Mary Fitzgerald | Irish Times
The parents of Rachel Corrie, the US activist killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza in 2003, have paid tribute to those who attempted to break Israel’s naval blockade on a ship named after their daughter.
Activists, including several from Ireland, who last month set sail for Gaza onboard the aid-laden MV Rachel Corrie , were today returning to their home countries after Israeli forces intercepted the vessel on Saturday and towed it to the Israeli port of Ashdod.
Those onboard the Irish-owned ship had earlier rejected a proposal to discharge the cargo at Ashdod, and insisted they would continue on to Gaza. Days before, an Israeli commando raid on an aid flotilla sailing ahead of the vessel had resulted in the deaths of nine activists.
Cindy Corrie said those on board the MV Rachel Corrie were “courageous” in their determination to continue their journey. “They hold such a warm place in my heart because I have seen the work that they do, I know how important it is, and what amazing individuals they are. I feel so connected to their efforts,” she told The Irish Times .
“I applaud them for not agreeing to turn the boat into Ashdod port, because clearly the intention of their efforts is not just to bring humanitarian aid – while that aid is tremendously important – but also to challenge this ongoing, illegal siege of Gaza.”
It was “humbling” that the vessel bore her daughter’s name, Mrs Corrie said. “I know it would be humbling for Rachel too. She wanted more than anything to bring attention to what she was seeing. She went to Gaza to be a witness.”
Ms Corrie was 23 when she was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer as she and other protesters were trying to stop the demolition of Palestinian homes. Her writings – published posthumously – and a play about her life have made her a rallying figure for pro-Palestinian activists.
“I think Rachel would feel that if her name helps, if her story helps to continue to bring attention to what is happening, to continue to encourage people to take action right now to improve things for people in Gaza, she would be supportive of that,” added Mrs Corrie.
The Corrie family now run the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice in their hometown of Olympia, Washington.
Mr Corrie said their thoughts were with the families of those killed during the attack on the flotilla last Monday. “Our hearts go out to them. We have some understanding of what they are going through in these days and the days that will follow.” The couple, who visited Gaza twice last year, said they hoped the renewed international focus as a result of the events of the past week would bring further pressure on Israel to lift its blockade. “I feel very strongly that this is a watershed,” said Mrs Corrie.
“I think the world has awakened this week in a way that is different to before. I think now it is up to all of us to ensure that there is a very determined and continuing effort to keep attention on what is happening, and to end this terrible siege of Gaza.”