Update: April 3, 2016
Annual Rachel Corrie Commemoration

Sunday, April 3, 7 pm,
Christ Presbyterian Church
944 East Gorham Street, Madison WI

You are invited to the annual Rachel Corrie commemoration: Dessert and an Eye-Witness Report

 
Featuring a local activist just returned from volunteering with Operation Dove in the South Hebron Hills, Palestine

Free and open to the public; beverages and desserts including baklawa will be served. Donations will help build a playground at the Qurtuba School in Tel Rumeida, Hebron.

March 16, 2016 marks 13 years since an Israeli soldier bulldozed 23-year-old American peace activist Rachel Corrie to death as she protested the demolition of a family home in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Palestine. Each year at this time, the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project (MRSCP) honors Rachel’s memory with an event that benefits Palestinian children.

This year, we feature an eye-witness report with slides & video about the non-violent people’s resistance in the South Hebron Hills, including the role of the international protective presence for shepherds, who graze Palestinian land near violent settler outposts, and children, who must travel a harrowing gauntlet of settler intimidation to reach their schools. Join us to hear these stories, and to learn about the Tel Rumeida playground and help us make it a reality.

The event is also scheduled to feature a BRAND NEW shipment of gorgeous many-colored kufiyahs from Hirbawi Textiles and beautiful earrings from the Hebron Women’s Co-op. AND we’ll have olive oil and zaatar tasting; Holy Land Olive Oil will be on sale.

Note: If possible, please RSVP to Donna Wallbaum at dwallbaum at gmail.com by Friday, April 1 so that we will be sure to have enough food. Co-sponsored by: MRSCP; Playgrounds for Palestine-Madison; Mary House of Hospitality; and American Friends Service Committee of the Madison Friends Meeting

Update:
Co-sponsored by: Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, Playgrounds for Palestine-Madison Chapter, Mary House of Hospitality, Christ Presbyterian Church Middle East Action Team; and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) of Madison.

Like to contribute to the playground but can’t come to the event? You can send a check made out to MRSCP marked “playground” to:

    MRSCP
    P.O. Box 5214
    Madison, WI 53705

Or donate directly to Playgrounds for Palestine at this link:
http://www.playgroundsforpalestine.org/support-pfp.php.

October 12, 2013
Rachel Corrie Library Benefit

Saturday, October 12th 2013
1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
High Noon Saloon
$5 Suggested Donation

Music con Brio w/ special guest Yid Vicious, Intemperance Collective

Family Friendly Benefit/fundraiser with proceeds going to the Rachel Corrie Library Center in Rafah. There will also be a craft sale to raise extra funds for the library.

Please Join us for a Saturday afternoon of music and dance to raise funds for the renovation of the library at the Rachel Corrie Youth Center in Rafah, Palestine! While on a delegation to the Gaza Strip in late 2012, MRSCP members toured the youth center, which provides badly-needed educational and recreational opportunities for Rafah’s children. They were shown an empty library room that needs to be furnished with chairs, shelves, desks, a computer and printer. MRSCP gladly accepted this project and has raised over $3000 of the $3990 goal!

Yid Vicious has been engaging and delighting audiences throughout the Midwest since 1995. The group has released four CDs and has received numerous Madison Area Music Awards for its unique blend of traditional and contemporary klezmer. In 2009, Yid Vicious became the first performing arts ensemble in Wisconsin to receive a USArtists International grant, to perform at Argentina’s KlezFiesta, an international klezmer festival spanning three cities and including bands from ten countries. In 2006, Yid Vicious toured Chiba Prefecture, Japan as part of the Wisconsin-Chiba Sister State Goodwill Delegation. Yid Vicious is committed to keeping traditional klezmer music and dance alive, and collaborates frequently with internationally renowned klezmer dance instructor Steve Weintraub. The group has participated in the New York-based “KlezKamp: The Yiddish Folk Arts Program”, and was a featured performer at the “KlezKamp Roadshow” directed by Yiddish scholar Henry Sapoznik at the University of Wisconsin in April 2009. Yid Vicious has presented concerts, workshops, and clinics at performing arts centers, cultural festivals, universities, and K-12 schools in Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, and Michigan, and has performed to statewide audiences on Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television.

Rachel Corrie’s Rafah Legacy

Ramzy Baroud, CounterPunch, March 21, 2013

“Hi Papa .. Don’t worry about me too much, right now I am most concerned that we are not being effective. I still don’t feel particularly at risk. Rafah has seemed calmer lately,” Rachel Corrie wrote to her father, Craig, from Rafah, a town located at the southern end of the Gaza Strip.

‘Rachel’s last email’ was not dated on the Rachel Corrie Foundation website. It must have been written soon after her last email to her mother, Cindy, on Feb 28. She was killed by an Israeli bulldozer on March 16, 2003.

Immediately after her painful death, crushed beneath an Israeli army bulldozer, Rafah embraced her legacy as another ‘martyr’ for Palestine. It was a befitting tribute to Rachel, who was born to a progressive family in the town of Olympia, itself a hub for anti-war and social justice activism. But Olympia is also the capital of Washington State. Politicians here can be as callous, morally flexible and pro-Israel as any other seats of government in the US, where sharply dressed men and women jockey for power and influence. Ten years after Rachel’s death, the US government is yet to hold Israel to account. Neither is justice expected anytime soon.

Bordering Egyptian and Israeli fences, and ringed by some of the poorest refugee camps anywhere, Rafah has never ceased being a news topic in years. The town’s gallantry of the First Palestinian Uprising (Intifada) in 1987 was the stuff of legends among other resisting towns, villages and refugee camps in Gaza and the rest of Palestine. The Israeli army used Rafah as a testing ground for a lesson to be taught to the rest of Palestinians. Thus, its list of ‘martyrs’ is one of the longest, and it is unlikely to stop growing anytime soon. Many of Rafah’s finest perished digging tunnels into Egypt to break the Israeli economic blockade that followed Palestine’s democratic elections in 2006. Buried under heaps of mud, drowning in Egyptian sewage water, or pulverized by Israeli missiles, some of Rafah’s men are yet to be located for proper burial.

Rafah agonized for many years, not least because it was partially encircled by a cluster of illegal Jewish settlements – Slav, Atzmona, Pe’at Sadeh, Gan Or and others. The residents of Rafah were deprived of security, freedom, and even for extended periods of time, access to the adjacent sea, so that the illegal colonies could enjoy security, freedom and private beaches. Even when the settlements were dismantled in 2005, Rafah became largely entrapped between the Israeli military border, incursions, Egyptian restrictions and an unforgiving siege. True to form, Rafah continues to resist.

Rachel and her International Solidarity Movement (ISM) friends must have appreciated the challenge at hand and the brutality by which the Israeli army conducted its business. Reporting for the British Independent newspaper from Rafah, Justin Huggler wrote on Dec. 23, 2003: “Stories of civilians being killed pour out of Rafah, turning up on the news wires in Jerusalem almost every week. The latest, an 11-year-old girl shot as she walked home from school on Saturday.” His article was entitled: “In Rafah, the children have grown so used to the sound of gunfire they can’t sleep without it.” He too “fell asleep to the sound of the guns.”

Rafah was affiliated with other ominous realities, one being house demolitions. In its report, Razing Rafah, published Oct 18, 2004, Human Rights Watch mentioned some very disturbing numbers. Of the 2,500 houses demolished by Israel in Gaza between 2000-04, “nearly two-thirds of these homes were in Rafah… Sixteen thousand people, more than ten percent of Rafah’s population, have lost their homes, most of them refugees, many of whom were dispossessed for a second or third time.” Much of the destructions occurred so that alleyways could be widened to secure Israeli army operations. Israel’s weapon of choice was the Caterpillar D9 bulldozer, which often arrived late at night.

Rachel Corrie was also crushed by the same type of US manufactured and supplied bulldozer that terrorized Rafah for years. It is no wonder that Rachel’s photos and various graffiti paintings adorn many walls of Rafah streets. Commemorating Rachel’s death anniversary for the tenth time, activists in Rafah gathered on March 16. They spoke passionately of the American girl who challenged an Israeli bulldozer so that a Rafah home could remain standing. A 12-year-old girl thanked Rachel for her courage and asked the US government to stop supplying Israel with weapons that are often used against civilians.

While Rafah carried much of the occupation brunt and the vengeance of the Israeli army, its story and that of Rachel’s was merely symbolic of the greater tragedy which has been unfolding in Palestine for many years. Here is a quick summary of the house demolition practice of recent years, according to the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, also published in Al Jazeera August 2012:

The Israeli government destroyed 22 homes in East Jerusalem and 222 homes in West Bank in 2011, leaving nearly 1,200 people homeless. During the war on Gaza (Dec 2008 – Jan 2009), it destroyed 4,455 homes, leaving 20,000 Palestinians displaced and unable to rebuild due to the restrictions imposed by the siege. (Other reports give much higher estimates.) Since 1967, the Israeli government destroyed 25,000 homes in the occupied territories, rendered 160,000 Palestinians homeless. Numbers can be even grimmer if one is to take into account those who were killed and wounded during clashes linked to the destructions of these homes.

So, when Rachel Corrie stood with a megaphone and an orange high-visibility jacket trying to dissuade an Israeli bulldozer driver from demolishing yet another Palestinian home, the stakes were already high. And despite the inhumane caricaturing of her act by pro-Israeli US and other western media, and the expected Israeli court ruling last August, Rachel’s brave act and her subsequent murder stand at the heart of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It highlighted the ruthlessness of the Israeli army, put to shame Tel Aviv’s judicial system, confronted the international community with its utter failure to provide protection for Palestinian civilians and raised the bar even higher for the international solidarity movement.

The Israel court verdict last August was particularly sobering and should bring to an end any wishful thinking that Israel’s self-tailored judicial system is capable of achieving justice, neither for a Palestinian, nor an American. “I reached the conclusion that there was no negligence on the part of the bulldozer driver,” Judge Oded Gershon said as he read out his verdict in a Haifa District Court in northern Israel. Rachel’s parents had filed a law suit, requesting a symbolic $1 in damages and legal expenses. Gershon rejected the suit, delineated that Rachel was not a ‘reasonable person’ and, once more blamed the victim, as has been the case with thousands of Palestinians for many years. “Her death is the result of an accident she brought upon herself,” he said. It all sounded that demolishing homes as a form of collective punishment was just another ‘reasonable’ act, deserving of legal protection. In fact, per Israeli occupation rules, it is.

Rachel’s legacy will survive even Gershon’s charade court proceeding and much more. Her sacrifice is now etched into a much larger landscape of Palestinian heroism and pain.

“I think freedom for Palestine could be an incredible source of hope to people struggling all over the world,” she wrote to her mother nearly two weeks before her death. “I think it could also be an incredible inspiration to Arab people in the Middle East, who are struggling under undemocratic regimes which the US supports.”

Ramzy Baroud is editor of PalestineChronicle.com. He is the author of The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle and “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London).

March 17, 2013
Annual Rachel Corrie Commemorative Dinner

Sunday, March 17
Nile Restaurant, Madison
5:30 pm, dinner at 6:15 pm

March 16, 2013 will mark the tenth anniversary of the killing of Rachel Corrie in Rafah in the Gaza Strip.

As we have for the last few years, MRSCP will mark this occasion with our annual dinner benefit, once again at the Nile Restaurant on Odana Road. Funds raised by the dinner will go toward the completion of our third water filtration system for Rafah schools, which will be dedicated to Rachel.

The program which follows will feature a recorded video message from Craig and Cindy Corrie and a report on what we saw and learned in our recent delegation to Gaza.

The menu will include hummus, felafel, spinach pie, cheese pie, foule, lentil soup with spinach, bread and dessert.  Ticket prices are $25 per person at the door, or $22.50 if paid in advance by Tuesday, March 12. We are doing our best to keep the dinner cost as affordable as we can; we hope that those who can afford more will consider donating to the water filter project.

If you would like to attend, please RSVP to Donna Wallbaum at dwallbaum@gmail.com or 235-7870 with the number in your party by Thursday, March 14. She will give you instructions as to paying in advance or at the door.

Space is limited, so we urge you to get your reservations in as soon as you can.

As always, thanks for your support and we look forward to seeing you on March 17.

Contact: rafahsistercity at yahoo.com

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) Meets with State Department

Demands End to Siege in Gaza and Justice for Rachel Corrie

Ongoing Attacks in Gaza Underscore Urgent Need for Human Rights Defenders in Occupied Palestine

Washington, DC | www.adc.org | November 19, 2012 — Last Friday, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), CODEPINK, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), and the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation delivered to the U.S. Department of State more than 17,000 signatures and an open letter signed by over 50 U.S. organizations asking the State Department to investigate the death of Rachel Corrie and each case involving the death or serious injury of an American citizen by the Israeli military since 2001. The groups also met with State Department officials to discuss the need for accountability in the deaths of human rights defenders like Corrie, a need made more urgent by this week’s deadly attacks by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip.

In recent days the Israeli military launched a new major military operation on Gaza. The attack has left dozens dead, including an 11-month-old infant and a woman pregnant with twins, and 270 wounded since Wednesday.

Nabil Mohamad from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said, “Rachel’s case is an example of the lack of accountability for Israel’s killing of Palestinians and non-Palestinians alike. American citizens and non-violent activists have been, and will continue, to be killed by Israeli forces unless Israel is held responsible. We call upon the U.S. government to launch an independent investigation led by the Department of State and Department of Justice to bring justice and prevent further loss of life.”

Josh Ruebner, National Advocacy Director of the U.S. Campaign, shared that, “Israel’s ongoing attacks against and illegal siege of the Gaza Strip necessitate an end to Israeli impunity for human rights abuses of Palestinians and human rights defenders acting in solidarity with Palestinians living under Israel’s brutal military occupation.”

Cindy and Craig Corrie, parents of Rachel Corrie, expressed, "We greatly appreciate the efforts of all who have carried this message today to the Department of State about the need for accountability in all cases of human rights observers harmed by the Israeli military. Lack of such accountability has only contributed to the impunity enjoyed by the Israeli military and made not only human rights activists, but also Palestinians and Israelis, less safe.”

CCR’s Laura Raymond, shared that, “Defending human rights in Gaza should not come at the risk of death. Now more than ever we need human rights defenders on the ground to be able to carry out their work without fearing mortal danger.”

Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli military bulldozer in March 16, 2003, as she protested the demolition of Palestinian homes in Rafah, Gaza. She was 23 years old. Since 2001, a number of other cases have been reported involving the death or serious injury of American human rights defenders in Palestine caused by the Israeli military.

The State Department declined to act on previous calls for an investigation into Corrie’s death, citing a civil trial in Israel brought by the Corrie family against the Israeli military. In August 2012, however, that case concluded when the presiding judge absolved the State of Israel of any liability and ruling that Corrie’s death was "an accident she brought upon herself." U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro called Israel’s investigation into the case unsatisfactory and lacking in transparency.

CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin, said, "As American citizens, we are horrified that our taxpayer dollars are funding the military equipment used by Israel to demolish Palestinian homes, like the one Rachel Corrie died defending, and the destruction that is being wrought upon Gaza at this very moment. We call upon the State Department to condemn these unjust and inhumane actions, instead of continuing to let Israel act with impunity."

VOICES OF CONSCIENCE: DELEGATION to THE GAZA STRIP

Interfaith Peace-Builders, November 5, 2012

November 5, 2012 – Interfaith Peace-Builders (IFPB) is pleased to announce that our 21 member delegation to the Gaza Strip passed safely through the Rafah Crossing Monday morning and is now safely in the Gaza Strip.

Interfaith Peace-Builders has sent more than 44 delegations to Palestine/Israel since 2001. This is the first IFPB delegation to enter the Gaza Strip since 2003. Like other IFPB delegations, its purpose is to educate North Americans about the region and deepen their understanding of its conflicts.

On the eve of the Presidential Election in the United States, the US-brokered peace process continues to show few results and US military aid to the region continues to flow unabated.

This delegation focuses on the realities of Palestinian life in the Gaza Strip. Participants have the unique opportunity to hear directly from Palestinians throughout the territory regarding their hopes for peace and the role of the United States, the US government, and other international actors, in promoting a resolution to the conflict.

The Interfaith Peace-Builders delegation to the Gaza Strip is led by Michael Brown and Cindy Corrie. Michael Brown worked off and on in the Gaza Strip between 1993 and 2000 for the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. A former IFPB board member, Michael continues to work today on the media and Palestine. Michael led an IFPB delegation in 2008. Cindy Corrie is the mother of human rights activist and observer Rachel Corrie who on March 16, 2003, was killed by an Israeli military Caterpillar bulldozer in the Gaza Strip.  Motivated by her daughter’s work and sacrifice, Cindy Corrie has dedicated herself to the pursuit of justice and peace in the Middle East and has visited Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza on numerous occasions. She is also president of the board of the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice, inspired by her daughter.

del44gaza
a photo of the delegation in Gaza City

The delegation includes the following people:

Diane Adkin – Camas, Washington
Michele Bahl – Madison, Wisconsin
Carol Barr – Madison, Wisconsin

Michael Brown – Asheville, North Carolina
Marsha Carlton – Davis, California
Craig and Cindy Corrie – Olympia, Washington
Gary Doupe – Bainbridge, New York
Rich Forer – Yardley, Pennsylvania
Joyce Guinn – Germantown, Wisconsin
Maya Harris – Olympia, Washington
Wendy Hartley – Nevada City, California
Darlene Jones-Owens – Carrollton, Georgia
Declan Keogh – Decatur, Georgia
Ralph and Emily McCoy – Boone, North Carolina
Donna Nassor – Moonachie, New Jersey
Karen Peterson – Horseheads, New York
Cathy Sultan – Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Colleen Toomey – North Andover, Massachusetts
Sonja Wentz – Olympia, Washington

Reports and Photos from IFPB’s November 2012 Delegation to the Gaza Strip:
Photos
Report 1: Greetings from Gaza, Palestine
Report 2: Occupation is "An Ongoing Terror"
Report 3: Bringing Gaza With Us
Follow-Up: Delegates in Action!

In addition to the reports linked from this page, IFPB delegation participants may be blogging and tweeting about their experiences. Like the trip reports posted here, individual blogs and tweets reflect the views of delegation participants only, and not necessarily Interfaith Peace-Builders or partners.

Blogs by delegation members:
Maya Harris may be blogging here
Cindy Corrie may be blogging here

Interfaith Peace-Builders believes in the power of eye-witness experience and transformation. Given the opportunity to speak directly with Israelis and Palestinians, delegates return to the United States better informed, more energized, and with a deeper understanding of the possibilities for true justice in the Middle East.

Upon their return to the United States, delegates will share their experiences with the public, the media, and their political representatives.

Media interested in interviewing the participants when they return, and groups wanting information about speaking engagements, should contact Interfaith Peace-Builders at media@ifpb.org or 415.240.4607.

Jennifer Loewenstein on KPFT 90.1 FM

Arab Voices, KPFT 90.1 FM, September 26, 2012

mp3 audio file

Jennifer Loewenstein

Political activist and Faculty Associate in Middle East Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is an expert on contemporary Middle East: history, politics, culture, religion, and U.S. foreign policy in the region. She is a freelance journalist, a human rights activist, volunteer for the Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza, and founder of the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project. In 2010 Jennifer received ADC’s Rachel Corrie Award.

Topics

The ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestine and its effects on the Palestinians, the recent verdict by an Israeli court about the murder of Rachel Corrie, the U.S. foreign policy towards the Middle East, Romney’s recent comments about the Palestinians, the Arab uprisings, and more.


Arab Voices is an independent radio talk show that has been broadcasting live every Wednesday since April 2002 on KPFT Radio (Pacifica Station), 90.1 FM in Houston and 89.5 FM in Galveston. The show also broadcasts live worldwide on the Internet at www.kpft.org or at www.ArabVoices.net.

Barb Olson: Rachel Corrie ruling a setback for justice and human rights

BARB OLSON, Cap Times, Aug 31, 2012

The verdict in the civil lawsuit against the state of Israel for the killing of peace activist Rachel Corrie more than nine years ago was announced Aug. 28 at the District Court in Haifa, Israel. While many human rights advocates had high hopes that the court would provide a much needed venue for justice, this verdict marks yet another setback for the cause of human rights in Palestine.

Rachel Corrie was a 23-year-old American human rights activist from Olympia, Wash. She was crushed to death on March 16, 2003, by Israeli soldiers driving a huge militarized Caterpillar bulldozer as she nonviolently protested the demolition of Palestinian civilian homes in Rafah, where the Israeli military was razing entire neighborhoods along the Egypt-Gaza border.

At the time, four eyewitnesses testified that Rachel, wearing a fluorescent orange vest and shouting through a bullhorn, was clearly visible to soldiers in the bulldozer as they approached. They stated that after trapping Rachel under a mound of dirt, the operator lowered the bulldozer’s blade and backed it over Rachel, crushing her skull and breaking her back.

Yet an Israeli government investigation found no fault on the part of the soldiers. Instead, they publicly blamed Rachel for her own death.

Unsurprisingly, the U.S. government has mainly stood on the sidelines, despite the State Department’s conclusion that the Israeli investigation was not thorough, transparent or credible. Instead, a State Department official urged the Corrie family to seek redress through the courts.

After a U.S. federal court ruled that Caterpillar could not be sued because it would intrude on the US government’s foreign policy-making powers, the Corries in 2005 filed a civil suit in Israeli courts charging the State of Israel with responsibility for Rachel’s killing.

Now, two-and-a-half years after the trial began, the Corries are still left searching for justice and accountability for the murder of their daughter. It is especially troubling that the court, like the Israeli military before it, held the bulldozer driver blameless because Rachel “put herself in a dangerous situation” without acknowledging Israel’s obligation under international law to spare civilians from harm in territory that it occupies. The judge also found no fault with the Israeli military’s investigation into the incident, even though the U.S. ambassador to Israel just last week reiterated the State Department’s opinion that the investigation was highly inadequate.

This ruling is a continuation of the long campaign of ridicule, slander and vilification by the Israeli government and its supporters against Rachel Corrie. One can only imagine the pain suffered by her family, who for almost a decade have relentlessly pursued justice for their daughter and the cause of human rights for which she gave her life.

Despite the disappointing trial verdict, Rachel Corrie continues to be hailed as a hero by the oppressed and by all those who are part of the larger struggle for human rights for all people, especially Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. Rachel’s story should inspire us, as Americans, to ask as she did why billions of our tax dollars continue to support Israel’s occupation, land thefts, home demolitions and human rights abuses in Palestine. It should inspire us to continue Rachel’s dream of forging people-to-people relationships with Palestinians, and to heed the call of our Palestinian civil society counterparts for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel until it comes into compliance with international law.

While this verdict is a momentary setback for human rights advocates of all stripes, we must all still strive to create a world where all people, without exception, can live in peace with justice and freedom. Rachel Corrie: Presente! Your sacrifice has not been in vain.

Barb Olson is a member of the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.

March 18, 2012
Third Annual Rachel Corrie Commemorative Benefit Dinner

The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project invites you to the

Third Annual Rachel Corrie
Commemorative Benefit Dinner


Sunday, March 18, 5:00 pm
The Nile Restaurant [Map]
6119 Odana Road, Madison, WI

Featured guests: Craig and Cindy Corrie, parents of Rachel
(Program information to follow)

Cost: $20 per person/$35 per couple for a Middle Eastern dinner of hummus, falafel, salad, lentil spinach soup, fool moudamas, spinach pie and warbat dessert

All proceeds go to the Maia Project water filtration system for the Al-Shuka Girls Preparatory School in Rafah, Palestine

Space is limited and reservations are required. Please make your reservations now by contacting Donna Wallbaum at dwallbaum (at) gmail.com or 235-7870. Payment may either be mailed to MRSCP, P.O. Box 55371, Madison WI 53705 or paid at the door before 5:30 pm. If you are unable to attend, please notify Donna at least three days before the benefit for others to attend.

March 20, 2011
Annual Rachel Corrie Dinner

Cash bar/socializing 5:30 pm
Dinner 6:00 pm
Program 7 – 9 pm
Bunky’s Cafe
2425 Atwood Avenue
Madison [Map]

Film: One Family in Gaza
Speaker: Ziad Abbas of the Middle East Children’s Alliance

This year’s dinner will be a benefit for the MAIA clean water project of the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA). The program will feature a talk by MECA’s Associate Director Ziad Abbas and the Madison premier of the new short film One Family in Gaza.

Ziad Abbas is from Dheisheh Refugee Camp in the West Bank. He offers listeners his own experience growing up under Israeli Occupation, along with sharp political analysis and inspiration to take action. He will discuss Palestine’s water crisis in the broader context of ongoing displacement, military occupation, and the current political events in the Arab world.

He will tell you about the Middle East Children’s Alliance’s Maia Project, which provides clean, safe drinking water for children in Palestine by installing water purification and desalination units in schools and kindergartens. To date, more than twenty-seven units have been installed serving nearly 30,000 children thanks to the fund raising efforts of groups and individuals throughout the United States, including one provided last year to the Tuyor Al Jena (Birds of Paradise) Kindergarten in Rafah by the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project. MRSCP has now raised over 80 percent of the funding for a second, larger system at the UN Rafah Girls Elementary School.

One Family in Gaza tells the story of the Kamal and Wafaa Awajah family after the 2008 – 2009 Israeli invasion of Gaza. Palestinians in Gaza are depicted either as violent terrorists or as helpless victims. The Awajah family challenges both portrayals. Through one family’s story, the larger tragedy of Gaza is exposed, and the courage and resilience of its people shines through.

The dinner menu will include a vegetarian stew on rice with house salad, falafel, hummus, and babaganouj. Bunky’s is also generously donating coffee, tea and baklava desert. There will be a cash bar beginning at 5:30 pm.

Cost is $15 per person or $25 per couple. Please RSVP by Wednesday, March 16 to Donna Wallbaum at dwallbaum (at) gmail.com or phone 235-7870.

Rachel Corrie was killed in Rafah on March 16, 2003 by two Israeli soldiers who crushed her beneath the blade of a Caterpillar bulldozer while she attempted to stop the demolition of a Palestinian home. Please join us once again as we honor her memory by helping the children she sought to protect.

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

Break the Silence Mural Project

mural, olympia, palestine

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 2010

THE RACHEL Corrie Foundation and Break the Silence Mural Project unveiled the Olympia-Rafah Solidarity Mural on May 8 at Labor Temple building, in downtown Olympia, WA. The mural tells a tale of two cities linked through tragedy: Olympia, WA, where Rachel Corrie grew up and attended Evergreen State College, and Rafah, Gaza Strip, Palestine, where she was killed in 2003—crushed by an Israeli army Caterpillar. It is also the tale of people working together for a better world. The mural features an enormous olive tree with more than 150 leaves representing issues of environmental justice, racism, colonialism, rights of indigenous peoples, and anti-war movements.

The mural uses technology to include artists from Palestine who are forbidden to travel. Viewers can use a cell phone to call and listen to the creator of each leaf talk about its meaning and theme. For more information visit <www.olympiarafahmural.org>.

—Delinda C. Hanley

March 21, 2010
Building Hope for the Children

Commemorating the life of Rachel Corrie
Sunday, March 21
4:30-5:30 pm Silent Auction viewing and bidding
5:30-6:30 pm Vegetarian Dinner by Lulu’s restaurant
6:30-9:00 pm Program
Fellowship Hall, First United Methodist Church
203 Wisconsin Avenue, Madison [Map]

A benefit dinner and program sponsored by the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project and Madison Playgrounds for Palestine.

Tickets for the dinner and program are $15 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under. All proceeds will help provide Palestinian children with a new playground in Beit Sahour, West Bank through Playgrounds for Palestine, and a water purification system for a school in Rafah, Gaza through the Maia Project of the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA).

Besides information on these two humanitarian projects, the program will mark the seventh anniversary of Rachel Corrie’s death on March 16 with

  • A message from Craig and Cindy Corrie from Israel, where they are attending the long-awaited opening of their lawsuit against the Israeli government
  • Readings from Rachel’s writings
  • Arabic and English recitations of Mahmoud Darwish poetry with slides, and
  • The short film First Picture or The Children of Ibdaa.

An Interview with Simone Bitton on Her New Movie Rachel

Simone Bitton
Still image from Rachel; inset: Simone Bitton

I think they had a pro-Palestinian agenda, and I don’t think that having a pro-Palestinian agenda means having an anti-Israeli agenda. Actually, as an Israeli, I have a pro-Palestinian agenda, and I think that when life will be normal and reasonable for Palestinians, it will be much better for Israelis too.

I don’t think it’s an insult to say that somebody has a pro-Palestinian agenda. If it means that somebody is committed to more justice for the Palestinians, who have been oppressed, bombed, caged, occupied, it’s very good to have a pro-Palestinian agenda. It’s not only good, it’s absolutely needed if you don’t want the Middle East to explode in the face of the world, more than it has exploded already.

Andrew O’Hehir, Salon, May 3, 2009

Interview with Simone Bitton

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Simone Bitton’s documentary “Rachel,” which premiered this week at the Tribeca Film Festival, is what’s not in it. Bitton, a Moroccan-born Jewish filmmaker who spent many years in Israel and now lives in France, conducts a philosophical and cinematic inquiry into the death of Rachel Corrie, the 23-year-old American activist who was killed under ambiguous circumstances in the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip in March 2003. But the political firestorm that followed Corrie’s death, which saw her beatified as a martyr for peace by some on the left and demonized as a terrorist enabler by some on the right, is virtually absent from the film.

We do not see the infamous photograph of the keffiyeh-clad Corrie burning an “American flag” — not a real flag, but a crude children’s drawing of one — at a demonstration about a month before her death. Nor do we see the torrent of exaggerated and often shocking verbal abuse to which Corrie was subjected, postmortem, on right-wing bulletin boards and Web sites. Corrie, who suffered massive internal injuries when she was either crushed by a bulldozer or buried under construction debris, was routinely dubbed “Saint Pancake” in such venues, or described as “terrorist-loving swine.” (That’s without getting into the grotesque sexual fantasies and elaborate conspiracy theories.)

Bitton approaches Corrie’s death from an Israeli point of view, which means she sees it quite differently from the way Americans do. For her, it’s partly a forensic puzzle — an episode of “CSI: Gaza” without a clear resolution — and as a philosophical challenge to the military and political status quo. It’s important to understand that within Israel, Corrie’s encounter with a military bulldozer (an enormous armored machine called the Caterpillar D9, built in the United States to Israeli specifications) and the subsequent investigation were a relatively minor news blip, not the full-on media frenzy we enjoyed.

While it’s unusual for a Westerner to die in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Corrie was neither the first nor the last, and no individual death can make much impression amid the constantly clicking body count on all sides. In the film, one of Corrie’s friends recalls that the Gaza hospital mortuary had to move her body out to make room for someone else, a Palestinian man who had reportedly left his house to smoke a cigarette and was shot by an Israeli sniper.

After an internal inquiry, the Israeli military announced that Corrie’s death was a tragic accident, and that the bulldozer driver who ran her over (or maybe buried her beneath a mound of dirt) never saw her or heard her. Corrie’s fellow activists and Palestinian onlookers continued to insist that she was plainly visible, standing on a raised berm of earth in a bright orange vest, and that the driver killed her deliberately. The whole thing floated away on a cloud of irresolution — another not-quite-explained killing in the occupied territories — and other stories took over the Israeli front pages.

Until she visited the U.S. late in production to meet Corrie’s family, friends and classmates in Olympia, Wash., Bitton was unaware that Corrie embodied an ideological divide in American discourse about the Middle East. When I asked her about the flag-burning photo, she didn’t seem to understand that many Americans view that act as tantamount to treason. (Other nations do not tend to view their flags with the same quasi-religious fervor.)

Herself a former Israeli peace activist, Bitton is clearly sympathetic to Corrie and her Western activist friends, who conducted a nonviolent and arguably foolhardy campaign of resistance, at immense personal risk, against Israeli demolition projects in the no man’s land along the Gaza-Egypt border. Suffice it to say this movie will not make her many friends among the Likudnik Israeli right, or in the “Israel lobby” of the American establishment. But while it makes no pretense of neutrality, “Rachel” is not first or foremost pursuing a political agenda. Like Bitton’s previous film, “Wall” — about the construction of the barrier fence between Israel and the autonomous West Bank — it finds human surprises and philosophical depth within a symbol of that intractable conflict.

Bitton makes no effort at political calculus, at resolving questions of who is most to blame in the Palestinian dilemma, or whether the Israeli occupation’s crimes are worse than those of Hamas or Hezbollah. She also does not claim to have answered the question of exactly how and why Corrie died, and at this point all possibility of certainty seems to have vanished. Maybe the bulldozer driver snapped and ran her over on purpose; maybe he really didn’t see her; maybe he was trying to frighten her and went too far. In asking various of Corrie’s friends to read excerpts from her letters, Bitton tries to redeem a real young woman — who was undeniably idealistic but also surprisingly eloquent and thoughtful — from the warring stereotypes of peacenik angel and anti-Semitic Hamas agent.

During our conversation in a Manhattan hotel lobby, Bitton scolded me for asking too many questions about Corrie’s political significance. “Let’s talk about cinema,” she said. For American viewers of “Rachel,” though, there will be no escaping the political connotations of Corrie’s death. Because of where she died and how she died, the American-made girl flattened by an American-made bulldozer became a powerful counter-symbolic reminder of America’s moral, financial and material sponsorship of the Israeli occupation regime. Whether or not you think that regime is itself justified, it remains a primary reason why our country is loathed and mistrusted throughout the Arab and Muslim world.

I just want to get your story straight, Simone. You were born in Morocco?

Yes. Chronologically, I am Moroccan, Israeli, French. That is the story of my life, so I have the three citizenships, cultures. I am all three.

The fact that you can speak both Arabic and Hebrew has played a large role in your filmmaking, right? You can cross that divide pretty easily.

Yes, of course. It has played a role in my life.

What drew you to make a film about Rachel Corrie?

Many things, but of course it was not the internal U.S. controversy. I am from there, you know, and it’s a story from there. Rachel Corrie’s story is important in the Middle East, but it’s not as known as it is here. There, it was just a little item in the news the day she was killed, because people get killed every day, so many Palestinians and so many Israelis. You know, we live with death. So it’s not like for the Americans. She’s the only American citizen who was killed in the Palestinian territories.

Still, I was very moved by the story because it was the first time that somebody who came to protect the Palestinians was killed. It was the whole notion of protection, of nonviolent resistance. It was a red line which has been crossed. It was very frightening. More personally, I would say, just as a human being and as a filmmaker: She was 23 years old, and I am 53 years old, and I am somehow mourning my own youth. Not my own commitments, but when you are 53, you don’t translate your commitment in the same way. It was a way for me to maybe think about youth and commitment.

Before we turned the camera on, you said that you couldn’t really comment on the controversy about Rachel Corrie in the United States, and I understand that. But one of the allegations that has come up both in the U.S. and Israel is the idea that the group that she was involved with had a pro-Palestinian agenda and was passively or actively encouraging terrorism. What would you say to that?

I think they had a pro-Palestinian agenda, and I don’t think that having a pro-Palestinian agenda means having an anti-Israeli agenda. Actually, as an Israeli, I have a pro-Palestinian agenda, and I think that when life will be normal and reasonable for Palestinians, it will be much better for Israelis too.

I don’t think it’s an insult to say that somebody has a pro-Palestinian agenda. If it means that somebody is committed to more justice for the Palestinians, who have been oppressed, bombed, caged, occupied, it’s very good to have a pro-Palestinian agenda. It’s not only good, it’s absolutely needed if you don’t want the Middle East to explode in the face of the world, more than it has exploded already.

What specifically was Rachel Corrie’s group doing in the Gaza Strip?

They were there, as far as I know, to be with Palestinian families, to live with them, to help them, to express their solidarity. Rachel herself had a vague project of promoting the idea of twin cities between her home city [Olympia, Wash.] and Rafah, in Palestine. But when they found themselves there, the Israeli army started demolishing civilian houses, one after the other, because they were aiming to create a no man’s land along the border with Egypt. So they started trying to protect these people from having their lives destroyed. They slept in these houses and called out by megaphone to the soldiers that they were there, hoping that this will stop the soldiers from shooting. Actually it did, many times. They were trying to prevent the bulldozers from demolishing the homes of just, you know, normal, completely innocent and very poor families.

It has also been suggested that Rachel was an idealistic and naive person who found herself in a situation she didn’t fully understand. Or that her group, the International Solidarity Movement, was being manipulated by Hamas or other players in the conflict, to cover a more sinister agenda.

You know, for sure they were not manipulated by anybody. They were very lucid and independent young people. They — what other insults do you have? Really, the word “manipulated” is so horrible because it shows… It’s very insulting towards them. You know, you have to be a very weak personality to be manipulated. They knew what they were doing, and they knew why they were there. They were politically conscious.

Now, you said “idealistic” and “naive” as if there were a dash between the two words. I don’t agree with this, you know? I think she had ideas, she had values. She had moral values, she had social values, she had political values. If somebody has no ideals when he’s 20 years old, when will he have values? So it’s a compliment to be idealistic, for a young person, but when you say “naive” that puts it upside down. I don’t agree with that.

Moving on to the subject of Rachel’s death, you interview a representative of the IDF, the Israeli Defense Forces and…

Several of them.

Several of them, yes, about what happened. What is the official position, more or less, about what happened that day?

It’s not more or less. The official position is clearly that Rachel’s death was an accident because the bulldozer drivers didn’t see her. Sometimes they go as far as saying that she hid behind a pile of dirt so that she didn’t want to be seen. Sometimes they go as far as that, but mostly what is disturbing in the Israeli official version is that the bulldozers were not destroying houses that day. So, OK, if they were not destroying houses, what was she doing there in front of a bulldozer?

Now, there were other people who saw the episode, some international observers from many different countries and some Palestinian witnesses. And what they say they saw is quite different.

Well, there were contradictions in the versions, and this is why it was interesting for me. It was a challenge because I like complexity, you know. And our situation is very complex. There are contradictions between the versions and so I wanted to investigate. Believe me or not, but really, I didn’t know. The only thing I knew is that obviously I cannot take for granted the results of any inquiry made by the army, because this is not independent. The army is clearly accused of being responsible for these deaths, so it’s impossible that the inquiry will be made by the army. It needs an independent eye, and there was no court; there was no independent investigation whatsoever.

Mine is independent, OK, but I have no juridical value, you know? So this film is an independent investigation into the death of Rachel Corrie, but it turned out also to be an inquiry into the investigation itself, into the inquiry process of the Israeli army. Now, for example, the Israeli army says they are investigating possible violations of human rights during the bombings in Gaza in January. All the time the Israeli army investigates the killing of civilians, and in 99.9 of these cases, there is no independent investigation, and nobody’s punished, you know?

Not that it is the only army in the world that kills civilians. I’m not naive — it’s not. But maybe it is the one who kills civilians and it is so easy for the Western world to accept it and to swallow it. Maybe it is the only one where there are so many lies and hypocrisy around it, you know? It is not the army who kills the most civilians in the world, but maybe it is the army for which it is so easy to lie about it and to still be presented as democratic — this is a problem. The hypocrisy about it, you know? As an Israeli I would prefer them to be less hypocritical. If they continue to kill, at least I would like them to stop lying.

Has your film been seen in Israel yet?

Not yet, but it will be. In Israel, when you are a Jew you can say what you want. When you are a Jew. That part is very important.

Well, I know you want to stay out of American politics, but it has sometimes been said that it’s easier for Jews in Israel to criticize Israeli policy than it is for Jews in the United States.

I don’t live here, and I don’t have much experience with American media. But I think it’s really time for the Americans, especially the Jews among them, to stop being intimidated by this pressure, from the Israeli lobby or whoever it is. They should say what they really feel. A lot of people are talking in our name who are not entitled to talk in our name. I am not alone at all. Thousands, or tens of thousands, of Israelis are against this occupation, and are against the killing of civilians and the demolition of civilian houses. I worked very hard on my film, and all the facts that I bring in are double-checked and triple-checked. I’m very rigorous in my work, so I will not let anybody say that I am a propagandist or a pro-Palestinian. I’m pro-justice and for my people too, first of all.

Is it important for Israelis to explore the story of Rachel Corrie because she represents a larger problem, or is there something special about her case that makes it different?

You know, you are asking me questions which are so general and so political, and I am just a filmmaker, I’m just a storyteller. I don’t know what is important for the collective, you know, I know what moves me from inside, what touches me. Here’s a story that does something to my heart, to my emotions, so I just want to share it with other people.

OK, well, here’s something specific: There’s this scene in the film where you show us the surveillance video you got from the Israeli military, which should show us Rachel’s death. But then, at the key moment, the camera is pointing somewhere else. It’s like this frustrating microcosm of your whole film.

I knew that in the Palestinian territories there are military cameras everywhere, the whole territory is controlled by camera. There must be huge operation rooms in military headquarters with screens, you know. Even in the old city of Jerusalem, there is one camera after the other, there is no dead angle. So I knew for sure that the Philadelphi corridor and all Rafah [the road and city where Corrie was killed] were filmed all the time by these military cameras.

So obviously there should have been a recording of the mission during which Rachel was killed. I tried to obtain it, and it was very difficult, but in the end I got a tape from the Israeli military and I remember the young soldier who gave me the tape telling me, “Oh, I had to work all night to get it ready for you.” I don’t know exactly what they did, but what is for sure is that we see a little bit of the mission scene before [Corrie’s death], and we see after, but we don’t see it happen. When I go very slowly, image by image, I can see that it has been cut. Also there are conversations between the soldiers on this tape, and these cameras have no sync. Obviously the sound comes from another machine; somebody had put it together.

If we were in a court, this videotape wouldn’t have any value. But I’m in a film, and in a film it has great value. It’s one hour into the film and we’ve been talking about these bulldozers, this group of young people, this house which was standing and now has been destroyed, and here it is — here’s the place, here’s the house, here are the bulldozers. It’s very, very strong emotionally and cinematographically, and I chose to have it in the film with commentary by one of the young activists. He recognizes himself in this very bad-quality image because he was wearing a white T-shirt and there’s a white spot of somebody running in the frame. It’s a very strong situation, to recognize yourself on the image of a military video camera, when you were not aware you were being filmed.

Another thing you try to do is convey some sense of the personality of a person you cannot interview, because she is dead.

Well, she helped me, she made my life easy because she was writing. She cannot talk to me anymore, but she wrote, and she wrote quite beautifully. In her letters, in her e-mails, you can see in a few weeks that she was there, her political consciousness was fed by the meeting with reality. She’s asking herself the right questions, I think. She writes very beautifully about the Egyptian kids, the Egyptian soldiers who call out to her [across the border fence], and the international kids with banners, describing herself and her friends, and the Israeli kids in the tanks. I like that in her. It took her very little time to understand the complexity of what a war is. You have the responsibility of the systems, of the armies, of the politicians, but at the end it is just kids sent one against another, to kill and to be killed. And I like the way she writes this.

Late in the film, you include an interview with someone who’s not directly related to the story of Rachel Corrie, a young Israeli peace activist you meet in Tel Aviv. He has some remarkable things to say, and I wondered if that was close to an authorial statement or a directorial statement from you?

Yeah, maybe. Sometimes things come together in a magic way. He is related to the case because Rachel’s friends came to his house when Rachel’s body was brought to Tel Aviv. This was the place where they knew that they would be welcome. And her bag, with her journal in it, was brought there. And then I met this young Israeli peace activist who told me his own story. He’s doing these kinds of actions also. Not in Gaza, because they are not allowed to enter Gaza, but in the West Bank. Young Israeli activists, and some of them are not so young, who demonstrate together with Palestinians against the war, and many of them get wounded and are put in prison for that.

He told me beautiful things about commitment, which resonated with me. I was a peace activist when I was their age, you know. I was demonstrating against occupation when I was 25 years old, and our generation failed completely, because the situation is much more horrible now than it was. More settlements, more killings. So we failed. And now it’s on their shoulders, all this mess that we couldn’t solve.

I have the feeling that they are more lucid than we were, because we believed that we would solve it, you know. We were naive enough to think that it would be enough for a few thousand Israelis to stand up and say, “Hey, we don’t want this occupation, we want peace, we want the Palestinians to have their own state.” They are not so naive. They know that even if half the Israeli population is against the occupation, the occupation goes on and gets tougher and tougher. And the Israeli governments are more and more extremist and more and more right-wing. It’s really a catastrophe. So this young generation knows all this. They are more lucid, and still they are struggling without much hope, which I find really remarkable.

He says to you that it’s important to resist something that you know is wrong even if you know you will not succeed.

Yes, yes, and it’s a lesson, it’s a lesson. You asked me before about naiveté. What does it mean, naiveté? Does it mean that if you are not sure that you will succeed that you will not fight for freedom? Is that naiveté? If so, maybe we should hope that more people will be naive in this world.