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A Last, Grim Look at Gaza

A letter home from victim of Israeli bulldozer.

March 19, 2003

Excerpts from a Feb. 7 e-mail from Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old college student and activist from Olympia, Wash., who was crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer Sunday as her group was trying to block the demolition of Palestinian homes in a Gaza Strip refugee camp.

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I have been in Palestine for two weeks and one hour now, and I still have very few words to describe what I see. It is most difficult for me to think about what's going on here when I sit down to write back to the United States -- something about the virtual portal into luxury. I don't know if many of the children here have ever existed without tank-shell holes in their walls and the towers of an occupying army surveying them from the near horizons.

An 8-year-old was shot and killed by an Israeli tank two days before I got here, and many of the children murmur his name to me -- Ali -- or point at the posters of him on the walls. The children also love to get me to practice my limited Arabic by asking me, "Kaif Sharon?" "Kaif Bush?" -- and they laugh when I say "Bush majnoon," "Sharon majnoon" back in my limited Arabic. (How is Sharon? How is Bush? Bush is crazy. Sharon is crazy.) Of course, this isn't quite what I believe.

No amount of reading, attendance at conferences, documentary viewing and word of mouth could have prepared me for the reality of the situation here. You just can't imagine it unless you see it, and even then you are always well aware that your experience is not at all the reality, what with the difficulties the Israeli army would face if they shot an unarmed U.S. citizen, and of course, the fact that I have the option of leaving.

Nobody in my family has been shot, driving in their car, by a rocket launcher from a tower at the end of a major street in my hometown. I have a home. I am allowed to go see the ocean. Ostensibly it is still quite difficult for me to be held for months or years on end without a trial (this because I am a white U.S. citizen, as opposed to so many others).

When I leave for school or work, I can be relatively certain that there will not be a heavily armed soldier waiting halfway between Mud Bay and downtown Olympia at a checkpoint -- a soldier with the power to decide whether I can go about my business and whether I can get home again when I'm done. So if I feel outrage at arriving and entering briefly and incompletely into the world in which these children exist, I wonder conversely about how it would be for them to arrive in my world.

They know that children in the United States don't usually have their parents shot. But once you have lived in a silent place where water is taken for granted and not stolen in the night by bulldozers, and once you have spent an evening when you haven't wondered if the walls of your home might suddenly fall inward, waking you from your sleep, and once you've met people who have never lost anyone -- once you have experienced the reality of a world that isn't surrounded by murderous towers, tanks, armed "settlements" and now a giant metal wall -- I wonder if you can forgive the world for all the years of your childhood spent existing, just existing, in resistance to the constant stranglehold of the world's fourth-largest military, backed by the world's only superpower in its attempt to erase you from your home.

There are more IDF [Israel Defense Forces] towers here than I can count -- along the horizon, at the end of streets. Some are just army-green metal, others these strange spiral staircases draped in some kind of netting to [hide] the activity within. A new one went up the other day in the time it took us to do laundry and to cross town twice to hang banners.

My love to everyone. My love to my mom. My love to the cult formerly known as local knowledge program. My love to smooch. My love to fg and barnhair and sesamees and lincoln school. My love to olympia.

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