A Deafening Silence

The death of International Solidarity Movement volunteer Rachel Corrie beneath an Israeli military bulldozer in March sent shock waves through the activist community. In the midst of grief, however, many also hoped that the murder of an unarmed American would finally catapult the plight of occupied Palestine into the international spotlight.

The premise of accompaniment groups like ISM rests on the assumption that, though the United States and Israel have ignored the more than 1,200 Palestinian civilian casualties since September 2000, neither country's government or media could afford to ignore an American's death. "Israel isn't held accountable for killing [Palestinians]," ISM founder Huwaida Arraf told Salon.com just two months before Corrie was killed. "But killing a foreigner is a PR disaster." Especially a young, blond foreigner from Olympia, Washington, who had been trying to protect a Palestinian home from demolition.

Imagine the potential public relations nightmare when Corrie's death was quickly followed by the seemingly deliberate targeting of two other international activists, Brian Avery, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Tom Hurndall, from England. Avery is in serious condition, and the shot to Hurndall's head rendered him brain dead.

Peace teams finally had a cause over which mainstream America could express outrage—three internationals targeted in the Middle East!—yet there was little discussion of the incidents. After a flurry of front-page stories and State Department condolences, the government and media returned its focus to Iraq. The Israeli government investigated Corrie's death and quickly exonerated itself, claiming she had behaved with "reprehensible negligence."

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 2003
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