On April 10, Rachel Corrie would have celebrated her 39th birthday, perhaps together with friends and family in Olympia, the small town in the state of Washington where she grew up and studied. And she would have probably continued her activism for peace and justice which led her in her youth to join the International Solidarity Movement to support the rights of the Palestinians.
But Rachel, a quiet girl who kept to herself, lost her life on March 16, 2003, only 25 years old, under the tracks of one of the Israeli army’s armored bulldozers while she was trying to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian house in Rafah, in the Gaza Strip. On Friday, her parents and the foundation that bears her name reminded us all of her courage. Commemorations were also held in Gaza, where Vittorio Arrigoni will also be remembered in a month’s time, six years after he was brutally murdered.
So many things have changed in Gaza — and all for the worse — compared with January 2003, when the young American woman left for Rafah. These were terrible months, with the Israeli army committed to demolishing hundreds of homes along the border between Gaza and Egypt during the Second Palestinian Intifada. Death, blood and destruction were the order of the day, but there was no way to tell that just a few years later, Gaza would become a de facto open-air prison, controlled by Israel and Egypt, in which over two million Palestinians are now forced to live.