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Corrie Press conference Q&A Transcript

Corrie Press conference Q&A Transcript


SEPT 29, 20003

Question & Answer period

Q: Can you please tell us what the status is of the congressional inquiry and how you view Israeli cooperation is with that inquiry if it's ongoing?

Cindy: At this point we're still calling for an independent US investigation. And there is a resolution in the House of Representatives, HCR 111. Since we've been away for a few weeks I'm not exactly sure the number of people signed on to it. There were close to 50 House members that had signed on to it. It calls for an independent investigation and it also calls for the Israeli government and the US government to work together to make sure that something like this doesn't happen again. Unfortunately there was the incident with Tom Hurndall and Brian Avery following the introduction of that resolution. There are people throughout the United States that are lobbying for this investigation with their own congresspeople. We have had some support from some newspapers. The Houston Chronicle recently called for, the editorial board called for an independent investigation. As far

Craig: I think it's important to know that in the military police report, as it was constructed by the Advocate General's office, there was merely paraphrasing of parts of the primary evidence and that we do know that affidavits were taken, but it really doesn't quote those, I don't think. So you do have one author putting together those pieces, and again, inconsistencies. I think originally when we talked to the State Department, they told me that they had every expectation that the military police, that the IDF, could do an investigation and they expected that to be complete and accurate with believable findings. We have not talked to the State Department after they've had a chance to read this to find out if they believe at the highest levels that this, in fact, meets those criteria. We know that certain people that have read it found continued questions, because we've seen the

Q: Have you considered suing the Israeli government?

Craig: I think it's premature to do that, because, at least in the US, the only result that you really get out of suing is maybe monetary. Possibly we could find some sort of responsibility there but it would be so much more helpful if between the governments people could take responsibility and we could know that. So it seems to me that pursuing things through the State Department, through the governments, is a much more optimistic way of doing things. My reaction to some of this, to Rachel's death, and to starting to know what's going on here, is to read a book by Desmond Tutu, and start to learn about what happened in South Africa, and so, you know, everybody talks about peace and justice but so many people think that justice involves killing somebody, to be kind of sarcastic about it. That's such a poor model for me. But in South Africa, they talked about restorative justice

Q: From what you have seen of the report, do you see any consistencies in what the Israelis conclude? Do you see (inaudible) report that conflicts from what you're hearing on the ground in Gaza, from Rachel's friends and colleagues?

Craig: Well, of course, what they say in the end is...unfortunately there have been several different versions of it come out. But in the final report, what they say is that the bulldozer operator could not see Rachel. And that does conflict with the eyewitness reports from the ISM members, the six eyewitness reports that we've seen and what we've heard and I guess a bit of my knowledge of what my daughter would have done, and what worked successfully in the past. So, what Rachel was doing was standing in front of a bulldozer and as I understand it, the technique, and knowing my daughter, was to keep their eyes on the cab of that bulldozer, so that presumably someone that wanted to look out, could see. Now remember that not only is there an operator in each of those bulldozers, but there's also a commander of the bulldozer. So there are two people in each bulldozer, two bulldo

The original statement I was told over the telephone orally from the then Consulate General to Israel from the United States, Ed McGuwen, told me that the report he got, again orally from the IDF, I believe on the night Rachel was killed is that she was crushed by a wall falling on her in home demolitions, I guess, but anyway, and now of course they say they weren't touching homes, but we have eyewitnesses that said they were.

Cindy: Home demolitions were not mentioned in the report. There was absolutely no mention of home demolitions occurring that day.

Craig: So, part of the problem, again, is this changing story. When Mr. McGuwen asked why, if there was no home demolitions, they originally said she was killed by a falling wall, the reply was, "well that's what the International Solidarity Movement told us." Well we know they didn't say such thing. And as Mr. McGuwen points out it was not "we think, we heard, we were told", it was "she was killed that way." So again, we're looking for this changing story, and that weakens the whole argument that was put forth in writing. Again, that was put forth in writing but it has not yet been released in its entirety to the US government.

Cindy: Also we have some questions about the actual orders that were given that day. Both according to ISM members and according to the soldiers in the report. They seem to suggest that the bulldozers behaved differently that day than they did on other occasions. And that usually in that area if internationals appeared when the bulldozers were out there working and they would generally leave and depart. On that day they retreated back to the border area. And in fact the ISMers had contacted their media person to say they thought they had been successful that day in doing what they had intended to do to stop demolitions. But then the bulldozers came back and it was soon after that that Rachel was killed. And so there's questions in our mind about what the actual, what directives might have been given, both from what we've seen in the report and what the ISM people have told us.

Q: Are you satisfied with the energy that the US government has applied to find the truth in this case?

Craig: I guess..I think they've exerted, particularly the State Department, I'm sure that they've exerted a great deal of energy, but judging by the results, then no. I hope that we can go forward and get an investigation and the US government is going to have to do that. We have got a complicated government of course. We've got the Congress, who we're working with. And we've talked to a lot of members of Congress about an investigation. And we've got then the executive branch and that's the White House and the State Department. In the executive branch we've worked mostly with the State Department, in fact entirely with the State Department and we've gotten a lot of cooperation. We've talked to many people at a high level, but we still don't have the investigation and we'd like that.

Cindy: I'd like to add something. We do know that President Bush spoke directly with Prime Minister Sharon about what happened to Rachel immediately after it happened and was assured that there would be a, I forget all the words now, thorough, credible transparent investigation. I think for me one of the saddest things is that publicly, very little was said by high officials in the United States government when this happened, and I think had there been a more aggressive position taken by them, that possibly the incidents with Brian Avery and Tom Hurndall might have been prevented. We don't understand everything about what caused those things to happen but the fact that the US did not take a stronger public position seems problematic to me.

Craig: I'd also like to say that while we focus on the internationals that are killed and injured here, that Rachel would have very much wanted to remind us that Palestinians and Israelis are being killed daily and they don't get a press conference like this, unfortunately. And that's the message that the world has to remember. It's not just our daughter; it's a lot of other children and a lot of other adults that are just trapped in this occupation.

Q: Apart from, obviously this has to work its way through here at diplomatic levels and so on and whatever beneficial results may come in terms of report and prevention, looking back, have you had special responses from people in communities, churches and so on, who not just support what you are doing, but perhaps attracting other people to take a stand, whether here, where we need a lot more of it or in other places where it's needed? Have you have that, quite apart from the specifics here; is there even a local groundswell supporting you?

Cindy: It's been extraordinary really, the response that we've had. Initially, thousands and thousands of emails and they've just continued to come. But then people have gone farther; I think from people in the activist community, what I'm hearing is that Rachel has provided some new inspiration for them to keep working and one of the things that I've been struck by. being new to, not new to the issue, but new to doing something about the issue, is that some people have been working for decades and how they've maintained their ability to do that is amazing to me. So I can see that anything that can just boost their energy a little bit is important, and I think Rachel has done that. But, I just spoke to someone yesterday who said that she has a Jewish friend in the United States and what happened to Rachel changed her Jewish friend's mind. She had been sitting on the sidelines, p

Craig: That's really the wonderful thing about what we're doing now. You know, calling for an investigation, talking to congressional offices, that's kind of hard work. And again, the result of an investigation or whatever - getting an investigation has kind of a limited positive effect. But what you're talking about, that's just good work, and that feels good; that really sustains itself. It's been a very good part of our lives in the last 6 months.

Cindy: We feel that it's terribly important though that we do the work with the US Congress, as difficult that it is for us and for others. One of the things that I hear here repeatedly is the problem with the US Congress. I hear it from Palestinians and I hear it from Israelis that are working for peace. I think that's one of the messages, that when we go back we, that we'll try to carry with us. I don't think that Americans, as a whole, understand our role in all of this.

Q: Good morning. We met in New York. My question is perhaps a bit beyond the case of the investigation of the martyr Rachel. To what extent do you think that the American government's, successive governments share the Israeli rulers in the atrocities against the Palestinian people which you have seen by your own eyes?

Cindy: (Sigh). Well we've watched the wall being built with Caterpillar equipment, with equipment made in the US, and we've seen, you know we've heard, in Gaza every night you hear the firing as you're sleeping through the night. And we know that the funding for the Israeli military, so much of it is coming from the United States. So from that standpoint I feel like we bear a lot of responsibility. I think that proceeding for so long with such a one-sided approach, I think that we've contributed to a lot of harm and made it more difficult really for the peace to happen.

Craig: I think our government and our people have to understand, have to meet and understand the Palestinian people like we do. And of course there are plenty of Palestinian people, Palestinian Americans to meet, you can meet them - if you can meet Palestinians in the United States but it's even better if you meet them here. Because we have, I think that most of the news, sorry guys, but I think most of the news, not only comes out of Israel, physically, but comes from an Israeli point of view, and I think we need, it helps, in many parts of the United States, we've used the term terrorist to cut off conversation and understanding of other people, of lots of people, not just of Palestinians, and that has to end. We have to understand people. You know I've met such warm families and people that held the same values that I do. The family is a huge thing for me. It's one of my hig

I think the US is a huge part of the problem.

Q: Back to what Mrs. Corrie said earlier about that particular day. You mentioned that it was your sense or that people had told you that perhaps the directives given that day were different. Are you alleging that actually the directives were given to kill internationals or to go after internationals? Is that your version?

Cindy: No, but I would like to understand why the bulldozers behaved different that day than they apparently had on previous occasions. What we were. what we've.and you know we just read the report, we don't have it in front of us, sometimes you go back and you look at the language and you think about it differently and we haven't been able to ask people questions about it. But what I see there is soldiers saying that on other occasions they usually left when there were that many internationals in that situation, but on that day they were told to not let the internationals stop their work. I don't know what that means in terms of what was really said.

Craig: Yeah, I think it would be interesting to, for instance if you're going to have a complete investigation, I believe that the contact between all three vehicles and their bases all got radio that would have been recorded and so it would be interesting to hear exactly what was said and even the tone of voice, because you've got translation problems, you've got our memory when we talk about it, and I think, having been in the army, there's a whole lot of ways you can give a message which isn't necessarily an order and how somebody might take that in? You know somebody can just get frustrated and do something in a second that they could regret for the rest of their lives. We have no way of knowing and we just need a better report and an investigation to get closer to the truth.

Q: Has this now become your jobs so to speak? Can you continue at all with regular life like you did before?

Craig: We haven't yet. I was given a leave of absence from my job. They were very kind to me, and supportive. But even that comes to an end and actually I had to be back to work on the 15th of September and of course I was here. So no we're not, we're trying to find some other way to resume maybe a different life and we're old enough that while I didn't plan to retire, it'll work, I mean maybe not as easily or comfortably but now we have something to do. I remember a thought going through my mind as we returned to where we had been living, in Olympia Washington, where Rachel was living, that I thought I'd come back there to retire, but maybe I was coming back there to just start my work. I don't know. So we have to see.

Q: I hear a lot of emotion in your voice but I don't hear any anger. Have you worked through what anger you must have felt?

Cindy: We get asked that a lot. I think. the way we responded is. it just came very natural to us. It wasn't a conscious decision to act in one way or another. Sometimes we get angry with the bureaucracy. I was angry at first when I saw the initial command report from the Israeli government and then saw that that was circulating in Congress. That was annoying to me because basically we were told that it wasn't even an investigation, they hadn't talked to eyewitnesses. I was angry when the Israeli government refused to release the report to the US government. I feel like when my government is doing as much for this country as it is, there should be better cooperation when something like this happens. But those are feelings of momentary frustration more than anger. I think that anger can be a very poisonous thing and I'm sure there'll be times when I am angry. There are momen

Q: I see that you're going to see Tom Hurndall's family in London. Are you in contact with the families of foreigners who have been killed by the IDF? Are you and they working together to coordinate something?

Cindy: Our contact has. we have been in contact, and it's been mostly just to provide emotional support to each other. Initially Sophi Hurndall, Tom's sister, contacted our daughter and our family, and we spent hours on the telephone together and this was after she had just returned to England from Israel, and her feeling was that there was nobody else in the world that could understand what she was feeling as well as my daughter Sara could or as well as we could, and we do share a lot, so it's been important on an emotional level for us to connect. We're just anxious to meet them in person. And of course we share information about each of our situations, but it's been mostly emotional support that we've been able to give each other. We were really fortunate in the United States to meet with Brian Avery and his family and Brian is an inspiration to us as well. He faces a lot of

Q: This may be a difficult question, but you had earlier referenced the bias in American media towards the situation in the Middle East. Are you familiar with the article in Mother Jones Magazine that just recently came out, and if you are, would you please respond to that?

Craig: We have read it lightly while we're half asleep flying over on a plane. I remember I was disappointed in that article in some ways, because I felt like they should have maybe come to Rachel's hometown to meet her when they said how naïve she was and stuff. I don't think that is true of our daughter. I know how much she's studied the area and how much other things she's done, so I feel like they hadn't done background there. I now am just a little bit aware because of some other journalists that we've met about a lot of outrage around that article, but I personally can't. don't know how he got his information, how he put it together. There was a nice. I remember reading one thing that he said that Rachel just teasing some guards in Egypt by saying "take me to the pyramids" and stuff, and that sounded like our daughter, something our daughter would do and so there was a nice

Cindy: No, really, I don't feel prepared to comment on it. We see so many articles and you know, it's hard to find any article that's completely accurate and I know that that one was very disturbing to the people who knew Rachel and knew what she was doing here and spent time really looking at the article carefully and looking at how the material had been used, but I personally haven't the time to do that.

Q: Can you say something about the journey that the two of you have taken since Rachel's death and in specific when you talk about the work that you want to do, there's been a number of things mentioned here and I wonder if it's all three, or one more than the other, which is: finding out the truth about her death, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and activism. It seems all three get mentioned but I'm wondering what is it that you're now devoted to and how you came there and maybe how that's changed since time has gone on since her death.

Cindy: Part of the problem for us is that we have been doing really all three things. We've had to focus on the investigation at times and then we get, but we want to get, become more knowledgeable about this conflict and about all the work that's being done around it and to determine how we might be able to support a lot of that work. And there is so much and that's part of the reason for this trip was to meet with some of the groups that are actively working here, and we still don't have it all sorted out. You know it's going to take us some time. We have taken some steps to start the Rachel Corrie foundation, just the very beginning steps. We're working at determining a mission for that. I think we needed to think in that direction from the very beginning. We needed to know that that was out there because that's so much more hopeful for us. When we're working, we feel bett

Craig: I think just following up a little on the last thing that Cindy said about the investigation and on motivations there. Part of it, you know, I hear. I heard it in the beginning; I wouldn't understand how bulldozers are used in war or something like that or what it's like in war. We read that well it's very difficult that you try to hold soldiers to certain standards, and I resent that deeply. I was a, like I said, a buck sergeant in Vietnam; I was a squad leader; it is incredibly exhausting, hard work to hold soldiers to an adequate standard. It is not easy but it is absolutely necessary. And so I guess I don't think I'm appointed to do that for anybody's army, but still I think when we have the opportunity, we need to do that. We need to enforce the standards of humanity. And I also spent a year of my life doing that and know how exhausting that is, how hard it is and h

Q: And the foundation will honor activism? Can you say more about what the foundation will do?

Craig: Well we'd like to find ways to be involved in, probably Rafah, in particular, and over here. We're looking. there's just a whole number of ways and there are things that you can do that can maybe alleviate some of the harm of the occupation and there are things that you can do that are separate, very separate from that, that perhaps bring about the day when the occupation will end. And so those are some of the things that Rachel is known for around the world. But Rachel was also very interested in ecology. She worked for a year in the Washington Conservation Core, and did things in that way. So there are things later on that maybe we can get involved in there. She was interested in labor issues. She worked in school and written a paper in school, which right after she died someone working in DC said, "well I know about your daughter because I read what she wrote about l

Q: It says on the schedule that from here you're going to meet with Israeli officials in Tel Aviv. Is that still on the schedule and if so, who are you going to meet with?

Craig: Actually, it's here in Jerusalem. And I don't know the name of the person that we're going to meet with. We were told. it's being arranged by the Consulate, and the person that we were going to meet with is sick. It's in the Foreign Ministry and the desk for North America. And I think actually, we're going to be late if we don't get going. So maybe one more question.

Q: So you have not had any official meetings with Israeli officials?

Craig: We have met with the Ambassador. Not here. We have met with the Israeli Ambassador to the US and with the Consulate General to the Pacific Northwest. But really those were at our request for the most part; just to take care of things for the investigation.

Q: What would you like to see happen to the operator of the bulldozer - the person that was driving the bulldozer?

Cindy: Sometimes I wish I could see the operator, because I think. I feel like I'm a pretty good judge of character. And sometimes you think that if you just look into somebody's eyes and have them tell you what happened, maybe I could accept that. One of the things that I want to be really clear about is that we don't want to see more harm come to somebody unfairly. That's not what we're after. Enough people have been hurt here, but we are very interested in truth.

Q: It's a three-part question and you tell me if it's too many. I'm just curious if there were things that you learned in your trip here that surprised you that you didn't expect. I was also curious about what happened with the bulldozer when you were right where Rachel was standing, how you felt about that? And lastly, how it was for you to meet families of Israeli victims of terror?

Cindy: When we went to Gaza, first of all we were really glad that we were able to get in there. And just walking through Erez checkpoint was an amazing experience. There was one other person ahead of us; otherwise there was just the two of us with our bags walking through. And there were friends on the other end; people that we hadn't known yet but people that had known Rachel greeting us with flowers. That very day we did go out to the site where Rachel was killed and we had communication actually with the Israeli military because they. we had a number to call to let them know when we were going to be in places that were more dangerous.

Craig: I guess I did those calls. They asked that we call 20 minutes before we go. Because this person's house. and it's the home of a Palestinian pharmacist, his wife and his three children; because that house is right up on the edge of what they're now clearing, but I suppose 150 meters from the razor wire that they have out there. They wanted to know the vehicle that we'd come in, the description of the plates, when we'd be there. We complied with all of that; we took a cab out there, so they knew exactly who was coming there. After we went into the house and were trying to have dinner, an APC came out and right outside the door, maybe 30 meters from the door, was threatening the door, and so I looked through a crack in the wall and there was a bulldozer heading straight for the house. So I called the number we had and gave that information and got a call back and about 5 min

Cindy: I felt trapped. That this was my first day in Gaza and we'd gone for this important, very sensitive visit, to this place where our daughter had lost her life, and I was just amazed that within minutes of us getting there those vehicles would drive right up to the house, and for a while I just couldn't figure out what was going on, since we had communicated very openly about what we were doing. I felt we had the support of the Israeli military. After it was over and after they had moved away, I was in a way grateful that it had happened because it gave me a chance to see the machines and how they operate. Some of the other things that have been really hard for: Walking out of Erez was very, very hard, because we had been there five days and we had met the families where Rachel was; saw one of the houses is very seriously threatened right now. We had lunch there one day and

Craig: Those shots, they weren't so close that, if they were close you could hear the crack of the bullet going past; they weren't that close. But you know, somebody was watching and I might have been a meter or a meter and a half from this person's porch, still certainly within their front yard, which was not as covered with dirt, and what I wanted to see is in this trench was there any evidence of a trench, because I wanted to be able to report to people like you and others. And of course there was no evidence of a tunnel.

Cindy: And then when we left Gaza, walking out of Erez, friends dropped us off, and we're walking down, and again, we're the only people walking out. It was emotional. And there's the wire everywhere, the camouflaged cages. Craig said to me, "it's like all the movies we've watched where someone is finally walking out of prison and they leave their friends behind." Another image that stays with me, and this will be the last one, is I stood in the checkpoint coming from Ramallah into Jerusalem. We didn't really have to wait that long, relatively speaking. It was about 45 minutes. And we're kind of packed into this little area with families and children. I think it was there that I really felt the humiliation that people feel. And as we got to the very end, a gentleman looked at me and spoke in English and said, "This is the occupation." It effected me just very deeply to thin

Thank you so much for coming.

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