It seems that Palestinians from the West Bank village of Asira al-Qiblya, in recognition of the approaching anniversary of Rachel’s death, set about planting some olive trees in her honor. This took place just a few days ago, on Tuesday, March 12. Despite the fact that the trees were being planted on land actually owned by one of the Palestinians, the act was deemed objectionable, threatening, etc., and not only by Israeli soldiers, but by settlers from a nearby settlement as well. Apparently trees, in some cases, are now viewed as an existential threat to the state of Israel.
Israeli soldiers immediately went into attack mode, and masked settlers from the settlement of Yizhar (One wonders where they get these names. Are they referred to as “Yizharites”?) began pouring into the area as well. A report on the incident is found here, and includes the following:
By Lisa Marchant
Farmers peacefully planting olive trees in the land of Asira al Qiblya were today disrupted by Israeli soldiers who halted the planting. The presence of Palestinians on their own land also attracted the attention of illegal settlers from the nearby settlement of Yizhar, leading to them attacking Palestinians farmers and volunteers, throwing and catapulting stones. The army moved immediately to protect the attackers, shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at Palestinians.
The olive trees were being planted in the vicinity of an Israeli military tower, recently built on a hill above Asira al Qiblya. Because of this, soldiers hassled farmers throughout the day, with an escalation of hostility mid-morning, when around 20 soldiers approached and demanded that farmers should stop planting trees and leave the land, despite the fact that the Palestinian owner of the land notified them that he wished to continue farming. The commander advised that the village should contact the Israeli district coordination office (DCO) to request permission – if permission was granted, he intimated, then the farmers would be allowed to access their land unhindered.
However, the villagers of Asira al Qiblya know this not to be the case. Just last week, access was requested and granted for three days through the DCO – despite this, a shepherd grazing his herd on the land during this “permitted time” was ordered to leave the land and was severely beaten by soldiers. It is clear that the outcome for villagers is the same whether permission is granted by Israel or not.
After a long confrontation with soldiers, farmers moved further down the hill to continue planting in an area arbitrarily deemed acceptable by the Israeli commander. At this point, around twenty masked settlers from Yizhar arrived and proceeded to attack the farmers from their vantage point higher up the hill – throwing stones by hand and with slingshots. Yizhar settlement is widely considered one of the most violent settlements in the West Bank, and all villages in its vicinity face regular attacks.
|Yizharites descend down the mountain to thwart the tree-planting|
Palestinian youths moved to fend off the settler attack, but the Israeli army intervened on behalf of the attackers, shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at the villagers of Asira, until both the Palestinian villagers and settlers left the area. No injuries or arrests were reported.
At the end of the day only around ten olive trees had been planted due to interruptions from the army and settlers – farmers were also not optimistic that the young trees would be allowed to remain on their land and suspected that either the army or settlers would destroy them. However, they refuse to relinquish access to their land despite these setbacks and will continue planting trees in the area.
The olive trees planted today were donated by the International Solidarity Movement to replace Palestinian trees destroyed by Israeli forces and settlers during previous years – a common occurrence throughout the year. They were planted in memory of ISM activist Rachel Corrie as the tenth anniversary of her death approaches. She was crushed to death with an Israeli army bulldozer in Gaza in 2003 whilst protesting non-violently in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Note that the army “intervened on behalf of the attackers.” This is typical behavior on the part of the Israeli army. The Yizharites could have set off a small nuclear device, and doubtless it would have been interpreted as an act of aggression on the part of the tree-planters. I’m often struck by what seems to be a bottomless well of courage exhibited by some Palestinians in resisting their occupiers, and invariably wonder whether, should the ground ever become slightly more leveled, the latter could come close to exhibiting the same. Or put another way, would the gangsterish, masked Yizharites be so keen on throwing rocks at people if they didn’t have the Israeli army to protect them?
But let’s get back to Rachel Corrie and the threat to Israel’s security posed by planting trees in her name. For indeed, there may actually be such a threat. A bright, young idealistic girl goes to Palestine and gives her life in the cause of freedom—this is what people often will inevitably think of when they think of Rachel. But at the same time, so much more goes through their minds even than that.
On March 16, 2003, Corrie was in Gaza, along with other ISMers, non-violently defending a Palestinian family and trying to prevent the demolition of their home. When the bulldozer approached, young Rachel, wearing a fluorescent orange vest and speaking through a bullhorn, stood in its way and shouted for the driver to stop. But as we all know, he didn’t stop. Instead, he ran over her.
No criminal charges ever were filed against the Israeli soldier operating the bulldozer, and for seven years, the Corrie family fought a legal battle in the Israeli courts, trying to win some measure of justice in a civil suit. Their legal efforts came to an end on August 28 last year, when the Haifa District Court ruled against them. The judge in the case, Oded Gershon, asserted that “the accident was caused by the deceased”—this of course despite testimony from eyewitnesses that the running-over of Rachel had been no accident, much less that the “accident” had been caused by the activist herself.
And so all of this, like a stirring of some tall grass, is what passes through people’s minds when the name Rachel Corrie is spoken. In response to the judicial action, Cindy Corrie, Rachel’s mother, issued a statement to the media, calling it a “bad day for humanity.” It was a true and accurate statement, made all the more so by the enormous power wielded by Israeli lobbies in Western countries, for such-like as these have been responsible for unleashing quite a number of “bad days for humanity”—in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and perhaps soon Iran as well. And this too hitches itself to the name Rachel Corrie.
Following the court verdict, the cartoonist, Carlos Latuff, issued the following cartoon…
And like the statement by Cindy Corrie, it also speaks volumes. Volumes because the death of Rachel Corrie, and the heinous ruling by Judge Oded Gershon, are small but significant parts of the history of Israel’s growing and irreversible “delegitimizing.” One cannot escape certain things in life, and this seems to be the one thing from which Israel cannot escape. “Delegitimization,” in fact, has become the one thing Israel’s leaders and supporters fear, perhaps more so than anything else. And if planting a tree in Rachel’s memory furthers this process along, and thereby represents a threat to the Jewish state’s security, then I say let’s go out and plant trees. Lots of them!
I would also like to pose a theory here—that the soldiers and the Yizharites were acting out of gut fear when they attacked the tree planters. They are afraid that the love Rachel Corrie showed the Palestinians in particular, and oppressed people in general, will grow into a mighty oak tree whose branches will spread throughout the world, a gurgling brook whose life-giving waters will cool and neutralize the debilitating fevers of greed and deception. And there is good reason for their fear.
“A notable aspect of Rachel Corrie’s legacy is the sheer volume of art her life and sacrificed evoked,” one commenter observed recently. “Between March 19th 2003 and April 24th 2004, I collected over 160 poems written in the young woman’s honor, and posted on the web, in the English language.”
Thus, the Israeli soldiers who attacked the Palestinians planting trees in Rachel’s memory were not merely afraid—they were terrified. They were terrified the day will come that mountain chains will be named “The Rachel Corrie Mountains,” that parks, schools, roads and hospitals will bear her name as well, that lovers will one day walk through such places as “Rachel Corrie Cove,” holding hands, perhaps sharing a kiss.
Rachel Corrie picked a flower, placed it in a vase, and it grew into Palestine—this too they fear—the Rachel Corrie call of the wild, the ringing of the Rachel Corrie freedom bells, and, perhaps most of all, the Rachel Corrie moon rising in the hearts of poet, visionaries, for whom the idea of “world peace” is a warm zephyr in the soft, fragrant night.
So please, go out and plant some trees today!
Following are a couple of videos that seem especially apropos on this tenth anniversary. The first features Alice Walker reading Rachel, while in the second Rachel’s parents, Craig and Cindy Corrie, comment on the tenth anniversary of their daughter’s death.
Rachel Corrie and Daniel Pearl—A Curious Comparison
No Right To Exist: The Corrie Verdict and the Jewish State’s Belligerence