I’ve been reading different accounts of an Israeli court’s decision to deny a judgment for Rachel Corrie’s parents. Corrie, you may remember, was the young American activist who was struck by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza while
protesting trying to prevent housing demolitions during the first intifada [UPDATE: more precisely, she intentionally went to a closed military zone and put herself in between a military bulldozer and a house it was trying to demolish; see how easy it is to make a pretty reckless action on her part sound like she was just quietly protesting on the sidelines; and I didn’t even do it on purpose.]. I’ve come up with a pretty clear dividing line for sound coverage and poor coverage. Sound coverage at the very least mentions that Corrie was working for the International Solidarity Movement. Even if the story doesn’t give any further details, a bit of Googling would quickly reveal that the ISM is a far-leftist organization that supports Palestinian terrorism, has served as cover for terrorists, and encourages its participants to insert themselves as dangerous situations where they may suffer “martyrdom.” Consider this: “Less than two weeks after Corrie’s death, ISM members allegedly tried to prevent Israeli troops from searching their office in Jenin in the West Bank. When the soldiers forced their way in, they discovered Shadi Sukia, a leading member of Islamic Jihad.”
These facts do not inherently absolve the IDF for responsibility for Corrie’s death (though I have not seen any persuasive evidence that it was anything but, as the court found, an accident caused by a combination of poor sightlines on bulldozers and Corrie’s decision to place herself between an Israeli military bulldozer and its target), but it does give the reader some context beyond the propaganda put out by Corrie’s supporters. I think they also call into question the premise that ISM activists should be considered “civilians” as opposed to “unarmed combatants” when they interfere with IDF military operations. (Not surprisingly, a Human Rights Watch spokesman, apparently having too much time on his hands despite the carnage in Syria, violence against Christians in Egypt, and so on, pops up in the New York Times to lecture Israel about its obligation to “civilians” like Corrie.)
Among the journalistic venues that fail to even mention Corrie’s ISM affiliation are the Associated Press and the New York Times. [The New York Times story has apparently been edited, and now includes a paragraph that notes the ISM affiliation. A commenter below confirms that the old story, that he has in an open window, didn’t mention this.]
UPDATE: There are really two issues here: Was the IDF reckless in its disregard for Corrie’s safety? Corrie’s advocates say yes, the judge and the Israeli military investigation said no, and that particular issue isn’t any more inherently interesting that any other tort lawsuit going on in the world, in the absence of evidence of intentional misconduct by the IDF. [Let’s say an individual bulldozer driver was in fact reckless, but didn’t intentionally kill Corrie. Exactly what would that prove other than that some people, especially under the stress of combat operations, sometimes act reckless in a way that puts human life in danger?]
The second issue, which is the real reason the Rachel Corrie story stays alive, is that the “Palestine Solidarity Movement,” has made her into a secular saint, portraying her as an innocent “peace” and “human rights” activist whose life was cruelly shortened by the same Israeli military that is oppressing the Palestinians. But anyone who cares to look up the ISM can see that it’s not a “peace” or “human rights” organization, but an organization dedicated to Palestinian “liberation” that supports violence against Israeli civilians (though it doesn’t engage in such violence itself, for purely strategic reasons). Most Westerners, and certainly most Americans, have some real problems with bestowing sainthood on somehow who was working on behalf of a pro-terrorism organization, which is precisely why her supporters try to obscure exactly what she was doing, for whom, and for what purpose, at the time. And if media outlets, like the Times, repeat claims that she was a human rights and peace activist, without at least mentioning her ISM ties, they are not giving their readers the information they need to make an informed judgment.
FURTHER UPDATE: On the issue of “unarmed combatants.” For, example, the U.S. military in Afghanistan is in hot pursuit of a Taliban ambush force who just killed a marine. The Taliban members make it to a nearby village, and the military continues to pursue. One roads leads to the village. Fifteen women, some carrying babies, but none carrying weapons, block the road to prevent the military from pursuing the Taliban force. They are not armed combatants, but it’s silly to simply lump them into the general category of “unarmed civilians,” given that they are intentionally interfering with combat operations. They are, to coin a phrase, unarmed combatants. If there’s no category in the laws of war, there should be, they clearly aren’t in the same moral category as someone sitting in her living room minding her own business when bomb comes through the roof.
ONE LAST UPDATE: The ISM on its website now officially disclaims support for terrorism, but let’s look at the record during Corrie’s day (when, it should be noted, violence was not just a hypothetical, as thousands of Israelis were being injured in a Palestinian campaign of terrorism during the Second Intifda). (1) ISM activists knowingly worked with representatives of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, albeit on “nonviolent resistance” projects; (2) In 2003 the Nablus coordinator, in an ISM London interview proudly displayed on its webpage, explicitly endorsed “armed resistance,” a euphemism for terrorism during the Second Intifada; (3) as noted, ISM in Jenin shielded as Islamic Jihad terrorist in their office; (4) In 2002, a group of ISM activists joined a holed-up group of Palestinian terrorists in the Nativity Church in Bethlehem; (5) The ISM mission statement said, and continues to say, we “recognize the Palestinian right to resist Israeli violence and occupation via legitimate armed struggle”; (6) a sympathetic article in Mother Jones in 2003 noted that ISM embrac[es] Palestinian militants, even suicide bombers, as freedom fighters; (7) In 2002, the ISM’s co-founders wrote that “The Palestinian resistance must take on a variety of characteristics, both non-violent and violent”; (8) According to an Israeli government report, British terrorists who bombed a bar next to the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv used the ISM as a cover for their movements. After the attack, none of the ISM activists who had been in contact with the terrorists reported their contacts to the Israeli authorities. Surely this was not a “peace” organization; and while the ISM has never engaged in violence or terrorism itself, it has both expressed its support for such, cooperated with those who engage in it, and shielded perpetrators in a variety of ways.