Mother Jones article + response
Mother Jones article + response
Thank you to everyone who has already written in to Mother Jones Magazine (ISM Action Alert of Tuesday, September 16). Some, however, have indicated trouble accessing the original article and response via the links that we sent out. For those that could not access the full Mother Jones article, and the response written by Phan Nguyen of Olympia, WA, the pieces are pasted below.
In solidarity & struggle,
INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY MOVEMENT www.palsolidarity.org
ORIGINAL ARTICLE FOLLOWED BY RESPONSE: The Death of Rachel Corrie Martyr, idiot, dedicated, deluded. Why did this American college student crushed by an Israeli bulldozer put her life on the line? And did it matter?
by Joshua Hammer, Mother Jones, September/October 2003
At two o'clock on the afternoon of Sunday, March 16, Rachel Corrie received a cell-phone call from a comrade in the International Solidarity Movement. "The Israelis are back," she told Corrie. "Get over here right away. I think they're heading for Dr. Samir's house." The news alarmed Corrie. Samir Nasrallah was a Palestinian pharmacist who lived with his wife and three children a few hundred yards from the battle-scarred Egyptian border in the Gaza Strip town of Rafah. Corrie and other pro-Palestinian activists based in Rafah had frequently spent the night in Nasrallah's house, acting as human shields against the Israeli tanks and bulldozers clearing a security zone around the border. Almost every other structure in the area had been knocked down in recent months; Nasrallah's abode now stood alone in a sea of sand and debris.
Certain that the pharmacist's house was about to be razed, Corrie caught a taxi to the Hai as-Salam neighborhood. The paved roads of downtown Rafah gave way to sandy tracks lined with scrabbly olive groves, mosques, modest houses, and dirt pitches where Corrie often played soccer-badly but enthusiastically-with local youths. At 2:30, a neighbor of Nasrallah's named Abu Ahmed caught sight of the activist hurrying past his house. Slight, hazel-eyed, with high cheekbones and dirty blond hair pulled back in a ponytail, she carried a megaphone in one hand and an orange fluorescent jacket in the other. "Come inside and have some tea," he urged her. But Corrie told him she didn't have time, and he watched as she disappeared around the comer of his house, heading toward the roar of machinery.
This much has never been contested: Placing herself in the path of an Israeli bulldozer that she believed was about to flatten Nasrallah's house, Rachel Corrie was crushed to death-her skull fractured, her ribs shattered, her lungs punctured. But the bitter accusations and violent recriminations that followed obscured almost everything else about the incident. Palestinians hailed her as a martyr of the Intifada. Several eyewitnesses charged that the bulldozer operator ran her down deliberately and called her killing "a war crime." The Israeli government, which rarely acknowledges the deaths of Palestinian civilians killed during its military operations, went into damage-control mode. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised President Bush a "thorough, credible, and transparent investigation." Later Israel declared the killing a "regrettable accident" and blamed it on overzealous Corrie
In the United States, the reaction to Corrie's death also reflected the deep divide over the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Candlelit vigils took place in her hometown; her poignant letters home were posted on the Internet along with tributes from friends and teachers; Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) called for a congressional investigation. But many others greeted Corrie's death with a distinct lack of sympathy. Americans' preoccupation with the impending war in Iraq combined with the perception that Corrie was in league with Palestinian militants dampened any sense of outrage. She was ridiculed as "roadkill" on one website and excoriated on others for burning a makeshift American flag before Gaza schoolchildren, a photo of which prompted anti-war protesters and other likely allies to distance themselves from her. A university newspaper ran a scathing cartoon depicting a woman standing i
At the beginning of June 2003, two and a half months after Corrie was killed, I traveled to the Gaza Strip in search of those answers. Driving down from Jerusalem, I passed through the Erez Crossing, the nearly deserted transit point from Israel into Gaza. Despite a thaw in the peace process-the Aqaba summit and the inauguration of the "road map" were just days off-conditions had deteriorated since my last visit a few months earlier. Hamas militants had just fired homemade rockets at Israel from a nearby village, and the Israeli army had seized control of the area to prevent more attacks. Two Israeli Merkava tanks blocked the road leading into Gaza. With cars no longer permitted in or out, I was forced to walk to a taxi stand a half-mile away, through a landscape of chewed-up asphalt and flattened homes. I passed a Caterpillar D9 bulldozer, the same type that ran over Corrie. The ma
Mohammed Qishta, a slender, 23-year-old Palestinian who works as an interpreter for the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and knew Corrie, met me at a crowded taxi stand on a hillside above the tanks. In his friend's battered Toyota we drove south toward Rafah, following the same coastal road Corrie had taken when she arrived in Gaza four months earlier. A small, 140-square-mile rectangle of land, Gaza was in Egyptian hands until Israel seized it during the 1967 Six Day War. Still surprisingly fertile, abounding with small plots of olives, squash, cucumbers, and oranges, Gaza is now surrounded by electrified security fences, its population barred from Israel. One million Palestinians are effectively held hostage by 6,700 Jewish settlers and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF)-although the sea provides a vital escape valve. As we sped down the coast, Palestinians played beach volle
By the time I arrived in Rafah, the posters that had gone up across Gaza in Corrie's honor-one slogan read "Rachel was a U.S. citizen with Palestinian blood"-were faded and peeling, and Yasser Arafat's pledge to name a street after her had apparently been forgotten. New martyrs were being produced nearly every day. As we sipped coffee in Rafah's main square, across from the run-down apartment block containing ISM headquarters, a convoy of vehicles festooned with the black flags of Islamic Jihad drove by, heading for the cemetery: One bore the body of a militant killed the day before. Later, as we left the offices of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society in northern Rafah, an Israeli sniper perched in a nearby watchtower began firing down the road, apparently without provocation. We hit the ground and crawled back inside the building. During the fusillade, which lasted 15 minutes, one
Rachel Corrie grew up in Olympia, where her father worked as an insurance executive and her mother, an accomplished flutist, volunteered at local schools. In September 1997, she entered Evergreen State College in Olympia, a small liberal-arts institution known for its experimental curriculum and its left-wing orientation. Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, graduated in 1977 and is often held up as the kind of irreverent, creative personality allowed to flourish at the school. A distrust of authority and a passion for unpopular causes permeate the politics of both students and faculty. In 1999 Mumia Abu Jamal, a former journalist and Black Panther convicted of first-degree murder in the shooting of a Philadelphia police officer, delivered Evergreen's commencement address via audiotape from death row, sparking outrage in conservative circles. "The radical ideologies espoused ever
Corrie aspired to be a writer or an artist, filling her messy apartment with half-finished sculptures and poetry, and dabbled in political activism. Some of her causes verged on New Age parody: She paraded through Olympia dressed as a dove in the "Procession of the Species," billed as an "environmentally aware celebration of the earth and life." But she also grappled with the burning issues of the day. In the fall of her senior year a friend returned from five months in Gaza and talked enthusiastically to Corrie about the International Solidarity Movement, a pro-Palestinian activist group founded just the year before. A motley collection of anti-globalization and animal-rights activists, self-described anarchists and seekers, most in their 20s, the ISM upholds the right of Palestinians to carry out "armed struggle" and seeks "to establish divestment campaigns in the U.S. and Europe
The group has courted controversy from the start. Embracing Palestinian militants, even suicide bombers, as freedom fighters, ISM has adopted a risky policy of "direct action"-entering military zones to interfere with the operations of Israeli soldiers. Members held vigil with Yasser Arafat during the siege of his Ramallah headquarters in April 2002. The next month, 10 activists dashed across Bethlehem's Manger Square in front of astonished Israeli snipers and took refuge alongside 150 Palestinian gunmen trapped inside the Church of the Nativity. "Part of their gig is to break laws in acts of civil disobedience in order to draw attention to what the Israeli military is doing," says one human-rights observer in Jerusalem. "They provide important information about places where journalists and other human-rights groups don't often go. But what they do is incredibly frightening. Would I
Corrie proposed an independent-study program in which she would travel to Gaza, join the ISM team, and initiate a "sister city" project between Olympia and Rafah. She flew to Israel from Seattle on January 22, checked into a youth hostel in East Jerusalem, then joined another Olympia resident, William Hewitt, 25, at a two-day training course at ISM West Bank headquarters. Filled with curiosity about the Middle East, "she engaged with everyone she met," says Hewitt. "She would start a dialogue with the taxi drivers, asking about their lives, their families." She took part in role-playing exercises-playing an angry settler or soldier, or an activist trying to defuse the situation-and received tips about blending into Palestinian society. The activists were to abstain from drugs, sex, and alcohol; women were encouraged to wear the hijab. They studied direct-action tactics and learned a
A town of 150,000 people at the southernmost edge of Gaza, Rafah has been a center of Palestinian resistance for the past three years. Masked militants from Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades prowl the city's sandy alleyways at night, past gray cinder-block homes and shops whose walls are covered with "martyr" posters and brightly painted images of assault rifles and exploding Israeli tanks. Nightly gun battles pit Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers (APCs) patrolling the border strip-known by the Israelis as "Philadelphi Road" or the "Pink Line"-against guerrillas firing anti-tank missiles, grenades, and Kalashnikovs. Roadside bombs lie buried in the sand, and a local Bedouin family controls a lucrative business smuggling weapons from Egypt via tunnels dug as deep as 100 feet and often concealed inside Palestinian homes. Israel's response has been to ra
But human-rights groups and Palestinians say that the destruction is a form of collective punishment and only rarely meets international definitions of military necessity. "Nobody questions that tunnels exist in Rafah or shooting from militants takes place. But whether that has anything to do with the scale and size of the demolitions is a burning question," says Miranda Sissons of Human Rights Watch. Last October, Israel began building a two-and-a-half-mile-long iron and cement security wall to protect its military bases and adjacent Jewish settlements. Along the wall, the IDF has cleared a swath as wide as a football field, shearing off row after row of houses. The United Nations says that since the Al-Aqsa Intifada began in 2001, 582 Rafah homes have been demolished, another 721 have been damaged, and 5,305 people have been made homeless, more than in the rest of the Gaza Strip c
The demolitions, human-rights activists and Palestinians say, have been accompanied by random gunfire from Israeli snipers perched in watchtowers and occupied buildings scattered throughout Rafah. Two hundred and forty people, including 78 children, have been killed, according to Dr. Ali Moussa, director of Rafah's hospital. "Every night there is shooting at houses in which children are sleeping, without any attacks from Palestinians," he says. As I traveled around Rafah, I saw posters memorializing dead children: Nafez Mishal, 2, killed by a tank missile on November 12, 2002; Salem Abdul Kadr Al Shaer, 12, fatally shot in the stomach on October 26, 2002; Asa Zanoun, 13, struck in the head and killed while studying in her bedroom. The IDF says that civilians get caught in crossfire and blame militants for using them as human shields. "It's sad that Palestinian terrorists are using t
Corrie had come to Rafah a paper radical, primed for outrage, but with little real-world experience. That changed immediately. On her first night in Rafah, she and two other human shields, a fellow Olympian and an Italian, set up camp in a heap of rubble inside Block J, a densely populated neighborhood along the Pink Line and frequent target of gunfire from an Israeli watchtower. By placing themselves between the Palestinian residents and the troops, and hanging up banners announcing the presence of "internationals," the activists hoped to discourage the shooting. But the plan backfired. Huddling in terror as Israeli troops fired bullets over their tent and at the ground a few feet away, the three activists decided that their presence at the site was provoking the soldiers, not deterring them, and abandoned the tent. Corrie was so shaken by the experience that she resumed the smokin
Corrie also learned that she had waded into a situation more complex than she'd imagined. Instead of embracing the ISM team as saviors, many Palestinians regarded them with suspicion, even hostility. Weeks before her arrival, activists had erected tents near Israel's new security fence. Neighborhood Palestinians rose up in protest. "We are in a war, this is a closed society, and some Palestinians thought maybe they were working for Israel," Mansour Lawani, a resident, told me. Local toughs tried to take down the tent by force, and armed men from the Popular Resistance Committee-an umbrella group of all the militant factions-ordered the activists to leave. "The armed groups didn't want the internationals to be caught in the crossfire and they also suspected they might be spies," says Lawani. He spent days trying to persuade locals that they had nothing to fear, until they grudgingly
Corrie worked hard to break down the barriers. She learned a few phrases of Arabic and tried them out at every opportunity. Trying to integrate herself into the community, she denounced the "crimes" of the Bush administration at a mock trial, taught English, teamed traditional dances from Palestinian kids, and proposed cultural exchanges as part of her "sister cities" project. But her main focus was on direct action. She and the other activists printed up white calling cards in English and passed them out on the streets. "We are ISM volunteers that come to Palestine to be in solidarity with Palestinians and to confront the illegal Israeli occupation," the cards read. "If there is anything that we can do in cases of human rights or injustice we will not hesitate. Call us anytime; we are available 24 hours a day." Bit by bit, they earned the locals' trust. Families provided meals and
Day after day, the activists unfurled banners, placed themselves between bulldozers and homes, and pleaded with Israeli troops over megaphones to stop their work. Corrie often did the talking. "We are protecting civilians," she would say. "We are unarmed. We are no threat to you. Please do not shoot." The activists were gambling that their international status would protect them, and for the most part they were proved right. The soldiers manning the tanks and APCs that accompanied the D9s on their demolition runs would hurl curses, fire live rounds at activists' feet or in the air, and spray them with tear gas and pepper spray.
But ISM usually held its ground, frequently forcing the Israelis to withdraw. Sometimes, however, there were close calls: One British woman was struck in the leg by tank grenade shrapnel when she entered an olive grove to retrieve the body of a young Palestinian man killed by a sniper's bullet; 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." Riskier still were the nighttime actions, in which Corrie carried a large fluorescent light to illuminate her in front of Israeli snipers. "They were not only brave; they were crazy," says Qishta, who often accompanied the ISM activists to the Pink Line-but took refuge inside nearby houses while they carried out their
After a grueling day, Corrie would frequently huddle in front of a terminal at a downtown Internet cafe, tapping at the keyboard from early evening until dawn. Chain-smoking and downing cups of sweetened tea, she pounded out ISM reports as well as personal notes to friends and family about life inside a combat zone. Sometimes she became so consumed that colleagues had to phone the shabab (young men) who managed the place to rouse her from her corner perch. She wrote about the Palestinian families she lived with and the children she saw shot dead and buried, about her halting attempts to learn Arabic and the Israeli checkpoints that made traveling through Gaza an ordeal. "It became a joke about how much time she spent writing at the Internet cafe," says Jenny, the Irish activist. "She wrote more than anyone, and she loved doing it. She summed up exactly how I felt, and she'd only bee
Despite what she witnessed, Corrie never lost her sense of humor or her playfulness. Sometimes, Mansour Lawani recalls, she would stand on his balcony and regale the Egyptian troops stationed across the border fence with Arabic phrases Lawani had taught her. "Ya, dofa, ihna awzeen nzur it ahramat!" she would shout. "Oh, soldiers, I want to visit the pyramids!" The troops would wave back good-naturedly. When Corrie came down with the flu, Lawani's wife presented her with a 1970s-era powder-pink-and-white-striped jumpsuit and matching head scarf to keep her warm. Corrie found the outfit hideous, says a comrade, but she showed up at work the next day wearing it. "We told her, 'If you wear this in front of a tank, they'll be laughing too hard to shoot you,'" Jenny recalls. "She went off dressed in the jumpsuit and played football in a pitch nearby with the local boys."
The second week of March had been unusually quiet inside the Pink Line. On Friday, March 14, two days before her death, Corrie gave an interview to the Middle East Broadcasting network about conditions in Rafah. Perched on the roof of a bullet-pocked house, Corrie squinted into the sun and cast a nervous glance at a nearby Israeli watchtower. Her neck wrapped in a checked white-and-black kaffiyeh, thin frame draped in a blue sweatshirt, her hair pulled back in a disheveled ponytail, Corrie cut an appealing, impassioned figure. "I feel like I'm witnessing the systematic destruction of a people's ability to survive. It's horrifying," she told the reporter. "It takes a while to get what's happening here. People here are trying to maintain their lives, trying to be happy. Sometimes I sit down to dinner with people and I realize there is a massive military machine surrounding us, trying
Corrie spent Friday and Saturday nights in the home of Ibrahim and Jindiya al-Shaer in Hai as-Salam. Bulldozers had systematically sheared off one home after another between theirs and the border, leaving the al-Shaer house standing exposed on the front line. The front door was now too dangerous to use, so the family entered and exited their house via a small aperture cut into the rear wall. Corrie had grown close to the family's 17-year-old daughter, Naela, who'd been grazed by shrapnel while sitting on her porch in early January. "We should be inspired by people like you who show that human beings can be kind, brave, generous, beautiful, strong-even in the most difficult circumstances," Corrie scribbled in Naela's diary. "Follow your dreams, believe in yourself and don't give up. Much love and respect, Rachel from Olympia, Washington."
Awakening at dawn on Sunday to the sound of tanks rumbling along the border strip, Corrie drank a cup of sweet tea proffered by Naela's mother and then presented the family with a bag of powdered zattar, a pungent blend of spices including thyme, marjoram, and salt. Jindiya sprinkled it on pita bread saturated with olive oil and served it to the family for breakfast. Rachel ate quickly, as she always did-eager to get into the field. "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.
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 probl
The meeting broke up at 11 o'clock, and Corrie and two other activists caught a taxi to a municipal well at the northern end of Rafah. In mid-January, the IDF bulldozers had demolished two of Rafah's six wells, claiming that gunmen had fired from the well houses upon the Rafi Yam settlement, 500 yards away. Whatever the cause, the attack had cut off half of the city's water supply. Rafah's municipal water director had asked the foreign activists to serve as human shields during the repair work. Corrie and the others had erected tents and banners, and now worked in alternating shifts, standing guard as the crew rushed to put the well back on-line. It was tedious work, usually involving nothing more than donning their orange jackets and sitting idly in the back of a flatbed truck. But they were certain that their presence was the only factor preventing the Israelis from attacking agai
According to the Israeli army, as Corrie guarded the well, two D9 bulldozers, accompanied by a small tank, left their base along the Egyptian border at 1:17 p.m. and lumbered toward the no man's land surrounding Samir Nasrallah's home in Hai as-Salam. Israel says that the crew's assignment was to sweep the area for booby traps planted by militants. The ISM team insists that it was another house-demolition mission.
Corrie received a call from a fellow activist in Hai as-Salam at 2:00 and arrived near the scene 20 minutes later. Walking briskly down a dusty alley, she slipped into her orange fluorescent jacket and tested her loudspeaker. Donkeys brayed, and the pungent aroma from a nearby slaughterhouse wafted over the neighborhood. Turning the corner, Corrie could see the pair of green behemoths probing and undulating the earth as the tank stood guard. Across the swath of empty land, scarred with tread marks and piles of rubble, she could gaze out at the fence separating Gaza from Egypt. Behind it, a minaret rose over a smartening of ugly brown buildings and a few scraggly palm trees.
Five members of the ISM team were in place by the time Corrie and two others arrived. Positioned near Nasrallah's house, they waved banners, called to the troops through their megaphones, and attempted to obstruct the bulldozers' movements. At 3:04, soldiers in the tank fired warning shots at the protesters to "no effect," the Israeli military says. Seventeen minutes later, they launched shock grenades and tear gas, again to "no effect." At 3:28, work was temporarily suspended. Then, at 4:15, according to a military log, "twenty Palestinians crouch east of the road; a grenade is tossed at a D9." The troops fired more tear gas to disperse the crowd.
Just before five o'clock, one of the D9s rumbled lazily toward a high cinder-block wall near Nasrallah's house. Corrie swiftly positioned herself between the wall and the bulldozer, then about 30 yards from her. Crouching on the earth, almost like a supplicant in prayer, she placed her right foot behind her left and rested her right knee on the ground. Looking toward the bulletproof windows, she could probably see the silhouettes of two Israeli operators. The steel blade began pushing a huge pile of debris and sandy soil toward her, so close that the scent of the moist earth permeated her nostrils. The ground began to shift beneath her feet. Tom Dale was standing a few yards from Corrie as the bulldozer got close. "The bulldozer built up earth in front of it. Its blade was slightly dug into the earth," he told me. "She began to stand up. The earth was pushed over her feet. She tried
Dale looked on, stunned, as the D9 slowly reversed and dragged its blade along the ground-back over Corrie's body. Then he and the six other activists rushed to her aid. A photograph an activist took of the moment captures the tragedy with painful clarity: Corrie sprawls on the ground, face contorted in pain, her legs twisted pitifully, her lip split open, blood trickling down her cheek. In the background the bulldozer's blade looms over her crumpled body like a wall of steel. A British activist named Alice cradled her head and assured her an ambulance was on its way. "My back is broken," Corrie gasped. Then she lapsed into unconsciousness.
At 5:04, the bulldozer driver's voice crackled over Israeli military radio. Speaking Hebrew with a thick Russian accent, the soldier blandly announced, "I hit someone."
A soldier monitoring the conversation relayed the report to base, assuming the activist was a man. "He was too close to Dooby [the code name of the operator] and he hit him."
"Somebody from the foreigners?" asked a female soldier.
"Are they evacuating him?"
"Yes, they're taking him now."
At 5:03, a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance received a call and arrived at the scene four minutes later. Corrie still lay half buried in sand. "She had no pulse, she wasn't breathing, her eyes were dilated," paramedic Ashraf Shafeeq al-Khateeb told me. "We used a neck collar and a board to stabilize the body, cleared an airway, and used CPR with suction." The ambulance delivered her to the Abu Yusuf al-Najjar Hospital at 5:15 "as a dead body," according to the medical report. Corrie had "one seven-centimeter cut on the left side of her upper lip, hematoma, and severe cyanosis of the full face, neck, and upper body indicative of suffocation." Her lungs had been crushed, her left clavicle and ribs were fractured, vital organs had ruptured. According to Dr. Ali Moussa, the hospital director, Corrie probably died from a combination of three causes: the damage to her lungs, blockage of
Was it murder? Corrie's colleagues believe that it was. "I never dreamed it'd be like this, the intentional crushing of a human being," ISM eyewitness Joe "Smith" wrote in an affidavit filed with Palestinian human-rights attorneys. "I do believe it was intentional. I saw it, and I know he saw her, I know he did, and I know he knew she was still under the bulldozer when it backed up without raising its blade. I don't know if he wanted to kill her, or if he was just focused on doing his work and didn't care if he killed her or not, I don't know which is scarier." Five other activists testified that the driver must have seen Corrie before mowing her down. A damning sequence of photographs shot by ISM activists and almost immediately released by Reuters appears to show Corrie standing before the bulldozer and addressing the soldiers with her megaphone seconds before being crushed.
Yet "Smith" later gave an interview in which he acknowledged that the bulldozer operator could well have lost sight of Corrie after she tumbled down the dirt pile. And the infamous photo series turned out to be misleading. In fact, the megaphone photo was taken hours before Corrie's death; she had handed the loudspeaker to a colleague some time before she was run over, and she was kneeling, not standing, in front of the machine when she was killed. As newspapers ran corrections, the activists claimed that Reuters had "miscaptioned" the photographs. The episode probably did more to mute anger over Corrie's death than anything else. The ISM activists were widely dismissed as frauds. In reality, they were probably just too young and inexperienced to know that if the media feels burned, it'll turn on you, or worse, ignore you.
"Dooby," the army reservist who ran Corrie down, is a Russian immigrant with long experience as a bulldozer operator. On Israeli TV he insisted that his field of vision was limited inside the D9 cabin and that he had no idea Corrie was in front of the machine. "You can't hear, you can't see well. You can go over something and you'll never know," he said. "I scooped up some earth, I couldn't see anything. I pushed the earth, and I didn't see her at all. Maybe she was hiding in there." The IDF compiled a video about the Corrie incident that includes footage taken from inside the cockpit of a D9. It makes a credible case that the operators, peering out through narrow, double-glazed, bulletproof windows, their view obscured behind pistons and the giant scooper, might not have seen Corrie kneeling in front of them.
Whatever the truth, the Israeli army showed no remorse for its action that afternoon. Days after Corrie's death, Arafat's Fatah Party sponsored a memorial service for her in Rafah, attended by representatives of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades as well as ordinary Palestinians. Midway through the service, an Israeli tank pulled up beside the mourners and sprayed them with tear gas. Peace activists chased the tank and tossed flowers, and the Israeli soldiers inside threatened, in return, to run them down. After 15 minutes of cat and mouse, Israeli bulldozers and APCs rolled in, firing guns and percussion bombs and putting a quick end to the memorial.
In rapid succession, Israeli troops shot three more foreign civilians working in the West Bank and Gaza. On April 5, Brian Avery, a 24-year-old American ISM volunteer in Jenin, was shot in the face by an Israeli sniper and seriously wounded. Six days later, a bullet fired by an Israeli soldier in a Rafah watchtower tore through the back of 21-year-old Tom Hurndall's skull as the ISM volunteer stooped to carry two Palestinian girls to safety. Hurndall now lies comatose in a British hospital. On May 2, James Miller, a 35-year-old Briton filming an HBO documentary along the Egyptian border, was shot in the neck and killed while walking under a white flag toward an Israeli APC. Few suggest that the army is deliberately targeting foreign activists and journalists; but critics say that these casualties are the inevitable result of a shoot-first-ask-questions-later policy-one that has resu
Those shootings received little media attention. In April, Israel's chief of staff, Moshe Ya'alon, announced a crackdown on the International Solidarity Movement. During the following weeks, Israeli troops rounded up a dozen foreign activists; several were deported. Soldiers raided the group's Beit Sahour headquarters on May 9, detained three people, seized eight computers, and "trashed the office," according to an ISM spokesman. The activists are now banned from traveling into the Gaza Strip, and several who've landed at Ben-Gurion Airport have been refused entry into Israel. The crackdown has all but ended ISM's role as front-line observers. Direct actions to block Israeli bulldozings have petered away, and "because of the arrests we're avoiding sleeping on the border," says Jenny, Corrie's Irish colleague. The stresses of the last months have taken a psychological toll on ISM. "T
ISM has also found itself placed on the defensive by its own recklessness. During a raid on their Jenin office on March 27, Israeli soldiers arrested Shadi Sukiya, an alleged Islamic Jihad guerrilla found hiding with two ISM activists. The IDF says that Sukiya, 20, was a "senior militant" who'd sent four suicide attackers into Israel. ISM insists he was an innocent, terrified teenager who'd asked for refuge during an Israeli sweep. But following the incident, the International Committee for the Red Cross, which occupies an office in the same compound, asked the ISM to leave the premises. In late April, two Pakistan-born Britons posing as activists stopped in for tea at the group's office in Rafah. Five days later one Briton blew himself up at the entrance to a Tel Aviv pub called Mike's Place, killing three and wounding dozens. (The other escaped; his battered body later washed asho
Five days after her death, Rachel Corrie's body was shipped home to Olympia. The IDF has since pulled out of the northern part of Gaza, but demolitions along the Pink Line continue. The inquiry promised by Ariel Sharon cleared the soldiers of any wrongdoing, and momentum has faded for a U.S. congressional investigation. A skeleton staff at the ISM Rafah office spends most of its time attempting to revitalize Corrie's sister-city project. And Corrie herself has faded into obscurity, a subject of debate in Internet chat rooms and practically nowhere else. And that, perhaps, is what is saddest. No matter what one thinks of Corrie, her death should have prompted more of a conversation. She should be an iconic figure-to foolish idealism, to bravery against impossible odds, to the bittersweet conviction of youth-and to a handful of people she may be, but so far the larger message of her l
In Rafah, Corrie is cherished by a few Palestinian families who talk about her grace, humor, generosity, and, above all, bravery. Graffiti sprayed on the ruins of a house behind the ISM office pay tribute to that spirit. "To Rachel, who came to Rafah to stop the tanks," it reads. "We remember her with love and honor as an inspiration."
Joshua Hammer is the Jerusalem bureau chief for Newsweek. He is the author of Chosen by God: A Brother's Journey, about his younger brother's decision to become a member of an ultraorthodox Hasidic community, and A Season in Bethlehem: Unholy War in a Sacred Place, which was published in September.
Speculative Journalism: The making of "The Death of Rachel Corrie" by Phan Nguyen
Mother Jones demonstrated how low it could set its standards for investigative journalism when it hired Newsweek reporter Joshua Hammer to surf the web and write a 7000-word feature story on Rachel Corrie and the International Solidarity Movement ("The Death of Rachel Corrie", Sept/Oct 2003). Indeed fact-checking and verification was not a priority in the production of this article. Before I had even finished reading the article I had already discovered that Hammer had no shame in culling information from indiscriminate websurfing and no compunction against committing plagiarism.
Take, for instance, Hammer's description of a memorial service held for Corrie in Rafah soon after she was killed:
Days after Corrie's death, Arafat's Fatah Party sponsored a memorial service for her in Rafah, attended by representatives of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades as well as ordinary Palestinians. Midway through the service, an Israeli tank pulled up beside the mourners and sprayed them with tear gas. Peace activists chased the tank and tossed flowers, and the Israeli soldiers inside threatened, in return, to run them down. After 15 minutes of cat and mouse, Israeli bulldozers and APCs rolled in, firing guns and percussion bombs and putting a quick end to the memorial.
What struck me as I read it was that I had seen the exact same phrasing before. So I looked it up and found an article by Sandra Jordan in the UK Observer from March 23:
In Rafah, Arafat's political party Fatah held a wake for "Retchell Corie", attended by representatives of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs brigade, among others. These are the militant Islamic fronts condemned by Rachel's government as terrorists. Their people mingled with secular organisations and droves of ordinary Palestinians who came to pay their respects...
Later in the article, Jordan writes about another memorial service:
As the memorial service got under way, the Israeli army sent its own representative. A tank pulled up beside the mourners and sprayed them with tear gas. A bizarre game of cat-and-mouse began as the peace activists chased the tank around to throw flowers on it, and the Israeli soldiers inside threatened, in return, to run them down.
The game ended when the Israeli bulldozers came out, accompanied by more APCs, firing guns and percussion bombs. The insult was as clear as the danger of the situation and the people went home, the service halted.
We can break down the sentences to reveal how Hammer slightly restructured Jordan's words. Selections from Jordan's article (in italics) are followed by Hammer's sentences in his own chronology.
In Rafah, Arafat's political party Fatah held a wake...attended by representatives of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs brigade, among others... Their people mingled with secular organisations and droves of ordinary Palestinians...
Days after Corrie's death, Arafat's Fatah Party sponsored a memorial service for her in Rafah, attended by representatives of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades as well as ordinary Palestinians.
As the memorial service got under way...A tank pulled up beside the mourners and sprayed them with tear gas.
Midway through the service, an Israeli tank pulled up beside the mourners and sprayed them with tear gas.
...the peace activists chased the tank around to throw flowers on it, and the Israeli soldiers inside threatened, in return, to run them down.
Peace activists chased the tank and tossed flowers, and the Israeli soldiers inside threatened, in return, to run them down.
A bizarre game of cat-and-mouse began...
After 15 minutes of cat and mouse...
The game ended when the Israeli bulldozers came out, accompanied by more APCs, firing guns and percussion bombs.
...Israeli bulldozers and APCs rolled in, firing guns and percussion bombs and putting a quick end to the memorial.
Hammer produced an exemplary model of plagiarism, but with one major flaw. Because he had so casually swiped three paragraphs from the Observer and subtly restructured it, he incorrectly combined the "Fatah-sponsored wake" with the separate memorial service that was held at the site of her killing. Sandra Jordan did not make it clear in her article that the two were separate, and so Hammer misinterprets the article as he steals from it, thus presenting us not only with a clear case of plagiarism, but also misinformation. Once we realize this, it is not surprising to find other discrepancies in Hammer's article.
Such is the case in Hammer's description of the International Solidarity Movement. According to Hammer,
the ISM upholds the right of Palestinians to carry out "armed struggle" and seeks "to establish divestment campaigns in the U.S. and Europe to put economic pressure on Israel the same way the international community put pressure [on] South Africa during the apartheid regimes."
And curiously, according to Myles Kantor in an article written for David Horowitz's Front Page Magazine last April:
ISM refers to a "right" of Palestinian "armed struggle" and seeks "to establish divestment campaigns in the US and Europe to put economic pressure on Israel the same way the international community put pressure [on] South Africa during the apartheid regimes."
Somehow, Hammer managed to selectively extract and distort the exact same 32 words from ISM's 900-word mission statement as did an extreme right-wing website. Indeed both articles selected the least significant aspects from the mission statement, which least described ISM's activities.
The mission statement had been drafted in the early days of ISM (as it is clearly dated "December 2001"), when ISM's focus was envisioned to be broader than it currently is. Thus the reference to divestment campaigns is obsolete, as there are no ISM-coordinated divestment campaigns. Yet Hammer still felt it was significant enough to single out as a definitive aspect of ISM, simply because his right-wing web source had already done so.
The other portion of ISM's mission statement which Hammer cites is the reference to "armed struggle." However, if Hammer will ever decide to read ISM's mission statement, he will learn that it refers to armed struggle only in the context of clearing the misperceptions that such is the only method of resistance and that all Palestinians engage in it. In contrast, the mission statement declares that ISM exclusively engages in "the proactive tactics of non-violent direct action epitomized by Gandhi, Archbishop Tutu, Dr. Martin Luther King, and other practitioners of creative non-violent resistance." If Hammer reads further, he will find that while armed struggle is mentioned only once-and only in the context just described-the bulk of the mission statement refers to nonviolent resistance-that is, the only form of resistance practiced by ISM.
Ironically while Kantor's article stated that "ISM refers to a 'right' of Palestinian 'armed struggle,'" Hammer altered it to read that ISM "upholds" the right, which is even more misleading. He does not explain how ISM "upholds" this right. ISM explicitly states that it acknowledges the right of Palestinians to resist occupation in accordance with international laws. This is not a blanket "uphold[ing]" of "armed struggle," as Hammer seems to claim.
And of all the right-wing articles Hammer could choose to swipe from, he chose to swipe from Kantor's article, which is full of false statements, such as the libelous allegation that ISM activist Susan Barclay was working for Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Kantor even falsely attributes a quote to Rachel Corrie: "More Martyrs are ready to defend the honor of Palestine." None of this seems to trouble Hammer, who still finds Kantor credible enough to sample.
While Hammer doesn't mind flat-out plagiarism, he is just as capable of misleading when he does mention his sources. In describing The Evergreen State College, the school that Rachel Corrie attended, Hammer references only one quote:
"The radical ideologies espoused every day at Evergreen State College are of every nasty branch of extremism," one columnist recently wrote. "Anti-Americanism. Anti-God. Anti-life. Anti-Israel. Anti-capitalism. Anti-tradition."
And yet who is this single "columnist" that Hammer chooses to quote? Hammer doesn't say, but a simple Google search reveals his source: A young ultraconservative named Hans Zeiger. Zeiger, who is 18 years old, has never attended The Evergreen State College. In fact, in the article from which Hammer quoted, Zeiger cites only two visits to Evergreen-one of which was when he was in the seventh grade!
Interestingly Hammer does not bother to quote Zeiger's homophobic statement in the same article. Nor does Hammer note Zeiger's suggestion that Evergreen may have connections to "terrorist organizations," or his ridiculous claim that Corrie "had stood guard outside of Yasser Arafat's compound", when in fact she had never even set foot in Ramallah. Hammer conveniently ignores all these revelatory tidbits because that would destroy the credibility of the man whom Hammer selectively quotes and refers to simply as a "columnist."
Of course credibility is something that Hammer has trouble judging. He finds contradiction in the testimony of Joe "Smith," who witnessed Corrie's killing. "Smith" insists that the bulldozer driver saw Corrie as he approached her, and saw her when she climbed atop the dirt pile that he was pushing, while elsewhere "Smith" "acknowledged that the bulldozer operator could well have lost sight of Corrie after she tumbled down the dirt pile" that he was pushing-that is, the driver eventually lost sight of her as he was driving over her. That would seem to be common sense, and Hammer fails to explain where the contradiction lay.
Hammer also implies that ISM activists intentionally misrepresented the photos taken during the day of Corrie's killing, that the activists merely "claimed" that the news wires had miscaptioned the photos. His baseless conclusion is that the activists were "probably just too young and inexperienced to know" not to "burn" the media. Of course he merely speculates when he says "probably," but that seems to be good enough for his style of journalism. Instead of seeking the truth, Hammer is satisfied with his own speculation and moves on.
This type of shallow skepticism is reserved for the activists, while Israeli military claims are treated with respect by Hammer and often go unquestioned, even when the statements are clearly disputable and even laughable. While ISM activists "claimed" their versions of the story, Hammer trusts IDF spokesperson Sharon Feingold as having "assured" and "explained" to him the facts. Feingold "assured" him that the IDF "do[es] not target civilians," that Tom Hurndall was shot in the head simply because he was too close to a Palestinian gunman. Feingold "explained" that reporter James Miller was killed because he was caught in some crossfire. Hammer questions neither of Feingold's claims, despite numerous witnesses to both killings who all contradict the claims. In the case of James Miller, the Israeli military even evolved its explanation, since the autopsy report contradicted the earli
Hammer gives no indication that he has viewed the footage of his fellow Middle East journalists. However he admits to having viewed an Israeli propaganda video that was produced specifically to absolve the military of any responsiblity in Rachel Corrie's death. The video, along with a PowerPoint slideshow that was distributed to US Congress members, was produced prior to the conclusion of the Israeli investigation. This does not keep Hammer from finding that the propaganda video-which featured the inside of a D9 bulldozer-made "a credible case" of innocence for the Israelis. Nor does he wonder why the Israeli investigation, which he states was supposed to be "transparent," has not been made public. And nor does he mention that according to the Israeli investigation, at no point did the bulldozer even drive over Corrie's body, clearly contradicting the tread marks that appear in the
And when Feingold informs Hammer that "Palestinian terrorists are using the [Palestinian] civilians to hide behind," he finds it worthy to quote but not to question, despite the fact that there is no clear documentation to corroborate Feingold's accusation. Conversely, there is a wealth of documentation of Israeli soldiers using Palestinian civilians as human shields-what the IDF refers to as the "neighbor procedure"-as can be found in the mainstream Israeli press, in accounts of ISM activists, and in the work of several human rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch. In fact Hammer extensively interviewed and quoted Miranda Sissons, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, but somehow failed to ask her about this use of human shields, as if Feingold's "assurances" were adequate enough.
As well, Hammer informs us that when the Israeli military conducts home demolitions, "residents can gather their belongings; and each house is searched for occupants before it is demolished." There have been numerous cases that prove otherwise. We can read one such Human Rights Watch report from Rafah in late 2002: "At least 20 people were injured, nine of them children, when the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) prevented residents from evacuating their home while the IDF was demolishing the next-door house..." Just two weeks before Corrie was killed, a pregnant Palestinian woman, Nuha Sweidan, was killed in the process of an Israeli-conducted house demolition. And in the cases where residents are actually allowed to "gather their belongings," Hammer fails to mention that such accomodations are often afforded fifteen minutes or less. Again, Hammer saw fit to print the Israeli claims and
But Hammer already proves that he is too willing to document and judge things he knows nothing about. For example, he revealed that "some of [Rachel Corrie's] causes verged on New Age parody." But he provided only one example-one that reveals his own ignorance: "She paraded through Olympia dressed as a dove in the 'Procession of the Species,' billed as an 'environmentally aware celebration of the earth and life.'" Rather than being "New Age parody," the Procession of the Species is actually a large annual family event in Corrie's hometown that attracts tens of thousands of locals of all backgrounds. Last year Corrie organized scores of Olympia residents, young and old, to participate as doves for the event. Hammer does not bother to research the event before dismissing it as "New Age parody." Based on this single false assumption, Hammer concluded that "some of her causes verged on
This kind of generalization also enables him to mysteriously state that the photo of Corrie burning a paper American flag "prompted anti-war protesters and other likely allies to distance themselves from her." Once again, he makes a generalization and provides no elaboration. Just how many "anti-war protesters and other likely allies" did he find before he was satisfied enough to make a generalization? (Incidentally, the caption of the photo of Corrie with the burning paper flag incorrectly states that it occurred during a mock trial of the Bush administration. Actually it occurred during the worldwide protests against a pending US war on Iraq on February 15, in which Corrie was one of over 10 million protesters. The mock trial happened a few weeks later. There are several minor errors such as this throughout the article.)
He extends his generalizations with misleading accusations about the nature of ISM. In addition to misquoting ISM's mission statement via Front Page Magazine, Hammer stereotypes ISM as "a motley collection of anti-globalization and animal-rights activists, self-described anarchists and seekers, most in their 20s." The truth is ISM activists range in age from 18 to 77, and they come from all backgrounds, from college students to soccer moms to white collar professionals, and they have come from all over the world. Hammer merely demonstrates his limited experience and knowledge of ISM by applying a cliché. Out of the hundreds of internationals who have participated in ISM campaigns, how many ISM activists has Hammer met personally?
He goes on to falsely claim that ISM "embrac[es] Palestinian militants, even suicide bombers, as freedom fighters," a baseless accusation commonly alleged and left unsubstantiated by right-wing pundits. As usual he proclaims and elaborates no further. Perhaps next time he should provide us with the website link.
In a move to show he prefers the Israeli military's point of view, he claims that ISM "has adopted a risky policy of 'direct action'-entering military zones..." What Hammer refers to as "military zones" are actually Palestinian cities and villages, residential neighborhoods where ISM is invited by the inhabitants. Only the Israeli military refers to them as military zones. Hamas may regard Tel Aviv as a "military zone," but I doubt Hammer would consequently label Tel Aviv as such. Indeed, quite often the Israeli military declares a city to be a "military zone" after ISM activists have settled in.
What's amazing is that in Hammer's 7000-word article, he spends very little time explaining what ISM really is. He makes no mention of its purely nonviolent tactics or even its most basic activities, such as accompanying ambulances, assisting farmers in reaching their crops, clearing roadblocks, and walking children to school, perhaps because they're not sensationalist enough to merit his attention. He does not even explain ISM's goal, except for the misleading claim that ISM "upholds" the right to "armed resistance." In truth ISM's goal is to nonviolently resist the Israeli occupation. That simple objective is mentioned nowhere in his article. Instead, if we are to envision ISM according to Hammer's description, we would have to imagine that it is a group of animal-rights activists in their 20s who enter military zones and establish divestment campaigns.
Hammer's article freely quotes IDF spokesperson Sharon Feingold as she excuses the actions of the Israeli military. But when Hammer wishes to explain ISM, he selectively quotes from third parties who have limited experience with ISM, such as an anonymous "human-rights observer in Jerusalem" and Miranda Sissons, and he does so blatantly out-of-context. The anonymous human-rights observer is quoted immediately after Hammer incorrectly recounts two sensationalized ISM actions, while Sissons criticizes ISM in the context of what she admits are "unsubstantiated allegations."
Hammer himself describes the "recklessness" of ISM but in the process once again exposes his own recklessness and low standard of journalism. He attempts to recount the case of a young Palestinian, Shadi Sukiya, who was captured by Israeli forces in the ISM office in Jenin. According to Hammer, "ISM insists he was an innocent, terrified teenager who'd asked for refuge during an Israeli sweep." Here, Hammer resorts to fabrication. ISM issued a press release soon after Sukiya's capture, which shows the extent of ISM's "insistence":
One of the volunteers went into the hallway to see what was happening and met a young man coming up the stairs. He looked terrified, was soaking wet and appeared to be in pain. Concerned about his welfare-under Israeli military curfew, Palestinians spotted in the streets are shot on site-he was brought into the apartment. He spoke only Arabic, which none of the ISM volunteers present understood. He was given a change of clothes, a hot drink and a blanket... Eventually the military knocked on the ISM door and 30 soldiers entered with their machine guns trained. They arrested the young man, claiming he was "wanted." The two women were not able to prevent the soldiers from taking the young man, whose name they did not even know, but requested that he be treated humanely.
ISM reported only the events as they happened. ISM "insisted" nothing else. The question, as always, is where did Hammer come up with his claim? And where was the "recklessness?" Hammer appropriately recounts the IDF's claim that Sukiya "was a 'senior militant' who'd sent four suicide attackers into Israel." And yet he doesn't follow up to reveal that Sukiya was subsequently held under administrative detention-that is, he was held indefinitely without charges. Hammer made no attempt to verify the IDF's accusations. Hammer also doesn't bother to note that the IDF additionally claimed they found either a pistol or two rifles in the ISM Jenin office when they apprehended Sukiya, a blatant lie which both the IDF and consequently the Associated Press were forced to retract. Apparently Hammer didn't feel too "burned" by the IDF lies. (Incidentally, one of Hammer's valued sources, Front Pa
It is revealing that Hammer would fabricate an ISM claim that undermines the actual testimony of the activists, while he conveniently omits the proven lies of the IDF and his right-wing sources, which would reasonably undermine their own claims.
The other instance of supposed "recklessness" occurred when two Britons briefly visited the ISM Rafah office. One of the Britons later committed a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. Hammer claims that they were "posing as activists," although he doesn't bother to mention exactly how they posed as activists, because his allegation is false.
Soon after the Tel Aviv bombing, ISM activist Raphael Cohen testified at a press conference about his brief encounter with the two:
Shortly before noon on Friday, the 25th of April, about 15 people came to the ISM apartment in Rafah, the Gaza Strip. They were in three groups: 4 British citizens from London who were looking to prepare a summer camp in Gaza in conjunction with local Palestinians from Rafah; three Italians and two Britons. The last two have been accused of perpetrating the attack in Tel Aviv early last Wednesday morning.
Our group of 5 offered all of them tea. I asked them general questions like who they were? were they with any group? and what they were doing in Rafah? The two accused Britons answered that they weren't with any particular organization but that they came with "alternative tourism"...We stayed in the apartment for approximately 15 minutes, before we went down to the place where Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli Occupation Force bulldozer on March 16. Owing to the presence and approach of an Israeli army tank, we were only able to spend a few minutes at the site where Rachel was killed. We placed a flower on the place in the dirt where Rachel was run over.
Our ISM group then went to the house of Dr. Samir Nasrallah, the house that Rachel died defending, while everybody else, including the group that had visited us, went their own way.
ISM neither harbored nor provided any assistance to the two. When the bombing happended, ISM activists stated upfront that they had briefly met the two. Again, Hammer fails to explain exactly what ISM did that was reckless-only that it was. He is always willing to list the charges, but as a journalist is unwilling to investigate them.
What's more, even if the two Britons had posed as activists, it is unclear how that would make ISM in any way responsible. Last May, a man disguised as an observant Jew boarded a bus in the French Hill settlement and detonated the explosives strapped to his body. Would that make observant Jews reckless? Would that make the bus driver who allowed him to board reckless?
However, that is enough for Hammer to label the ISM "reckless." Hammer goes on to write, "Still, the perception has lingered that the group is a sympathizer-and even a harborer-of terrorists." Hammer doesn't say among whom this "perception has lingered," only that it has. Nor does he investigate the validity of his unattributed claim. For Hammer, reporting hearsay is enough. Such unsubstantiated allegations are best left to the gossip columns, if left anywhere at all-not in writing that purports to be investigative journalism.
But Hammer is too caught up in artistic license to report accurately, as when he claims, "Corrie had come to Rafah a paper radical, primed for outrage, but with little real-world experience. That changed immediately." The truth is that Rachel was not "primed for outrage." Her primary interest was in establishing a sister city relationship, so she was more "primed" for exchanging pen pal letters. That didn't sound too exciting to Hammer, who took the opportunity to read Corrie's mind.
Hammer concludes the article with his thesis that Rachel Corrie died for nothing. He claims that "momentum has faded for a U.S. congressional investigation," which is incorrect. House Concurrent Resolution 111 started out with 11 sponsors and has grown to 49 sponsors in the House, with the latest two having signed on September 3 (Congress was out of session in August), so the resolution is still gaining sponsors. And on September 9, the Berkeley City Council voted to endorse Resolution 111. The reason the resolution has not moved is not because "momentum has faded," but because action is required by the House Committee on International Relations, which, under control of Henry Hyde, is failing to address it.
Hammer continues: "Corrie herself has faded into obscurity, a subject of debate in Internet chat rooms and practically nowhere else." Once again, reality contradicts Hammer's world-view. Her letters from Rafah have now been published in mainstream English-language media such as Harper's and The Guardian. They have been translated into numerous other languages and have been reprinted in publications throughout the world. In the Arab world, her name continues to resonate as a reminder that not all Americans support the policies of their president. Documentaries have been made about her in the US, Japan, the Middle East, and elsewhere. Around the world, including in Israel, songs and poems have been written about her. Participation in ISM has risen as a reaction to her killing. Memorials, scholarship funds, and humanitarian centers are being established in her name and in her honor. IS
But perhaps Hammer is too busy debating on Internet chat rooms to notice. Or worse, Hammer merely wanted to add some melodrama to his story: "And that, perhaps, is what is saddest."
The article is littered with other errors, many are of peripheral significance, but taken together, along with all of Hammer's proclivities as described above, add up to a shoddy piece of work: Corrie did not "propose an independent-study program in which she would travel to Gaza", she did not fly to Israel from Seattle, the friend who returned from five months in Gaza was not involved in ISM and thus did not "talk enthusiasically to Corrie about the International Solidarity Movement," the Red Cross did not ask ISM to vacate its Jenin office, the Arabic sentence in the article was translated to English incorrectly, and the list goes on.
Hammer's style of investigative reporting utilizes plagiarism, indiscriminate surfing of right-wing websites, unquestioning reliance on hearsay and authority figures, skimpy fact-checking, misinformed speculation, artistic license, and a contrived melodramatic thesis. What's most amazing is how he is able to consolidate all these flaws into a single article. Ironically the cover story of this Mother Jones issue deals with environmental protection. Perhaps Mother Jones could have spared a few trees by omitting the Joshua Hammer article, and instead providing us with links to the websites where Hammer took his information from. Then we could judge the credibility of his sources ourselves.
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