Tonight at Eckerd College as part of the President Events Series, activist and educator Dr. Elizabeth Corrie will present a lecture entitled “Washing Dishes and Other Revolutionary Tactics: What it Takes to Change the World.”
Dr. Corrie is the cousin of Rachel Corrie, the late peace activist who was killed by an Israeli army bulldozer while defending a Palestinian home in Gaza in 2003. Four and a half years later, Rachel’s parents continue to search for accountability in the death of their daughter.
Rachel Corrie was a 23-year-old student activist at Evergreen State College in her hometown of Olympia, Wash., when she decided to go to Rafah, the largest Palestinian town in Gaza, on the Egyptian border. Through friends and professors at Evergreen, Corrie met people who were directly connected with the West Bank and awakened her to the Palestinian cause.
Rachel joined the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a Palestinian led group dedicated to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory in nonviolent ways.
Rachel was really interested in making connections to people, and maintaining them between Olympia and Rafah,” according to her mother, Cindy Corrie.
Rachel was working with women and children parliament, she was documenting human rights violations, Cindy Corrie said.
Rachel had a couple days of training with the ISM and then became a resident of Rafah, getting to know the families and learning of their daily struggles, which she often wrote about in long emails home and in her journal.
On March 16, 2003, Rachel and others from the ISM stood between a 60-ton Caterpillar bulldozer and a Palestinian home with a family inside. Accounts vary about what occurred, but despite Rachel’s orange safety jacket, the bulldozer pushed aside dirt and debris, crushing Rachel and ran over her twice.
Friends rushed to help Rachel and hold her as she took her last breaths. She died a short time later from her injuries. Congressman Brian Baird was Rachel’s representative in Olympia.
Baird said U.S. officials met repeatedly with Israeli officials to get their investigative reports.
In 2005, Rachel’s parents brought a lawsuit against Caterpillar Inc., accusing the company of aiding and abetting in war crimes. The case was dismissed but they appealed and four Palestinian families who had lost family members in various demolitions throughout Gaza, were added to the lawsuit.
Last month, the case was dismissed again by the Ninth Circuit court of appeals. A three-judge panel decided that because the bulldozers were bought with money from the U.S. government, the case was an issue of foreign policy and outside of their jurisdiction.
Jim Dugan, chief corporate spokesperson for Caterpillar, responded in an email to WMNF that Caterpillar was pleased with the ruling.
“As a well-respected and responsible global citizen, Caterpillar fully complies with all local, U.S. and international laws and policies governing sales of our products around the world, including the U.S. Foreign Military Sales Program,” Dugan said. “In addition, we clearly have neither the legal right nor the tangible ability to regulate how customers use their machines.”
The Corrie family was represented in part by the Center for Constitutional Rights and they have not yet decided where to go from their lasted loss.
Congressman Baird said he didn’t see any realistic likelihood of significant action happening through the Congress.
And Rachel’s cousin, fellow activist and teacher Dr. Elizabeth Corrie, refuses to give up on the next generation.
Dr. Elizabeth Corrie will speak at 7:30 tonight in St. Petersburg at Eckerd College’s Wireman Chapel.