As the Israeli pays millions of dollars to Gaza settlers and prepares to demolish their homes after the evacuation, we look back at another home demolition that came with no compensation. American activist Rachel Corrie was crushed by an Israeli military bulldozer as she tried to protect a Palestinian home. We speak with the family that lived in that home and Rachel Corrie’s mother. [includes rush transcript]
Two weeks ago, the Presbyterian Church warned four US companies to stop providing military equipment and technology to Israel for use in the occupation of the Palestinian territories, or else face a vote by the Church to divest its stock in them. A church investment committee accused Motorola, Caterpillar, ITT Industries and United Technologies of selling helicopters, cellphones, night vision equipment as well as other items used by Israel in its forced occupation of Palestinian territory. Other mainline Protestant churches have followed in the campaign of the Presbyterian Church using corporate divestment as a tactic in the Middle East conflict.
The Episcopal Church of U.S.A., the United Church of Christ, two regions of the United Methodist Church, as well as international groups like the World Council of Churches and the Anglican Consultative Council have all urged similar economic boycotts of Israel. One of the companies that is facing divestment is Caterpillar. Last week, President Bush visited the company’s manufacturing plant in Montgomery, Illinois where he signed the federal Transportation Equity Act.
For years, Caterpillar has been a target of activists because of its sale of bulldozers to Israel that have been used to demolish Palestinian homes. This campaign gained momentum after the death of Rachel Corrie, the young American woman who was crushed to death on March 16, 2003 by an Israeli military bulldozer as she tried to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home. In March 2005, Rachel’s parents initiated lawsuits against the State of Israel, the Israel Defense Forces and Caterpillar. Subsequently, they haves been joined by Palestinian plaintiffs in the suit against Caterpillar. This summer, members of the Palestinian family who lived in the home Corrie was defending came to the U.S. to travel with Corrie’s parents Cindy and Craig on a national speaking tour.
- Samah Nasrallah and Khaled Nasrallah, residents of Rafah. American activist Rachel Corrie died defending their house from an Israeli military bulldozer.
- Cindy Corrie, mother of Rachel Corrie
Related Link: Rebuilding Alliance
AMY GOODMAN: We caught up with the Corries and the Nasrallah family, Khaled and Samah, during their national speaking tour earlier this summer. I began by asking Cindy Corrie about the significance of the tour.
CINDY CORRIE: When Rachel sent emails to us from Rafah in Gaza, one of the things that she said was that it was important to bring Palestinian voices directly to the people of the United States, rather than having their voices filtered through the voices of well-meaning internationals such as herself. And for Craig and for me, it’s almost a miracle that we have been able to bring part of the Nasrallah family here and to see them talking directly to Americans, but we definitely feel like we’re continuing Rachel’s work in trying to get the word out and to bring this story to people here.
AMY GOODMAN: Khaled Nasrallah, can you talk about the Rachel Corrie you knew before she died, and, in fact, did you see her die on that March day?
KHALED NASRALLAH: Sure. Rachel Corrie has been reflecting the new generation of youth in the United States. She came to see the land, what is happening and judge by herself and to try to help to end this conflict, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by peaceful ways. She lived with us around three weeks. By this daily knowing her, we see how she was very human, how she was friendly, how she was good, and she used to play with our children, watch the cartoon television with them, help our wives in the kitchen. She was a very, very nice and good girl. About her — what we saw and heard, I may let my wife tell you about.
SAMAH NASRALLAH: [translated] At that time, my brother called us to come to the garden as the tank and bulldozer have been coming to our home. At that time, Rachel has been stand in between our home and the tank, which has been around 200 meter far and over land, and she was holding a microphone talking with an orange vest. She was talking to the tank driver telling him, “Stop, stop. There’s children inside the home.”
At that time, the driver of the bulldozer didn’t stop and to continue moving toward her. We didn’t mention that any human being can continue by this way. He pushed the sand on her and squeezed her by his fork. I didn’t never expect that happened or she can survive from this fatal injuries.
At that time, I run to my home to bring the first aid to help Rachel. I think it is not injured and I didn’t — never try to think she will die. So I bring the first aid to my brother — wife of husband brother, Dr. Samir, and he go to help her. But it was very bad injury for her. Last time I saw Rachel when the ambulance came, and I saw her on the stretcher lying with her blood. This moment for very hard to me, and I’ll never forget her.
AMY GOODMAN: Samah Nasrallah, describing what happened on that day through her husband, Khaled Nasrallah, on March 16 when Cindy Corrie’s daughter, Rachel Corrie, was killed in Gaza, in Rafah. Cindy Corrie, how do you listen to this description now on this speaking tour over and over again? Have you learned anything new about your daughter’s last moments?
CINDY CORRIE: You know, I have heard this story in so many ways from so many people. Sometimes on the speaking tour, we actually don’t go into the details of it all, because sometimes it is hard to hear it over and over again. A thing I didn’t know about Samah, though, watching and then going to get the first aid kit so — and her feeling that somehow Rachel was going to survive, that’s all new information to me. And I think, too, even in our family, I didn’t have the sense, the understanding that now I do about the fact that, you know, all of the children, the Nasrallah children, were behind that wall. They had come downstairs when the bulldozers appeared, the ones who were upstairs, because they didn’t know what was going to happen. And so Rachel knew those children were behind the wall, six — five young children at the time. There are now six children, but there were five at the time. And, of course, the adults, as well. I think maybe that’s the point that has been made even more clear to me, that, of course, I mean, Rachel had to take that stand. She couldn’t have moved out of the way. She knew her friends were behind that wall.
AMY GOODMAN: And so what are you doing now, Cindy Corrie? You have filed lawsuits against the company that made the bulldozer, Caterpillar, against the Israeli government. What is your campaign at this point?
CINDY CORRIE: Well, we’re doing a number of different things. We’re still working with the U.S. government to try to get a U.S. investigation. My husband Craig, my daughter Sarah and other members of our family continue to make trips to Washington, D.C. We are now — we have a contact in the Justice Department. We understand that they are still considering the possibility of a U.S. investigation. For a long time, we had been led to believe that that wasn’t possible. But it is being considered at this time, and we’re still calling for that.
We know the U.S. State Department is now on record saying that the report of the investigation does not reflect an investigation of — the Israeli military investigation does not reflect an investigation that was thorough, credible and transparent, as was promised to President Bush by Prime Minister Sharon that it would be the day after Rachel was killed. We have a letter from the Chief of Staff to Colin Powell that states that the investigation was not adequate, and also that was reinforced in testimony by Ambassador Kozak before a subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee this spring. So we feel that there’s still real reason, and it’s not only our family, but others, that believe that more needs to be done.
We have filed the suit against Caterpillar Corporation. I think it’s really important for people to know that Palestinian plaintiffs have been added to that lawsuit. People who — families have joined in who had family members that died in Jenin and also in Gaza, when Caterpillar equipment was involved in the demolition of homes. And we have also a civil suit in Israel, and of course, the legal process moves very slowly, so there hasn’t been a lot of progress at this point, but both of those are underway.
On this tour, of course this is another dimension of the work that we’re doing. We’re working with the Rebuilding Alliance to bring — we brought this family here. We have been traveling since June 8. We started on the West Coast in California, went to Oregon, to Washington and then to the Midwest, Michigan, Wisconsin, and we’re concluding in Iowa, which is Craig’s and my home. We grew up here in Iowa. And it’s been really heartening to me to see people come out all along the way to hear directly from the Nasrallah family. I think this story is still very important to people. It was 90 degrees, 90 to 100 degrees in Des Moines and in Iowa City this week. Last night we were in the Islamic Center here that was standing room only. There were fans trying to cool everybody off, and people stayed through two hours to hear this story. So I feel very good about getting this word out.
We’re also trying to raise funds to rebuild, first of all, the Nasrallah home and then another and another, to have a presence in Gaza, a grassroots American presence that says to people that we know what has happened. We know that one-tenth of the population of Rafah have lost their homes during the past four-and-a-half, five years, and that we know we have a responsibility in that as Americans, because we funded the equipment that has done that work. We funded the Israeli military, and that disengagement is being discussed, and as we are waiting to see how that unfolds, that we continue to stand with the people of Gaza to support them until there is truly a viable existence for the people of Gaza.
AMY GOODMAN: Cindy Corrie, joining us in Des Moines, with the Nasrallahs, whose home Rachel Corrie was standing in front of, defending against a Caterpillar bulldozer operated by the Israeli military on March 16, 2003, three days, actually, before the U.S. invasion began in Iraq. Khaled, can you talk about what happened to your home? Was it demolished on that day, after Rachel was killed?
KHALED NASRALLAH: Actually, when the bulldozer have been coming to demolish our home, and Rachel, by her soft body, stopped the bulldozer at that time. We struggled to continue living in our home in spite of this heavy pressure from the Israeli army about our home to force us to leave. But because of all of what has Rachel done to us, we continue living in our home for another seven months, because we believe Rachel spent her life and we believe are innocent and didn’t anything against anybody, and we only hope on the life to save our home. So continue living, but they make a very intensive invasion in our neighborhood. They surround our home from all sides, and they start to make digging around three sides of our home. The depth has been from five to seven meters under the establishment of basic construction of our home. And they hold us three days in our home, while it was moving on us. You can imagine how it’s bad when you feel your home being demolished and you and your wife and children, your children, any time.
But because we are Palestinian, if we go outside the home, the tank will shoot us. So the two children staying in the home or going out, it’s very dangerous for us. In this campaign, they cut the water supplies, electricity supplies, they demolished the sewers, they cut the telephone lines, they destroy many of the wall of our home, the windows, the doors. So at this moment, we can’t continue living in this home. Plus that, they demolished the road which have been going to the home and make it like hell to avoid anybody to move or walk in this street. So it was very bad day for us, as we became homeless and refugees at that time. After another month, they came in another campaign and complete demolishing the home and now it’s became under ground.
AMY GOODMAN: Khaled Nasrallah and his wife, Samah, along with Cindy Corrie, mother of Rachel Corrie. This is Democracy Now! DemocracyNow.org. We were speaking with them in Des Moines, Iowa. They were on a national speaking tour. Rachel Corrie died on March 16, 2003.