The concluding portion of the wrongful death civil suit brought against the Israeli Defense Forces and the Israeli Defense Ministry, by the family of Rachel Corrie, begins this Thursday, in Haifa. Sessions are scheduled for October 7th, 17th, 18th and 21st. The family of the young American activist, killed in March 2003, hopes for justice. So far, the trial has revealed neglect, ineptitude and probable criminal activity of IDF members, both in Corrie’s death, and in its coverup.
Among the horrific details to emerge, perhaps the most disturbing was the role of the notorious Dr. Yehuda Hiss in Rachel Corrie’s autopsy. Here’s Max Blumenthal’s description:
Corrie’s body was transported to the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute in Tel Aviv where the notorious Dr. Yehuda Hiss autopsied her.
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.
When Craig and Cindy Corrie learned that Hiss would perform an autopsy on their daughter, they stipulated that they would only allow the doctor to go forward if an official from the American consulate was present throughout the entire procedure. An Israeli military police report stated that an American official did indeed witness the autopsy. However, when the Corries asked American diplomatic officials including former US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzner if the report was true, they were informed that no American was present at all. The Israelis had lied to them, and apparently fixed their own report to deceive the American government.
I’ll be compiling a list of items of interest that have come up so far in trial for Thursday. But now it might be important to take a quick glimpse of the progress of the most important work of art dedicated to Corrie to yet emerge, the one-woman play, My Name is Rachel Corrie. It opened on September 24th in Portland, Oregon, and will continue there at the Stark Street Theater through October 30th. The production is getting excellent reviews:
perhaps inevitably, and aptly, it is Corrie’s own way with words — at times witty, self-aware, sparkling with idiosyncratic metaphors; at others grave and righteous — that gives this portrait such vividness. It’s the voice of someone trying to find a path to doing the right thing. And whether or not Corrie got far enough down that path, that’s a voice we all could stand to hear.
As is always the case with productions of the play in the USA, there have been demonstrators and pamphleteers outside the theater before each performance. And like other US performances of the play, editorial space was offered soon after the production began, to a representative from the Zionist expansionist point of view. In this case, to Bob Horenstein, community relations director for the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, in Oregon Live.com:
Corrie was killed after unlawfully entering an area where Israeli forces — seeking to protect Israeli civilians who had been terrorized by repeated rocket attacks — were destroying tunnels used by Palestinian terrorists to smuggle arms illegally from Egypt into Gaza. Corrie wasn’t shielding innocent civilians; rather, she was interfering with the Israeli army’s efforts to demolish an empty house used to conceal one of these tunnels. According to an autopsy report, Corrie wasn’t crushed by a bulldozer, as widely alleged; she was killed (no less tragically) by falling debris.
While Corrie’s death garners much of the attention, there are other fallen Rachels whose stories are also tragic. British journalist Tom Gross, a former Jerusalem correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph, has referred to these as the "Forgotten Rachels," victims of the so-called "armed resistance" supported by Corrie’s ISM. They belong in this discussion, too: Rachel Levy, 17, blown up in a Jerusalem grocery store; Rachel Thaler, 16, blown up in an Israeli pizzeria; Rachel Levi, 19, shot to death while waiting for a bus; Rachel Gavish, 50, killed at home celebrating a Passover meal; Rachel Charhi, 36, blown up in a Tel Aviv cafe, leaving three young children; Rachel Shabo, 40, murdered with her three young sons while at home; Rachel Ben Abu, 16, blown up outside the entrance of a Netanya shopping mall.
Rachel Corrie’s death was unfortunate, but she had to have known of the risks of entering a military zone off-limits to civilians. In other words, she chose to put her life in danger for a cause in which she believed. By contrast, the forgotten Rachels — and Sarahs and Rivkahs and Devorahs — didn’t choose to have their lives cut short by Palestinian terrorists.
When will we ever see a play to commemorate any of their lives?
Regarding the question, "When will we ever see a play to commemorate any of their lives?" I agree totally with Horenstein. This meme started in early 2004, when I first attempted to perform The Skies Are Weeping in Anchorage. The meme about the Rachels was created by an Israeli blogger. At the time, when I was asked, "Why not write music about the OTHER Rachels?" I decided to find out if any of these women’s families were interested in me writing music about their tragically killed loved one. None were.
So, since then, my reply to questions posed by people such as Bob Horenstein has been, "Write it, compose it, commission it! I’ll help you produce it."
Meanwhile, the play that militant Zionist expansionists tried to stop from being performed in the USA has now been produced almost countless times, even at colleges. It has been performed in English, Swedish, German, Arabic, Hebrew, Spanish and other languages.
Sometimes, reading an article about war, I want to puke. Recovering from Max Blumenthal’s latest bombshell from Haifa, that was my first impulse. Eventually, though, I merely cried:
[Dr. Yehuda Hiss] also conceded to taking “samples” from Corrie’s body for “histological testing” without informing her family. Just which parts of Corrie’s body Hiss took remains unclear; despite Hiss’s claim that he “buried” the samples, her family has not confirmed the whereabouts of her missing body parts.
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.
While Dr. Hiss’ testimony was part of the opening, back in March of the civil suit by the Corrie family against the Israeli Defense Forces and Defense Ministry, no writer wrote back then so compellingly as Blumenthal has now done, in his article posted today on the testimony and depositions given Sunday and Monday in the opening portion of the second half of the trail.
Also catching us up on details of this week’s proceedings is Nora Barrows-Friedman, writing for Al Jazeera. In her article, Barrows-Friedman writes about the statement of Col. "Yossi" from the IDF, about whom I wrote on Tuesday:
"During war there are no civilians," that’s what “Yossi,” an Israeli military (IDF) training unit leader simply stated during a round of questioning on day two of the Rachel Corrie trials, held in Haifa’s District Court earlier this week. “When you write a [protocol] manual, that manual is for war,” he added.
For the human rights activists and friends and family of Rachel Corrie sitting in the courtroom, this open admission of an Israeli policy of indiscrimination towards civilians — Palestinian or foreign — created an audible gasp.
Yet, put into context, this policy comes as no surprise. The Israeli military’s track record of insouciance towards the killings of Palestinians, from the 1948 massacre of Deir Yassin in Jerusalem to the 2008-2009 attacks on Gaza that killed upwards of 1400 men, women and children, has illustrated that not only is this an entrenched operational framework but rarely has it been challenged until recently.
The blog Mondoweiss has reprinted Max Blumenthal’s article in entirety. They often partner with Max. Earlier in the week, there were a few articles at that Israel/Palestine-centric blog about whether or not the four civilians recently gunned down near Hebron on illegally seized land on the West Bank, were legitimate targets. The consensus there was that the militant settlers were not "legitimate targets." Commenting there, I sided with that view, but observed that Col "Yossi’s" testimony at the Corrie suit hearing this week, weakens the argument of those who condemn the recent settler shootings unequivocally. If all of Gaza, or large parts of Gaza are war zones in which there are no civilians, how does that differ conceptually from lands on the West Bank, illegally wrested from the rightful Palestinian owners by armed Israeli thugs?
In the midst of these moral dilemmas, what does one do? Blumenthal relates, in today’s article, the common sense of Craig Corrie:
Among the most disturbing aspects of Corrie’s case is the abuse of her body by Israeli authorities after she was killed. Craig Corrie recalled to me a panicked phone conversation he had with Will Hewitt, a friend and former classmate of Rachel Corrie who had just witnessed her killing.
“It’s getting dark over here and there are no refrigeration units for her body in Gaza,” Hewitt told Craig Corrie.
“Just leave it until tomorrow,” Craig replied. “We don’t want you or anyone else to get killed.”
“But her body is starting to smell,” Hewitt pleaded.
Another family exhibiting common sense, even in the weird environment of what is done with these poor bodies of Israelis, Palestinians and Americans killed in such senseless violence, is the Salhout family in East Jerusalem, as told in this story:
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) – On 27 August, a Palestinian four-year-old, Abdul-Hayy Salhout, fell from a balcony at his family’s home in the Jabal Al-Mukabbir village in occupied East Jerusalem.
Doctors at the Hadassah Medical Center spent eight hours trying to revive the toddler in the intensive care unit, where he died six days later. Abdul-Hayy’s parents decided at the time to donate his organs.
According to the Israeli news site Ynet, the boy’s liver has since been successfully transplanted to a critically ill seven-year-old Israeli boy. A kidney was given to an eight-year-old girl, also Israeli, whose body has accepted it. The other kidney went to a 55-year-old Israeli man, and he is in good condition too despite concerns of rejection due to the age difference.
"My son arrived at the hospital in very serious condition, and it was impossible to save his life. But we’re so happy to see him alive inside other people," Abdul-Hayy’s father told Ynet. "It makes no difference to us whether the recipients speak Arabic or Hebrew, because saving a human life is the same."
I. Anyone reading through the transcripts and findings or articles about the first phase of this suit and what is emerging now, who then continues to believe the U.S. government should allow the Israeli Defense Forces and Defense Ministry to be the ones conducting the investigation into the death of American citizen Furkan Dogan – which is exactly what your congress and senate have demanded your president actually do – is abdicating a serious responsibility we hold toward our injured or killed citizens to an unfair, inadequate process.
After all, in the case of Mr. Dogan, here’s the wan statement Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued, regarding his murder:
Protecting the welfare of American citizens is a fundamental responsibility of our government and one that we take very seriously. We are in constant contact with the Israeli Government, attempting to obtain more information about our citizens.
It has been over 100 days now, and what has this "constant contact" resulted in? Somebody please remind Secretary Clinton.
II. The first half of the second phase of the wrongful death civil suit brought by Craig and Cindy Corrie against the Israeli Defense Forces and the Israeli Defense Ministry, concluded Monday in Haifa. Testimony on both days of this portion of the trial, which was attended by "representatives from the US Embassy, Human Rights Watch and Adalah, a legal and human rights organization," clearly indicates that there was no "investigation" of Corrie’s March 16th, 2003 death near Rafah in the Gaza Strip worthy of being termed thorough or fair. Although there had been additional testimony (the State is presenting its rebuttal to the Corries’ March 2010 presentation) scheduled for September 21st, the trial will not resume until October, when it is set for the the 7th, 17th, 18th and 21st.
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, Oded stated that neither he nor any other investigator visited the site of the killing.
Oded said that he did not obtain the video-audio recording from the military surveillance camera which filmed 24/7 until March 23, a week after he began the investigation.
Oded said he did not request the video-audio recording with radio transmissions of the 2 bulldozer drivers and commanders from the hours leading up to the incident, transmissions which might have provided further context to the killing. Oded stated he did not believe they were relevant, even though Rachel and her friends from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) were protesting the bulldozer activity for several hours prior to her death.
When military police transcribed the radio transmissions, they failed to include an exchange in Arabic in which one soldier said, “Yem mawatu!” which in English means, “What, Did you kill him?!” and another soldier replied, “Allah Yerhamo,” “May God have mercy on him.” When asked about the discrepancy, Oded said that he did not understand Arabic and the investigation team did not think it was important. 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.
There have been unanswered questions about the missing video surveillance tapes and audio of radio conversations between command control and the two people in the bulldozer that killed Corrie since the March phase. None have yet been answered in this current two-day episode. Have they been destroyed, or are they merely being deemed "classified"?
Monday’s proceeding featured what appears to have been an incredibly haughty IDF Colonel, who most reminds me of the Argentine Colonels of the late 70s and 80s, who justified the murder of tens of thousands of liberal and progressive men and women there, because their whole nation was "a war zone."
One of the witnesses, known to the court as Yossi, was a Colonel in the Engineering Corps. He was responsible for writing operating manuals for military bulldozers and other equipment. He also conducted a simulation of what the bulldozer driver would have been able to see. In his testimony:
He repeatedly insisted that there are no civilians in a war zone. His assertion disregards the reality in the Palestinian Occupied Territories as well as international humanitarian law, which was created to protect civilians in armed conflict situations.
Yossi contradicted his own March 2003 testimony, given to military investigators, that the armored personnel carrier (APC) at the incident was intended to protect both soldiers and civilians. Today, he said the APC was there only for the safety of the drivers.
In his affidavit, Yossi wrote that he conducted a reenactment of the incident. However, he testified today that he did not reenact the scene, but rather filmed a bulldozer of the same model with a bulldozer operator, and another soldier, to get a sense of what the operator at the incident might have seen. He also said he did not view the military’s surveillance video of the incident in creating his simulation.
Yossi claimed that the manual on operating instructions for mechanical engineering equipment in low intensity conflict did not apply to real conflict situations, but rather only in training and administrative activities.
Yossi stated that the bulldozer driver and commander have the exact same field of vision and that the commander sat at the same level as the driver, contradicting the government’s expert witness, who stated that the commander had a better field of vision because he sat higher.
Another witness for the state, Major Yoram Manchori, testified as an expert witness on the bulldozer’s field of vision. He was responsible for purchasing heavy engineering equipment and readying it for military use. In May 2010, he created an animated simulation of what the bulldozer driver and commander’s vision might have been.
Manchori insisted he used in the simulation a bulldozer identical to the one that killed Rachel. However, the bulldozer he used had multiple bars on its windows, whereas the bulldozer that struck Rachel had no bars. Upon being informed of this discrepancy, he claimed that the bars did not impact visibility.
He conducted his simulation on terrain that was very different than the terrain at the scene.
He determined the simulated location of the bulldozers based on eyewitness recollections given over 7 years after the incident. He did not cross-check them with eyewitness accounts from the time of the killing, nor did he view the military surveillance video of the incident.
Manchori testified that the price of a Caterpillar D9R bulldozer is currently $700,000 and the cost of arming it is an additional $200,000 – $250,000, figures not previously disclosed. In light of this, it is now known that the cost of mounting a camera, which is often cited as being prohibitively expensive, would be less than 10% of the price of the bulldozer itself.
Manchori testified that after Rachel’s death the Israeli military installed cameras on one bulldozer but due to the high cost, limited increase in field vision and other problems, the installation was discontinued.
Manchori testified that prior to Corrie’s killing, the Israeli military tested the D9R bulldozer field of vision and that he personally had sent three charts of the results to the military investigators in March 2003. In court today, the Corries’ lawyer requested to obtain a copy of this report, stating that he needed it in order to analyze the bulldozer visibility claims made in the military police investigation of Rachel’s killing. The State argued that the report was classified and should not be allowed into evidence, although the Israeli Supreme Court previously ruled that this report was relevant to the case. Judge Gershon upheld the State’s argument.
After Monday’s hearing, regarding the "no civilians in a war zone" statement, Cindy Corrie was quoted as saying, "This was startling to our family, and to others in the courtroom. Rafah is a densely populated town. In fact, Rachel was killed defending the home of two Palestinian families-a pharmacist, an accountant, their wives and small children. It was extremely troubling for their existence to be categorically denied.”
III. An interesting development in the coverage, or lack thereof, of this trial, is the reporting by a source of pro-Israeli information, IMRA, or Independent Media Review and Analysis. As was shown in the MV Mavi Marmara incident, the IDF and Defense Ministry are getting quicker at throwing their propaganda out there and seeing what sticks to the wall than had been the case until 2010. As Max Blumenthal was easily able to demonstrate in the aftermath of that tragedy, accuracy was not an issue with the IDF. Were it not for the incredible courage of Iara Lee and others aboard the MVMM, more of the IDF crap would have stuck to the wall.
In early 2004, I corresponded with Phan Nguyen about his article and Hammer’s. I attempted to get in touch with Hammer, but he didn’t respond. I wrote to some of those Nguyen observed Hammer had stolen material from, and they were surprised, though – being right-wing Christian Zionists – they were disappointed to have ended up in what one called "the leftist MoJo."
I wrote about the Hammer-Nguyen contretemps for an April 2004 lecture I delivered in Anchorage. In that lecture I left out my suspicion from researching Hammer’s sources that he had been fed a lot of his 2003 material from an Israeli governmental source or sources, most likely the Mossad or another intelligence-gathering group. Hence, his inability to handle the way he had ripped off American right-wing bloggers in the "leftist MoJo" article. I speculate now that he didn’t even know it was a rip-off, because he probably merely reprinted stuff given to him by his contacts as his own, without checking it.
The way IMRA is sanctifying Hammer’s long-ago blown material now only reinforces what I felt in 2004.
The two-phase civil lawsuit, brought by Cindy and Craig Corrie against the Israeli Defense Forces and Defense Ministry, seeking a judgement of wrongful death in the matter of their daughter Rachel, near Rafah, Gaza, on March 16, 2003. resumes today in Haifa. In this phase, the defendant government will seek to rebut the plaintiff’s case, presented last spring.
According to Jack Khoury (how’s that for irony), writing for Haaretz:
Among the witnesses to appear today, tomorrow and after the holidays, are two Military Police investigators who in March 2003 decided, together with the southern district prosecutor, to close the case. The state will also present an expert witness who will give his opinion as to the bulldozer driver’s field of vision.
The state submitted 13 affidavits, including that of the driver who ran down Corrie, his commander and other military officials involved in the case.
As in just about everything having to do with Rachel Corrie’s death, our American media will not cover this trial more than it has to. At least, unlike Furkan Dogan, our press won’t continually list Rachel as being a foreigner in their page B-25 coverage’s terse, short, pro-Israeli paragraphs.
Jack Khoury’s article, just posted, is already eliciting the predictable comments at Haaretz:
Can the driver of the bulldozer sue the Corries for emotional damage. Can you imagine the horror he has to deal with every day to know she threw herself in front of his bulldozer.
I hope to blog about this at The Seminal throughout the second phase of the suit, even though I’m committed to keeping somewhat aloof to I/P issues here for a while. I covered it here during the first phase. The Rachel Corrie Foundation’s site offers good coverage, and Haaretz has been the most even-handed of the Israeli media on this important issue, so far.
A summation of documents having to do with the first phase can be found at the niche at the Rachel Corrie Foundation devoted to the trial. Before the civil suit began, I felt strongly that Corrie had died in an unfortunate event. But the patterns of IDF communication uncovered during the first phase indicate to me that she was intentionally killed.
Proof has surfaced today that many of the so-called "evidence" photographs being distributed by the Israeli government as examples of terror weapons on board the Gaza aid flotilla date back years:
The bulletproof vest photos on the Israeli flickr page are dated February 2006.
The axe photo was taken in 2003.
The pepper spray photos – 2003
The iconic pictures of knives and other weapons on the Saudi flag and other stuff:
Hi. Just to confirm that the EXIF metadata points to this photo being taken in 2006:
barney@benchwood:~$ identify -verbose farm5.static.flickr.com/4047/4662965686_a91f8 bab2e_o_d.jpg | grep Date
exif:DateTime: 2010:06:02 10:38:47
exif:DateTimeDigitized: 2006:02:07 05:52:19
exif:DateTimeOriginal: 2006:02:07 05:52:19
And on and on…..
Absolutely, this is strong evidence that by allowing the Israeli government to be trusted in any aspect of the investigation of these high seas crimes will be foolhardy and negligent.
The most recent evidence we have of how the Israeli government deals with crime scenes where American lives have been put in jeopardy is in the ongoing civil suit brought by Rachel Corrie’s family against the Israeli government. Testimony will resume some time – or not. The Israeli government is trying to stop the trial. But so far, here’s some of what has come out that reflects on the ability of the Israeli government or military to conduct honest investigations:
Essentially, aspects of IDF conduct involving their handling of the death of Corrie clearly violate Israeli law, and call for trial, possible conviction and imprisonment of all officers involved:
But now evidence has emerged in the civil suit that Israel’s then Gaza commander obstructed the military police investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death.
The apparent intervention of Major-General Doron Almog, then head of Israel’s southern command, is documented in testimony taken by Israeli military police from the commander of the bulldozer a day after Ms Corrie was killed.
The handwritten affidavit effectively puts the entire state of Israel on trial. Is it willing to tolerate Maj-Gen Almog’s gross interference in the investigation or will it hold him to the three years’ imprisonment the law accords for such an offence?
In the affidavit, the commander of the D-9 tells military police investigators that he did not see Ms Corrie before she was wounded.
However, Alice Coy, now a nurse in Glasgow, and an ISM volunteer activist who was near Ms Corrie during the incident, said in an affidavit to the court that “to the best of my knowledge the bulldozer driver could see Rachel while pushing earth over her body”.
The D-9 commander, a reservist named Edward Valermov, was in the middle of his testimony when a colonel dispatched by Maj-Gen Almog entered the room and ordered him to stop speaking, according to the document.
The military police investigator wrote: “At 18:12 reserve Colonel Baruch Kirhatu entered the room and informed the witness that he should not convey anything and should not write anything and this at the order of the general of southern command.”
In his testimony before he was stopped, Mr Valermov said that the bulldozers, manned by two people, were ordered by their company commander to continue their work despite the presence of the ISM protesters.
He said that troops in an armoured personnel carrier threw stun grenades, used tear gas and fired shots toward the ground in order to scare the protesters away.
“It didn’t help and therefore we decided to continue the work with all possible delicateness on the orders of the company commander,” he added.
Mr Valermov testified that the protesters nearly touched the bulldozers, making it impossible to advance, but that after the company commander’s order “we started moving with the D-9, we continued laying bare the area from all of the things that were there.
“It was only when we moved the D-9 backwards that I saw her. The woman was lying in a place where the instrument had not reached. As soon as we saw the harmed woman we returned to the central corridor, stood and waited for orders.”
Mr Valermov’s last statement before Maj-Gen Almog’s interdiction was, “my job was to guide. The driver cannot guide himself because his field of vision is not large.”
In a phone interview from Olympia, Washington, Rachel’s father Craig Corrie termed Maj-Gen Almog’s intervention in Mr Valermov’s testimony “outrageous”.
Maj-Gen Almog has angrily denied halting Mr Valermov’s testimony.
Moshe Negbi, legal commentator for the state-run Voice of Israel radio, said of Maj-Gen Almog’s interdiction: “If a commander prevents a witness from testifying than it is disruption of an investigation, a criminal offence whose penalty is three years’ imprisonment.”
By deciding Maj-Gen Almog’s fate, Israel will be deciding if it is a state of law or a state of the generals – past and present.
Anyone who thinks the officers involved in the Corrie coverup will be held accountable is a fool. Anyone who thinks that the Israeli government will conduct an impartial investigation of Sunday morning’s tragedy is even more foolish, especially in light of mounting evidence that the Israelis are already disseminating totally false images as examples of some sort of forensic evidence.
It is time to put pressure on our government to demand the truth, rather than accept criminally motivated bullshit and lies.
I. Were I the commodore of the flotilla of eight or nine vessels preparing to head straight from Cypress to the Gaza coast near the end of May, I’d want Joe Meadors next to me on the bridge. He’s joining the flotilla. Joe’s one of the survivors of the brutal Israeli attack on the U.S.S. Liberty, for which Joe’s previous skipper won the Congressional Medal of Honor. Joe says "It’ll be like old home week."
I’d want Joe on the bridge of the MV Rachel Corrie with me. Along with every other living survivor of the attack on the U.S.S. Liberty, Joe believes the Israelis meant to sink a U.S. ship and somehow cover up the evidence.
The MV Rachel Corrie is not a U.S. ship, but several U.S. citizens are joining the flotilla, including two former high-ranking State Department officials:
Ambassador Edward L. Peck, who served as a paratrooper during two tours of wartime active duty; spent 32 years in the Foreign Service; including stints as Chief of Mission in Iraq and Mauritania, Deputy Director of the Cabinet Task Force on Terrorism at the Reagan White House, and State Department Liaison Officer to the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon; and after retirement was Executive Secretary of the American Academy of Diplomacy.
Mary Ann Wright is a retired United States Army colonel and retired official of the U.S. State Department, known for her outspoken opposition to the Iraq War. She is most noted for having been one of three State Department officials to publicly resign in direct protest of the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Other Americans will be participating, along with hundreds of Europeans and some Turkish peace activists.
But none are as important as Joe Meador.
II. When it comes to that moment when, in international waters (as was the case with the Liberty) the flotilla, which will have been monitored since untying from Cypress by aircraft and helicopters, half the Israeli Navy and the flotilla come over opposite horizons and into view with each other, nobody can foresee what will happen next. The Israelis claim they have a right to intercept the convoy. The backers of the convoy are subject to whatever the skippers of the small flotilla deem to be most prudent as the scene rapidly unfolds. They are licensed mariners who have agreed to abide by certain rules to obtain and keep their professional credentials.
Essentially, they have to be as careful when the Israelis approach them as a similar flotilla might have to be should Somali pirates hail them on the high seas. Should the flotilla attempt to keep on steaming straight toward the Gaza wharves, the Israeli Navy has announced that it is in training for the encounter.
Will it try to pick them off one by one?
Should the large MV Rachel Corrie be used as a 21st Century ram at the head of a frantic charge, hoping that one of the Israeli torpedo or missile boats doesn’t have a projectile with the word "Caterpillar D-9" painted onto its dull, deadly metal?
III. I don’t know the answers. But I would like to see some of the media attention on this show that the reporters are informed enough about the context of the flotilla to give us some honest journalism.
As the flotilla passes Malta, a lot of pressure will be brought upon those responsible for the joining of vessels in the Eastern Mediterranean, to pursue some channeled plan or to disband. Will the U.S. take a role in this? The vessels are flagged at a lot of places, none of them in the USA.
The European media, which is sort of lurking around this story, will be onto it once the MV Rachel Corrie passes Gibraltar, which will be soon.
The 1,200-ton cargo vessel, MV Rachel Corrie, laden with a hold full of "much-needed reconstruction material, medical equipment, and school supplies, " has untied from a dock in Dundalk Ireland, and has now faced its bow toward the Straits of Gibraltar. It will be joined by seven other vessels, with their similar cargoes, and about 600 passengers, including some of the world’s leading peace and human rights activists.
Two navies, the two most powerful in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, are likely to get involved in the last leg of the voyage to the Gaza coast – The Turkish Navy and, of course, the Israeli Navy. Turkey’s Prime Minister, Tayyib Erdogan, recently expressed his support for “breaking the oppressive siege on the Gaza Strip…which is at the top of Turkey’s list of priorities." His belief that the blockade should be broken may be reinforced by the resolve of a proud government that was intentionally humiliated by Israeli diplomats back in January, "torpedoing" Turko-Israeli relations, as the web site Tikun Olamthen put it.
Earlier in May, "John Ging, the Director of Operations of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza, …. called upon the international community to break the siege on the Gaza Strip by sending ships loaded with desperately needed supplies to the beleaguered territory. "We believe that Israel will not intercept these vessels because the sea is open, and human rights organizations have been successful in similar previous operations proving that breaking the siege of Gaza is possible."
ISRAEL IN TRAINING TO BLOCK FREEDOM FLOTILLA
May 13, 2010 by irishingaza
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israel’s naval forces are allegedly in training to prepare to seize eight boats scheduled to dock in the Gaza Strip on 24 May from Europe, Arabic-language media reported on Wednesday.
“About half of the Israeli naval forces will participate in an operation that was approved by the cabinet. [Israeli] Defense Minister Ehud Barak will supervise the operation,” an Israeli official told the Arabic-language satellite TV station Al-Hurra.
An Israeli security source told Ma’an that authorities will prevent the arrival of the boats “at any price.”
The Freedom Fleet is scheduled to set sail from the UK, Greece and Turkey. The European Free Gaza campaign said Israeli authorities informed them that the flotillas would be prevented from docking in Gaza.
The boats will be loaded with prefabricated homes, cement, and medicine and will be accompanied by 600 individuals in a bid to break the siege on Gaza.
On Sunday, Jamal Al-Khudari, head of Gaza’s Popular Committee Against the Siege, said Israeli threats to open fire at the boats reveal Israel’s weakness.
“Such threats reflect the occupation’s failure and embody state terrorism against peaceful individuals who come to support a people under siege and aggression,” a statement issued by Al-Khudari said.
Under international law, the activists attempting to dock in Gaza have the right to participate in breaking the siege, Al-Khudari added, saying the threats will not deter participants from arriving in Gaza.
The popular committee organizer said the group was coming well-equipped, and would be ready should the Israeli navy surround them for a long period of time.
The Freedom Flotilla announced plans in late April, saying a group of ships would depart from several corners of the Mediterranean and gather in international waters with the intent to deliver some 5,000 tons of building and medical supplies to the population under siege.
According to flotilla organizers, 600 activists will sail three cargo ships and five passenger boats for Gaza in what a statement called the “biggest internationally coordinated effort to directly challenge Israeli’s ongoing occupation, aggression, and violence against the Palestinian people.”
I’ll be following this story closely. I was informed last week, that some of the crew loading the MV Rachel Corrie, have been playing MP3s of The Skies Are Weeping as they work.
My heart, along with my music, is with all the hundreds of peace activists who are involved in this humanitarian effort.
Apparently, the ongoing Civil Suit in Haifa District Court, regarding the circumstances of American College student Rachel Corrie’s death in Rafah on March 16th, 2003, took that same day off, so that Corrie’s parent could travel to Ramallah for the dedication of a street, named after their daughter. But the trial resumed Wednesday. Once gain, here is the report from Dave at the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace & Justice:
Today March 17, 2010 the Haifa District Court saw a fourth day of testimony in the civil lawsuit filed by Rachel Corrie’s family against the State of Israel for her unlawful killing in Rafah, Gaza. Rachel Corrie, an American human rights defender from Olympia, Washington, was crushed to death on March 16, 2003 by a Caterpillar D9R bulldozer. She had been nonviolently demonstrating against Palestinian home demolitions with fellow members of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a Palestinian-led movement committed to resisting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land using nonviolent, direct action methods and principles.
An Israeli military police investigator, who was part of the team that investigated Rachel’s killing, testified today. In his testimony he stated that:
He never inspected the site where the killing occurred; nor did he ever sit inside the D9 bulldozer to see for himself the view the driver had and what the field of vision was.
He admitted that the Israeli military’s D9 bulldozer regulations state that the D9s should not be operated with civilians in close proximity. He failed to question the bulldozer driver about these regulations or make them part of the military police investigation file.
He received a court order authorizing Rachel’s autopsy under the condition that an official from the U.S. Embassy be present, and at the time informed the court that the condition would be upheld. Subsequently, he made no effort to ensure that this condition was upheld, nor does he know if anyone else did, stating he did not consider the follow-up his responsibility. He also failed to forward the final autopsy report to the court, even though this was required, stating that his commander did not require him to do so and that he simply “did not pay attention” to the court order. Dr. Hiss ultimately performed the autopsy without an American Embassy official present.
To his knowledge, no ISM member was arrested the afternoon of March 16 for interfering with Israeli military activities.
American eyewitness Gregory Schnabel, the fourth and last eye-witness called to testify, also testified today, providing his account of the killing of Ms. Corrie. Gregory testified that he saw Rachel climb to the top of the pile of dirt being pushed by the bulldozer and that she was visible to the driver. He also testified that a bulldozer had come close to himself and another ISM member that afternoon, stopping just short of hitting them, which led him to believe that the demonstrators were visible to the driver.
The trial will resume on Sunday, March 21, 2010, at 9 a.m. at the district court in Haifa.
I. Some of the best parts of Katherine Viner’s 2003 play, My Name is Rachel Corrie, have to do with how this vibrant 11-year-old spent the first half of the second half of her short life. In the play, the actress acts out a kid growing into adolescence and young adulthood. The scenes are based on diaries and correspondence Rachel’s parents shared with the playwright. Watching the monodrama, one can sense, through the diaries being declaimed, a powerful, rich, resonant feminist voice beginning to emerge.
The optimistic kid we see in the video above never lost that hope.
There’s always an abundance of hopeful kids. Not all of them are attractive young white Americans, though.
All around the world, whether it is in Darfur, East Timor, Juarez, Anchorage, Tehran or Hebron, some young optimistic kid in the 5th grade has an abundance of hope. There are scores of millions of hopeful kids like Rachel Corrie. Many will get eaten by the machine before they reach adulthood. 99 point something of these kids aren’t white, so we’ll probably never know whether or not the way the machine ate them was significant.
When Corrie was killed, seven years ago today, it was the eve of our Iraqi invasion and occupation. We’ll never know whether or not the war’s outbreak attenuated coverage of her death. It wasn’t covered, though.
The only extensive article on her death appeared in the September-October 2003 edition of Mother Jones magazine. The article’s author, Joshua Hammer, concluded:
Five days after her death, Rachel Corrie’s body was shipped home to Olympia. The [IDF] has since pulled out of the northern part of Gaza, but demolitions along the Pink Line continue. The inquiry promised by Ariel Sharon cleared the soldiers of any wrongdoing, and momentum has faded for a U.S. congressional investigation. A skeleton staff at the ISM Rafah ofﬁce spends most of its time attempting to revitalize Corrie’s sister-city project. And Corrie herself has faded into obscurity, a subject of debate in Internet chat rooms and practically nowhere else. [emphasis added]
He was wrong. Why?
Around the same time, other remarkable young American women had their lives swept up or away in the growing conflagration of multiple wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Exactly one week after Rachel Corrie was killed in Gaza, U.S. Army SPC Lori Piestewa was severely injured, when vehicles in her unit made a wrong turn and ended up being ambushed in the Iraqi city of Nasiriyah, a town the unit was supposed to bypass. According to another woman in Piestewa’s unit, Jessica Lynch, "Piestewa was wounded in the head, and it was impossible to perform delicate neurosurgery in an Iraqi civilian hospital in wartime conditions (such as intermittent electric power). In a U.S. military hospital with reliable power and neurosurgeons available around the clock, she might have survived.)."
Lynch was also seriously wounded, and Iraqi medical personnel managed to stabilize and save her, even as American Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s fantasy machine began creating a labyrinth of myths about the incident. Shoshana Johnson, another member of the unit in which Piestewa and Lynch served, was also captured, and shown alive on Iraqi television.
Just over two years later, on April 16, 2005, American peace activist Marla Ruzicka, who was working in Iraq on a project that sought to reliably account for the number of civilian deaths caused by the deteriorating occupation war there, was killed by a roadside bomb on the Baghdad Airport road. Ruzicka, like Corrie, was assisting a non-governmental organization when she perished. Unlike Corrie, Ruzicka had been able to see some of her notable efforts come to fruition, both in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Rolling Stone noted, "Ruzicka is perhaps the most famous American aid worker to die in any conflict of the past ten or twenty years. Though a novice in life — she had less than four years of professional humanitarian experience — her death resonated far beyond the tightly knit group of war junkies and policymakers who knew her. She stands as a youthful representative of a certain kind of not-yet-lost American idealism, and darkly symbolic of what has gone so tragically wrong in Iraq."
A movie about Ruzicka, titled Sweet Relief, and starring Kirsten Dunst, has been in "development" by Paramount since before her death, but as yet, there is no movie. The current projected release year is 2011.
Though the powerful play about Rachel Corrie had difficulties getting a premiere performance in the United States, once the ice jam broke, there have been a number of productions, and perhaps hundreds of readings. In the past few months, My Name is Rachel Corrie has been produced in Spanish in Buenos Aires, in Greek in Athens, and in Arabic in Haifa.
The documentary, Rachel, by Simone Bitton, has caused controversy, most notably when it was shown as part of the 2009 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (Bitton is Israeli).
New productions of Viner’s play and showings of Bitton’s documentary often spark dialogue in the communities or at the larger events in which they are shown. From the beginning of Viner’s play’s runs, there have been requests or demands from segments of the local Jewish communities that the play or documentary be given "context." That has often meant discussion groups, lectures, distribution of written materials and debates. It has also often meant angry op-eds in the local papers and demonstrations outside of the productions. Media coverage of the play and the documentary has often centered as much on the demonstrations as it has on the play or movie.
And, like media coverage of the Tea Party, for instance, the image presented from the news isn’t always accurate. A good example of that might be BBC coverage of the London premiere of my own art about Rachel Corrie, the cantata The Skies are Weeping, in November, 2005. On the evening of the performance, outside of the Hackney Empire Theatre, where the work was presented, there were three demonstrations about the performance. There were rows of signs, with images of The Forgotten Rachels, and scores of demonstrators with graphic signs. All three of the protesting groups were Jewish, the BBC TV report announced. What they failed to disclose though, was that two of the demonstrating groups were protesting in favor of the performance. Eventually, BBC apologized to the concert organizers (another Jewish group, Jews for Justice for Palestinians) for their inaccurate coverage.
II. In the seven years since Rachel Corrie’s death, some of the causes in which she believed have been transformed. Some of the transformations have been positive. Others have been awful.
She died defending the house of a family she had come to know. It was one of many hundreds of houses the Israelis were demolishing in Rafah. Eventually, the IDF destroyed Samir Nasralla’s house. But the house has since been rebuilt, and Israeli military operations in Rafah are now limited to totally outrageous invasions, rather than day-to-day casual destruction of a city of 71,000.
Since Rachel Corrie perished, the Israel Defense Forces have killed almost 2,000 Lebanese civilians, almost 1,500 Palestinians in Gaza, and many Palestinian civilians in the occupied territories of the West Bank. They have gratuitously caused the largest oil spill in the history of the Mediterranean, and immense destruction of antiquities and archeological sites in Lebanon.
Gaza’s infrastructure is in ruins and the 1.5 million civilians there have been compared to the Soviet citizens of Leningrad during that city’s besiegement in World War II, to people in a vast, open-air prison, and to the Na’vi, in the movie Avatar.
Israeli encroachments on Palestinian land in the West Bank relentlessly continue. Destruction of archeological sites in the West Bank and East Jerusalem happen on a weekly basis.
So why is this "transformed"? This level of destruction of Lebanon by the IDF isn’t as horrific as was that during the earlier war against that country, but it is more of the same. And the Israelis have been slowly stealing and appropriating Palestinian lands on the West Bank for almost 43 years.
The transformation has been apparent mostly since the 2009 Gaza War. As the title of Norman Finkelstein’s new book, This Time We Went Too Far – Truth & Consequences of the Gaza Invasion, implies, many people in Europe and North America who had previously supported IDF incursions, invasions, occupations and so on, reached their limit in early 2009, as they witnessed what is very difficult not to characterize as an atrocious war crime.
An earlier watershed was the August 2007 publication of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, written by John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt. The book’s almost encyclopedic coverage of how this lobby often inhibits two of the three branches of American government from crafting policies that suit our own long-term interests rather than those of Israel, has had a profound impact. Particularly, the book’s conclusion "that when the Lobby succeeds in shaping U.S. policy in the Middle East, then "Israel’s enemies get weakened or overthrown, Israel gets a free hand with the Palestinians, and the United States does most of the fighting, dying, rebuilding, and paying," is again and again resonating in sometimes startling ways.
The most recent example has been the leaked powerpoint presentation given on January 16 by CENTCOM’s commander, Gen. Petraeus, and the context that presentation’s announcement has had this past few days. Petraeus, echoing Mearsheimer and Walt, proposed moving jurisdiction over Israel and Palestine to CENTCOM (the Central Command, which oversees our ongoing wars) from EUCOM (European Command). The argument’s central point has been distilled in an article for Foreign Policy, by Mark Perry:
David Petraeus sent a briefing team to the Pentagon with a stark warning: America’s relationship with Israel is important, but not as important as the lives of America’s soldiers. Maybe Israel gets the message now.
III. This past week, we’ve had the purposefully stunning public humiliation of the Vice President of the United States by the Israeli Prime Minister, a detailed and harsh response to that humiliation from our Secretary of State, increasingly successful boycotts of Israeli products created on lands in the West Bank stolen from Palestinians, the opening of the Rachel Corrie civil suit in Haifa, and the possibility of the reopening of investigations into the severe injury of American Tristan Anderson by IDF forces in the West Bank.
These mostly unconnected events are not being greeted in a vacuum. Typically, as Mearsheimer and Walt documented so thoroughly in their book, and was amply shown by the pushback against its publication and dissemination – Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Clinton, President Obama, Gen. Petraeus, the supporters of Corrie’s trial, the supporters of Tristan Andeson’s vindication, and the hundreds of people writing about these items of interest, have all been branded as anti-Semites, in articles, press releases, statements and blog posts. Polemicist John Podhoretz is calling for American Jews to abandon the anti-Semitic Democratic Party.
Writer-blogger Philip Weiss may have best summed up the sea change we’re currently undergoing in an article yesterday at Mondoweiss:
When both Joe Biden and General David Petraeus are reported to say that the special relationship is endangering American soldiers, they are only saying what Walt and Mearsheimer said in their historic paper four years ago, and what Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, described as the blinding flash of the obvious. But remember, Walt and Mearsheimer could not publish their paper in the United States, and when their book came out, the joke was that a lot of people in D.C. were reading it in brown paper covers, lest they be called anti-Semites.
You could not say that Israel was hurting our interests because Abrams, Libby, Wurmser, Feith, Frum, and Wolfowitz were helping guide the ship of state through the seas of Islamophobia. And intellectuals were just as afraid of the policers of official understanding, of Alan Dershowitz, Jeffrey Goldberg, Larry Summers, Richard Haass, and David Remnick and Bob Silvers too–Silvers who has never run a review of The Israel Lobby.
Now that atmosphere is changing, even in power circles. Of course, the best reflection of the change is Andrew Sullivan’s remarkable shift. Sullivan was not deterred by Leon Wieseltier’s calling him an anti-Semite, because he knows, the issue is just too important to world peace not to keep talking.
I don’t think you can say enough about Gaza, Goldstone, and the grassroots. Gaza vindicated those of us on the left who said that Israel was treating Palestinians like animals; and instead of understanding the moment and engaging the critics honestly, Israel hunkered down and smeared the critics, thereby discrediting itself in Europe and among young American peace types. I can point to many important moments over the last year: we have the crazy video from Judaized East Jerusalem to thank, the young bloggers of the Gaza war, the suppressed Max Blumenthal video from Jerusalem, and the silent demonstration outside the Waldorf last week with its swarming pro-Israel loonies.
IV. Back in 2003, 2004 and 2005, when tributes to Rachel Corrie were being suppressed, canceled or "postponed," courageous supporters of her idealism kept pushing, even in the face of threats, personal attacks and shunning from within their professional communities. Even as one Joshua Hammer after another wrote that she" ha[d] faded into obscurity," the relentless progress of projects seeking to portray her idealism for what it truly was and is, went on. And still goes on.
The comparisons between what Corrie sought to achieve, people drawn toward her story have hoped to show, and what policy makers on high levels are now attempting to bring to public attention all fall back onto what General Petraeus’ January briefing illustrated: That lack of peace and justice toward the Palestinian people by the Israeli government and armed forces hurts America and our fighting forces in serious ways, and the simplest remedy might be to seriously consider advancing peace and justice for those very people.
Even though the civil trial over the circumstances of Rachel Corrie’s death is getting scant coverage in the American media, the ideas she stood for, and for which her parents have been such powerful advocates are now unavoidably coming through in many arenas simultaneously.
Next week, the 2010 AIPAC Conference will occur. Most likely, the keynote address speaker, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, will once again repeat the mantras about "our closest ally, the only democracy in the Middle East, whose interests and ours are irrevokably linked," etc. But there will probably be an edge to her remarks that, though invisible to some, will show to people aware of this sea change, where the Obama administration might take this evolving relationship next.
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