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

March 27, 2003

Who Killed Rachel Corrie?
Still confused? You should be

By Judy Lash Balint

According to a fellow Evergreen State College student, Joseph Smith, 21, who was at the site, Corrie dropped her bullhorn and sat down in front of one of the bulldozers. She fully expected that the driver would stop just in front of her. “We were horribly surprised,” Smith told me by phone from Rafah the day after the incident. “They had been careful not to hurt us. They’d always stopped before,” he said.

As the bulldozer plowed forward heaping up a pile of dirt and sand, Corrie scrambled up the pile to sit on the top, screaming slogans at the driver. Smith says she lost her footing as the bulldozer made the earth move beneath her feet. “She got pulled down,” he says. “The driver lost sight of her and continued forward. Then, without lifting the blade he reversed and Rachel was underneath the mid-section of the bulldozer--she wasn’t run over by the tread.”

...I ask about the series of photos printed in an Arab newspaper I picked up that morning in Jerusalem’s Old City. “They aren’t of the actual incident,” he states firmly. “We’d been there for three hours already, we were tired: we already had a lot of pictures.”

Yet these are the pictures used on the ISM website, to document the before and after of Rachel’s interaction with the bulldozer. The same pictures are featured as a photo-essay on the site of Electronic Intifada, where they’re even attributed to Joseph Smith.
...
Even Michael Shaikh, the ISM media coordinator, won’t confirm that these are pictures of Corrie taken the day she died. “I’m fairly sure—they’re of the incident,” he tells me by phone from his Bethlehem office. In the same conversation, Shaikh asks me not to contact Joe, Greg or Tom, the Rafah ISM eyewitnesses again directly: “They’re still in traumatized.”

Where is the mound of earth Rachel clambered up and was buried in? The woman shown lying bleeding from her nose and mouth is lying on a flat piece of ground, and she’s not covered in sand.

...was Rachel alive when she was taken by Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance to Martyr Mohammed Yousef An Najar Hospital? In other words, where did she die? Were adequate efforts made to save her in the hospital?

Again, there are conflicting stories. Joseph Smith tells me in a telephone interview the day after the tragedy, “She died in the hospital or on the way to the hospital.” CNN also reported that Rachel died there.

In his account posted on www.arabia.com, ISMer Tom Dale has a slightly different story. On March 17 he writes: “I ran for an ambulance, she was gasping and her face was covered in blood from a gash cutting her face from lip to cheek. She was showing signs of brain hemorrhaging. She died in the ambulance a few minutes later of massive internal injuries.”

But Dr. Ali Mussa, director of Martyr Mohammed Yousef An Najar Hospital where Corrie was taken isn’t so clear. On the day of the event, Dr. Mussa tells AP Gaza reporter Ibrahim Barzak that Rachel died in the hospital.

One week later, in a telephone interview with me, Dr. Mussa states definitively that Rachel died at the scene, “in the soil,” as he puts it. “The main cause of death was suffocation,” Mussa asserts. There were no signs of life, no heartbeat or pulse when she arrived at the hospital, he says. Mussa states that Rachel’s ribs were fractured, a fact determined by X-rays. (Is it normal procedure to X-ray a dead body?)

Doesn’t quite jive with the photo essay on the pages of the Electronic Intifada website for March 16, 2003.

A caption under one photo of doctors leaning over a female patient reads: “Rachel arrived in the Emergency Room at 5:05 p.m and doctors scrambled to save her. By 5:20 p.m, she was gone. Ha’aretz newspaper reported that Dr. Ali Mussa, a doctor at Al Najar, stated that the cause of death was “skull and chest fractures.” Dr. Mussa told me he was one of the treating physicians--yet he alone maintains that Rachel was dead before she was put into the ambulance. To further complicate matters, on that same website, a report from the Palestine Monitor is cited. Here, the writer says that Rachel fractured “both her arms, legs and skull. She was transferred to hospital, where she later died.”

...Just who is Dr. Ali Mussa? Clearly a man in favor with the Palestine Authority hierarchy. Dr. Mussa’s views are aired on the official website of the PA’s Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation: (January 27, 2003)

A few days after the incident, ISM Media Coordinator Michael Shaikh tells me by phone from Rafah that three ISMers, Tom, Alice and Greg were in the ambulance with Rachel. “She died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital,” says Michael. But Greg Schnabel, 28, who is quoted in numerous wire service and newspaper stories, never says he witnessed the death of his comrade in the ambulance. In his account published a few days later on the ISM website, he carefully states that she died twenty minutes after arriving at the hospital.

What happened to Rachel’s body after her death? Depends who you ask. Dr. Mussa says it was kept for 24 hours at the hospital before a Red Crescent ambulance transported it “to the US Embassy in Tel Aviv,” via the border where an Israeli ambulance took over. Michael Shaikh says “we lost track of it (her body) after she died.” Three ISMers tried to escort the body, but only one was permitted on the ambulance on the Israeli side. According to his account, the ambulance drove straight to the Israeli Forensic Institute at Abu Kabir, where an autopsy was performed. “The Israelis are trying to say she died from a blow to the head by a rock,” Shaikh recounts.

...Confusion and obfuscation seem to be a trademark of the ISM.

...So, while the memorial services laud and remember Rachel Corrie as a 'peace activist' 'murdered by Israeli occupation forces,' the truth lies elsewhere.

An Israeli bulldozer injured Corrie as she tried to prevent it doing its job of protecting Israeli civilians, but she was alive when she was taken to An Najar Hospital, according to at least three eyewitnesses. Only Dr. Mussa, a man intent on accusing Israel of child killing, claims otherwise. None of Rachel's comrades have stated they were with her in the hospital when she died.

"Bring on the inquiry," writes Jerusalem Diaries founder Judy Lash Balint.