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(en) Palestine, Rafa, Starhawk: A Bone from Rafah (Cuppied from www.infoshop.org/inews/stories.php)

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 30 Mar 2003 11:07:31 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

While bombs are falling on Baghdad, killing uncounted
numbers, and my friends around the world are
marching, blockading, shutting down corporations and
roadways and cities in protest, I find myself in Rafah, at
the southern border of the Gaza strip, dealing
intimately with one woman's death.

A week ago Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by a
bulldozer as she tried to prevent it from demolishing
Palestinian homes. I've come down here to support her
friends and the activists who were with her and saw the
murder. Their accounts leave no doubt that the soldier
who drove the bulldozer saw her and chose to kill her.

Rachel has become a 'shahid', a Palestinian martyr. She
is, in fact, one of over a thousand shahids from this
intifada. Their posters adorn walls all over Palestine.
They are the fighters who are killed in battle and the
children shot on their way to school. They are the
suicide bombers and the boys who throw stones at tanks
in a gesture of defiance, and the 'collateral damage'
every time the Israelis blow up a political leader in a
crowded tenement with missiles. And now they include
Rachel, with her all-American blond beauty. On one
poster: she looks earnest and sweet as any graduating
student in High School yearbook. In another, she is
giving a speech, hair tied back, mouth open, her whole
face ablaze with passion.

I'm listening to her friends describe her death and
holding their hands as they cry and thinking about how
all of this pain and grief and sorrow is being multiplied
over and over again right now, in Baghdad, on people
who are nameless and faceless and not reported on by
our media. As Rachel's death would have gone
unremarked had she been Palestinian. You didn't hear,
I imagine, about the death of .Ahmed, a fifty year old
street cleaner from Rafah, who heard about Rachel's
death and stepped outside to smoke a cigarette. He was
gunned down on his doorstep, for no particular reason
anyone can fathom. He has his own Shahid poster,
which is up on the wall next to Rachel's, and we mourn
him, too.

The Palestinians have traditions about Shahids--the
poster is one. The Shahid's body is not touched with
water: the blood on the body is sacred, and bloody the
body is laid into the grave.

These traditions are of some comfort to the
Palestinians but are difficult for her friends who cannot
escape her face and their loss anywhere in this city, and
who struggle to remember her not as a saint but as the
real woman that she was: sometimes strong, sometimes
weak, sometimes loving, sometimes irritable, funny,
annoying, angry<all the things human beings are.
Rachel was a courageous woman but no more so, really,
than any of these others who have come here on their
school breaks or in the midst of their life changes to
stand in front of tanks and walk kids to school and
sleep in a different, threatened house each night. They
are all remarkable, courageous--which doesn't mean
noble and saintly but just that at some point in their
lives they decided not to let fear stop them from doing
something they hope will make some slight positive
impact on an unendurable situation. What is
remarkable about them is that they are not so
remarkable, not really so different than anyone else. A
laid-off dot commer, a football player, a website
designer, a student, a sweet young man who drives a
horse and carriage in the park:some are deeply
political, involved in actions for many years. Some just
somehow found themselves drawn to come here.

I am drinking coffee with Chris, who was Rachel's friend
and encouraged her to come to Gaza, and Mohammed,
who has lived his whole life in the Gaza strip and works
with a human rights agency. Mohammed is telling us
how he felt on his trip to Japan when he took the train
from Tokyo to Osaka.

"I had never before been such a long way without a
single checkpoint, without having to show a passport or
an ID card, without seeing a soldier," he says. "That was
when I knew what freedom felt like." We are talking
about sadness and death and what we believe. Iıve been
having ongoing dialogues with various friends about
compassion, and I admit that I just canıt get there with
the bulldozer operator. The closest I can come to
compassion is a kind of blank incomprehension. Chris
suggests that Rachel died because the soldier didn't see
her. Not that he didn't see her physically, for it is only
too clear that he did, but that in some larger sense he
didn't See her, see her as a human being, see her as a
precious life to be valued.

That Unseeing is the root of my own peopleıs
relationship to the Palestinians. I was never taught to
hate them--only to discount them. When they taught
me the story of Israel's founding in Hebrew School, the
Palestinians were brushed aside, either not mentioned
or dismissed as somehow not mattering.

I can understand how, to my grandmother raised in
abject poverty in a Russian shtetl and living in
slightly-less-abject poverty in Duluth, the Palestinians
could disappear<she never came to this land, never met
one of its people. I can comprehend how Jews from the
concentration camps and refugees fleeing Nazi Europe
could long for a state of their own, and how from
Hitler's Germany Palestinians werenıt much of a visible
presence in the consciousness of terrified people
needing a refuge.

But those who were actually there on the land, creating
the 'facts on the ground' of their time, must have
noticed and deliberately chosen to unsee that there was
another people standing in the way, doing their best not
to be bulldozed into oblivion. As Sharon and Bush and
all their supporters and all who stand by silently and
justify the current murders don't see. As we are not
shown the victims of the bombs of Baghdad.

There's a Bible story haunting me that seems tangled
up with this all. It's one they never focused on in
Hebrew School--the story of the Levite and the
Concubine. It goes like this:

A Levite was travelling with his concubine and is given
shelter for the night by an old man in the town of
Gibeah in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin. During
the night a pack of men demand to have sex with him.
Instead, the host and the Levite send out the
concubine, who is gang-raped and left for dead on the
doorstep. When the traveller reaches home, he cuts up
her body into twelve pieces and sends one to each tribe,
to call them to war.

The war is bloody and involves several rounds of
smiting and killing sixteen thousand here, twenty
thousand there, in a frenzy almost as senseless as our
current assault on Iraq, until Benjamin is defeated and
all the other tribes swear not to give their daughters to
wife with Benjamin. Whereupon they realize they have
committed genocide, wiped out a tribe of their own.
Repenting of this ethnic cleansing, they find some
innocent town which has not participated in this oath
and simply kill all the men and all the women who have
known men, and give all the virgins to Benjamin.

I am thinking about this as I try to fathom what has
been done to the mind of the bulldozer operator to
make him capable of deliberately crushing a beautiful
young woman under his machine, and trying to
comprehend the hatemail and diatribes her death has
evoked along with the paeons of praise and the martyr

And I conclude that the soldier was only doing what
colonization makes necessary. To be a colonizer, we
cannot afford to see the colonized as fully human.

So when you tell me, "The Palestinians are taught to
hate--Barak offered them everything but they donıt
want peace--they don't love their children--they are
animals--there is no one to talk to" I say, "That is what
colonization requires you to believe."

It diminishes you, as the driver of that bulldozer is
diminished by his act far, far more than the crushing of
Rachelıs body can ever diminish her.

And if I could, I would send you a bone. Not to call you
to war, but away from it. Something you cannot avoid
seeing, touching. Something to make the blood on our
hands visible, unmistakeable. A limb, a shoulder, a
hunk of flesh dripping real blood, from the rubble
beneath the bulldozer, the doorstep, from the child shot
dead in the gunfight or buried under the house, from the
bomb shelters of Baghdad and from the bloody busses
of Tel Aviv. A bone red with blood to say:

This is what colonization requires: blood soaked sand,
holy earth defiled with death, human sacrifice.


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