The area in which Corrie died was a closed military zone and Corrie ran to the site specifically to interfere with the efforts of the IDF.
“The IDF’s ground-clearing operation was carried out only 50 meters from the Egyptian border – near the infamous Philadelphi road,” writes Ben-David. “Up until Corrie’s death, the IDF had uncovered more than 40 tunnels from Egypt used to smuggle weapons and terrorists into Gaza. In recent years, after the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, the number of tunnels approached 1,000.”
“Why was the ISM trying to block the bulldozers seven years ago?” asks Ben-David, suggesting they were “attempting to protect Hamas’ tunnels.”
But there was a less than wholesome subtext to the Corrie incident, exposed, of all strange possibilities, by Newsweek writer Joshua Hammer in a lengthy article in Mother Jones. That morning, before her fatal accident, Rachel Corrie had been fighting off jovial advances from her Palestinian host:
“Don’t go,” Naela’s father teased her. “Stay here and marry me.”
“You’re an old man, and besides, you’ve already got a wife,” Rachel joked back.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “I’ll teach you Arabic. You’ll teach me English. We make a perfect pair.”
Begging off the family’s continued pleas, at 8:30 Rachel climbed through the hole in the rear of their house and walked down the sandy alley toward her office.
Apparently, the ISM band was fast becoming the focal point for anti-Western resentment, never mind whose side they were on.
Hammer is insightful and, we think, on the money, in describing Corrie’s and her comrades’ state of mind before the fatal confrontation:
She was propelled, in part, by frustration. During the past few days she and the nine other ISM activists had become preoccupied with an anonymous letter circulating through Rafah that cast suspicion on the human shields. “Who are they? Why are they here? Who asked them to come here?” it asked. The letter referred to Corrie and the other expatriate women in Rafah as “nasty foreign bitches” whom “our Palestinian young men are following around.” It was a sobering reminder that outsiders — even international do-gooders — were untrustworthy in the eyes of some Palestinians.
That morning, the ISM team tried to devise a strategy to counteract the letter’s effects. “We all had a feeling that our role was too passive. We talked about how to engage the Israeli military,” Richard “Fuzz” Purssell told me by phone from Great Britain. “We had teams working in the West Bank, going up to checkpoints, presenting a human face to soldiers. But in Rafah we’d only seen the Israelis at a distance.” And as is so often the case in the Middle East, lack of any humanizing interaction meant that the IDF and the ISM knew each other only by their worst acts.
Few activists had spent much time in Israel or spoken to soldiers except in moments of conﬂict; the soldiers experienced the peace activists only as nuisances who were getting in their way in highly volatile situations. That morning, team members made a number of proposals that seemed designed only to aggravate the problem. Purssell, for instance, suggested marching on a checkpoint that had been the site of several suicide attacks. “The idea was to more directly challenge the Israeli military dominance using our international status,” Purssell told me.
Lenny Ben-David points out that Corrie was not singled out, and at least two ISM members were pulled out from under the bulldozers “after they started acting in accordance with their more aggressive policy.”
Hammer reported: “An Irish peace activist named Jenny was nearly run down by a D9. ‘The bulldozer’s coming, the earth is burying my feet, my legs, I’ve got nowhere to run, and I thought, This is out of control,’ she told me. ‘Another activist pulled me up and out of the way at the last minute.’”
“The ISM has a long record of putting its members, particularly young Western women, into harm’s way,” suggests ben David. The list he cites is long: