Bulletin N°57

19 March 2003
Grenoble, France

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

Our Research Center just received this message, forwarded to us by Ronald Takaki, at UC-Berkeley.

In memory of Rachel Corrie.

Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research

>From: "C&S Chattopadhyay" <cschatto@cox.net>
>To: "Loretta Sanchez" <loretta@mail.house.gov>
>Subject: Scarecely a mention in America
>Date: Tue, 18 Mar 2003 06:22:20 -0800

How tellingly sad it is that there are scarcely any words about the brutal death of this brave young woman in the US news media ... print or tv ... while we beat the drums of war louder than we have in half a century. The uncomfortable silence from our national leaders about Rachel Corrie's death is equally, if not more, tragic.

S. Chattopadhyay

Rachel's war

This weekend 23-year-old American peace activist Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by a bulldozer as she tried to prevent the Israeli army destroying homes in the Gaza Strip. In a remarkable series of emails to her family, she explained why she was risking her life.

Tuesday March 18, 2003
The Guardian

February 7 2003

Hi friends and family, and others,

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
constantly from the near horizons. I think, although I'm not entirely
sure, that even the smallest of these children understand that life is not
like this everywhere. An eight-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, and
some of the adults who have the English correct me: "Bush mish Majnoon"
... Bush is a businessman. Today I tried to learn to say, "Bush is a
tool", but I don't think it translated quite right. But anyway, there are
eight-year-olds here much more aware of the workings of the global power
structure than I was just a few years ago.

Nevertheless, 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 of it is not at all
the reality: what with the difficulties the Israeli army would face if
they shot an unarmed US citizen, and with the fact that I have money to
buy water when the army destroys wells, and the fact, of course, 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. 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 with the power to decide whether I can go about my
business, and whether I can get home again when I'm done. As an
afterthought to all this rambling, I am in Rafah: a city of about 140,000
people, approximately 60% of whom are refugees - many of whom are twice or
three times refugees. Today, as I walked on top of the rubble where homes
once stood, Egyptian soldiers called to me from the other side of the
border, "Go! Go!" because a tank was coming. And then waving and "What's
your name?". Something disturbing about this friendly curiosity. It
reminded me of how much, to some degree, we are all kids curious about
other kids. Egyptian kids shouting at strange women wandering into the
path of tanks. Palestinian kids shot from the tanks when they peak out
from behind walls to see what's going on. International kids standing in
front of tanks with banners. Israeli kids in the tanks anonymously -
occasionally shouting and also occasionally waving - many forced to be
here, many just agressive - shooting into the houses as we wander away.

I've been having trouble accessing news about the outside world here, but
I hear an escalation of war on Iraq is inevitable. There is a great deal
of concern here about the "reoccupation of Gaza". Gaza is reoccupied every
day to various extents but I think the fear is that the tanks will enter
all the streets and remain here instead of entering some of the streets
and then withdrawing after some hours or days to observe and shoot from
the edges of the communities. If people aren't already thinking about the
consequences of this war for the people of the entire region then I hope
you will start.

My love to everyone. My love to my mom. My love to smooch. My love to fg
and barnhair and sesamees and Lincoln School. My love to Olympia.


>February 20 2003
>Now the Israeli army has actually dug up the road to Gaza, and both of the
>major checkpoints are closed. This means that Palestinians who want to go
>and register for their next quarter at university can't. People can't get
>to their jobs and those who are trapped on the other side can't get home;
>and internationals, who have a meeting tomorrow in the West Bank, won't
>make it. We could probably make it through if we made serious use of our
>international white person privilege, but that would also mean some risk
>of arrest and deportation, even though none of us has done anything illegal.
>The Gaza Strip is divided in thirds now. There is some talk about the
>"reoccupation of Gaza", but I seriously doubt this will happen, because I
>think it would be a geopolitically stupid move for Israel right now. I
>think the more likely thing is an increase in smaller
>below-the-international-outcry-radar incursions and possibly the
>oft-hinted "population transfer".
>I am staying put in Rafah for now, no plans to head north. I still feel
>like I'm relatively safe and think that my most likely risk in case of a
>larger-scale incursion is arrest. A move to reoccupy Gaza would generate a
>much larger outcry than Sharon's
>assassination-during-peace-negotiations/land grab strategy, which is
>working very well now to create settlements all over, slowly but surely
>eliminating any meaningful possibility for Palestinian self-determination.
>Know that I have a lot of very nice Palestinians looking after me. I have
>a small flu bug, and got some very nice lemony drinks to cure me. Also,
>the woman who keeps the key for the well where we still sleep keeps asking
>me about you. She doesn't speak a bit of English, but she asks about my
>mom pretty frequently - wants to make sure I'm calling you.
>Love to you and Dad and Sarah and Chris and everybody.

>February 27 2003
>(To her mother)
>Love you. Really miss you. I have bad nightmares about tanks and
>bulldozers outside our house and you and me inside. Sometimes the
>adrenaline acts as an anesthetic for weeks and then in the evening or at
>night it just hits me again - a little bit of the reality of the
>situation. I am really scared for the people here. Yesterday, I watched a
>father lead his two tiny children, holding his hands, out into the sight
>of tanks and a sniper tower and bulldozers and Jeeps because he thought
>his house was going to be exploded. Jenny and I stayed in the house with
>several women and two small babies. It was our mistake in translation that
>caused him to think it was his house that was being exploded. In fact, the
>Israeli army was in the process of detonating an explosive in the ground
>nearby - one that appears to have been planted by Palestinian resistance.
>This is in the area where Sunday about 150 men were rounded up and
>contained outside the settlement with gunfire over their heads and around
>them, while tanks and bulldozers destroyed 25 greenhouses - the
>livelihoods for 300 people. The explosive was right in front of the
>greenhouses - right in the point of entry for tanks that might come back
>again. I was terrified to think that this man felt it was less of a risk
>to walk out in view of the tanks with his kids than to stay in his house.
>I was really scared that they were all going to be shot and I tried to
>stand between them and the tank. This happens every day, but just this
>father walking out with his two little kids just looking very sad, just
>happened to get my attention more at this particular moment, probably
>because I felt it was our translation problems that made him leave.
>I thought a lot about what you said on the phone about Palestinian
>violence not helping the situation. Sixty thousand workers from Rafah
>worked in Israel two years ago. Now only 600 can go to Israel for jobs. Of
>these 600, many have moved, because the three checkpoints between here and
>Ashkelon (the closest city in Israel) make what used to be a 40-minute
>drive, now a 12-hour or impassible journey. In addition, what Rafah
>identified in 1999 as sources of economic growth are all completely
>destroyed - the Gaza international airport (runways demolished, totally
>closed); the border for trade with Egypt (now with a giant Israeli sniper
>tower in the middle of the crossing); access to the ocean (completely cut
>off in the last two years by a checkpoint and the Gush Katif settlement).
>The count of homes destroyed in Rafah since the beginning of this intifada
>is up around 600, by and large people with no connection to the resistance
>but who happen to live along the border. I think it is maybe official now
>that Rafah is the poorest place in the world. There used to be a middle
>class here - recently. We also get reports that in the past, Gazan flower
>shipments to Europe were delayed for two weeks at the Erez crossing for
>security inspections. You can imagine the value of two-week-old cut
>flowers in the European market, so that market dried up. And then the
>bulldozers come and take out people's vegetable farms and gardens. What is
>left for people? Tell me if you can think of anything. I can't.
>If any of us had our lives and welfare completely strangled, lived with
>children in a shrinking place where we knew, because of previous
>experience, that soldiers and tanks and bulldozers could come for us at
>any moment and destroy all the greenhouses that we had been cultivating
>for however long, and did this while some of us were beaten and held
>captive with 149 other people for several hours - do you think we might
>try to use somewhat violent means to protect whatever fragments remained?
>I think about this especially when I see orchards and greenhouses and
>fruit trees destroyed - just years of care and cultivation. I think about
>you and how long it takes to make things grow and what a labour of love it
>is. I really think, in a similar situation, most people would defend
>themselves as best they could. I think Uncle Craig would. I think probably
>Grandma would. I think I would.
>You asked me about non-violent resistance.
>When that explosive detonated yesterday it broke all the windows in the
>family's house. I was in the process of being served tea and playing with
>the two small babies. I'm having a hard time right now. Just feel sick to
>my stomach a lot from being doted on all the time, very sweetly, by people
>who are facing doom. I know that from the United States, it all sounds
>like hyperbole. Honestly, a lot of the time the sheer kindness of the
>people here, coupled with the overwhelming evidence of the wilful
>destruction of their lives, makes it seem unreal to me. I really can't
>believe that something like this can happen in the world without a bigger
>outcry about it. It really hurts me, again, like it has hurt me in the
>past, to witness how awful we can allow the world to be. I felt after
>talking to you that maybe you didn't completely believe me. I think it's
>actually good if you don't, because I do believe pretty much above all
>else in the importance of independent critical thinking. And I also
>realise that with you I'm much less careful than usual about trying to
>source every assertion that I make. A lot of the reason for that is I know
>that you actually do go and do your own research. But it makes me worry
>about the job I'm doing. All of the situation that I tried to enumerate
>above - and a lot of other things - constitutes a somewhat gradual - often
>hidden, but nevertheless massive - removal and destruction of the ability
>of a particular group of people to survive. This is what I am seeing here.
>The assassinations, rocket attacks and shooting of children are atrocities
>- but in focusing on them I'm terrified of missing their context. The vast
>majority of people here - even if they had the economic means to escape,
>even if they actually wanted to give up resisting on their land and just
>leave (which appears to be maybe the less nefarious of Sharon's possible
>goals), can't leave. Because they can't even get into Israel to apply for
>visas, and because their destination countries won't let them in (both our
>country and Arab countries). So I think when all means of survival is cut
>off in a pen (Gaza) which people can't get out of, I think that qualifies
>as genocide. Even if they could get out, I think it would still qualify as
>genocide. Maybe you could look up the definition of genocide according to
>international law. I don't remember it right now. I'm going to get better
>at illustrating this, hopefully. I don't like to use those charged words.
>I think you know this about me. I really value words. I really try to
>illustrate and let people draw their own conclusions.
>Anyway, I'm rambling. Just want to write to my Mom and tell her that I'm
>witnessing this chronic, insidious genocide and I'm really scared, and
>questioning my fundamental belief in the goodness of human nature. 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. Disbelief and horror is what I feel. Disappointment. I am
>disappointed that this is the base reality of our world and that we, in
>fact, participate in it. This is not at all what I asked for when I came
>into this world. This is not at all what the people here asked for when
>they came into this world. This is not the world you and Dad wanted me to
>come into when you decided to have me. This is not what I meant when I
>looked at Capital Lake and said: "This is the wide world and I'm coming to
>it." I did not mean that I was coming into a world where I could live a
>comfortable life and possibly, with no effort at all, exist in complete
>unawareness of my participation in genocide. More big explosions somewhere
>in the distance outside.
>When I come back from Palestine, I probably will have nightmares and
>constantly feel guilty for not being here, but I can channel that into
>more work. Coming here is one of the better things I've ever done. So when
>I sound crazy, or if the Israeli military should break with their racist
>tendency not to injure white people, please pin the reason squarely on the
>fact that I am in the midst of a genocide which I am also indirectly
>supporting, and for which my government is largely responsible.
>I love you and Dad. Sorry for the diatribe. OK, some strange men next to
>me just gave me some peas, so I need to eat and thank them.

>February 28 2003
>(To her mother)
>Thanks, Mom, for your response to my email. It really helps me to get word
>from you, and from other people who care about me.
>After I wrote to you I went incommunicado from the affinity group for
>about 10 hours which I spent with a family on the front line in Hi Salam -
>who fixed me dinner - and have cable TV. The two front rooms of their
>house are unusable because gunshots have been fired through the walls, so
>the whole family - three kids and two parents - sleep in the parent's
>bedroom. I sleep on the floor next to the youngest daughter, Iman, and we
>all shared blankets. I helped the son with his English homework a little,
>and we all watched Pet Semetery, which is a horrifying movie. I think they
>all thought it was pretty funny how much trouble I had watching it. Friday
>is the holiday, and when I woke up they were watching Gummy Bears dubbed
>into Arabic. So I ate breakfast with them and sat there for a while and
>just enjoyed being in this big puddle of blankets with this family
>watching what for me seemed like Saturday morning cartoons. Then I walked
>some way to B'razil, which is where Nidal and Mansur and Grandmother and
>Rafat and all the rest of the big family that has really wholeheartedly
>adopted me live. (The other day, by the way, Grandmother gave me a
>pantomimed lecture in Arabic that involved a lot of blowing and pointing
>to her black shawl. I got Nidal to tell her that my mother would
>appreciate knowing that someone here was giving me a lecture about smoking
>turning my lungs black.) I met their sister-in-law, who is visiting from
>Nusserat camp, and played with her small baby.
>Nidal's English gets better every day. He's the one who calls me, "My
>sister". He started teaching Grandmother how to say, "Hello. How are you?"
>In English. You can always hear the tanks and bulldozers passing by, but
>all of these people are genuinely cheerful with each other, and with me.
>When I am with Palestinian friends I tend to be somewhat less horrified
>than when I am trying to act in a role of human rights observer,
>documenter, or direct-action resister. They are a good example of how to
>be in it for the long haul. I know that the situation gets to them - and
>may ultimately get them - on all kinds of levels, but I am nevertheless
>amazed at their strength in being able to defend such a large degree of
>their humanity - laughter, generosity, family-time - against the
>incredible horror occurring in their lives and against the constant
>presence of death. I felt much better after this morning. I spent a lot of
>time writing about the disappointment of discovering, somewhat first-hand,
>the degree of evil of which we are still capable. I should at least
>mention that I am also discovering a degree of strength and of basic
>ability for humans to remain human in the direst of circumstances - which
>I also haven't seen before. I think the word is dignity. I wish you could
>meet these people. Maybe, hopefully, someday you will.

Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research at CEIMSA
Center for the Advanced Study of American
Institutions and Social Movements
University of Grenoble-3