It has been a week since Rachel Corrie was brutally murdered by Israeli forces in occupied Palestine. More and more I have found my passing thoughts focused on her loss.
Saturday the 22nd, I will march for peace with Rachel in my heart.
Ironically, Rachel was killed the weekend of March 16th while I was drafting a statement responding to the firestorm created by Representative Jim Moran, who said the war in Iraq was due to American Jewish pressure.
While I was writing about Moran’s mistaken beliefs and religious stereotyping, Rachel, who was Jewish, was sacrificing her life for the people of Palestine. I don’t know if Rachel knew anything about the Moran tempest. But her sacrifice was the ultimate answer to Moran.
My interest in Rachel comes at several levels. I have a hunger to know more about her as a person. Was she a good student? Was she religious? Observant? Was she rebellious or did she have rebellious parents? Did she have a boyfriend? Had she planned for her future? Were her plans conventional or unconventional?
These are questions a father would ask. Her loss resonates with me as a parent, and as a man who lost a young wife. But I am not a grieving or morose parent. The love which Rachel expressed by her sacrifice transcends grief.
I relate to Rachel on many levels. I have been in combat. I have been afraid. I have heard the bullets and shells bursting, fearful that one might hit me. I have been in harm’s way; my life was at risk. I know what it is like to fear death or dismemberment. It took incredible bravery for Rachel to confront the murderous Israeli bulldozer.
Israeli spin meisters tried to demean her in death. A malignant little satirist at the University of Maryland tried to impugn her judgment. But these slanders against her are like specs of dust. Rachel’s sacrifice and death transcend her envious critics.
Few among us, in our quotidian daily lives, know real fear. We may fear death in the abstract. Cancer? Heart disease? Traffic? And yet Rachel was not alone. Young people from the International Solidarity Movement have placed their lives in danger to protect the helpless people of occupied Palestine. Can there be a greater sacrifice? A greater commitment? A greater form of self-denial? I don’t think so.
I also know from the battlefield that danger-and death-is random. No one gets up one day expecting to die. It is not human to do so. Death comes suddenly, unexpectedly. So it was with Rachel. She awoke one morning, and that night she was no more.
I supervise an International Combat Operations Center in Florida where we review and analyze developments coming from the war in Iraq and the Middle East. Last Wednesday evening a British commander warned his troops on the eve of battle: “I know of men who have taken life needlessly in other conflicts. I can assure you they live with the mark of Cain upon them.” So too will it be with the Israeli who murdered Rachel. What a horrible curse he has put upon his head.
And thus we return full circle: a young Israeli murders a Jewish-American girl who has put her life on the line for the people of Palestine, and for peace. It was a senseless slaughter. And in its own tragic way, Rachel’s death shows just how absurd Congressman Moran was with his casual comments.
Stereotyping is always wrong. Some Jews support war in Iraq. Many oppose it. My earlier comments on Rachel’s death elicited criticism from some, that I was too soft on the bad guys (the Jews) in the Bush administration. I don’t think I was.
I was standing up for the fundamental American principle that we judge each person on their own individual merits, not as part of a religious group, not as part of a pre-selected community. In America, we judge everyone on his or her own merits. That is why Moran was wrong. That is why Rachel’s sacrifice lays bare the hollowness of Moran’s ignorance.
I will restate what I have said so often on my radio program, and will state again on the campaign trial. I love both the Israelis and Palestinians. In 1956 the great editor of the London newspaper the Observer, David Astor, called them “two wronged peoples.” We must try to stop these “wronged peoples” from inflicting further injury on each other.
Rachel may have been Jewish; I don’t know how much. But her religion is irrelevant to me. She is a saint. She sacrificed her life for peace. She sacrificed her life for me, and for every one of us who prays for peace but cannot for some reason or other be in harm’s way. In Teddy Roosevelt’s terms, she was the “woman in the arena.” She will live forever for her bravery and selflessness on behalf of both the Palestinian and Israeli people. And for all of us.
Andy Martin is a Radio Talk Show host in Palm Beach, FL, USA.