In March 2016, a group of high school students from the Tacoma School of the Arts interviewed Cindy and Craig Corrie for Chatterbox. Students are involved in all aspects of the production of the news program that covers a variety of topics. Watch the 30-minute interview to learn about Rachel’s story and how her life inspired Cindy and Craig to establish the Rachel Corrie Foundation. Thanks to Brian Scannell and his class, KBTC Public Television and Tacoma School District for hosting the interview.
STATEMENT FROM THE FAMILY OF RACHEL CORRIE
ON THE TWELFTH ANNIVERSARY OF RACHEL’S STAND IN GAZA
March 16, 2015
Today, the twelfth anniversary of our daughter and sister Rachel’s stand and death in Gaza, we find ourselves back where our journey for accountability in her case began – in Washington DC. We have come for meetings at the Department of State and in Congress and, also, to join our colleagues in pursuit of a just peace in Israel/Palestine at the national meeting of Jewish Voice for Peace.
Rachel was crushed to death March 16, 2003, by an Israeli military, US-funded, Caterpillar D9R bulldozer in Rafah, Gaza, while nonviolently protesting the impending demolition of the home of a Palestinian family. This was one of thousands of homes eventually destroyed in Gaza in clearing demolitions, described in the 2004 Human Rights Watch Report, Razing Rafah.
The U.S. Department of State reported that on March 17, 2003, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised President Bush that the Israeli Government would undertake a “thorough, credible, and transparent” investigation into Rachel’s killing and report the results to the United States. On March 19, 2003, in a U.S. Department of State press briefing, Richard Boucher said in reference to Rachel, “When we have the death of an American citizen, we want to see it fully investigated. That is one of our key responsibilities overseas, is to look after the welfare of American citizens and to find out what happened in situations like these.”
Through tenures of both the Bush and Obama administrations, high level Department of State officials have continued to call for Israeli investigation in Rachel’s case. During our twelve year journey for accountability, we met with Lawrence B. Wilkerson (Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell), William Burns (then Under Secretary of State) and Antony Blinken (then Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor to Vice President Biden) – all who have acknowledged lack of an adequate response from the Israeli Government in Rachel’s case.
In a letter to our family in 2008, Michelle Bernier-Toth, U.S. Department of State’s Managing Director of Overseas Citizens Services, wrote, “We have consistently requested that the Government of Israel conduct a full and transparent investigation into Rachel’s death. Our requests have gone unanswered or ignored.”
In March 2005, at the suggestion of the Department of State and to preserve our legal options, our family initiated a civil lawsuit against the State of Israel and Ministry of Defense. After a lengthy Israeli court process, in February of this year, the Israeli Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that said Rachel was killed in a “war activity” for which the state bears no liability under Israeli law. In response, Human Rights Watch wrote,
“The ruling flies in the face of the laws of armed conflict…The ruling grants immunity in civil law to Israeli forces for harming civilians based merely on the determination that the forces were engaged in ‘wartime activity,’ without assessing whether that activity violated the laws of armed conflict, which require parties to the conflict at all times to take all feasible precautions to spare civilian life.”
Our family’s legal options in Israel are nearly exhausted, but our search for justice for Rachel goes forward. Back in Washington DC, we have come full circle. We ask again that U.S. officials address their responsibility to U.S. citizens and to all civilians whose lives are impacted and cut short by military actions supported with U.S. taxpayer funding. We ask that they determine what to do when a promise from a key ally’s head of state to our own goes unfulfilled. March 16, 2003, was the very worst day of our lives. Our family deserves a clear and truthful explanation for how what happened to Rachel that day could occur, and to know there is some consequence to those responsible. Rachel deserves this.
She wrote, “This has to stop. I think it is a good idea for us all to drop everything and devote our lives to making this stop. I don’t think it’s an extremist thing to do anymore. I still really want to dance around to Pat Benatar and have boyfriends and make comics for my coworkers. But I also want this to stop.”
The failure of the Israeli court system to hold its soldiers, officers, and government accountable does not represent a failure on our part. Rachel, herself, went to Rafah looking for justice – a forward looking justice in which all people in the region would enjoy the freedoms, rights, opportunities, and obligations that we each demand for ourselves. The facts uncovered in our legal effort in Israel, and the clear evidence of the Israeli court’s complicity in the occupation revealed in the outcome, lay important legal groundwork for the future. As we look back at Selma fifty years ago and Ferguson today, we realize that our own civil rights struggle is not won in a single march or court case. It is ongoing. As our family continues our journey for justice, we thank those across the U.S., the world, and in Palestine and Israel who travel with us. Together, we will find justice for Rachel – both the justice she deserves and the justice for which she stood.
The Corrie Family
On October 23, 2013 a memorial to Rachel Corrie was placed at The Evergreen State College. The piece created by international artist and Evergreen graduate Ross Matteson and entitled “Reflecting on Peace and Justice” is a bronze and polished steel representation of a dove on the tip of a pyramid. It was a very moving and powerful event. Below is a video of the dedication event, followed by the text of Cindy Corrie and Ross Matteson’s remarks from that day.
Remarks by Cindy Corrie – On Behalf of the Corrie Family and the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice
Good Afternoon. The physical installation of this memorial sculpture has, of course, taken some time. I have been on the Evergreen campus since the sculpture was positioned here, but I have avoided coming to see until this moment. I wanted to share my first encounter with the memorial in this very special place with all of you, who have come to dedicate this remembrance of Rachel and her commitment to peace with justice, and peace with compassion, and, also, to dedicate the call to awareness and action that the memorial and Rachel’s story require of us. As I have pondered what to share in these few minutes (without keeping you all standing much longer than you would want) I keep coming back to one sensation, very real for me, that with the placing of this powerful piece – a product of so much love and commitment – in this location, and on the Evergreen campus, that Rachel has come home.
There are many to thank. From the beginning, there were those determined to realize this day when Rachel would be remembered at Evergreen in a permanent way. You know who you are. Each meeting, each idea, each dollar given, each bit of time volunteered, each step that contributed to bringing us here, is now and will always be remembered and greatly appreciated by our family, and by all who care deeply about Rachel and her message.
This event is very much an outgrowth of the spontaneous memorial at Evergreen that evolved during the first hours, days, and weeks after Rachel’s killing in Gaza, March 16, 2003, and grew into a volume of writing, photos, news clippings, responses, and remembrances from students, faculty, staff, and the community. Out of that grieving, processing, and response came awareness, action, and commitment – to explore and embrace the story, to not allow it to be forgotten on this campus, and to have it thoughtfully impact the path of others who journey through this space.
There are numerous faculty and staff who were an important part of Rachel’s experience here. At the risk of overlooking someone key, I want to especially mention Anne Fischel, Lin Nelson, Therese Saliba, Peter Bohmer, Larry Moquesda, Steve Niva, and Jean Eberhardt who were important to Rachel and have lent continuing support to our family and to this memorial effort. To all of you, and to others who know you touched Rachel in some way – helped her to develop her own perspective, to questioningly but also with some confidence define her own path and journey – I extend our thanks. You were part of the experience that shaped the wonderful human being that we see reflected in Rachel’s actions, her writing, and her art.
I am sorry that sad circumstances have prevented President Les Purce from being with us today, and I very much thank Provost Zimmerman for representing the Evergreen administration and staff with his remarks. Les Purce has been a friend for many years. He was Rachel’s fifth grade Y-team basketball coach. With me, he was a parent chaperone when our two daughters, Rachel’s and Deborah’s fifth grade classes took a week-long field trip around the Olympic Peninsula and spent the night in Neah Bay as guests of the Makah Tribe, sleeping on the local school gymnasium floor. I know for Les, Rachel’s story is personal. It is also a story touched by controversy not always easy to navigate. President Purce and the college helped us through the devastating time of Rachel’s death in many different and personal ways. I thank Les for his embrace of this memorial and all the Evergreen administration and staff who have helped in any way to make it a reality; and, in advance, I thank those who will continue to shepherd the presence of the memorial here.
It is most fitting that this sculpture finds its home in this hallway framed by the Student Art Gallery and the Student Activities Center. Through these ten years, Evergreen students have been moved by Rachel’s story and responded – a good number by coming to intern with us at the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice, others by becoming deeply involved with social justice issues about which Rachel cared, and more who do their part to learn about and address the issues that took Rachel to Gaza – some of whom will share her words later today. The spirit, creativity, openness, fearlessness, and persistence of present and former students energizes us and makes me confident that Rachel’s story will always have some impact with the young. For my husband Craig and me, our connection with students here and elsewhere is immensely comforting and encouraging! I thank the students with us today.
The Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice, absent Craig and me, made the decision to lend support to the Evergreen faculty, staff, students, and alumni pursuing this permanent memorial. Thank you to our previous and current foundation boards of directors for their decision to support the education, the call to action, and the tribute to Rachel’s legacy that this memorial artwork embodies.
I recall the evening following Rachel’s memorial service on the Evergreen campus when Ross Matteson came to the home of a mutual friend where we had gathered. It must have been there where I spoke to him for the first time. And I recall another occasion sometime later, when he sat on the floor of a home where we were giving a talk. He listened carefully, asked unique questions, and shared penetrating observations of his own. We have come to know Ross and his family as friends through these ten years. He and I have engaged each other in conversations and emails about peacemaking. For Ross, for a number of significant reasons (one being that he is an alumnus of this college), arriving at this moment is the result of a deep commitment of his creativity, resources, and emotional and physical effort. I thank Ross for sharing his vision, determination, leadership, and belief in the importance of this project.
Ross spent time with Rachel. She was an artist. Given more time to develop, it’s hard to know the directions in which her creative energies would have gone. She loved the visual arts. Her innate sense of what they could accomplish is recognized in the commitment the Rachel Corrie Foundation makes to using art and the written word as tools for pursuing justice and peace. Art enlarges our spirits, expands our vision, and heightens our sense of all the creative possibilities. Rachel was given to imagination. We in her family talked about her rich inner life and how remarkable it was when the fragments of that inner life emerged for us to consider and enjoy. I believe that the artwork and memorial created here by the contributions of so many people, challenge us to let our imaginations soar like the dove, seeking all the possibilities for creating peace with justice. The pyramidinvites us to look deep into our own souls and to ask, “Who will I be? What will I do?” Those were Rachel’s questions. Thankfully, the piece will be here today, tomorrow, next week, next year – a place for self-reflection.
It is easy to talk about “peace” and much more difficult to substantively and thoughtfully do something about creating it. Rachel challenges us to continue to be learners, to be the kind of thoughtful activist she was becoming, to be willing to look clearly for the injustices and to expose them, and to be ready to resist, but to make ours a loving resistance.
Rachel was in Gaza partly to challenge the Caterpillar bulldozers and the Israeli military using them to destroy the dwellings of thousands of Palestinians, violating the basic human right of people to be safe in their homes. But she was also there living and working with children, women, and families, striving to share with us some of their experience. A saddened Evergreen professor Larry Mosqueda, said in a March 17, 2003, NPR interview that he admired the courage of Rachel’s convictions. He said, “She wasn’t naive at all. Basically, she was a very smart person and…very dedicated to peace and justice issues…somebody who wanted to do something about the problems in the world, and not just learn about them.”
In 2005, Khaled Nasrallah, one of the two brothers in the house whose families Rachel stood to protect, visited the Evergreen campus when he, his wife, and baby spent weeks traveling with Craig and me to share their story in the U.S. This genuine and peaceful man, Khaled, stood on Red Square, peered around, and quietly smiled. He looked at the beauty of this place and said, “She left paradise to come be with us in Gaza. She left paradise to come be with us in Gaza.”
Today, Rachel has come home to Evergreen, this place so central to her life and values. Through this elegant memorial, she returns, reminding each of us that we, too, should sometimes step out of paradise – make some sacrifice, be willing to face some hardship, discomfort, criticism, and even risk, to challenge the injustice that we see. Rachel propelled our family to this place, and doing so, gave us the gift of opportunity. There are amazing possibilities that exist for each of us when we make the effort.
To all who have kept Rachel’s story near – who have lent support in so many ways, and who have believed that in her story are lessons for all of us – thank you! May Rachel’s spirit soar here at Evergreen and take many along for the ride!
Remarks by Ross Matteson – Artist and Friend
I am reluctant to personalize either good or evil.
So, I find it helpful to think about this tribute, titled “Reflecting on Peace and Justice” from two different perspectives. One is with respect to Rachel as a very special but very human fellow student. The other is with a focus on the high ideals that Rachel and her family have made a commitment to both understand and demonstrate in their lives — ideals that I believe are also widely cherished in The Evergreen State College community. “Peace” and “Justice” — “for all” are examples of these ideals. I think that the power of these ideas does not come from a person but from the ideas themselves. If anyone has any doubt about that, just think for a minute. Rachel is not here, but the principle of love and intelligence that she sought after, has brought us together.
Is there anything threatening about “Reflecting on Peace and Justice”, as this tribute encourages us to do? Can the idea that Rachel’s example of this “reflecting” – this thinking — observing of the world around us, this process of asking good questions based on a love of humanity and the natural world, this active thinking process with a fearless expectation for solutions – this desire to take responsibility for even small steps of progress, this willingness to share what we are learning – be considered anything but a blessing to this state college?
As a 10 year old, I was Rachel.
As a 23 year old, I easily could have been her as well.
And I don’t think that I’m alone. Am I alone?
I encourage everyone who hasn’t, to see the YouTube video of Rachel giving her famous 5th grade speech, against child hunger in the world.
In essence, she said, “If we ignore world hunger, not only will 40,000 people a day continue to die, but inspiration itself, will die – the light of compassion will be extinguished in our thought”.
Many years later, while a student at Evergreen, Rachel interviewed me because I am a community activist and international artist.
What I saw in Rachel at that time was a thoughtful, quiet person. She still had that timeless light of compassion flickering in her eyes but it didn’t hint of idealism. Her questions weren’t just academic; they were tactical — She was seeking out practical inspiration to fight injustice. She was motivated and willing to do something meaningful against all odds. She was certainly an artist!
The polished stainless steel of “Reflecting on Peace and Justice” reflects our own image back at us for a reason, because we are all responsible for “Peace and Justice”.
To get a better look at the dove, we need to walk up to this sculpture and see our reflection. As we fight for a world with less conflict, we need to guard the quality of our own thought. This will help wake up the quality of local, national and international thought, and is worth doing.
Evergreen’s value is tied to the courage of expressing, sometimes controversial, ideas without fear. I am deeply grateful that our community has risen up to see this tribute realized. There are many contributors to the design and presentation of this sculpture. It was never primary in my mind, that I should be referred to as the artist for this focal point — but for the last 10 years, it has been imperative to me that a gathering place and tribute made by someone for Evergreen, in Rachel’s name.
May this sculpture and place be one that brings us together and invites the citizens of Washington and beyond, to respectfully reflect on improving even the most challenging of conflicts.
Cindy and Craig sat with Dan Shea of Veterans for Peace- Portland for the VFP Forum. The three reminisced about Rachel’s 5th grade speech—“I’m here because I care”, the history of the foundation, current projects, and BDS. They also talked about how September 11th impacted Rachel and how it moved Rachel towards activism. The Corrie’s also talked about their first visit to Palestine, the Mavi Marmara tragedy, the play My Name is Rachel Corrie, and the lawsuit in the Israel court system. This 50 minute interview starts at minute marker 8:05.
March 16, 2013 marks the 10-year anniversary of our daughter, Rachel Corrie’s death. We thank you all for the love and support you have sent us over the last 10 years, and we thank you for all the work you do on human rights. Please view and share this video and act. Join us at the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice in our call to action!