Rachel Corrie’s lesson

Natalie Cornett is a senior at Loretto High School in Sacramento and an active member of Amnesty International and the International Solidarity Movement

Two years ago, a promising college student traveled to Israeli-occupied Palestine determined to fight for the right of the people there to live in peace and for an end to the exile, suffering and humiliation that has been the result of a long occupation. Her name was Rachel Corrie. She felt the pain of the Palestinians.

She went there to help, to make it known that someone cares, sees the injustice and wants to stop it. Corrie stood against a bulldozer carrying the label “Made in the USA,” and she was reduced to the rubble left in its wake. That bulldozer keeps going.

The machine that killed her was partially funded by U.S. tax dollars. Between $3 billion and $4 billion goes to Israel each year in the form of military aid and grants. Our U.S.-made Caterpillar bulldozers and weapons provide the means for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to raze the homes and fields that form the Palestinians’ livelihood. Our aid also helps fund illegal settlements in Jerusalem and on the West Bank.

Corrie’s brave attempt to stop yet another demolition of a Palestinian home by the IDF was a bold step in a direction in which many dare not go. Her work may have instigated real change in Israel: Recently, the IDF agreed to stop home demolitions as a means of punishment, after finding that demolitions actually inflame the Palestinians rather than deter them. Home demolitions are still in effect for those Palestinians unable to obtain building permits, but at least some small steps have been taken to ultimately end this harmful practice.

Corrie’s actions illuminate the desperation of Palestinians today. They live in fear of the next large-scale punishment the Israeli government will invoke on the civilian population for the work of terror groups operating inside their makeshift country. They live under an occupation that constantly reminds them that their claim to ancestral lands is invalid because of another people’s so-called right to live there.

Rachel Corrie stood for their pain and unequivocal right to self-determination, and she wanted to lift their pleas to the attention of the world’s ears. Only in death did she accomplish this. Now it is up to us to listen and respond in kind.