremely hard to look at. They’re extremely hard to bear witness to. But it’s something that we all need to pay attention to, because of the amount of depleted uranium used by the U.S. military during both of their brutal attacks on the city of 2004, as well as other toxic munitions like white phosphorus, among other things.

And so, what this has generated is, from 2004 up to this day, we are seeing a rate of congenital malformations in the city of Fallujah that has surpassed even that in the aftermath of—in the wake of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that were—that nuclear bombs were dropped on at the end of World War II. So, Dr. Samira Alani actually visited with doctors in Japan, comparing statistics, and found that the amount of congenital malformations in Fallujah is 14 times greater than the same rate measured in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in the aftermath of the nuclear bombings.

These types of birth defects, she said—there are types of congenital malformations that she said they don’t even have medical terms for, that some of the things they’re seeing, they’ve never seen before. They’re not in any of the books or any of the scientific literature that they have access to. She said it’s common now in Fallujah for newborns to come out with massive multiple systemic defects, immune problems, massive central nervous system problems, massive heart problems, skeletal disorders, baby’s being born with two heads, babies being born with half of their internal organs outside of their bodies, cyclops babies literally with one eye—really, really, really horrific nightmarish types of birth defects.

And it is ongoing.

It is ongoing.  14 times greater malformation rate than experienced by the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki!

Israel’s illegal use of chemical weapons against its neighbors is longstanding. Its recent use of coerced sterilizations against its own citizens who don’t look white enough – Ethiopian Jews – has finally been brought to light.

And the same scoundrels who prepped us to go into an insane and criminal war against Iraq, are going to force us into what will end up being a nuclear war against Iran.  In the same press conference Wednesday where Obama threatened some warlike response against Syria, he refused to confront Netanyahu about Iran’s nuclear intentions.  Instead, he asked to be brought to the nearest donkey that needed servicing.

Here’s Obama on the Syrian chemical weapon report:

Here’s Dahr Jamail on our use of  illegal chemical weapons in Iraq:

 

Personal note:  The combination of the second anniversary of the Fukushima reactor explosions and subsequent meltdowns, the tenth anniversary of the murder of Rachel Corrie and the tenth anniversary of the beginning of our Iraq War depressed me so much, I found it hard to write about politics, public affairs or the environment for almost a week.  Maybe I’ll bounce back.

Saturday Art: The Skies Are Weeping for Rachel Corrie on the Tenth Anniversary of Her Murder

9:58 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

My Name is Rachel Corrie - 250120081187

My Name is Rachel Corrie

MyFDL Editor Note: Original picture removed due to copyright

Ten years ago today, mere days before we began our $2 trillion criminal war of aggression against the Iraqi people, American college senior, Rachel Corrie, was murdered near Rafah, in the Gaza Strip.

I’ve never before written that the courageous young woman was murdered.   However, having considered the testimony given during the civil trial against the Israel Defense Forces regarding her death, which concluded last August, her demise was indeed murder, to wit: an unlawful killing of a human being, with malice.

My thoughts in 2003, in reaction to what I then thought was a terrible accident, with elements of negligence both by the Israeli Defense Forces and the International Solidarity Movement, led to the creation of my antiwar, anti-Zionist cantata, The Skies Are Weeping.  I’ve posted the youtube I created of The Skies Are Weeping here before, but today is a truly fitting day to take the liberty to do this again.  Late last year, a couple of organizations inquired about performing it live today.  I declined the offers, as I would want to be there, and my work and performing schedule this month ruled it out.

Today, in Olympia, Washington, Rachel Corrie’s home town, there will be many 10th anniversary commemorations.  Among the musical elements will be a performance by my friend, David Rovics.  Here are the lyrics to his song, The Death of Rachel Corrie:

When she sat down in the dirt
In front of your machine
A lovely woman dressed in red
You in military green
If you had met her in Jerusalem
You might have asked her on a date
But here you were in Gaza
Rolling towards the gate

As your foot went to the floor
Did you recall her eyes
Did her gaze remind you
That you’ve become what you despise
As you rolled on towards this woman
And ignored all the shouts to stop
Did you feel a shred of doubt
As you watched her body drop

And as your Caterpillar tracks
Upon her body pressed
With twenty tons of deadly force
Crushed the bones within her chest
Could you feel the contours of her face
As you took her life away
Did you serve your country well
On that cool spring day

And when you went back across the Green Line
Back to the open shore
Did you think that this was just another day
In a dirty war
And when you looked out on the water
Did you feel an empty void
Or was it just one more life you’ve taken
One more home destroyed

Here is David, performing it three years ago:

And here is the original performance of The Skies Are Weeping.  An apology on the sound quality is appropriate.  In order to be able to donate another 1,200 pounds or so to Palestinian charities, we opted out of a professional recording of the event.  So I recorded it with an MP-3 player under my seat in the front row of the hall.

Read the rest of this entry →

Saturday Art: Alice Walker Reads Rachel Corrie

12:29 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Rachel Corrie - February 2003

Next Saturday, March 16th, will mark the tenth anniversary of the death in Gaza, of Rachel Corrie.  Rachel, then a senior at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, had gone to Gaza at the beginning of 2003, to fulfill aspects of her senior thesis.  While there, she became active in efforts by the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), to protect Palestinians from outrages of the Israeli occupation forces.

She was killed by an Israeli Army D-9 armored bulldozer, with two people aboard in the cockpit, one there to drive, the other, to observe.  During the same time period, Israeli forces in Gaza shot and mortally wounded Tom Hurndall, a British photographer, also working with the ISM (April 11th), and mutilated Brian Avery (April 5th), another American ISM activist, in Jenin in the West Bank.  This time period coincided with the American invasion of Iraq – March 19th to May 1st.

A notable aspect of Rachel Corrie’s legacy is the sheer volume of art her life and sacrifice evoked.  Between March 19th 2003 and April 24th 2004, I collected over 160 poems written in the young woman’s honor, and posted on the web, in the English language.  I used two of them in my 2003-2004 cantata, The Skies Are Weeping.  California composer, Paul Crabtree composed another cantata about Corrie, American Persephone.

Corrie’s journals and emails from Gaza became the basis of the most widely viewed and highly regarded work of art about Corrie, My Name is Rachel Corrie.  Written by Katharine Viner and Alan Rickman, the play premiered in London on April 5, 2005, in a highly evocative solo performance by actress Megan Dodds.  Premiered in a very small theatre, it was revived in the 2005 fall London theatre season in a larger venue, and proceeded to win many awards.

The first attempt to produce My Name is Rachel Corrie in the USA, at the New York Theatre Workshop resulted in a cancellation, when the NYTW caved to threats from militant Zionist expansionists. (Incidentally – the article about the cancellation in The Nation, by writer Philip Weiss, and the pushback that writer got in the publishing world for having written so sympathetically about Corrie, and critically about the NYTW, was one of the epiphanies Weiss underwent that led him into new directions, now expressed most fully at his web site, Mondoweiss).

The play has gone on to be performed on every continent save Antarctica, in many languages.

The play was derived from Corrie’s written material with cooperation of the slain activist’s family.  Some of Corrie’s writings had been posted on the web soon after her death.  Some soon became the basis of poems or lyrics.  For instance, the concluding lyric in The Skies are Weeping is my editing (with the Corrie family’s approval) of one of her last emails home: Read the rest of this entry →

Abby Martin Interviews Rachel Corrie’s Parents as the 10th Anniversary of Rachel’s Death Approaches

12:49 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

March 16th, less than two months away, will mark the tenth anniversary of the death of Evergreen College senior, Rachel Corrie, in Rafah, near the Egyptian border of the Gaza Strip, as she sought to and succeeded in keeping an Israeli military armored Caterpiller bulldozer from destroying the house of a large Palestinian family.

Her action cost her her life.  But her legacy lives on through the work of her parents, Craig and Cindy Corrie, and through the inspiration she has provided to hundreds of thousands of young people, worldwide.

RT TV commentator and reporter, Abby Martin, in an interview with Rachel’s parents, notes:

Rachel served as a symbol for me to really wake up about this issue.

Here’s Martin’s interview:

There will be hundreds of commemorative events worldwide as March 16th approaches.  I hope to  cover some of the more significant ones here.

If you, like Abby Martin, have been inspired or influenced by Rachel Corrie’s determination on March 16th, 2003, please comment on that here.

Meanwhile, ponder this interview with Israeli journalist Shlomi Eldar about his disgust over the gratuitously cruel carnage wrought by Israeli forces during 2008-2009′s Operation Cast Lead.

For Rachel Corrie: Once Again, the Skies are Weeping

12:43 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

On the Eve of Verdict in Rachel Corrie Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Israel, US Ambassador Slams Israeli Government Corrie Investigation

10:03 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Rachel and the bulldozer, March 16 2003 (photo: Joe Carr / wikimedia)

Photo of Rachel Corrie covered with her flag in a Palestinian morgue, ©pinky_again.

On August 28th, Israeli judge Oded Gorshen will read the verdict in the civil lawsuit brought against the Israeli government for wrongful death, when young Rachel Corrie was killed in Gaza by an Israeli army bulldozer:

The lawsuit, filed in 2005 on behalf of the Corrie family by attorney Hussein abu Hussein, charges the State of Israel with responsibility for Rachel’s killing and failure to conduct a full and credible investigation in the case.

The lawsuit is just a small step in our family’s nearly decade-long search for truth and justice,” said Craig Corrie, Rachel’s father. “The mounting evidence presented before the court underscores a broken system of accountability – tolerated by the United States in spite of its conclusions that Israel’s military investigation was not ‘thorough, credible, or transparent.’”

Yesterday, the American ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, restated a position that the US Government has long held:

Israel’s investigation into the death of American activist Rachel Corrie was not satisfactory, and wasn’t as thorough, credible or transparent as it should have been, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro told the Corrie family this week.

The U.S. government’s position is not new to the Corries, but their attorneys said that hearing it only a few days before the verdict was “important and encouraging,” because it signals to the Corrie family that the U.S. government will continue to demand a full accounting from Israel about their daughter’s killing, regardless of how Judge Oded Gershon rules.

Throughout the trial, which has lasted about a year and a half, Israeli government witnesses have brought out disturbing aspects of why ambassador Shapiro might be so concerned.  The Israeli government has withheld key video and audio evidence from the operational area at which Corrie was killed.  The coroner assigned by the IDF to perform the autopsy on Corrie’s body turned out to be a character from a panel in a Hieronymus Bosch painting.  All of the non-IDF witnesses clearly testified to what appears to have been gross negligence on the part of the Israeli soldiers and commanders that morning.

Here are the trial archives at the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice.  The archives contain most of the important articles and press releases through the course of the trial.

Here’s my diary at MyFiredoglake at the conclusion of trial testimony, which gives a short history of important aspects of the proceeding.

I’m not optimistic about the verdict.  Israel is rapidly descending into a pit of racist hatred, military hubris and religious weirdness that is even worse than what is going on in our own country.

Saturday Art: The Skies Are Weeping for Rachel Corrie on the Ninth Anniversary of Her Death

8:44 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

I. On March 16, 2003, Near the southeast border of Gaza, Evergreen College senior Rachel Corrie was run over by an Israeli Army bulldozer, and killed.  Four days later the United States invaded Iraq.

Soon after the war started, I decided that I would write an anti-war musical composition, centered around Corrie.  After sharing my proposed lyrics with her family, I got their permission to go ahead.  Six months later, The Skies Are Weeping was complete, and we were beginning to rehearse the work for soprano, small chorus and percussion ensemble with the University of Alaska Anchorage’s percussion group.

In the lead-up up to a public meeting about the work’s perceived anti-Israeli content, I became the subject of an incredibly intense on-line attack, peaking on April 7th through 10th, 2004, at hundreds of hostile e-mails per hour.  By the time the meeting was held, co-hosted by an Anchorage rabbi, I had decided that I couldn’t expose the kids in the percussion group or choir to the same vituperation and beyond that I was experiencing and being threatened with.

I cancelled the Anchorage premiere.

As word got out, 24 groups or individuals worldwide asked for copies of the score (the music the conductor uses) and MP-3 MIDI audio.  I sent the material out, and got 17 responses.  I followed through on the few with promise.  First choice was a group in Brooklyn, who eventually decided to drop the project.  Funding from generous donors might suffer, it was thought.  A small group in Toronto was seriously interested, but I was leery of their agenda, and backed away.

Eventually, I became convinced by London-based soprano and peace activist, Deborah Fink, to go with a London production sponsored mostly by Jews for Justice for Palestinians, as a benefit for Israeli and Palestinian progressive groups.

We were able to present The Skies Are Weeping on November 1, 2005, as part of a concert featuring other works about the conflict in Palestine.

I flew from Alaska to the UK to help with rehearsals, and my wife came over and joined me a few days before the performance.  Our hosts were so outgoing, energetic and positive about the concert project.

Craig and Cindy Corrie, Rachel’s parents were there, along with Jocelyn Hurndall. She is the mother of Tom Hurndall, another peace activist killed by the IDF in Gaza that spring.  Jocelyn and I held hands as the group played the memorial dance I had written for her young son.

We wanted to create a professional recording of the concert, perhaps to make a fundraising CD.  But the singers’ union needed a lot of money if they were to allow us to do that.  We preferred to use that money on the charities the concert supported.

So I recorded The Skies Are Weeping with a portable digital recorder that I set on the concrete floor beneath my front row seat.  Right below the choir.

Wednesday and Thursday I created a Youtube of The Skies Are Weeping’s London audio recording.  It includes all the lyrics, and occasional photographic comments on the content of the music. Read the rest of this entry →

As the Rachel Corrie Civil Suit Ends Testimony Today, Thoughts on How Israel Treats Foreign Nationals

9:41 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Rachel Corrie covered with her flag in a Palestinian morgue

I. The Israeli government and military would prefer that no foreign nationals critical of the policies of that government be given any sort of forum that either brings public attention to abuses, war crimes and human rights violations against Palestinians, or humanizes the Palestinians’ plight in ways that seek to give the latter more freedom over the administration of their own affairs.  Although most foreign nationals who want to help the Palestinians gain more freedom despise the thugs of Hamas and buffoons of Fatah, defenders of Israeli human rights abuses and war crimes unceasingly attempt to frame defenders of Palestinians as friends of Hamas.  The reality is that the IDF and Israeli government need Hamas desperately, to keep propped up as a vicious boogeyman.  They would rather have a few rockets rain down on their own people in Sderot, than have none at all.

The 2010 Gaza flotilla was brutally intercepted by Israeli naval forces.  After taking the Turkish vessel, MV Mavi Marmara, the Israelis summarily executed several Turks, and then crafted a disturbingly false narrative about how heavily armed these evil, swarthy (read non-white “other”) Turks were.  It fit the racist meme that abides so comfortably in the increasingly openly racist Israeli military and society at large.  And, sadly, that same meme works well with the kinds of Americans who thrive on Fox News myths about swarthy people out of control.

The MV Mavi Marmara was taken violently on purpose.  Had I been the commander of the naval operation, knowing for weeks that the MVMM would be among the mix of vessels, all I would have had to say would have been, “find me a way to peacefully stop the big Turkish cruise ship, or I will demote you,” and a solution would have been found within an hour.

Apparently, the Israeli military learned enough from 2010 that nobody was murdered this year.  This is good.  The 2011 flotilla organizers were, frankly, as unimaginative as possible, though.  Expecting the Greek government to not react to the combined pressures of the U.S. and Israeli governments during an almost catastrophic internal crisis was a major strategic error.

But both the 2010 and 2011 flotillas have had an impact upon the people of the Gaza Strip that has been positive.  The recent improvements in the amounts of needed goods entering Gaza is a direct result of continuing efforts by the movements sponsoring or being inspired by the flotilla movement.  Some Israeli commentators and government officials have acknowledged just that.  American citizen Furkan Doğan and his Turkish brothers did not give their lives in vain.

This weekend’s”Welcome to Palestine flytilla,” farcical on many levels, has not been covered well by the American media, but the Europeans, whose countries were the points of departure for the protesters, saw a healthy dose of coverage over the past three days.  And so did firedoglake.

Nothing troubles Israeli policy makers in terms of their continuing expansion into new lands in the West Bank, outright theft of land and resources, and seemingly blasé murder of one innocent Palestinian after another, than when a foreign national objecting to these illegal practices is hurt or killed.  Especially if that foreign national is white.  (As clarification, I consider Turks white, for what it is worth, but watching Israeli and some American press coverage of Turkish issues, it appears some do not.)

II. On Sunday, July 10th, the wrongful death civil suit brought by the parents of Rachel Corrie against the Israeli Defense Forces, will see its last day of testimony:

Former Gaza Division’s Southern Brigade Commander, Colonel Pinhas (Pinky) Zuaretz – the final witness in the case – is scheduled to testify Sunday, July 10, in the Corrie civil trial against the State of Israel.

Colonel Zuaretz was the commanding officer of the Israeli military’s Gaza Division’s Southern Brigade in 2003, when American peace activist Rachel Corrie was killed. Troops under his command were responsible for the actions resulting in her killing. Zuaretz is the highest ranking officer called as a government witness in the civil trial who had command responsibility in Gaza. He is possibly the highest such officer ever to face cross examination in a civil suit regarding the actions of the Israeli military against civilians in Gaza during the second intifada. His testimony is expected to shed light on the Israeli military’s failures as an occupying power to protect civilian life and property in the region.

The trial began in March 2010, and has taken longer than expected, partially because of a strike by court workers in late 2010.  A few of the revelations from the trial have been jarring.  Here are the most notable:

On March 14, 2010, IDF forensic examiner Yehuda Hiss admitted to not allowing U.S. embassy personnel observe him conducting Corrie’s autopsy.  His testimony revealed that the U.S. Embassy had lied to the Corrie family.  Hiss also testified, rather disturbingly:

Dr. Hiss also disclosed that he had kept samples from Rachel’s body for histological testing without informing her family. Dr. Hiss admitted that he did not inform the family about their right to bury the samples and that the samples were likely to have been buried with other body samples from the Institute, but he was uncertain. This was the first time that the family of Rachel Corrie received confirmation that the Israeli Forensic Institute had indeed kept samples of her body, despite prior attempts to receive this information. Dr. Hiss has been the subject of a prior lawsuit in Israel brought by families for whom he did not return body parts and samples.

On March 15, 2010, British citizen and nurse, Alice Coy, a witness to Corrie’s death, testified that despite published IDF reports that there were no home demolitions ongoing where Corrie was killed, that certainly was not the case.  She also testified that “When the Israeli Military interviewed her on April 1st about Rachel’s killing, the soldier who documented her testimony refused to record her statement that she believed the bulldozers were going to destroy civilian homes.”  Eventually, the home Corrie tried to protect on March 16, 2003 was destroyed by an IDF bulldozer.

Max Blumenthal covered Hiss’ background:

Who is Dr. Hiss? The chief pathologist of Israel for a decade and a half, Hiss was implicated by a 2001 investigation by the Israeli Health Ministry of stealing body parts ranging from legs to testicles to ovaries from bodies without permission from family members then selling them to research institutes. Bodies plundered by Hiss included those of Palestinians and Israeli soldiers. He was finally removed from his post in 2004 when the body of a teenage boy killed in a traffic accident was discovered to have been thoroughly gnawed on by a rat in Hiss’s laboratory. In an interview with researcher Nancy Schepper-Hughes, Hiss admitted that he harvested organs if he was confident relatives would not discover that they were missing. He added that he often used glue to close eyelids to hide missing corneas.

Max also wrote about the testimony that week of a Col. “Yossi”:

In a small courtroom on the sixth floor of Haifa’s District Court, a colonel in the Israeli engineering corps who wrote a manual for the bulldozer units that razed the Rafah Refugee Camp in 2003 offered his opinion on the killing of the American activist Rachel Corrie.

There are no civilians during wartime,” Yossi declared under oath.

Yossi made his remarkable statement under withering cross examination by Hussein Abu Hussein, the lawyer for the family of Corrie

Col. Yossi’s statement of belief or of policy (he wrote a book on it, after all) is more troubling to me than that of Dr. Hiss.  Essentially, Israel considers itself to be at war with not just Hamas, but with any government, any movement and any individual who seeks to “delegitimize” its expansionist policies and racist implementation of it.  People like me, CTuttle and anyone else who is critical of these policies is a potential target for whatever might be deemed appropriate for us, should we get in the way.

On March 22 and 24, 2010, it was revealed in the trial that:

One commander of the unit involved in the incident interrupted the testimony of the operator of the bulldozer that killed Rachel, telling him that the head of the Southern Command of the Israeli military ordered him to stop talking, not to sign anything and not to cooperate with the investigation. When asked if he considered this an intervention into the interrogation, the investigator testified that he did.

and:

Though the camera posted on the border was taping 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the investigator testified that he did not see footage from the camera, nor did he ask to, stating that it was someone else’s responsibility.

When the trial resumed on September 5, 2010, a military police investigator, “Oded,” revealed that even though he had been assigned to investigate Corrie’s death, he was unqualified, and was not helped by the IDF, in any event:

Oded confirmed that a commander of the unit involved in Rachel’s killing interrupted the questioning of the bulldozer operator, telling him that Doron Almog, head of the Israeli military’s Southern Command, had ordered that the questioning cease. He also said that, in his experience, interference of this nature from military commanders was not uncommon.

When asked why he did not challenge the intervention, Oded said that as a junior investigator, it was not his place to do so. He was 20-years-old at the time, with only a high-school education and three-months of training in investigation.

Corrie’s case was the first civilian killing that Oded investigated from beginning to end.

Like El’ad [who testified in March], Oded stated that neither he nor any other investigator visited the site of the killing.

Oded’s testimony revealed that much of the conversation recorded by the bulldozer teams in the area of Corrie’s death had been in Arabic, and that he did not speak the language.  More Israeli racism and dual standard came out:

Oded testified that none of the investigators interviewed any of the Palestinian witnesses – including medical personnel who examined Rachel immediately following the incident. When asked why, he said he did not think they could provide any useful information.

When the trial resumed on October 10, the Corries argued that witnesses from the IDF should be visible in court, rather than kept behind a screen:

Lawyers for the family of Rachel Corrie filed an appeal with the Israeli Supreme Court on Sunday, challenging a decision to allow soldiers to testify behind a screen in the lawsuit filed against the State of Israel for the unlawful killing of the American peace activist in Rafah, Gaza.

State attorneys made the highly unusual request in court on Thursday, October 7 arguing that they were necessary to protect the soldiers’ safety and prevent their images from being circulated. Haifa District Court Judge Oded Gershon granted the request, ruling that all but two soldiers, who were both already known to the public, would be permitted to provide their testimony hidden from public view.

Corrie attorneys opposed the motion, arguing that allowing the soldiers to testify behind a screen infringes upon the fundamental right to an open, fair and transparent trial. They argued that the government request was based on an overbroad security certificate issued by Defense Minister Ehud Barak in 2008, was not supported by concrete evidence to substantiate their concerns for the soldiers’ safety or security. The lawyers will also ask the Supreme Court to review Judge Gerhson’s decision not to allow the family to see the witnesses even if the public could not.

The Corries lost their motion, and the driver testified behind a screen on October 23:

In over four hours of often confused testimony, Y.P. seemed to struggle to read and understand his own affidavit signed in April. He could not remember basic facts, such as the date of Rachel’s killing or time of day it happened. He repeatedly contradicted his own statements on the stand and testimony given to military police investigators in 2003.

Highlights of testimony include the following:

  • Y.P stated that after he drove over Rachel and backed up, she was located between his bulldozer and the mound of earth that he had pushed, corroborating photographic evidence and testimony from international eyewitnesses given to the court in March. His testimony calls into question that of the commander inside this same bulldozer, whose written affidavit states that Rachel’s body was located in a different location, on the far side of the mound of earth created by the bulldozer. In court, Y.P. was asked if based on this contradiction he wanted to change his testimony. He firmly stated no.
  • In testimony to military police investigators only three days after the incident, Y.P. said the blind spot in front of the bulldozer was 3 meters. In contradicting court testimony, he claimed the blind spot was 30 meters – ten times the distance first stated.
  • Y.P. knew about regulations that the bulldozer was not to work within 10 meters of people. He was aware civilians were present, but said he was given orders to continue working. He said I’ m just a soldier. It was not my decision.
  • He claimed he did not see Rachel before the event. Nor did he recall seeing her specifically at all that day, despite the fact that she had protested the bulldozer’s activity for several hours and was the only female activist wearing a bright orange fluorescent jacket.

The Corries were disappointed they could not see their daughter’s killer:

Following the driver’s testimony, Cindy Corrie stated, “It was very difficult not to hear or detect anything in this witness’s words or voice that suggested remorse. Sadly, what I heard from the other side of the screen was indifference.”

Israeli blogger and peace activist, Dimi Reider, who was there, noted at the time:

Cindy Corrie said yesterday she didn’t hear the driver express any remorse for what had happened. On reflection, I think this may not be as clear cut. While he certainly didn’t apologize, voice any regret or in any way reacted to the Corries’ presence in the same room with him, I was struck how he avoided using the first person when referring to Rachel’s death; asked to affirm his identity and role on the day, he said, “I was the driver of the bulldozer on the day she.. the girl.. was run over.” He maintained this alienation throughout the day; the closest he came to acknowledging his direct, personal role, was in the repeated phrase, “I understood I may have hit someone.” Perhaps this is just wishful thinking on my part, but I couldn’t avoid thinking this alienation signalled that like many a combatant, in some place within him, the driver understands exactly what he has done, and perhaps wishes that things have turned out otherwise; while distant, he certainly didn’t sound blasé.

After the Israeli court strike was over, and the courts caught back up, there were more sessions this spring.

On April 4, 2011, the trial resumed, with more confusing testimony by IDF personnel.  One witness, Captain S.R, corroborated the accuracy of International Solidarity Movement witnesses, that has long been challenged by right-wing American and Israeli bloggers:

The commander of the unit that killed Rachel Corrie told a Haifa court on Sunday that he was ordered to continue bulldozer work even though it presented danger to civilians, including foreign activists, who were present in the area and could not be dispersed.

Known to the court as Captain S.R., the Bedouin officer said that he actually requested to halt bulldozer operations on the day Rachel was killed, because he thought civilians might be hurt, but was ordered to continue.

On the day she was killed, Captain S.R. radioed to Israeli army command and said that something from the bulldozer fell on Rachel. However, in court, he admitted he did not see the exact moment of the incident and that this was only a fleeting hypothesis. He said he reached Rachel’s body less than one minute after the incident and it was immediately clear by marks in the ground that Rachel had been hit by the bulldozer.

Captain S.R.’s testimony about the location of Rachel’s body after she was hit corroborated that of international eyewitnesses and the bulldozer driver, all of whom said that after the bulldozer backed up, Rachel’s body was located between the bulldozer and the mound of earth that it had pushed. This calls into question the testimony of the bulldozer commander, and the position of the State, that Rachel’s body was in a different location: on the far side of the mound of earth created by the bulldozer. Captain S.R. confirmed that evidence photos taken by the protesters that day accurately reflect the scene of the incident after Ms. Corrie was hit.

  • He confirmed that a female soldier viewed the site through a remote camera that day, and instructions could be given to his unit based on what was seen.
  • The Captain’s review of an interview he gave to Israeli Channel 2 TV’s “Uvda” program confirmed the existence of IDF video footage that has not been submitted into evidence by the State or provided to the Corrie family’s attorneys through discovery. The interview, aired on April 5, 2003, included a segment of March 16th, 2003 Israeli military video of the operations. His testimony confirms additional IDF video exists, even though the lead Military Police investigator responsible for obtaining evidence in the case stated firmly that there is no additional video.
  • He confirmed that a written document does exist that outlines regulations, specific to civilians, for a “removal procedure” – a set of instructions outlining how to remove civilians in situations such as these. Attorneys for the State continued to claim the regulation does not exist – in direct contradiction to the sworn testimony of their own witness moments before.

The testimony continued with “S.L., who in 2003 was head of the Mechanized Engineering Equipment Department.”

In an affidavit submitted to the court, referring to regulations, S.L. said, “in no way is the directive applicable to the operational conditions in which the bulldozer operated in this case.” However, in court on Sunday, he contradicted that assertion and admitted that regulations requiring that D9 bulldozers not operate within 20 meters of people did, in fact, apply.

When asked if there were “lessons learned” in response to this incident, he said he was unaware of any changes made in training and affirmed that to date, cameras to improve visibility have not been added to the bulldozers. He said the Israeli army experimented with cameras but found they were not a good solution because they were too easily damaged and because neither the bulldozer operator nor his commander had ability to pay attention to the cameras under operational circumstances. However, he confirmed that unmanned “drone” bulldozers with cameras attached were used by the Israeli army during the Lebanon invasion of 2006.

On April 11, 2011, witnesses again testified behind a screen.

Deputy Battalion Commander Sh.R, a Major responsible for overseeing 450-500 soldiers in Gaza, said he was located about 1 ½ kilometers from the scene at the army’s Liaison Unit with Foreign Forces (Yaklaz), and that although the bulldozer work was under the direct ground supervision of Captain S.R., he was in a position to influence the work and was ultimately responsible for the decisions made that day. This was significant because in the preceding hearing, Captain S.R., a Bedouin officer who testified earlier in the week, told the court he requested to halt his work because of the presence of the protesters, and potential danger to them, but received orders to continue.

Major  Sh.R, in his testimony, presented a hard doctrinaire IDF line.  At the Rachel Corrie Foundation trial blog, the major’s assertion is challenged:

Sh.R. defined the “Philidelphi Route” not just as the narrow, Israeli controlled, military road running parallel to the Gaza/Egypt border, but rather as the entire width of land between the Egypt border and the first row of Palestinian houses inside Gazan territory. He also insisted that Palestinians in these houses were those digging tunnels, snipers attacking the military, or smuggling weapons, and that clearing and destroying homes was done only after it was “beyond a reasonable doubt” that homes were empty. His description, although emblematic of the Israeli military’s position regarding the area in 2003, completely ignores the fact, and credible documentation by U.N. humanitarian agencies and human rights groups, that the land was once filled with densely populated civilian homes, the first row of which receded rapidly as the Israeli military bulldozed row upon row of houses, widening the border’s buffer zone and claiming the newly razed Palestinian territory for its own. Comparative satellite photos from a 2004 Human Rights Watch publication titled Razing Rafah: Mass Home Demolitions in the Gaza Strip document this “wholesale destruction” of Palestinian homes along Gaza’s southern border.

In his continuing testimony, the major made an interesting assertion:

Sh.R. stated he knew unarmed protestors were in the area, but in his opinion, stopping the work was not an option. He said the protesters were not a threat to the force, but added that if every foreigner came to raise banners, terrorists would also come and he would lose his ability to control the region. He admitted that avoiding a precedent was a consideration in the decision to continue working. He stated that in his opinion, the protesters should have been barred from entering Gaza. [emphasis added]

Major Sh.R. said more than he may have intended.  Additionally, his further testimony, linked to the deaths of other foreign nationals during the same time period as Corrie, is quite troubling.  The Corrie Foundation article on this states:

Although, he described in testimony that regulations state you don’t shoot unless there is intent and means to hurt you, a written summary of events recorded in the daily operations log on March 16, 2003, stated, “those foreigners should be handled and their entrance into the Gaza Strip should be forbidden. Additionally, the work must continue in the area in question. The firing orders state that every adult person should be shot to kill.” Within seven weeks of Rachel’s killing, award winning journalist James Miller and activist Tom Hurndall, both British citizens, were shot and killed along the same two mile stretch of the Rafah, Gaza border.

One should realize that this corridor of densely packed civilian housing that the IDF was willing to kill so many people over, has since been abandoned by the IDF.

The local platoon commander that day, A.D, provided more information that should be troubling, in regard to Israeli military disregard of international law:

  • work, although he could not remember anything about the specific file that day.
  • The APC had a periscope from which they could see a longer distance from the vehicle.
  • Commander R.S. spoke frequently on the cell phone and, in order to use it, he had to remove his helmet. This contradicts earlier military testimonies that claimed helmets worn would never be removed and, thus, soldiers would not have heard the protesters shouting through the megaphone nearby.
  • He could not recall the specific safety instructions for the D9 bulldozer, but said the unit would continue working as carefully as possible. He believed work was allowed if protesters were within 15 meters of the vehicle, but not if they were within 5 meters.
  • He knew that the protesters were civilians and “Americans.”
  • He said there was a first aid kit within the APC, and he believed it was likely that the radio communications person in the vehicle was also a trained medic. However, he confirmed that the medical kit was not thrown to the protesters after Rachel was hit. Testimony made clear that no serious attempt was made by the military to provide medical assistance to Rachel at the scene prior to Palestinian medics evacuating her.

The soldiers offered no medical assistance. Corrie might have been saved, but was not.

This is consistent with the evidence provided by the video smuggled off of the MV Mavi Marmara by Iara Lee, which clearly showed both that the Israeli soldiers wounded and captured by resistors on that ship were immediately given medical assistance, and that the Israeli military refused any medical attention to the wounded Turks, as they went about assassinating at close range.

On May 22, former IDF spokesperson, Ruth Yaron took the stand.  From the Corrie Foundation trial blog:

Yaron’s testimony focused on the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), in a weak attempt by the State to justify the military’s killing of Rachel by delegitimizing the organization’s mission of resisting the Israeli Occupation of Palestinian lands using only non-violent, direct action, methods. Rachel was an unarmed civilian, non-violently protesting against home demolitions in Rafah, Gaza, when she was killed. Yaron provided no first-hand knowledge of events, and relied heavily on second or third hand sources and hearsay.

Additional information about Yaron’s testimony will be released in the future.

Sunday is supposed to be this long trial’s final day of testimony.  Scheduled is the former Gaza Division’s Southern Brigade Commander, Colonel Pinhas (Pinky) Zuaretz:

Colonel Zuaretz was the commanding officer of the Israeli military’s Gaza Division’s Southern Brigade in 2003, when American peace activist Rachel Corrie was killed. Troops under his command were responsible for the actions resulting in her killing. Zuaretz is the highest ranking officer called as a government witness in the civil trial who had command responsibility in Gaza. He is possibly the highest such officer ever to face cross examination in a civil suit regarding the actions of the Israeli military against civilians in Gaza during the second intifada. His testimony is expected to shed light on the Israeli military’s failures as an occupying power to protect civilian life and property in the region.

It will be some time before a decision is reached, and whichever way it comes out, it is certainly likely to be appealed all the way to the Israeli Supreme Court.

III. As Israel becomes more racist, as land confiscation in the West Bank ramps up, as Netanyahu dares our government to object in the run-up to major fundraising for the 2012 election, and as participants of this summer’s protests to Israeli occupation and apartheid policies seek to find ways to be more effective in the future, it is important to realize that Palestinians don’t resent that so much more attention was brought to Rachel’s demise, or to the flotillas and fytilla than has been brought to the deaths of thousands of Palestinians, Lebanese and others, at the hands of the IDF.

It is also important to note that in 2003, when Corrie was killed, perhaps murdered, there was no Hamas boogey man running Gaza.  It was under control of the Palestinian Authority, and was being aggressively colonized by Israeli settlers, using the South African model, as they continue to do in the occupied West Bank.

This weekend the Israelis stopped hundreds of peaceful Americans and Europeans from merely getting off an airplane in Tel Aviv to go to the West Bank.  Almost 100 are in jail right now.  Some will be there for weeks.  Alice Walker, who was on the American boat hoping to go to Gaza, the MV Audacity of Hope, was in the West Bank last spring.  She wrote this:

I have been in Palestine for five days.  It has been amazing.  Deeply distressing and sad in many ways; but also filled with joy, with creativity, exuberance, and hope.  Who knew there was so much life left in Palestine?  That people are in love with literature and poetry?  That young people are on fire about the novels and short stories they’re reading in their classes?  As well as about the revolutions shaking the Arab world? That despite the hardships of  occupation there is a sense among Palestinians that the world is changing and is at last capable of hearing them.  And not just hearing them, but responding.  And not only to their tragic and hair raising reports of the lethal Israeli occupation; an occupation as pathological as any ever to afflict humankind.  No, the thought in the air around here resembles the brilliant red poppy one sees glowing between massive rocks, its roots somehow not crushed, that sings:  Oh yes, I am still here, still red, still blooming as me, in spite of everything!  And guess what?  I have no desire to resemble these rocks that sit on top of me.

This is the peace of non-violent revolt which entails a radical dedication to non-abandonment of the peaceful self.

Long live all of us, and especially the Palestinian people: Tenacious, like the red poppy. Waving bright hope in the smallest wind.   Blooming, joyful, retaining our humor and generosity to the stranger, but also our love of  green grass and Spring.

Each of Earth’s peoples teaches the rest of us  something:  You demonstrate steadfastness: how to hold on, through lies, murder, brutal repression, breathtaking theft, unbearable despair, until at last, singing our own outraged and wild poppy song, we come to join you.

Eight years ago this week, as I sought permission from Rachel Corrie’s family to write music honoring her, Cindy Corrie wrote to me:

Our lives are fairly complicated these days, as I am sure you can imagine….. Our loss is great but creative responses like yours to Rachel’s life and death lift my spirits so.

The Corries continue their complicated fight to lift the spirits of the oppressed Palestinian people. Let us hope the Corries and the Palestinians get some overdue justice, for their children, who deserve more than what we now give them.

On the Second Anniversary of Cast Lead, I Reach Out to a Young Gazan Writer

11:48 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Two years ago, On December 27th, 2008, the Israeli military began their campaign, Operation Cast Lead,  against the people and infrastructure of Gaza. About 1,500 Palestinian people, the vast majority of them civilians, were killed.  Many children were killed.  Far more were wounded, traumatized, orphaned, or lost a parent, sibling or siblings.

Americans have to look hard to see the horrific details of what actually occurred during the operation that inspired many Zionist Israelis to lament afterward, “This time we went too far.”   Not that this momentary pang of guilt will keep the next Gaza event from happening.  It is already in the planning stages, according to the Jerusalem Post.

One of my strongest beliefs and hopes is that young people – Palestinian, Israeli, Jordanian, Lebanese, Turkish, Egyptian and American – can help us find a way out of this awful endgame of war in which Gazans are trapped.  The young American, Rachel Corrie, in one of her last emails before she was killed by the Israeli army in Gaza in 2003, wrote:

I spent a lot of time writing about the disappointment of discovering, somewhat first-hand, the degree of evil of which we are still capable. I should at least mention that I am also discovering a degree of strength and of basic ability for humans to remain human in the direst of circumstances – which I also haven’t seen before. I think the word is dignity.

I wish you could meet these people. Maybe, hopefully, someday you will.

Since then, I’ve met many Palestinians in the USA and in the UK.  Today I introduced myself to a young Palestinian woman at her blog, I Am.  She wrote back.  I can now write about that, in hopes that now, not someday, you will meet these people too:

Rawan,

I posted your story at my blog, Progressive Alaska. I’d also like to post it at the American blog, firedoglake, but they probably won’t let me print your entire story, unless you say that it is OK.

I’ll pray for your successful future as a writer, and as whatever you want to be.

It was night time in Gaza when I wrote.  In the morning she replied:

Mr Philip Munger, I can’t but thank you for your great effort publishing Palestine and letting others know the truth. of course I don’t mind posting it at the American blog it will be an honor for me to have told just a little about what Palestinians have been through in here. Thank you for being here. I, we all appreciate it deeply.

I initially read Rawan’s story this morning at the blog Mondoweiss, where her article had been entered in an ongoing contest, called Gaza Two Years Later.

Here is Rawan Yaghi’s story of what happened in her mother’s arms two years ago, when she was 15 years old:

A Little Girl

Sleep in here sleep little girl
I would keep you so warm
Sleep… darling I’ll hold you so firm
You’re here in my lap no need for fright
Keep on your happy sight
Sun will shine
Birds will wake the sleepy night
You’re my….

My Mom suddenly stopped singing and stopped calmly feeling my hair. Her hand also stopped shaking. She was keeping me on her lap, trying to keep me warm in that cold night. It was too dark that I could barely see her face. She was very warm, but she gradually lost that comforting heat. I tried to keep it, so I covered her with the small blanket she was covering me with and I stayed in her lap.

Some minutes passed; however, she didn’t continue singing, and her body kept going colder. There was so much going on outside. I could hear a man weakly weeping. I thought she was listening to the sounds outside trying to know what was happening.

sat beside her, for, then, she was so cold that I couldn’t stay in her lap.

“Mama, why is the man outside crying?”.

She didn’t answer. She kept listening.

I said no word afterwards. I may have slept for a short while after the noise was a little bit lower. When I woke up I saw my mother with her eyes closed covered with my blanket. I thought she must have been awake the whole time I was sleeping, that’s why I didn’t try to wake her up; she would get in a really bad mood if I do. I poured her some water and put it in front of her. She was still cold. I was cold too but I thought she was so much colder.

I sat right in the opposite of her and kept waiting her to wake up and drink my glass of water and then thank me for it. Thinking of my dad and two brothers who got out of the house carrying a white shirt and how much noise happened after they got out, while my mother followed them so fast and came back so slow, with that noise frequently coming back, I kept staring at her cold body.

Now, two years later I understand it all, the cold, the whimper, my dad’s white shirt, my brothers, everything, even the mess outside. I understand why the men who came that morning took only me and why they wouldn’t listen to me yelling at them saying that my mother is still there feeling very cold.