U.S. must probe death In Gaza

A Letter to the Editor of The Hartford Courant published on April 19, 2003

The Courant said it had no reason to doubt that the bulldozing of American Rachel Corrie was a regrettable accident [Editorial, March 20, “A ‘Regrettable Accident’ In Gaza”]. After the Israeli army shootings of Brian Avery and Tom Hurndall, can The Courant still be so sure?

The initial Israeli army investigation into Rachel’s death cleared the soldier operating the bulldozer. It said Rachel was not run over by an engineering vehicle, but hit accidentally by concrete. As I stare at a photo of people trying to dig Rachel out of the earth — with bulldozer treads on both sides — I am astounded.

Witness Joseph Smith of Kansas City said: “The bulldozer continued driving forward, headed straight for Rachel. When it got so close that it was moving the earth beneath her, she climbed onto the pile of rubble being pushed by the bulldozer. She got so high onto it that she was at eye-level with the cab of the bulldozer. Her head and upper torso were above the bulldozer’s blade, and the bulldozer driver and co-operator could clearly see her. Despite this, he continued forward, which pulled her legs into the pile of rubble, and pulled her down out of view of the driver. If he’d stopped at this point, he may have only broken her legs, but he continued forward, which pulled her underneath the bulldozer. We ran toward him, and waved our arms and shouted, one activist with the megaphone. But the bulldozer driver continued forward, until Rachel was underneath the cab of the bulldozer.” It then drove backward over Rachel with its blade down.

Corrie and Smith were “internationals”: members of the International Solidarity Movement, a group of people who try to stand between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian civilians. Another international, Brian Avery from Albuquerque, was hit in the face by bullet fragments from an Israeli military vehicle as he walked, wearing a fluorescent red vest, in an empty street in Jenin on April 5. Tom Hurndall from London was shot by an Israeli sniper from a watchtower in Rafah on April 11. His prognosis is grim.

None of these people would have gotten hurt if they had minded their own business and closed their eyes to the shootings of Palestinians. Yet I’ve talked with ISM activists in New Haven who are certain that their work is vital. When they’re around, Israeli soldiers shoot less and the international news media pay more attention. That saves lives.

The Israeli army investigation was a farce. Rachel Corrie’s Member of Congress has sponsored a House resolution demanding an independent U.S. investigation into the circumstances of her death. I hope Connecticut newspapers and members of Congress will also demand an impartial investigation.

Stanley Heller, Chairman
Middle East Crisis Committee
New Haven, CT