Open Letter to Powell

Dear Mr. Powell:

On Sunday, 16 March, the Israeli army murdered a 23-year-old American college student, Rachel Corrie. The bulldozer, which was used to crush Ms. Corrie to death, was made by Caterpillar and may have been purchased using American military assistance funds to Israel. This potential grave misuse of aid must be investigated by the United States government without delay or prevarication.

More importantly, the murder(ers) of Ms. Corrie must be prosecuted to the full extent of U.S law, and her murderer immediately charged with war crimes. As a member of an occupying army, the Israeli bulldozer operator was already preparing to commit a war crime by destroying private property belonging to the occupied population. Ms. Corrie, in attempting to stop this criminal and brutal act in a non-violent manner, was acting in the noble tradition of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Her actions were necessary because the government of the United States has failed to stop Israeli war crimes in the Occupied Territories, shamefully abrogating its duties as a signatory of the Geneva Conventions.

As she stated in an e-mail to her family, Ms. Corrie believed that she was safe from being murdered by the Israeli occupying army because such an act would bring considerable “difficulties” to that army, presumably from the reaction of the United States government. So far, it appears that her faith in her own government’s will to protect its citizens from harm at the hands of foreign armed forces was misplaced.

It is not in any way sufficient for the United States government to meekly request an investigation into the incident by the Israeli army and take no other action. That army has consistently failed to properly investigate charges of misconduct against its soldiers. When investigations are carried out they rarely result in punishment of any kind and never result in punishment commensurate with the crime committed. Every relevant international human rights organization has documented these facts.

The United States government is prosecuting a full scale war against one country on the premise that it has violated United Nations resolutions and might someday kill innocent Americans while utterly failing to take any punitive action against a country that is the world’s leading violator of United Nations resolutions and has already killed innocent Americans. This type of double standard is a leading cause, if not the leading cause, of resentment of the United States in the Arab and Muslim world.

In the interests of justice, and of avoiding the most ignominious hypocrisy, it is imperative that the government of the United States take the following actions:

Publicly condemn the murder in the strongest terms

Conduct its own investigation into Rachel Corrie’s murder(ers), and encourage the strongest possible punishment of the murderer

Investigate the Israeli army’s misuse of American assistance and its violations of existing laws

We hope that you will not abandon your responsibilities to your own citizens.


Hisham Sharabi

Hisham Sharabi is Chairman of Palestine Center and Professor Emeritus at Georgetown University, USA.