Upcoming Events: March 12-16, 2023

Sunday, March 12: WORT interview with Masafer Yatta Activist
Thursday, March 16: Cindy and Craig Corrie on WORT
Thursday, March 16: Tantura Film and Discussion

On Sunday March 12 at 5 pm, tune into WORT’s World View program for a taped interview with Masafer Yatta activist Ali, who will discuss the current situation of Israeli army and settler attacks and Palestinian resistance there.  (The interview will be aired after the news.)

Thursday March 16, 2023 marks the 20th anniversary of the killing of Rachel Corrie in Rafah. We continue to mourn her loss and celebrate her life. We will never forget her.

Locally, we invite you to tune in to WORT Radio’s A Public Affair with host Allen Ruff at 12 noon on Thursday March 16, 89.9 FM or listen on line for a live conversation with Rachel’s parents Cindy and Craig. 

A Public Affair with host Allen Ruff
WORT 89.9 FM Madison

Live Interview with Cindy & Craig Corrie, parents of Rachel Corrie
Thursday, March 16, 2023 10-11 am PDT; Noon-1pm CDT; 1-2 pm EDT

The Corries will talk with host Allen Ruff about their daughter, 20 years of the Rachel Corrie Foundation, RCF’s kinship with the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, and the foundation’s commitment to Gaza and to Palestinian rights today, as startling events continue to unfold in the region.

The hour-long program can be heard live at the WORT 89.9 FM website here. The program will be archived at the WORT 89.9 website for later listening, as well.

At 9 pm CT on March 16, we also invite you to join a zoom showing and discussion of the new film Tantura, about the 1948 massacre in that village, co-sponsored by the Rachel Corrie Foundation as part of a year-long commemoration. 

Mideast Focus Ministry 10th Annual Film Series
Break the Silence – Stories of Occupation
Tantura: Film & Discussion

Thursday – March 16, 2023, 7 pm PT

Zoom only: Register for a link to this film and discussion by requesting a link at seattlemideastfocus@gmail.com

Our colleagues at the Mideast Focus Film Series at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle will commemorate the twentieth anniversary of Rachel’s death with a film screening and discussion of the film Tantura:“When Israeli graduate student Teddy Katz meticulously documented a massacre of Palestinian civilians surrounding Israel’s independence, he was initially celebrated for his groundbreaking work. But soon, he was stripped of his degrees and was publicly shamed as a fraudulent traitor. Decades later, incendiary new evidence emerges to corroborate Teddy’s initial findings, not just vindicating him, but raising profound questions about how Israelis—and we all—deal with the darker chapters of history.”

The discussion will feature a pre-recorded interview with director Alon Schwarz.

Learn more and watch the trailer here.

No Path to Justice

Israeli Forces Keep Killing Americans While U.S. Officials Give Them a Pass

Rachel Corrie stands in front of an Israeli bulldozer to protest the destruction of Palestinian homes along the Rafah-Egypt border on March 16, 2003. Corrie was killed later the same day.
Photo: Courtesy of the Corrie family

Alice Speri, The Intercept, July 13 2022

Nearly two decades before Israeli forces killed Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, shooting a single bullet into her head while she was reporting from the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, an Israeli soldier drove a bulldozer over American peace activist Rachel Corrie, crushing her to death.

Both killings left little real doubt about the dynamics at play. Abu Akleh was standing with a group of colleagues, wearing a vest clearly marked “PRESS,” nowhere near the fighting that had taken place earlier that morning. Corrie was nonviolently protesting the demolition of a Palestinian family’s home in Gaza. She was wearing a fluorescent orange jacket with reflective stripes and had been on the scene for several hours, at times speaking into a megaphone.

In the moments before her death, Corrie was standing in the path of the bulldozer as other activists had been doing throughout the day. As the driver pushed the machine forward, she climbed onto a mound of dirt so she would be clearly visible, according to witness testimony reviewed by The Intercept. The driver kept advancing. When she fell to the ground, the dirt engulfed her, but the driver moved several feet forward before backing off, effectively crushing her twice. The possibility that he did not see her, as he later claimed, defies all credibility. Still, the Israeli government never took responsibility for her death, and while the U.S. government rejected the results of the Israeli investigation, it did nothing to ensure that such a killing would not happen again. So it did.

RAFAH REFUGEE CAMP, GAZA STRIP - MARCH 16:  American peace activist Rachel Corrie lies bleeding while being helped by colleagues after she was run over by an Israeli bulldozer March 16, 2003 in the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza strip. Corrie was killed by an Israeli bulldozer when she tried to stop it from destroying a Palestinian house in the Rafah refugee camp. Corrie was a member of the International Solidarity Movement.  (Photo by International Solidarity Movement/Getty Images)

    Rachel Corrie lies in the dirt, waiting for medical help with three other International Solidarity Movement activists, after she was crushed under an Israeli bulldozer in Rafah, Gaza, on March 16, 2003.
    Photo: International Solidarity Movement/Getty Images

Corrie was killed on March 16, 2003, when she was 23. Twelve years later, on the anniversary of her death, her parents and sister met with Antony Blinken for the last time. The deputy secretary of state spoke to them in the sincere way they had come to know well. “Come back anytime,” he told them as the meeting came to a close.

The Corries didn’t want to come back. They had been meeting with Blinken for years, and they were tired. When he asked, earnestly, “What can I do for you?” they felt frustrated. “I appreciate your kindness,” Craig Corrie told Blinken. “I’m glad you are personally engaged. But unless you engage your institution, it doesn’t do me any good.”

“He’s asking, what can I do for you,” Cindy Corrie, Rachel’s mother, told The Intercept. “But there’s a point at which it’s like, what are you guys going to do?”

“I can’t tell you what tools you have to use,” echoed Sarah, Rachel’s sister. “You need to be telling us.”

Rachel’s killing had brought the Corries to hundreds of offices like Blinken’s over the years but nowhere closer to the accountability they were seeking. Blinken, today the secretary of state, was one of several senior U.S. officials who worked closely with the family during their yearslong crusade for justice and one of a number who now occupy top positions in the Biden administration. The Corries liked him, and they appreciated his efforts and warmth. In emails, he signed himself “Tony.” He always responded to their letters and regularly met with them for longer than scheduled.

Ultimately, however, Blinken failed them.

As they prepared to leave his office for the last time, Sarah told him: “There was a promise made to the president of the United States from Prime Minister [Ariel] Sharon of a thorough, credible, and transparent investigation. Your government said that that never happened; that promise was never fulfilled,” she recalled. “You’ve still got a problem here.”

Blinken nodded. “I know.”

“I think in some way I needed them to say no. If they weren’t going to do anything, that’s what I needed to hear out of that meeting.”

Walking away, Sarah knew she was done. Blinken had asked her to follow up with an email; she wondered why she should be the one do that, why one of the staffers in the room couldn’t take notes. “I felt like we could go on like this for the rest of our lives,” she said. “I think in some way I needed them to say no. If they weren’t going to do anything, that’s what I needed to hear out of that meeting.”

Sarah was 29 when her sister was killed, and since then she had devoted herself completely to lobbying the U.S. government for action. “You think about what your life is in your 30s, developing your career, raising your family,” she said in an interview last month. “Mine was this process.”

She had been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease before Rachel was killed, but the stress of the last 12 years had taken a toll on Sarah’s health. The day of that meeting with Blinken, she felt too sick to get out of bed but powered through it. She had two more meetings at the Senate that day. In the hallway outside Blinken’s office, she remembered the words of another senior official, Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s chief of staff at the State Department at the time of Rachel’s death: “You’re doing the right thing,” Wilkerson had warned the family. “But you may never see results, so don’t lose your health.”

Those words haunted Sarah now. “I’m not going to lose my health over banging my head against the wall,” she finally decided. “I knew at that point I couldn’t keep doing this. I had reached my limit.”

Cindy, Sarah and Craig Corrie at Sarah's home in Olympia, WA July 10, 2022. Kholood Eid for The Intercept

    Cindy, Sarah, and Craig Corrie at Sarah’s home in Olympia, Wash., on July 10, 2022.
    Photo: Kholood Eid for The Intercept

That was in 2015. Since then, Cindy and Craig Corrie have continued to honor Rachel’s memory through the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice. They launched a sister city partnership between Olympia, Washington, where she grew up, and Rafah, the city on the Egypt-Gaza border where she was killed. They speak in support of Palestinians at events around the world. In meetings with activists, Cindy sometimes found herself defending Blinken to critics of U.S. foreign policy. “I told them I did feel this was a good person, who cared and did try to help,” she said. “And I believe Tony Blinken wants the best for Palestinian people too.”

Blinken did not respond to The Intercept’s request for comment, but a State Department spokesperson wrote that the administration stood by the statements of previous administrations. “Rachel Corrie’s death was tragic and this administration reiterates our condolences to her family,” the spokesperson wrote. “The U.S. consistently called for a thorough, credible, and transparent investigation into Rachel Corrie’s killing.”

Sarah was not much of an activist herself, but she had seen it as her civic duty to ensure that her government worked as it was supposed to. The endeavor of lobbying U.S. officials to do something about Rachel’s killing had become all-consuming, barely leaving time to grieve. After the last meeting with Blinken, she stored the piles of documents she had accumulated over the years and tried to focus on her life. She took up dance classes and flight lessons.

When the Corries gave up, the U.S. government’s effort to get accountability for Rachel also came to an end. “When we stopped, they stopped,” said Craig. “That wagon was in a bunch of mud. If you weren’t pushing on it, you didn’t go anywhere.”

Then in May, Abu Akleh was killed. Several independent investigations, including one by the United Nations, concluded that she was shot by Israeli forces, describing the shooting as “targeted” and the bullet that killed her as “well-aimed.” Her death was referred to the International Criminal Court. But following a tested playbook in such situations, the Israeli government refused to take responsibility.

11 May 2022, Palestinian Territories, Gaza City: Children take part in a candlelight vigil to denounce the killing of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh. Abu Akleh, 51, a prominent figure in the Arabic news service of the Al-Jazeera channel, was shot dead earlier today during a confrontation between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians in the West Bank city of Jenin. Photo: Mohammed Talatene/dpa (Photo by Mohammed Talatene/picture alliance via Getty Images)

    Children take part in a candlelight vigil to denounce the killing of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on May 11, 2022, in Gaza City.
    Photo: Mohammed Talatene/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

Another American Killed

For weeks after Abu Akleh’s death, her family and a growing number of people, including members of Congress, called on the U.S. government to conduct its own independent investigation.

U.S. officials eventually responded to those demands by reviewing and “summarizing” the investigations conducted by Israeli and Palestinian officials. In a statement issued on the Fourth of July holiday, the State Department said that investigators “could not reach a definitive conclusion regarding the origin of the bullet” that killed Abu Akleh. While they noted that “gunfire from [Israel Defense Forces] positions was likely responsible” for her death, they found “no reason to believe that this was intentional but rather the result of tragic circumstances.”

It was a deeply disappointing conclusion for those who had hoped that the probe would yield stronger condemnation or a path toward accountability.

The Abu Akleh family rejected the findings, denouncing their lack of transparency and questioning their political nature. “The notion that the American investigators, whose identity is not disclosed in the statement, believe the bullet ‘likely came from Israeli positions’ is cold comfort,” they wrote in a blistering statement. “We continue to call on the American government to conduct an open, transparent, and thorough investigation of all the facts by independent agencies free from any political consideration or influence.” They demanded a meeting with President Joe Biden during his trip to Israel and the West Bank this week. The White House did not answer a question from The Intercept about Biden’s plans to meet with them.

“In the days and weeks since an Israeli soldier killed Shireen, not only have we not been adequately consulted, informed, and supported by U.S. government officials,” they wrote to the president, “but your administration’s actions exhibit an apparent intent to undermine our efforts toward justice and accountability for Shireen’s death.”

B’tselem, an Israeli human rights group, called the outcome of the U.S. review a “whitewash.” A colleague of Abu Akleh’s at Al Jazeera wrote that the State Department’s statement felt like the journalist “was shot again today.”

In the U.S., progressive legislators introduced an amendment to the defense budget to force the State Department and the FBI — which regularly investigates serious crimes committed against U.S. citizens overseas — to investigate Abu Akleh’s killing, though the amendment failed to pass. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., a co-sponsor of the bill and the first Palestinian American in Congress, also called for an ombudsman investigation of the State Department’s response.

Jamil Dakwar, a Palestinian American human rights lawyer who has advised the Corries since 2003, told The Intercept that the U.S. government was “effectively an accomplice” in Israeli crimes.

“Had it been any other foreign government, there would already be a Shireen Abu Akleh and Rachel Corrie Accountability Act and sanctions leveled against that country and its highest officials for killing an American human rights activist and journalist with impunity,” Dakwar said. “Frankly, I would not trust the United States with conducting a credible and independent investigation into serious abuses by close U.S. allies such as Israel. The price tag for real accountability is too high.”

The State Department did not address The Intercept’s questions about how U.S. officials conducted their review, and a department spokesperson struggled to answer reporters’ questions about it at a briefing last week. Still, the fact that such a probe even happened, however cursory and flawed, was a sign of the increasing pressure the Biden administration has come under following Abu Akleh’s killing.

A man walks past a mural depicting slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed while covering an Israeli army raid in Jenin in May, drawn along Israel's controversial separation barrier in the biblical city of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank on July 6, 2022. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP) (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images)

    A man walks past a mural of slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in the occupied West Bank on July 6, 2022.
    Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. government never investigated the killing of Rachel Corrie, despite dozens of members of Congress calling for such an investigation at the time. Nor has it investigated the deaths of other U.S. citizens at the hands of Israeli forces, including 18-year-old Turkish American Furkan Dogan, one of nine peace activists killed by Israeli soldiers in 2010 aboard the Mavi Marmara, a flotilla headed for Gaza to deliver humanitarian supplies; 16-year-old Mahmoud Shaalan, an unarmed Palestinian American boy killed in 2016 while crossing a checkpoint in the West Bank; and 78-year-old Omar Assad, a former Milwaukee grocery store owner who died of an apparent heart attack earlier this year after Israeli soldiers dragged him from his car, then blindfolded and handcuffed him.

The U.S. government also failed to investigate severe injuries inflicted on several American citizens by Israeli forces, including the 2014 beating of 15-year-old Tariq Abu Khdeir, who was visiting family in Jerusalem from Florida. A day earlier, Abu Khdeir’s 16-year-old cousin Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who was not a U.S. citizen, had been kidnapped by Israeli settlers and burned alive.

On each occasion, and as they did for weeks after Abu Akleh’s killing, U.S. officials — some of them the same individuals the Corries met with over the years — called on Israel to carry out a “credible” investigation. It was hearing those words again that drove the Corries to reluctantly end their silence about the conversations they had with members of the U.S. government and how fruitless the years of behind-the-scenes efforts in Washington had been.

“They shouldn’t have to be asking the exact same questions we were asking in 2003,” said Sarah, speaking of Abu Akleh’s family. “My question to the Biden administration is, what are you doing differently for Shireen’s family that you didn’t do in our case, so that they will get accountability? What’s your real expectation here? There has to be a little bit more honesty about that, and if they’re not going to be honest, then I have to speak up again.”

Cindy Corrie holds a letter from Colin Powell expressing condolences for her daughter Rachel's death. Kholood Eid for The Intercept

    Cindy Corrie holds a letter from Secretary of State Colin Powell, dated March 20, 2003, expressing condolences for her daughter Rachel’s death.
    Photo: Kholood Eid for The Intercept

Breaking the Silence

As public as they had been in their efforts to get answers about Rachel’s killing, and as outspoken as they remain about the Palestinian cause, the Corries never talked in detail about their private discussions with U.S. officials, at first because they trusted that the process would yield the results they were seeking and later because revisiting the odyssey felt too overwhelming. The experience of seeking justice for Rachel, they say, at times felt just as traumatizing as her death itself.

“Emotionally, it’s damaging to keep having to go back and revisit it over and over,” said Sarah, who stopped counting the family’s meetings with U.S. officials when they reached 200, years ago.

“We deal with Rachel not being here, and in a lot of ways that’s just a part of our lives,” her mother said. “But the process of seeking the accountability that she deserved, that all these people deserve, the intensity of that … it was such a long struggle.”

Over two days last month at Sarah’s home in a suburb of Olympia, the Corries spoke at length about their conversations with senior officials, including Blinken, CIA Director William Burns, and staffers working closely with Biden during his time in the Senate and as vice president. Sarah dug out the old boxes of documents and shared dozens of files detailing the efforts of U.S. officials to pressure Israel into an investigation and their unequivocal rejection of its conclusions. The documents, a selection of which The Intercept is publishing, include communications with current and former senior officials, notes from meetings, and hundreds of pages the Corries obtained through public records requests, such as diplomatic cables, internal State Department memorandums, and letters between the Bush and Obama administrations and members of Congress.

“The process of seeking the accountability that she deserved, that all these people deserve, the intensity of that … it was such a long struggle.”

Together, the files and the Corries’ testimony paint a damning picture of the futility of U.S. efforts to seek accountability. The documents show that several senior officials attempted for months to extract answers from their Israeli counterparts. But the lack of political will on the part of the U.S. executive branch and Congress to impose consequences for Israeli human rights abuses reduced those efforts to meaningless gestures, with all players involved fully aware that they would lead to no real change.

When they embarked on that process, however, the Corries knew none of this. So when they learned that Anton Abu Akleh, Shireen’s brother, had expressed the desire to meet with them, they readily agreed. “There is no manual,” Craig said of the battle for justice. “We wanted to warn them.”

On a Zoom call last month, the Corries spoke to members of the Abu Akleh family, who called in from Jerusalem and elsewhere in the U.S. Even over video, they felt immediately connected.

It was a heartbreaking meeting. “It is really hard to see the situation continue the way that it is … knowing that it might be decades before they find any satisfactory — or maybe unsatisfactory — answer, until the point that they just get tired,” Cindy said. “They’re going through the exact same thing,” echoed Craig, “trying to keep control as best as they can over this process.”

There had been early signs that the U.S. response to Abu Akleh’s killing might be different, like the fact that Blinken personally called her family to offer the administration’s support. Colin Powell never called the Corries, they noted, though he wrote them a letter of condolence. But those hopes quickly faded, and the results of the U.S. probe earlier this month all but put an end to them.

A Rafah mural in downtown Olympia, WA July 10, 2022. Kholood Eid for The Intercept

    The Olympia-Rafah solidarity mural project in downtown Olympia, Wash.
    Photo: Kholood Eid for The Intercept

“The U.S. can do whatever they want; at the end of the day, they are a superpower,” Lina Abu Akleh, Shireen’s niece, said in an interview in June, before U.S. investigators reached their conclusions. “But they haven’t been doing what they’re supposed to do, which is protect their citizens outside of the U.S.”

Of course, it shouldn’t matter that Shireen and Rachel were American citizens — something the Corries have long stressed throughout their advocacy on Rachel’s behalf. Israeli forces have killed more than 10,000 Palestinians since the end of the Second Intifada in 2005, at least 50 this year alone, virtually all without accountability.

“The Corries have painfully learned firsthand that while they were welcomed to bring Rachel’s case to America’s halls of power and even extract expression of sympathy from U.S. officials, Rachel’s case is no different from thousands of Palestinians who were victims of Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity over the last seven decades,” Dakwar, who co-represented the family in a civil suit against the Israeli government, told The Intercept.

Still, the U.S. is Israel’s closest ally, and Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II — to the tune of $146 billion in military assistance and missile defense funding. The U.S.-made bulldozer that killed Rachel Corrie was sold to Israel through a Defense Department program, and the Abu Akleh family has asked U.S. officials to “clarify the extent to which American funds were involved” in her killing.

While the Corries also fought a decadelong legal battle against the Israeli government, they placed greater expectations in their own government’s ability to deliver justice. The U.S. government’s failure, in the end, was more devastating. “I have very little say over what the Israeli government does, but I have a much greater responsibility for what my own government does,” Sarah said.

As they sat in Sarah’s dining room, surrounded by artwork she had collected over months spent in Haifa when the lawsuit against the Israeli government went to trial, the Corries sometimes quibbled over details of their recollections. They had also come to process their experiences in different ways. Sarah was more outspoken about her deep frustration with U.S. officials. Cindy stressed how grateful and indebted the family felt toward the individual officials who showed them so much kindness. She remembered meeting former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer in his home, for instance, after he left the diplomatic corps, and talking to him for hours. “He never acted like we should leave,” she said. “I’m pretty sure that with everything else that was going on, I never wrote him a thank-you note.”

Cindy sometimes feels that the family gave up fighting too soon — that if they had kept traveling to Washington and kept pushing for more meetings, then maybe Abu Akleh’s family wouldn’t be in the same position today.

“There’s a burden on our shoulders every time somebody is seriously injured or killed, particularly when it’s a U.S. citizen; you always feel like if we could have just done something more, that maybe we could have helped,” Sarah said. “But it’s not really a burden any family should carry. It really is a burden that the United States government should carry.”

Sarah Corrie sifts through old photos of her sister Rachel at home in Olympia, WA July 10, 2022. Kholood Eid for The Intercept

    Sarah Corrie sifts through old photos of her sister, Rachel, at home in Olympia, Wash., on July 10, 2022.
    Photo: Kholood Eid for The Intercept

The Only People on the Hill

The United States invaded Iraq three days after Rachel was killed, but for weeks leading up to the attack, the prospect of war dominated public discourse. In emails to her parents, Rachel often wrote about the impending war alongside accounts of Israeli violence. In her last email, she thanked them for their anti-war work.

With the invasion around the corner and their daughter in Gaza, Cindy and Craig Corrie had begun to follow in her footsteps. In North Carolina, where they lived for a short time, Cindy joined a peace group, and days before Rachel’s death she traveled to Washington, D.C., for an anti-war rally. She had never been on the Hill before, but she and Craig had campaigned for Washington Rep. Brian Baird, so she decided to go to his office to relay the injustices her daughter had been writing home about. She called Rachel from Union Station that day to make sure the details were accurate. It was the last time they spoke.

Baird, who served in Congress until 2011, recalled meeting Cindy in an interview with The Intercept. “I told her, ‘We’re about to launch an invasion of Iraq. … You’ve got to tell your daughter to be super careful right now, because with the war about to happen, all eyes will be away.’”

Less than a week later, Sarah learned of her sister’s killing when the news broke on television. She was at home in Olympia when a friend left a voicemail telling her how sorry she was. Sarah didn’t know what she was talking about. She turned on the news and read, “Olympia woman killed in Rafah, Gaza.” Moments later, her sister’s name was flashing across the ticker.

Sarah called everyone she knew who might know somebody in government. The family didn’t know what they were supposed to do, whether they should be traveling to Israel, or how to bring Rachel’s body home. When Sarah reached Baird on the phone, he immediately asked, “Was your mother in my office last week?”

Baird told Sarah he would be on the Hill the next morning to meet her parents, who had gotten on a flight back to D.C. “I will help them,” he promised. He spent the rest of his time in Congress making good on that pledge.

“I felt a moral obligation,” he told The Intercept, “to ensure that our country investigated fully how one of our citizens was killed by a country that receives billions of dollars of U.S. foreign aid, that we consider an ally.”

Baird’s congressional office became the Corries’ headquarters for those first, frantic days, and Cindy and Craig recall that time of anguish as one interspersed with countless gestures of humanity. On the Tuesday after Rachel was killed, a staffer brought them sandwiches when he realized they had not eaten since Saturday. In the rush of leaving home, Craig had packed pillowcases instead of shirts; Baird offered him one of his own. Craig remembers laughing at that: “You’re a U.S. congressman, and you just offered me the shirt off your back,” to which Baird replied that he had “a clean one.” At one point, Craig lay down on the floor, overwhelmed. He remembers the congressman gently draping a blanket over him.

WASHINGTON - MARCH 19:  A photograph of peace activist Rachel Corrie (L) is on display next to her father Craig, mother Cynthia, and brother Chris Corrie March 19, 2003 in Washington, DC. Rachel Corrie was killed in the Gaza Strip by an Israeli army bulldozer March 16, 2003 as she was trying to prevent the bulldozer from destroying a Palestinian home. U.S. Representative Brian Baird (D-WA) introduced the family and is working to have the U.S. government investigate the incident.  (Photo by Stefan Zaklin/Getty Images)

    The Corrie family calls for a U.S. investigation into Rachel’s death during a press conference hosted by Rep. Brian Baird, D.-Wash., in Washington, D.C., on March 19, 2003.
    Photo: Stefan Zaklin/Getty Images

The Corries spent the next weeks, months, and years on an exhausting tour of Washington offices. Baird introduced a resolution calling for a U.S. investigation of Rachel’s death, and members of her family, including uncles and aunts, hand-delivered personal requests for signatures to every single office in Congress. Seventy-seven representatives signed on, but the bill was never moved to a vote.

Sarah and Rachel had grown up in a state capital, with politically engaged parents who would rush the kids home when there were important hearings on TV. Despite her experience, Sarah still fundamentally believes in the promise of the U.S. government to do the right thing and of its citizens’ responsibility to help it get there. “I’m very realistic, I think anybody that has walked down the halls of Congress is very realistic,” she said. “But what do you do if you give up on that hope?”

So the family traveled across the country every three months to meet with anyone who would meet with them. They scheduled as many as 10 appointments a day. They would catch overnight flights from Seattle, quickly change, and be on the Hill by 9 a.m. Often, Rachel’s aunts would join them from Iowa, riding Greyhound buses to the capital because they didn’t like to fly. In Iowa, where Craig and Cindy had grown up, relatives pounded the campaign trail, asking candidates to address Rachel’s killing.

“I think anybody that has walked down the halls of Congress is very realistic. But what do you do if you give up on that hope?”

The family prepared packets for everyone they met, with photos of Rachel, background information, and clips about the latest news from Palestine. Sarah carried around two large folders labeled “Corrie Case files for Washington DC” and “Rachel Files DC Work.” After their meetings, they would sit down in a café, without talking to one another, to write down everything they remembered and compile a meticulous record. It was full-time, often discouraging work.

Someone had advised them early on to focus only on Rachel’s death, that speaking out in support of Palestinians wouldn’t get them far in Washington. “You can talk about the cause of Rachel, but you can’t talk about Rachel’s cause,” that person told them. They did the opposite. All along, they were fully aware that few Palestinians would get the same access to U.S. officials — which made their sense of responsibility even heavier.

Most of the work involved teaching U.S. officials about a place and context they knew almost nothing about. They had to “explain Rafah to people,” said Sarah, pulling out maps and showing where Gaza was, where Israel planned to build a wall. “So many offices really didn’t have a clue,” she added. “We recognized very quickly that it was not just about educating about what happened to Rachel and trying to get accountability, but it was also trying to get some information back to them.”

Most officials and staffers listened intently and compassionately; a few went out of their way to help. At one point, Sarah got Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., to hand-deliver a letter she had written to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. William Burns, who at the time was assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, called Craig to encourage him and Cindy to travel to Gaza after Rachel’s death. “‘You need to go,’” Craig remembers him saying. “He wanted us to see it firsthand.” The State Department had an advisory in place warning Americans against traveling to Gaza — something the Israelis later used to suggest that Rachel was responsible for her own death. But Burns didn’t seem concerned about that. “Stay with the Palestinians,” he told the Corries. “They will keep you safe.”


    Craig and Cindy Corrie pose for a photo with the Nasrallah family, whose house Rachel was defending in Rafah, Gaza, in 2003.
    Photo: Courtesy of the Corrie family

The Corries traveled to Gaza several times and met with the Nasrallah family, whose home Rachel was protecting the day she was killed. A spokesperson for the CIA wrote in a statement to The Intercept that when Burns was a State Department official, “he had the opportunity to meet with the Corries and express his heartfelt condolences as they worked with U.S. officials to pursue a full and transparent investigation of their daughter Rachel’s tragic death — an investigation for which he strongly advocated.”

Some officials were dismissive or unresponsive. Others simply never found time for them. Once, after a rare, unpleasant meeting during which a congressional staffer had berated them, a receptionist asked to meet the family in a discreet corner of Congress’s cafeteria, where, watching his back, he apologized for the way they had been treated.

At times, the Corries felt like they were barely being tolerated. They laughed when public records they obtained included a comment from a Justice Department staffer to an official in Congress, saying, “The family is not going to go away, so slow walking a decision is just going to make the committee’s life more difficult and subsequently yours as well.” In executive offices in particular, the Corries sometimes felt like they were being given the runaround. They began to jokingly refer to it as being “woozled,” after the woozles haunting Winnie the Pooh’s nightmares. “We’ve been woozled by the best,” Sarah told her father when they left Blinken’s office for the last time.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) shakes hands with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem on May 25, 2021. - The US top diplomat, on a regional tour this week in the Middle East, vowed support to help rebuild the battered Gaza Strip and shore up a truce between Hamas and Israel, but insisted the territory's Islamist militant rulers would not benefit from any aid. (Photo by Alex Brandon / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ALEX BRANDON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, shakes hands with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem on May 25, 2021.
    Photo: Alex Brandon/AFP via Getty Images

Some officials told the Corries privately what they would never say publicly. A longtime congressman warned them, “Nobody will ever tell you no. And nobody will ever do anything.” A senior staff member in Biden’s office encouraged them to keep up their advocacy for Rachel as well as the Palestinian people: “You have to keep doing this because you are the only people on the Hill talking about this.”

There were uplifting moments, sometimes funny ones. Once, Sarah spilled her latte over the papers of Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s chief of staff — she immediately went to the gift shop and bought a mug with a lid, which she nicknamed “the Nancy Pelosi.” The family became friendly with security guards on the Hill and the shuttle driver who ferried them to the city from their cheap hotel on the outskirts of D.C. After a few trips, the driver asked why they kept coming back, and they told him Rachel’s story. From then on, he dropped them off at the Capitol with a “You go get them!”

For Baird, the family’s champion in Washington, the experience was a disillusioning one.

Some people went to bat for them, he stressed, aware that it could be career-ending. “There are members of the State Department who know full well the imbalance of our relationship with Israel, they know full well the damage that does to our integrity and our standing, and they know full well that their hands are tied by the American political system,” Baird said. “And it breaks their heart.”

“Nobody will ever tell you no. And nobody will ever do anything.”

The best-intentioned efforts were ultimately undermined by foreign policy priorities that were at odds with the quest for justice, Baird realized. The same dynamic is now playing out in the aftermath of Abu Akleh’s killing — and the killing of U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist assassinated at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul at the behest of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In the absence of U.S. action, those responsible for such abuses know that “as time passes, we will forget about it,” said Baird. “And that encourages them to act with impunity.”

Baird’s greatest frustration was with his fellow members of Congress. After speaking up on behalf of the Corries, he faced a barrage of accusations that he was antisemitic. Criticizing Israel, he quickly learned, inevitably led to lost funding and votes. “For having the audacity, the hubris, the courage maybe, to investigate the death of one your own constituents, you get essentially branded as a nonsupporter of Israel,” he said. “There is a reinforced lack of objectivity and curiosity, and there is a reinforced, reflexive obedience and repetition of the Israeli line.”

That level of conformity to the Israeli position has been challenged in recent years, as a number of legislators have questioned U.S. support for Israel in light of ongoing abuses and growing solidarity with Palestinians among the American public. But those voices remain a small minority in Congress. While some legislators have issued a flurry of statements in recent months — about Abu Akleh’s killing but also other Israeli abuses — their concerns are a long way from shaping U.S. foreign policy.

GAZA CITY, GAZA STRIP - APRIL 13: Child members of The Mini Palestinian Parliament burn toy bulldozers as a symbol of the D9 Bulldozers made by Caterpillar Company (CAT) and supplied to the Israeli military, during a rally to commemorate the death of Rachel Corrie, April 13, 2005 in Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip. Rachel Corrie, a U.S. volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement was killed by an Israel military bulldozer in Rafah two years ago on March 16, 2003 when she tried to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home and during the rally the Palestinian children demanded that the Caterpillar Company (CAT) stopped the sales of the bulldozers to the Israeli army.  (Photo by Abid Katib/Getty Images)

    Children burn toy bulldozers in a Rafah refugee camp on April 13, 2005, during a rally to protest the killing of Rachel Corrie.
    Photo: Abid Katib/Getty Images

“Are We Going to Do Nothing?”

Lawrence Wilkerson learned early in his time as chief of staff to the secretary of state that the United States was simply “in a different relationship with Israel than any other of its allies.”

He remembers sitting in a meeting with top Bush administration officials at the height of Israel’s targeted assassination campaign, during the Second Intifada. More than once, Israeli forces firing Hellfire missiles from Apache helicopters had targeted militant leaders but killed children and other civilians in the process. This was a war crime, Wilkerson said, and it was a violation of U.S. law, which prohibited the use of U.S. military sales for the kinds of activities the Israelis were engaging in. He recommended a strongly worded rebuke but was overruled.

“We had photographs of the women and children who had died,” Wilkerson recalled. “And I said, ‘This is going to happen again, and again, and again. Are we going to do nothing each time?’”

He looked around the room. “There was no answer to my question.”

Wilkerson has since come to regret his role in the Bush administration and doesn’t mince words, particularly about the Iraq War. In an interview last month, he spoke for the first time about the key role he played in seeking accountability on behalf of the Corrie family — and how his efforts ultimately fell short.

Powell, the secretary of state, had been locked in a power struggle with other members of Bush’s Cabinet over foreign policy issues, Wilkerson said, and when Rachel was killed, he instructed Wilkerson to make her case a priority, even though it was not for the administration. “He said, ‘I want you to take this on, and I want you to do the best you can, and I want you to be speaking for me.’”

With that mandate, Wilkerson became a staunch advocate for the Corries, who remember him, along with Baird, as one of the officials who worked the hardest to get the U.S. government to do something about Rachel’s killing. For his part, Wilkerson came to see parallels between Rachel, as her family described her, and his own daughter.

“We had photographs of the women and children who had died. And I said, ‘This is going to happen again, and again, and again.’”

In the aftermath of Rachel’s killing, Sharon had personally promised Bush that the Israeli government would undertake a “thorough, credible, and transparent” investigation. Documents the family shared with The Intercept show that several State Department officials, including Wilkerson, repeatedly took up the case with their Israeli counterparts, receiving similar commitments.

U.S. officials also made commitments. “When we have the death of an American citizen, we want to see it fully investigated,” Richard Boucher, a State Department spokesperson, said at a public briefing three days after Rachel’s killing. “That is one of our key responsibilities overseas, to look after the welfare of American citizens and to find out what happened in situations like these.”

The Israeli government conducted two investigations. The first, by the Israel Defense Forces, was an inquiry normally carried out by the military unit involved in an incident and intended to identify operational issues. The second, by the military police, was supposedly more thorough. But both investigative processes are regularly mired in flaws, as human rights observers have repeatedly detailed. “At the heart of the problem is a system that relies on soldiers’ own accounts as the threshold for determining whether serious investigation is warranted,” Human Rights Watch concluded in a 2010 report. “Exculpatory claims of soldiers are taken at face value, at best delaying and at worst foreclosing a prompt and impartial investigation worthy of the name.”

U.S. officials soon came to similar conclusions in Rachel’s case. When he first saw a copy of one of the two investigations — he couldn’t remember which — Wilkerson told Kurtzer, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, “This stinks.” He instructed Kurtzer to relay to the Israelis that they needed to do “a better investigation.” And he pressed his own contacts within the Israeli military about the inconsistencies in the report but “never got really good, satisfactory answers.”

Other State Department officials also raised objections. “Many questions remain unanswered,” Kurtzer wrote in a letter to the Israeli minister of defense. “I must inform you that my government does not consider this matter closed.”

The full military police report was never released to the U.S. government, and only after considerable pressure were its conclusions made available to U.S. officials. Later, after yet more pressure, some U.S. officials were allowed to see a copy of the report. One of them was Richard LeBaron, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. LeBaron flagged “several inconsistencies worthy of note” in a memo to the State Department.

The Corries were also eventually allowed to review the report at the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco. The consul there had offered his condolences after Rachel’s killing, and when Cindy thanked him for that, he stressed awkwardly that it had been “a personal call,” not on behalf of his government. He then led the Corries into a room where he handed them a single paper copy of the report and told them he would be gone but that they could stay as long as they needed. The Corries took that as tacit permission to copy the report word for word. Like the operational investigation that preceded it, the military report cleared the IDF of any wrongdoing. The Intercept reviewed copies of both.

Perhaps the strongest condemnation came from Wilkerson, in a letter to the Corries about a year after Rachel’s death. “Your ultimate question,” he wrote, “is a valid one, i.e., whether or not we view that report to have reflected an investigation that was ‘thorough, credible and transparent.’ I can answer your question without equivocation. No, we do not consider it so.”

That statement, which the Corries quoted for years as they sought further U.S. action on the case, had come with Powell’s signoff, Wilkerson told The Intercept. While his letter to the Corries was private, it was intended to be a record of the U.S. government’s rejection of the Israeli investigation. Wilkerson also encouraged the Corries to file records requests for official deliberations about the case and fast-tracked those they sent to the State Department.

“I was aware of the fact that I was speaking to the Corries as the United States government,” Wilkerson told The Intercept. “That doesn’t mean that the president agreed with me or the vice president agreed with me. They probably couldn’t have cared less.”

Cindy and Craig Corrie at their daughter Sarah's home in Olympia, WA July 10, 2022. Kholood Eid for The Intercept A framed photo of Rachel Corrie at her sister Sarah Corrie's home in Olympia, WA July 10, 2022. Kholood Eid for The Intercept

    Left: Cindy and Craig Corrie pose for a photo at their daughter Sarah's home.
    Right: A framed photo of Rachel Corrie at her sister Sarah's house.

    Photos: Kholood Eid for The Intercept

Rewriting History

There are a number of laws the U.S. government could wield to hold Israel accountable for human rights abuses, including provisions under the Foreign Assistance Act, the Arms Export Control Act, and the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which was signed into law in 2017 and allows for sanctions against individuals “responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”

There are also the “Leahy laws,” named after Sen. Patrick Leahy, which limit the ability of the State and Defense departments to provide military assistance to foreign units that have a record of human rights violations.

As they searched for avenues to accountability, the Corries met with Leahy’s office several times, and through public records requests, they learned that U.S. diplomats had flagged Rachel’s killing early on as a potential “Leahy case.” But there was no impact on U.S. security assistance to Israel, and while Caterpillar Inc. temporarily suspended delivery of some bulldozers to the IDF, the sales soon resumed. A civil suit the Corries brought against the bulldozer manufacturer in the U.S. was dismissed on the grounds that, because the vehicles were sold to Israel as part of a U.S. military program, a ruling would intrude upon the foreign policy authority of the government.

With Wilkerson’s help, the Corries also pushed for a U.S. probe of Rachel’s death. Like the Abu Akleh family today, they couldn’t understand why the FBI never investigated her killing. So far, the Justice Department, which would need to authorize such an inquiry, has given no indication that it plans to do so in Abu Akleh’s case.

The Corries met with several Justice Department officials and filed records requests to understand why an investigation was never authorized. In the process, they were told that no attorney general “past, present, or future” would certify such an investigation against Israel. “My guess is that either [the attorney general] made the decision on his own with a telephone call to [Vice President Dick] Cheney, or Cheney made the telephone call himself to the AG and made sure that he was not going to do something in this case,” said Wilkerson. A spokesperson for the Justice Department declined to comment.

Lawrence Wilkerson is a retired United States Army Colonel and former chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell. Wilkerson has criticized many aspects of the Iraq War, including his own preparation of Powell's presentation to the UN. (Photo by Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images)

    Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, stands for a portrait on Aug. 29, 2014.
    Photo: Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images

By 2005, with the Israeli investigations concluded and little prospect of further U.S. action, the Corries decided to sue the Israeli government. Once again, it was Wilkerson who suggested it. During a late 2004 meeting with several senior officials held in Burns’s office — though Burns was not in attendance — Wilkerson raised a few eyebrows when he unexpectedly quipped, “If it were my daughter, I’d sue.” The family hadn’t considered the prospect until that point. Craig remembers asking those in the room whether the U.S. government would do anything to stop the family if they did sue. He already knew it wouldn’t help.

Wilkerson told The Intercept that he had hoped a lawsuit could offer the Corries the satisfaction of a legal authority ordering the Israeli government to at least reopen the investigation into Rachel’s killing. “When we struck out completely with the AG, with the IDF, with the ambassador, and with the Israeli government, I said to them, ‘There is one element of Israel’s power that’s still legit: It’s the court system,’” he recalled. “Of course, by the time they got into the court system — it’s my view anyway — it had been corrupted too.”

It took five more years for the trial to begin. The Corries relocated to Haifa for months on end. They described the proceedings as a “kangaroo trial,” a “farce.” The hearings, held in Hebrew, were riddled with delays and errors, with translators sometimes relaying to the judge the very opposite of what someone had testified. Sarah knew on day one that they were never going to win.

HAIFA, ISRAEL - 28 AUGUST:  (L-R) Sister Sarah Corrie, father Craig Corrie and mother Cindy Corrie of US peace activist Rachel Corrie sit in the Haifa District Court on August 28, 2012 in Haifa, Israel. 23-year-old Rachel Corrie was run over by an Israeli army bulldozer in Gaza in 2003. Judge Oded Gershon and the Israeli court have reached a verdict today statting that Israel is not to blame for her death and that it was a ''regrettable accident''.  (Photo by Avishag Shaar-Yashuv/Getty Images)

    The Corrie family sits in the Haifa District Court on Aug. 28, 2012, in Haifa, Israel.
    Photo: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv/Getty Images

Still, the family showed up for every hearing. They obtained the court transcripts, paid for them to be translated, and sent them to several offices at the State Department so there would be a record somewhere in the U.S. government, Sarah said. She wanted the U.S. government to bear witness to the trial, and every time a hearing was scheduled, she notified the embassy in advance, asking the office to send a representative to the courtroom.

On the day of the bulldozer driver’s testimony — behind a screen protecting his identity — the Israelis had packed the small courtroom so that journalists and human rights observers couldn’t get in. Sarah had to argue with court officials to make sure the U.S. consul general would be allowed into the room. Still, U.S. representatives were not there in an official capacity and made no comments. On only one occasion, outside Israel’s Supreme Court, the consul hugged Craig before the cameras — as close to a statement of support as the U.S. government would give.

“You have to document everything. Because down the road, in history, it will all be rewritten to the way that somebody else wants it to be, and that won’t be the truth.”

The yearslong trial was harrowing for the family, but it was also an opportunity to finally get some answers. In court, the Corries learned that the coroner in the case was still in possession of parts of Rachel’s body, a decade after her death. Sarah screamed when she found out. The family had agreed to the autopsy on the condition that a representative from the U.S. Embassy be in the room. But nobody from the embassy was there — the office later said it was not aware that had been the family’s wish. The Corries ultimately received Rachel’s last remains in 2016, after yet another lawsuit.

In 2012, an Israeli district court judge ruled that the IDF was not to blame for Rachel’s death and that she alone was responsible. The family appealed, and in 2015, 10 years after they first sued, the Supreme Court of Israel upheld the ruling.

By that point, the Corries’ battle had moved on to ensuring that the U.S. government did not backtrack on its earlier condemnation of the Israeli investigation. The “whitewash” had already begun, said Sarah, whose lobbying in later years became about challenging the “rewriting of history.” That’s in part why she kept such a thorough record. “You have to document everything,” she said. “Because down the road, in history, it will all be rewritten to the way that somebody else wants it to be, and that won’t be the truth.”

A pile of documents involving Rachel Corrie's death is stacked at Sarah Corrie's home in Olympia, WA July 10, 2022. Kholood Eid for The Intercept

    Binders of documents regarding Rachel’s killing are stacked at Sarah’s home in Olympia, Wash., on July 10, 2022.
    Photo: Kholood Eid for The Intercept

As the years passed, U.S. statements about the killing in press briefings and State Department reports grew weaker. In frustrated emails to Blinken, Burns, and others, Sarah reminded them that the U.S. government itself had found the Israeli investigation to lack credibility. “There is no walking back,” she wrote. “It is unacceptable for the Administration to repeatedly reiterate these positions in correspondence, conversations, etc. with our family, in unequivocally strong terms, but then fail to address them as forcefully when asked for public comment.”

At the last public mention of the case from a U.S. official, in 2015, then-State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said that officials didn’t have “anything new” to say about it.

“The reality of it is, there will never be the truth,” Wilkerson now says. He also offered a word of caution about the U.S. government’s repeated failure to hold Israel accountable for its crimes. “This was my point the whole time I was in government, and it’s my point now to whomever will listen: We’re not being a good ally. We are setting Israel up to one, apartheid, two, pariah status in the international community, and three, an untenable future. … This is not good for Israel.”

Sarah Corrie sifts through old photos of her sister Rachel at home in Olympia, WA July 10, 2022. Kholood Eid for The Intercept

    Sarah sifts through old photos of her sister, Rachel.
    Photo: Kholood Eid for The Intercept

Most Powerful People in the World

The Corries first met Blinken in Jerusalem in March 2010. Biden had sent Blinken, then national security adviser to the vice president, in his place after the family requested a meeting. Just before the meeting, Israeli officials seized on Biden’s trip to the region to announce the construction of 1,600 new illegal settlements in East Jerusalem. Blinken was furious and made no secret of it.

The episode was emblematic of the ways in which U.S. officials would express anger and indignation about Israel privately, issue careful, critical statements, and then ultimately do nothing to ensure consequences.

In May, Sarah watched the video of a Palestinian American student snubbing Blinken’s handshake at a graduation ceremony, in protest of the administration’s response to Abu Akleh’s killing. When he later met with that student, Blinken reportedly told her, “I see you, and I hear you.”

Sarah thought he was sincere. She and her parents had been there before, experiencing both the genuine compassion of U.S. officials and its pointlessness in the absence of meaningful action. It was a failure larger than the secretary of state or any other individual official, they came to understand. But these were the most powerful people in the world, and they had achieved nothing. The United States government had been impotent.

“These are good people. They are good people who still, as far as our foreign policy is concerned, can’t get accountability and can’t get the job done,” Sarah said. “I know they want accountability for Shireen. But they’ve got to be willing to spend the political energy to go out and get accountability.”

The Biden administration’s willingness to spend political capital for the sake of accountability remains very much in doubt.

On Wednesday, hours before the president arrived in Israel, Blinken called Shireen Abu Akleh’s family to invite them to visit the White House, though he offered no timeline, her niece told The Intercept. The family still doesn’t know whether the president will meet them during his trip.

WORT 89.9 FM: Holding Israel Accountable

Madison Rafah Sister City Project, WORT 89.9 FM, March 16, 2022

“Holding Israel Accountable” is the theme of the Rachel Corrie Commemoration sponsored by the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice and the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project. The commemoration honors the 19th anniversary of the death of the U.S. peace activist crushed by an Israeli bulldozer while trying to peacefully prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home.

This program discusses reports by both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that describe Israel as an apartheid state, and the recent deaths of Omar Abdalmajeed As’ad and Al Haj Suleiman al-Hathaleen at the hand of Israelis.

19th Annual Rachel Corrie Commemoration

Register in advance for this webinar
March 16, 2022, 7 pm CT/5 pm PT

Join the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice and Madison-Rafah Sister City Project for Holding Israel Accountable, a commemorative webinar marking the 19th anniversary of Rachel Corrie’s stand in Gaza.

How do we hold Israel accountable for decades of oppression, displacement, land theft, occupation and loss? At this moment, what are the avenues for seeking peace with justice for Palestinians and Israelis? Five guests, representing many years of experience with this issue, will share their work and current perspectives.

Meet our speakers who represent years of experience with this issue and will on March 16th share their current work and perspectives on the question of Israeli accountability.

 Guest Speakers:

Amnesty International recently published a report calling “Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians a cruel system of domination and a crime against humanity.” Rachel Corrie Foundation March 16th observances are about education, community building, and action. There is work for us all to do – locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. With perspectives as Palestinians in the diaspora, representatives of solidarity organizations, and scholars, our guest speakers will help those of us at the grassroots level think how to effectively challenge Israel’s apartheid system and crimes against humanity that Amnesty International, other human and legal rights organizations, the Palestinian people, and Israeli activists have called out. 

Donations to the Rachel Corrie Foundation on March 16th will benefit the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP).

If you can’t make the March 16th event but wish to contribute to our support for GCMHP in remembrance of Rachel Corrie and the many others lost, Donate Here. Under “Apply my donation to” select Gaza Community Mental Health Programme. Thank you!

Rachel Corrie
Born and raised in Olympia, Washington, human rights activist and observer Rachel Corrie went to Gaza in 2003 with the International Solidarity Movement, a Palestinian-led movement committed to resisting the long-entrenched and systematic oppression and dispossession of the Palestinian population, using non-violent, direct-action methods and principles. While standing in front of a home threatened with demolition by the Israeli military, Rachel was killed when run over by an armored Caterpillar D9R bulldozer operated by two Israeli soldiers. With annual March 16th remembrances, we at the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice seek to bring attention to the loss of lives, lands, freedoms, and opportunities that have continued since Rachel’s stand in Gaza in 2003 and to build and strengthen the community of constructive, nonviolent resisters of which she was a part.

Madison-Rafah Sister City Project
We are delighted to again co-host our March 16 observance with friends at the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project. MRSCP was founded in 2003 by concerned citizens in Madison, Wisconsin, to forge person-to-person relationships with Rafah, Palestine, to increase public awareness of the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and to influence public policy for the benefit of both peoples. Until COVID-19, MRSCP annually hosted an in-person Rachel Corrie commemorative event in Madison.

We are grateful for the support of the following partners who have helped with technical support and getting the word out!

Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights http://www.auphr.org
Bright Stars of Bethlehem-Madison https://www.brightstarsbethlehem.com
Bishop’s Committee for Justice and Peace in the Holy Land https://holylandjustice.org/bishops-committee
Center for Constitutional Rights https://ccrjustice.org
Task Force for Palestinian Human Rights, Episcopal Diocese of Oregon https://diocese-oregon.org
Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA) https://www.fosna.org
The Gaza Mental Health Foundation https://www.gazamentalhealth.org
Jewish Voice for Peace – Madison https://www.facebook.com/jvpmadison
Jewish Voice for Peace – Tacoma https://www.facebook.com/Tacoma.JVP
Jewish Voice for Peace – Seattle https://www.facebook.com/JVPSeattle
Students for Justice in Palestine at UW-Madison https://www.facebook.com/SJPatUW
Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights – University of Washington (SUPER-UW) https://www.facebook.com/SuperUW
Tree of Life – West Coast
US Palestinian Community Network https://uspcn.org

Register HereDonate Here

March 16, 2022
Annual Rachel Corrie Commemoration Online

On the 19th anniversary of the killing of American peace activist Rachel Corrie by Israeli soldiers in Rafah, MRSCP will again join with the Rachel Corrie Foundation to honor Rachel’s life and work, and to raise funds to benefit the people of Rafah.

Join Rachel’s parents Craig and Cindy and a panel of distinguished speakers as we explore the theme of Holding Israel Accountable, and raise funds for a project benefiting Gaza families.

Registration and details coming soon; check for updates at the Rachel Corrie Foundation.

Cancelled March 29, 2020 Tribute to Rachel Corrie: Freedom is the Future

This event with Tarek Abuata has been cancelled by coronavirus precautions.

You can still listen to an interview with Tarek from Gaza on WORT 89.9 FM’s A Public Affair with host Esty Dinur on Friday, March 27 from noon to 1 pm. Call in at 256-2001 or listen live on line.

Tarek Abuata grew up in Bethlehem and moved with his family to Texas during the first Intifada when he was 12. After graduating from the University of Texas Law School, he worked in Ramallah researching legal and policy issues. From 2004 to 2007, he trained Palestinian youth in grassroots organizing and activism, and from 2007 to 2016 he was the coordinator of the Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron. He has been the Executive Director of FOSNA since 2016. In his work in the U.S., Tarek is most interested in connecting struggles at home and abroad for peace, justice and freedom.

Co-Sponsors: Madison-Rafah Sister City Project; FOSNA; First United Methodist; Playgrounds for Palestine-Madison; Jewish Voice for Peace-Madison; UW Madison Students for Justice in Palestine; The Crossing; Bright Stars of Bethlehem-Madison Chapter; WI United Church of Christ Bethlehem Partnership; Interfaith Peace Working Group; Pax Christi Madison; First Unitarian Society Social Justice Ministry; Orchard Ridge United Church of Christ Mission Team; American Friends Service Committee of Madison Friends Meeting; and James Reeb UUC Justice Leadership Team. Welcomed by WORT Radio.

March 3, 2019
Hashtag to Headlines: How the Gaza Great March of Return Challenged the World


Join us for the 2019 tribute to Rachel Corrie
with Ahmed Abu Artema
Writer, refugee and peace activist from Rafah


First Unitarian Society
900 University Bay Drive
2:00 PM – 4:00 PM

Ahmed Abu Artema wrote a Facebook post on January 7, 2018 from his home in Rafah, Gaza that echoed an idea that has reverberated throughout Palestinian history: What would happen if Palestinians marched nonviolently and in large numbers towards the boundary fence with Israel to demand respect for their rights and call attention to the Israeli-imposed blockade that has created hardship for millions of people for more than a decade?

On March 30, 2018, the #GreatMarchofReturn became a reality, grabbing headlines around the world. Ahmed Abu Artema will share his experience with the Great March of Return, his views on the future of nonviolent actions in Palestine, and his vision for a just and lasting peace. He will be joined by fellow Gaza native Jehad Abusalim, Chicago-based scholar and program associate for the American Friends Service Committee’s Gaza Unlocked campaign.

Free and open to the public. Refreshments and desserts including baklawa will be served. Palestinian olive oil, olive oil soap, crafts, and food items will be for sale. Please join us as we honor Rachel Corrie and welcome Ahmed Abu Artema to Madison.

    Sponsors: American Friends Service Committee, First Unitarian Social Justice Ministry, and Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.

    Co-sponsors: American Friends Service Committee-Madison; Amnesty International Group 139; Bright Stars of Bethlehem-Madison; Colombia Support Network; East Timor Action Network-Madison; Interfaith Peace Working Group; James Reeb Peace, Justice and Sustainability Group; Jewish Voice for Peace-Madison; Madison Friends Meeting (Quakers); Pax Christi-Madison; Playgrounds for Palestine-Madison; UNA-USA Dane County; Wisconsin Network for Peace, Justice and Sustainability: and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom-Madison.

Ahmed Abu Artema is a 34-year-old Palestinian journalist, poet and peace activist. He is the author of the book “Organized Chaos” and his writings have been published in the New York Times, 972 Magazine, The Nation, Common Dreams and Mondoweiss. One of the founders of the Great March of Return, he has been interviewed by NPR, Middle East Eye, Al Jazeera, and CNN. His family was forced from Al Ramla village in Palestine in 1948 and he was born and grew up as a refugee in Rafah Camp in the Gaza strip, unable to even visit his ancestral home in what is now Israel. He lives in Gaza with his wife and four children. He is on a speaking tour of the U.S. during March 2019 at the invitation of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).

April 8, 2018: Radiance of Resistance,
a Tribute to Rachel Corrie

Featuring Rachel’s parents, Craig and Cindy Corrie

Sunday, April 8
St. James Catholic Church
1128 St. James Court, Madison, WI
2:00 – 5:00 pm

Joe Catron and Islam Maraqa from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) will also be presenting. Rachel was volunteering with this group on March 16, 2003 when she was killed by an Israeli soldier driving a Caterpillar bulldozer as she protested the demolition of a Palestinian family home in Rafah.

A clip from from the new film, Radiance of Resistance, about Palestinian youth activists Ahed Tamimi and Janna Ayyad will also be shown.


PLUS hummus and tabbouleh; desserts including baklawa; and the ever-popular DOOR PRIZES. Palestinian olive oil, olive oil soap, zaatar & maftool, embroidery and other crafts will be available for purchase.

The event is free and open to the public, with a $5 suggested donation to cover cost of food. Donations will be gratefully accepted to help support the Samira Remedial Education Project for disadvantaged and traumatized children in Rafah, the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice, and the ISM tour.

Co-sponsored by Madison-Rafah Sister City Project; Playgrounds for Palestine-Madison; Jewish Voice for Peace-Madison; Good Shepherd Parish Social Justice Committee; Amnesty International Group 139; Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom-Madison Branch; Colombia Support Network; Students for Justice in Palestine-UW Madison; and Bright Stars of Bethlehem. Welcomed by WORT Radio.

If possible, please RSVP to rafahsistercity at yahoo.com so that we are sure to have enough food.

Thursday, April 5, 12-1 pm, WORT 89.9 FM: A Public Affair host Allen Ruff will interview Craig and Cindy Corrie, parents of Rachel Corrie, about their daughter’s legacy and their work on behalf of peace and justice in Palestine during the 15 years since Rachel’s death in 2003. Call in at 256-2001 with your questions and comments, or listen live online.

Joe Catron and Islam Maraqa from the ISM will be speaking and showing the Radiance of Resistance film clip on the UW-Madison campus on Monday, April 9 from 7-9 pm, at the Multicultural Students Center in the Red Gym, 716 Langdon Street, Madison. See UW-Madison Students for Justice in Palestine for more details.

April 8, 2018
Radiance of Resistance: A Madison tribute to Rachel Corrie

Please join us for our Annual Rachel Corrie Commemoration and Benefit

    Sunday, April 8
    St. James Church
    1128 St. James Court
    Madison 2-5 pm

2018 marks 15 years since MRSCP was founded, and 15 years since Rachel Corrie was killed by Israeli soldiers in Rafah, where she was deliberately run over by a Caterpillar® bulldozer as she protested the demolition of a family home. Each year between March 16, the day of Rachel’s killing, and April 10, Rachel’s birthday, MRSCP celebrates her life with an event that benefits Palestinian children.

This year’s program will feature a visit by Craig and Cindy Corrie, Rachel’s parents, and a presentation by Palestinian and U.S. representatives of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), the group that Rachel was volunteering with when she went to Rafah. The event also includes a clip from from the new film, Radiance of Resistance about Palestinian youth activists Ahed Tamimi and Janna Ayyad.

Interfaith Peace-Builders Delegation, Gaza, November 2012

Refreshments including baklawa, hummus and tabbouleh will be served, and the ever-popular DOOR PRIZES will be awarded. Palestinian olive oil, olive oil soap, zaatar & maftool, embroidery and other crafts will be available for purchase.

The event is free and open to the public, with a $5 suggested donation to cover the cost of food. Donations will be gratefully accepted to help support the Samira Remedial Education Project for disadvantaged and traumatized children in Rafah, the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice, and the ISM tour.

Please RSVP to rafahsistercity at yahoo.com so that we are sure to have enough food.

Can’t make it to the event? Consider a donation to the Samira Project in Rachel’s name. You can mail a check with the note “Samira” to

    P.O. Box 5214
    Madison, WI 53705

You can donate online through the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA).

The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization and all donations are tax deductible. Checks to MRSCP will receive a letter at the end of the year acknowledging your contribution. Contributions made online will receive a receipt from MECA.

As always, we appreciate your support and we hope to see you there!

April 8, 2018
Annual Rachel Corrie Commemoration

Mark Your Calendars for Sunday Afternoon

Annual Rachel Corrie Commemoration
Featuring Dessert and a Program
Time and place TBD

2018 marks 15 years since Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli military bulldozer, as she tried to prevent the demolition of a family home in Rafah. 2018 also marks the 15th anniversary of the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.

Join us for this special tribute to Rachel. Refreshments including baklawa and other desserts will be served. As always, admission is free but we will gratefully accept donations to support the Samira Project for disadvantaged children in Rafah. Palestinian olive oil, olive oil soap, ceramics, Hirbawi kufiyahs, embroidery and other crafts will be available for purchase.

Follow us on Facebook and our website madisonrafah.org for up-to-date information. Or contact us at rafahsistercity at yahoo.com.

The Samira Project Needs Your Help Again in 2018

For the third time, the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project (MRSCP) is partnering with the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) and the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice to fund The Samira Project in Rafah.

Clip and return your contribution by mail:


Name:_____________________________ Address_______________________________

City:______________________________________ State___________ Zip ____________

E-mail: ____________________________________________ Contribution: $__________

Organized by the Rafah branch of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC), this project (continued on back side) employs special education teachers and a social worker to provide economically disadvantaged and learning-disabled children age six to twelve, and their families, with psycho-social support.

The Gaza Strip, often described as the world’s largest open-air prison, is already one of the poorest and most crowded places on earth. Since 2006 the Israeli/Egyptian siege has drastically restricted human travel as well as all external commerce. As a result at least 80% of the people live under the poverty line. Unemployment for adults and youth is rampant. The educational system is overcrowded, unstable and inconsistent. Sanitation, water and electrical services barely function. Public services are weak and underfunded, especially those serving mainly women and children.

The recent US defunding of UNRWA, the the UN’s vital refugee support program, threatens to turn crisis into catastrophe. Three-quarters of Gaza’s 1.8 million people are refugees dependent on the schools, hospitals and food distributions of UNRWA just to survive.

The people of Gaza also continue to be subjected to frequent Israeli military land and sea attacks, which three times in the last decade have turned into full-scale assaults and invasions. In 2014, your US tax dollars helped pay for a 50 day Israeli bombardment of Gaza that killed hundreds of children and severely injured thousands more. Entire families were wiped out, and every one of the close to 1 million children in Gaza knows someone who was killed, injured or made homeless.

Children have been affected more than others because every aspect of their lives, especially the education system, has been repeatedly disrupted if not destroyed. Psychologically, the negative impact on children is enormous: nightmares, racing thoughts, nail-biting, panic attacks, uncontrolled urination, violent behavior and hyperactivity are common symptoms. It is estimated that at least 30 percent of all children in Gaza are so severely affected that they require some form of structured psycho-social intervention.

The Samira Project successfully intervenes to develop the children’s skills and increase their ability to learn (especially reading, writing and mathematics); to support them psychologically and socially and rebuild their confidence; to implement scientific solutions to learning disabilities and reduce violent and disruptive behavior; to train families to better support their children; and to create job opportunities for qualified professionals in this field. Field trips, a children’s library and activities such as theater, music, art and reading help the staff to understand the children and create a space for the children to express their feelings.

The total cost of this project for the current phase is $14,049. The Rachel Corrie Foundation has pledged $2000, MRSCP will contribute $2,500, and we need to raise at least $5,500 by June, 2018 so that the project can be fully funded by MECA.

Please consider a donation to The Samira Project. As always, we thank you for your support as we work to mitigate the results of our nation’s disastrous Middle East policy, and ultimately to change that policy toward one that supports peace with justice, equality and human rights for all.

Make checks payable to MRSCP, marked “Samira Project”, and mail to:

    P.O. Box 5214
    Madison, WI 53705

Contributions to MRSCP are tax deductible. Thank you!

Update: April 2, 2017
Rachel Corrie Commemoration: Intimate Portraits of Gaza’s Lost


St. James Church
1128 St. James Ct, Madison
2:00 pm [Map]

Please RSVP to Michele Bahl at mibahl02 at yahoo.com by Friday, March 31.

Intimate Portraits of Gaza’s Lost is based on the #ObliteratedFamilies project by French photographer Anne Paq and Palestinian-Polish journalist Ala Qandil. The project profiles Gaza families partially or entirely annihilated during the Israeli bombardment in 2014. Statistics and figures, political facts and flash point dates too often obscure the staggering consequence of each extinguished life.

#ObliteratedFamilies never departs from the perspective of the witness – the survivors left in grief, the neighbors who last saw the families alive, the friend who tried to find them safe shelter, and sometimes the photographer herself. To view the photos, narratives and projects, visit #ObliteratedFamilies.

Free and open to the public; beverages and desserts including baklawa will be served. Donations will be accepted for the Samira Project for traumatized children in Rafah (or you can donate here). The event will also offer the latest batch of gorgeous many-colored kufiyahs direct from Hirbawi Textiles, the new shipment of Holy Land Olive Oil and our other Palestinian crafts for sale. And don’t miss the return of Door Prizes! We hope to see you on April 2 as we once again reaffirm our commitment to Gaza.

Speaker Bios

Anne Paq is an award-winning freelance photographer and videographer who had lived for more than a decade in Palestine. She has been a member of Activestills photo collective since 2006. Her work has been exhibited worldwide and published in various media outlets such as the NY Times Lens, Paris Match, le Nouvel Observateur, Stern, the Guardian. Her work includes documentation of the Palestinian refugees and popular resistance, the Israeli military offensive on Gaza (2012), subcultures and artists in Gaza. She has also led many participatory media projects in the the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza. She has co-directed the short film “Bethlehem checkpoint, 4 am” (8’59, 2007), co-produced the award-winning documentary “Flying Paper” (52′, 2013) and co-directed “Return to Seifa” (2015, 10’49) and “Gaza: A Gaping Wound” (13’47). In 2014, she documented the Israeli military operation “Protective Edge” and its aftermath in the Gaza Strip. She is the co-author of the award-winning web documentary “Obliterated Families” which tells the story of the families whose lives were shattered by the 2014 Israeli offensive. In 2017, she won the International Photographer of the Year award, in the editorial documentary section.

Ala Qandil is a Polish-Palestinian journalist, a former correspondent of the Polish Press Agency, who had been covering for more than three years political, social, historical and cultural stories from Palestine/Israel and other countries in the region, with special focus on human rights issues, women rights, minorities, non-violent resistance, and including the previous two Israeli military offensives in the Gaza Strip. Qandil has worked with various international and Polish media, including Al Jazeera English and the Middle East Eye, number of weekly magazines and she often appeared as a guest commentator on Polish radio and TV. She produced and co-directed a short documentary about food resistance in Palestine “Resistance Recipes”. Qandil is a co-founder of Reporters’ Collective, an initiative of Polish writers based in Middle East, Africa and Asia, whose goal is to bring quality, in-depth foreign reporting on global issues to Polish audience. During the last two years, in between the work on the “Obliterated Families”, she had reported from the Balkan route and Greece on the stories of refugees arriving in Europe.

The event is co-sponsored by Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, the American Friends Service Committee group of Madison Friends Meeting, Playgrounds for Palestine-Madison Chapter, Mary House of Hospitality, Colombia Support Network; Memorial United Church of Christ-Fitchburg, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom-Madison, Jewish Voice for Peace-Madison, and Good Shepherd Parish social justice committee.

March 16, 2017 marks 14 years since an Israeli soldier killed 23-year-old American peace activist Rachel Corrie with a bulldozer as she protested the demolition of a family home in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Palestine. April 10 is Rachel’s birthday. Each year between these two dates, the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project (MRSCP) honors Rachel’s memory with an event that benefits Palestinian children.

A message from Cindy & Craig Corrie

Painting by Malak Mattar; read more about
her painting at We Are Not Numbers.

March 16th, marks the 14th anniversary of the day our daughter Rachel stood in Gaza with other international activists and challenged the Israeli military’s illegal confiscation of Palestinian land and the demolition of Palestinian homes. Rachel’s life was stolen that day, but her spirit was not. As these anniversaries approach, there are sometimes tensions as we struggle to find the best way to remember, and to explain why we do so. But in a moment of illumination, we are reminded that each March 16th is for us another opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to Gaza. It is a place that overflows with suffering, yet is filled with so much more. Rachel wrote to us about the people. “…I am also discovering a degree of strength and of the basic ability for humans to remain human in the direst of circumstances…I think the word is dignity. I wish you could meet these people. Maybe, hopefully, someday you will.”

During the past fourteen years, we have been blessed with our connections to Palestinians in Gaza, in the West Bank, and elsewhere in the world. We have built relationships with them and with Palestinian and Jewish Israelis who reflect the strength and dignity Rachel recognized, and with open hearts and minds steadfastly pursue justice.

Here in the U.S., it is easy to be distracted by our new political challenges. But with colleagues in our hometown of Olympia and beyond, we are articulating our vision for a “great” country and world. In the words of the song from the Civil Rights Movement, we are keeping “our eyes on the prize.” We know you are doing the same. One part of that vision is freedom for Gaza.

At the Rachel Corrie Foundation, commitment is a core value. Today, as we remember and recommit, we are counting on you to join us in building community with Gaza. You, your organization, and your community can make so much difference for people there.

  • Support Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish who is in Israeli court this month seeking accountability for the deaths of his three daughters and niece during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2009. Dr. Abuelaish’s civil lawsuit, pending since 2010, seeks an apology and compensation that will benefit the Daughters for Life Foundation, which awards scholarships to women throughout the Middle East. Dr. Abuelaish has asked legal analysts, journalists, scholars, and activists to attend the trial and to raise public awareness. Watch for reports, and voice your support through social media. For information, press inquiries, or to attend the trial, contact izzeldin.abuelaish@utoronto.ca +1 (416) 567-6604. To learn more about the family’s story, see the March/April 2016 Washington Report.
  • Explore compelling stories from young Gazan writers and artists who, through mentorships, have seen their work published. Visit our colleague’s project We Are Not Numbers and empower these Gaza young people by sharing their voices.
  • During Women’s History Month and through Rachel’s birthday April 10th, please DONATE to build community with Gaza and to sustain the Rachel Corrie Foundation’s growing number of Gaza projects. Lend your support to grassroots activism, shared resistance and empowerment across borders – from Olympia to Gaza – through arts, sport, and education!

Thank you for remembering with us today and for keeping Rachel’s spirit and commitment alive through your actions for Gaza.

Cindy and Craig
March 16, 2017