Rachel Corrie, 23, American — run over by an Israeli Army bulldozer and killed defending a doctor’s house from demolition.
Tom Hurndall, 21, British — shot in the back of the head by an Israeli sniper while he was trying to get children out of the line of fire.
Bryan Avery, 24, American — shot in the face by Israeli soldiers firing from an armored personnel carrier.
Rachel, Tom and Bryan were in Palestine working with the International Solidarity Movement when they were killed or wounded. All were clearly identified as ISM activists — they wore bright orange vests with reflective stripes.
Their names are western and familiar sounding here in the US. We don’t know the names of the hundreds of Palestinians killed by Israeli attacks in the occupied territories over the past months or years. Their names aren’t familiar. Because they are not white, their lives and deaths don’t seem to matter much to the US news media or the American political system.
The idea behind the ISM is that mostly white activists from powerful countries would not be killed by the Israeli military the way Palestinians are routinely killed. These western activists — living with Palestinians and participating in non-violent actions in the occupied territories and offering humanitarian assistance there — could help protect Palestinians and act as independent observers of Israeli atrocities.
The ISM isn’t backing down now that it is obvious that the Israelis will kill western activists just as savagely as they have always killed Palestinians. Instead, they are laying plans for Freedom Summer 2003 between July 1 – August 15:
“The International Solidarity Movement is urgently calling for international volunteers to come to the Occupied West Bank and Gaza to stand with Palestinians against attacks on their very existence. An international presence CAN make a difference. This Summer, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of concerned citizens from around the world will travel to Palestine to participate in nonviolent direct action in support of Palestinian human rights. Join us!”
In the face of the courage and persistence of the ISM, the Israeli military regime has stepped up attacks on the Palestinian-led human rights organization. On April 16, Army Chief of Staff, Lt. General Moshe Yaalon announced that he had given the order to “take the ISM out”, claiming that they “injure [the] freedom of action” of his troops.
True to their word, on May 9 dozens of police and soldiers, 20 army jeeps and an armored personnel carrier surrounded and raided the ISM media office in Beit Sahour, confiscating computers, photographs, files, destroying other equipment and arresting 3 activists. Two westerners were deported.
The western ISM activists killed in Israel over the past months wouldn’t have wanted an obituary because they understood that Palestinians — and other poor and non-white people around the world — are dying every day at the hands of western militarism and capitalism. The poor never get an obituary in the western press, even though all of us humans are equally valuable — equally capable of love, life, hope and pain.
We know that the ISM activists were brave, caring, committed activists. They left behind families and friends who loved them. They refused to sit passively and watch brutality. They stood up — powerfully and nonviolently — to do something about it, and for that, they were killed.
What the western ISM activists would have wanted is to know that others would have the courage to rush to fill their places. The struggle for the liberation of Palestinians and all people across the world must continue.
The ISM requests that people wishing to volunteer do so for at least 10 days. They plan to conduct trainings at least once a week from July 1 – Aug. 15 in Bethlehem. The ISM maintains a presence in Palestine year-round, not just during the summer. For more information, contact www.palsolidarity.org, +972-2-277-4602.