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Anniversary of Rachel Corrie Killing
In memorary of the brutal killing of Rachel Corrie Killing
Anniversary of Rachel Corrie Killing
Activists Tackle Bulldozer Maker, US Aid to Israel
Still angered by the death of Rachel Corrie, a U.S. peace activist who was run over and crushed to death by an Israeli Army bulldozer, peace campaigners are urging U.S. legislators to investigate the death of the 23-year-old activist.
Corrie was killed in Rafah, Palestine while trying to stop the demolition of a Palestinian house in the Gaza Strip on Mar. 16, 2003.
The U.S. company Caterpillar Inc, based in Illinois, built the nine-ton bulldozer that ran over Corrie, a college student from Olympia in Washington State. Her death made international headlines.
Dozens of non-governmental groups and peace activists, including Jewish groups and individuals, are taking part in a series of activities to honor her death, including protests outside Caterpillar offices.
They say they are particularly concerned because the bulldozer was made in the United States and sent to Israel as part of the regular U.S. aid package to that country, which amounts to $3-to-$4 billion annually; all of it, point out the activists, U.S. taxpayers' money.
Along with Corrie's family, the activists say using Caterpillar bulldozers to destroy civilian homes--not to mention to run over unarmed human rights activists--also violates U.S. law, including the U.S. Arms Export Control Act, which prohibits the use of military aid against civilians.
Caterpillar, a company with annual sales of more than $22.8 billion, more than half of which comes from overseas business, has been reluctant to divulge how much money it makes from its dealings with Israel.
Caterpillar did not return phone calls from IPS.
More than 30 vigils and educational events marking the one-year anniversary of Corrie's death are taking place in 30 cities in 19 U.S. states. Activists also held a ceremony at the Erez crossing point between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
Speaking outside the Caterpillar office in Washington D.C., Adam Shapiro, an American Jewish activist who was deported by Israel for his humanitarian work, said the groups want the company to stop selling machinery to the Israeli military.
"Our message to Caterpillar is to stop selling bulldozers to Israel and to demand that the Israeli military cease and desist from using the Caterpillar bulldozers in its occupation of Palestinian land," said Shapiro, a co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) to which Corrie belonged.
"It looks really bad when Caterpillar's bulldozers destroy somebody's home," added Shapiro.
The City of Santa Cruz, California, population 55,633, proclaimed March 16 'Rachel Corrie Day.'
"It is a very sad commentary on the state of political affairs in the United States that our national government has done virtually nothing to find out what happened and to insist that those responsible for her death be held accountable," said Santa Cruz Mayor Scott Kennedy in a statement.
An Israeli army investigation concluded last year that the Israeli driver of the bulldozer did not see Corrie and did not deliberately run over her, despite repeated eyewitness accounts to the contrary.
The contradiction between the Israeli and eyewitness accounts "makes an independent U.S. investigation into Rachel's death even more imperative", said several groups from the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, in a statement.
Amnesty International USA also renewed its call for an independent investigation of her death.
A current resolution in the U.S. Congress urging a probe has only 56 co-sponsors, and needs many more before the body orders a formal investigation.
Earlier this month, Elizabeth Corrie, Rachel's cousin, wrote in the International Herald Tribune that a year of silence has passed since her cousin's death, revealing "immoral and criminal truths."
Rachel Corrie died attempting to prevent the demolition of a home, a common practice under the Israeli Army's ''collective punishment'' code, which has left more than 12,000 Palestinians homeless since the beginning of the second uprising against Israel's occupation of parts of the Palestine territories in September 2000, Elizabeth added.
The demolitions violate international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Elizabeth Corrie said the Bush administration acted with ''cowardice."
"Citizens of the United States should ask themselves how it is that an unarmed U.S. citizen can be killed with impunity by a soldier from an allied nation receiving massive U.S. aid, using a product manufactured in the United States by a U.S. corporation, and paid for with U.S. tax dollars," she wrote.
Peace activists are also angered because Corrie's death was the first in a number of Israeli attacks on foreign citizens and peace activists in the West Bank and Gaza.
The Israeli army has cracked down particularly hard on activists from the International Solidarity Movement, saying they have hampered military operations in the occupied territories.
British citizen Tom Hurndall was shot in the head Apr. 11, 2003 and died Jan. 13, 2004.
U.S. national Brian Avery was shot in the face Apr. 5, 2003 and seriously injured, despite the fact he reportedly had his hands up and was wearing a vest that identified him as an international worker.
British journalist James Miller was also shot and killed in April 2003.
The groups contrast the treatment of the injured and slain activists with the killing of three U.S. citizens, presumably by Palestinian gunmen, in an explosion Oct. 15, 2003 as they traveled through Gaza. Within 25 hours, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrived to investigate their deaths.
"While the U.S. government has assisted in the investigations into cases of U.S. citizens killed by Palestinian armed groups, it has failed to do so in Corrie's case, raising the appearance of a double standard," said AIUSA in a statement.
"After one year, neither the FBI nor any other U.S.-led team has done anything to investigate the death of an American killed by an Israeli," said Elizabeth Corrie. "Why the double standard? Perhaps this reveals the most disturbing truth of all."
Elizabeth Corrie herself has become the subject of hate mail and incitement on right-wing websites. The "Right Thinking" homepage wrote: "one more Corrie, somewhere there is a bulldozer waiting for this girl."
The activists say their congressional resolution is not anti-Israel or anti-Semitic.
"On the contrary, this resolution strengthens the U.S.-Israel relationship by encouraging the two countries to work together to ensure the protection of the lives of American citizens engaged in human rights and humanitarian work," they said in their statement.
"I think her death brought home to a lot of people that the cause that we are working for is serious and takes lives, and is a reminder to us why we have an obligation to keep working for justice and peace," said Josh Ruebner of Jews for Peace in Palestine and Israel.