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The Film Rachel

By Ben Ikari

No account other than the film “Rachel” has been able to explain who Rachel Corrie was and what happened to her. According to Joel Beinin, who is a Donald J. Mclachlan Professor of History at Stanford University and a “contributor of Middle East Report.”

“Rachel” made by Simone Bitton is the "must thorough, credible and transparent investigation yet conducted into how the young American Peace Activist died" and who was responsible for the killing in Rafah Gaza strip.

Corrie was a 23-year-old activist with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). She's born on April 10, 1979, in Olympia, Washington and killed on March 16, 2003. Corrie was killed by the driver of an armored Caterpillar D9R Bulldozer while she's protesting the destruction of Palestinians homes.

The activist joined ISM to Palestine in August 2001, when Gaza-based activists such as Ghassan Andoni, formed a non-violent international movement that will draw the world's attention to the plight of the oppressed people of the region.

When Corrie arrived in Gaza, she saw the kinds of devastation the people face. In her March 14, 2003 interview with the Middle East Broadcasting network, she said, “I feel like I'm witnessing the systematic destruction of a people's ability to survive.”

“Sometimes I sit down to dinner with people and I realize there is a massive military machine surrounding us, trying to kill the people I'm having dinner with,” Corrie said.

And in one of her many letters to her parents, Craig and Cindy Corrie, she's quoted thus: “Coming here is one of the best things I've ever done.”

Bitton, the film producer, captured "Rachel," which helps people understand Corrie and her predicament with oral testimonies, documents, photographs and video footage.

Meanwhile, in April 2003, Israel's National Center of Forensic Medicine released an autopsy report that attributed Corrie's death to “pressure on the chest (mechanical asphyxiation) with fractures of the ribs and vertebrae of the dorsal spinal column and scapulas, and tear wounds in the right lung with hemorrhaging of the pleural cavities.”

Israeli military reports also said the death of Ms. Corrie was not caused as a result of a direct action by the bulldozer or by its running her over.

This assertion doesn't convince Bitton. On camera was “the Israeli military police officer who led the investigation expressing a twinge of doubt about his own conclusions.” “He admits that he did not visit the site of the Nasrallah home and relied primarily on the testimony of soldiers. Nasrallah's home was a pharmacy that was destroyed when Corrie was protesting.

Among the eyewitnesses he did not interview were the ISM volunteers who saw the bulldozer run over Corrie from a distance of as little as ten yards. "They maintain that their comrade was quite purposely run over, not once, but twice,” Beinin 2009 report said.

One important thing to note in this issue is that the American government has refused to launch its independent investigation even when under Pres. George W. Bush it's believed Israel hadn't done a thorough and satisfactory investigation.

The Corries had in 2003 requested the American Embassy in Israel to send a representative to be present during the coronary test since they couldn't attend. According reports, the Corries received a letter stating it wasn't possible for a U.S. representative to be there.

Finally, the film Rachel doesn't specifically attribute the death of the victim to anyone. “It does some of what a court should have done,” said Bitton. And, this is to scrutinize the Israeli government's position on Corrie. This position suggests that she put herself in harm's way even though the government's sympathy is extended to her family for her untimely death. And that, the driver didn't see her. It's a position critics and eye-witness have classified as spurious.

Rachel, however, goes beyond the peace activist as many others such as James Miller a Welsh filmmaker was also shot and killed by Israeli military in May 2003. Jonathan Pollak, an Israeli Jew, has also been shot several times while demonstrating non-violently against Israeli military occupation of Gaza, etc.

Rachel significantly tells the debilitating story of a people daring to live, but occupied by Israel with support from the America's and Western governments. This story is told through the lifeless body of an America nonviolent and peace volunteer. It tells a story of repression, injustice, extrajudicial killings, complete state of fear and more.

It's of course a call for a change in the way America handles Israel-Palestinian situation with pressures from the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and other pro-Jewish groups. Rachael is a film which attracted the outrage of Jewish-Americans when it's to be shut in parts of America. The irony though is that these Jewish-Americans are in America enjoying the freedom and peace they've helped to deny the children and people of Palestinian. Worst still, anyone (including the deceased parents), who speak against Israeli occupation, terrorism and crimes against humanity in Palestine is tagged “anti-Semitist” and Israeli basher.

This is the unfortunate mix and woes of the Israeli-American relationship. A near-death penalty hangs on anyone who avers the principles of freedom of speech and expression, even of the press as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. This is really unfortunate because one don't need to be a Jew, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, traditional religionist or atheist to know when Israelis or Palestinians and their supporters are right or wrong. According to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.