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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

March 21, 2003

On Rachel Corrie

Here's my response to an editorial that appeared in the Duke University Chronicle. I became aware of it thanks to Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs.

I have been mulling Rachel Corrie's death around for some time. Some of the people on my ideological side of the fence have been rather callous in treating her death, as if it was deserved or some sort of Darwinian fait accompli. I do take their points that Corrie was giving succor to terrorists, and readers of this blog know I regard her socialist lot as mostly evil and beholden to antisemitism. Also the logistics of her death -- she made a habit of jumping in front of operating bulldozers -- are a no-brainer. She may have been murdered, but she was most likely killed accidentally. Even if the former were true, it doesn't amount to a general indictment of the IDF in the territories, where it faces a scattered and doggedly genocidal foe.

But I don't think it is a betrayal of principle to acknowledge that Corrie was a human being, and I wanted to approach her death from that perspective. She was young, and clearly wrongheaded. She ripped up the flag, and did so to indoctrinate innocent children in a life of hatred. There is a point after which good intentions mean nothing, yes. But I've done my share of vitriolic denunciation. I think there is another lesson to be taken from Corrie's death.

Rachel Corrie's death is not to be celebrated. It is not funny or deserved. It is, however, ambiguous. None of us was there, and articles like Ms. LaDue's betray a position that is inappropriately confident in both its conclusions and the politicized morality toward which it beckons.

We have incomplete but telling facts. They lead me to a different place than Ms. LaDue.

The state of Corrie's body, evident in a couple of the pictures floating about, belies the loaded claims of her fellow activists that her death was murderous. Note that her injuries are largely internal, notwithstanding some dramatic blood streaming from her nose and mouth.

This suggests that she was covered by heavy debris falling from the blade of the bulldozer, or scraped by the blade itself. She could not have been run over by it in a protracted way, getting anywhere near as far under the vehicle as the cockpit, as two of Corrie's fellow activists, Greg Schnabel and Joe Smith, have implied or claimed. Any contact with the belted wheels would have mauled her beyond recognition.

You might say that Schnabel and Smith's contention is possible because Corrie might have been cocooned in a mound of heavy debris when the bulldozer ran over her. This way she would be crushed rather than physically annihilated. If this was the case, her fellow activists would have had to dig her out of a considerably thick mound, and I have seen no mention made of this activity. And she should still have borne more dramatic external signs of injury.

A deliberate and murderous attack by the driver would have been likely to result in gross external injuries. The internal disposition of Corrie's trauma suggests a more quick or indirect impact, leading her to be inundated in falling concrete debris and dirt. Her death seems wrought through the driver's negligence or an honest accident. ISM activists employ a specific strategy that involves standing directly in front of operating bulldozers to disrupt them. An accident is hardly implausible.

Moving on, one should also note the photo-op calm of the activists tending to Corrie in the picture above. I am not saying for a moment that her death was staged. The sanguine disposition of those who rushed to her aid, however, suggests that they had just witnessed a less dramatic event than the end result of Corrie's death implies. I am led to believe that these activists saw something that they thought was not life-threatening at the time. They are concerned of course, but they do not have the affect of people who just watched their friend purposely mauled by the better half of a 50 ton machine.

My point is not to blindly exonerate the IDF any more than Ms. LaDue should attempt to lionize Palestinian terrorists. One should not use Rachel Corrie's death to augment the moral standing of one side or the other. Rather, I hope to demonstrate the healthy but honest skepticism that one should bring to bear on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Gullible polemicists like Ms. LaDue treat Corrie's death as cheaply as Israel's foes expect the IDF will. In using her, they sully Israel's reputation. But ironically, they do more damage to the Palestinians for whom they care so disproportionately. By endlessly granting them a moral pass, Ms. LaDue and her kind ensure that Palestinians will remain in the disenfranchised misery they mistakenly ascribe to Zionism and its sympathizers in America.
Cross-posted at Fightin' with Grabes.