Remembering Shireen Abu Akleh

Palestinian-American veteran journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, was murdered this week by an IDF sniper in a refugee camp in the Occupied West Bank. She was wearing a PRESS vest and was reporting on Israeli military violence against refugees at the time. Today, she was laid to rest.

Shireen was beloved for her grace, professional integrity and honesty by Palestinians, journalists around the world, and those of us who stand in solidarity.

May she rest in power. She will not be forgotten. And may Palestine be free.

Kenn Orphan, May 2022

Concerning those on the Left who Still Defend Putin

This is bound to be an unpopular opinion among a certain set of the online (particularly older, American) left, but I keep seeing the same problematic things being repeated. That a photo of Ukrainians fleeing, wounded or dead are either “fake news” or they are “crisis actors.” The most odious ones say that these are all Azov Nazis. I guess that would include the Jewish community. I guess it would also include people who simply did not want to leave their homes. Or the disabled, the sick, children, the elderly, and all of those who stayed to protect them and their homes. Others are wringing their hands about Putin’s conundrum of having “NATO in its backyard.” How anyone can become that jaded is beyond me. But I’ve seen it before.

I won’t address the claim of wounded or mass graves being made up of “crisis actors” or “fake news” as this comes from a kind of degeneracy of Trumpism which should be soundly rejected by anyone with even a modicum of decency. But we should address the claim that Russia is fighting Nazis. Putin has used this label to further his military aims. He understands that the use of that word in Russia is powerful propaganda. It stirs up powerful emotions and memories, especially among older Russians who suffered greatly from Germany’s attacks and invasions of the USSR in WW2. And it is a common slur against any opposition because it works at demonizing and shutting down the conversation.

Without a doubt, there is a problem with the far right in Ukraine as there is in many countries, including the US and Russia. And there are some neo-Nazis’ elements in its military and militia forces. But it is worth mentioning that Russia actually trained some of these neo-Nazi groups, as revealed in a report from Deutsche Welle in 2020. It is also important to understand these elements are deeply unpopular. They garnered less than a pitiful 3% of support in elections. Now that Ukraine is being attacked and invaded by a foreign power, many of them are fighting along side other Ukrainians.

Before anyone can shake a finger at that, I dare them to say they would not fight or flee alongside people they loathe in their own societies if their nation was being invaded by an outside aggressor. One might even see Proud Boys fighting alongside BLM activists if the US were suddenly invaded. War is about the urgency of the moment. The urgency of protecting one’s life and the lives of those they care for. It is about protecting one’s home and community. In such circumstances, you don’t get to choose who your allies are at that moment. You do what makes the most sense to survive. Anyone who does not understand this does not understand war.

As for NATO, let me be clear, I am no fan and I want it to be dismantled. Its hands are covered in blood, from Libya and beyond. And its posturing does nothing but increase conflict, edging us closer to an unthinkable nuclear nightmare. But this kind of apologism for Putin, as if he had no other choice, is honestly sickening. It is the same argument used by the US when it “pre-emptively” attacked Iraq because of a perceived threat. Weapons of mass destruction that did not exist.

Israel uses this excuse when it has carpet bombed the captive population of Gaza. “What is Israel supposed to do? Not respond to rockets being fired on its citizens?” The argument is, of course, hollow when one considers that Gaza is the largest open-air prison on the planet, where half of the population are children, and where Israel controls everything that gets into and out of the strip. It falls under scrutiny of Israel’s wanton destruction of water and sewage treatment facilities and bombing of hospitals, schools, apartment buildings, press offices and shelters.

The argument that Ukraine is Russia’s backyard is drenched in colonial arrogance. It is a defense of “multipolar” tyranny. And it is the same argument used by the US when it attacked Cuba. The Cuban people were not even considered. After decades of crushing sanctions, they still aren’t. On the contrary, they are given no agency to choose their own fate.

We know this is how powerful state entities think. What I cannot get around is how people who aren’t on their payroll so easily parrot those talking points with such ease and dismissal. No country is in anyone’s “backyard.” And to repeat such a ludicrous claim isn’t “realistic,” it only serves the powerful. If you are an average citizen of this world, your call is to stand in solidarity with people, not the powerful, not governments, and certainly not their stooges.

I know this entire line of reasoning will be lost on a certain segment who, while appropriately despising NATO and Pentagon talking points, seem to have no problem echoing the Kremlin in practically every breath. Those same ones who demonized anyone resisting the brutal dictatorship of Assad as “head chopping Jihadis.” It isn’t written for them. It is written for anyone who sees beyond such cynical manipulation.

Solidarity should never be with a leader or a state entity. It should not be with NATO, the Pentagon, or the Kremlin. It should always be with people like ourselves. Ordinary people who are always the ones to be bombed or tortured or forced to flee for their lives. Start by exiting the echo chamber of the powerful and listening to the people on the ground who are closest to the misery and chaos that has been created by those powerful. Start listening to their solutions.

And I suggest seeing the grifters among you for what they are. They are the ones who think solidarity is naïve or unrealistic. Who drone on endlessly that we must accept a “multipolar world” as a solution to US imperialism. A 21st century, global fiefdom where agency is suppressed. Those whose sole schtick is to suck the air out of human empathy and employ snark derisively, not toward the powerful, but toward the powerless. Their grift depends upon your jadedness. Those who mock the oppressed, the brutalized, the economically disenfranchised, and people in war zones; and who seem to have warmer feelings for authoritarian despots and stale ideologies than they do for flesh and blood human beings. Be warned: they peddle a poison that will first lull you into complacency, and then rob you of whatever humanity you may have left.

Kenn Orphan, May 2022

*Title Photo: Debris is seen next to a partially collapsed building is seen, after a school building was hit as a result of shelling, in the village of Bilohorivka, Luhansk, Ukraine [Reuters]

Fascism is Intentional

There was a part of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, that is perhaps the most unsettling to me. The protagonist, Offred, is walking past the notorious Wall in the Republic of Gilead. This Wall, once part of a prestigious university in Cambridge Massachusetts, is now being used as a place of public execution, where corpses are left hanging for days to send a message of compliance and terror to the citizens of this authoritarian, theocratic state. Defy “God’s law” and you will suffer the punishment for doing so.

When Atwood penned her famous book in 1985, she could not have imagined just how prescient it would be seen decades later. Then the Hulu series was produced. It differed in many significant ways from the book. The character of Offred, for instance, did not have the same agency or defiance as the one in the television series. She was a witness to the brutality of the Republic of Gilead, but she didn’t actively participate in resisting it as Elizabeth Moss’ portrayal did. Although the series was powerful, well written and well acted, the book presents us with a more universal experience of a person living under authoritarian cruelty.

But it came in the time of Trump. A time of unmasked misogyny. Resistance, or even the facsimile of it, became a popular rallying call. Now, we watch stupefied at the continuing resurgence of fascism, dressed up in the guise of Christianity, in the same nation that would eventually become Atwood’s fictional Gilead. The recent leak of a US Supreme Court draft opinion may be one of those prophecies foretold.

In many ways, however, the leak has merely indicated what many had long suspected. With the admission of some of the most far-right, religiously conservative justices, the writing was on the wall for the SCOTUS to eventually overturn the historic Roe v. Wade case. When it does, the national right to abortion for women will end and several states will automatically make abortion illegal, with many others following. It isn’t too much of a stretch to imagine an eventual national ban on all abortions coming down the pike, and the reversal of other landmark cases including marriage equality.

But to reduce this all to only one or two issues would be missing the broader picture. The war on women’s rights, primarily the right of a woman to control her own body, is a fundamental feature of fascism. Misogyny is a central tenet. Without a doubt, fascism has always been a current running just under the surface in American culture, religion and politics. As anywhere it surfaces, fascism has characteristics unique to the society it rises in. And American fascism has always cloaked itself in white supremacy and Calvinistic theology. It is an ideology grounded in racism, exclusion, rigid gender roles and fear.

When Offred saw the bodies on the notorious execution Wall she remembered something her brutal overseer Aunt Lydia once said: “Ordinary, is what you are used to. This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will. It will become ordinary.” This speaks to the things we come to accept as just part of ones day in the society in which we live. The normalization of things we might once have thought inconceivable, or even horrifying.

The US isn’t at this point yet, and may never be. But it is worth taking into account Offred’s thoughts on how life was before this reign of terror began, and the feelings of complacency many of us share with her, even as the world around us rapidly morphs into something unimaginable:

“Is that how we lived, then? But we lived as usual. Everyone does, most of the time. Whatever is going on is as usual. Even this is as usual, now. We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it. Nothing changes instantly: in a gradually heating bathtub you’d be boiled to death before you knew it.”

Offred reflects on her complacency often. She thinks about not attending rallies or marches. And of her mother who did. But, like so many of us, she simply wanted to get her and her family through life hoping it would all work itself out. Our place in history, however, doesn’t function like that. We are participants in it whether we like it or not. And the biggest danger we face is our apathy in the face of authoritarian brutality and violent repression.

Fascism is intentional. It is intentional in its obsession with a fictional and romanticized past. A sentimental vision of a history that never happened. An addiction to the glorification of nationalistic militarism. It is intentional in its drive to silence voices that criticize its narrow understanding of history or the place and treatment of women or of minorities. It is intentional in its misogyny, its racism, its homophobia, its xenophobia, its violence. And given the right circumstances, like economic disparity, ecological crises or institutional rot, it can sweep through any society like a flood. And it can create a new normal in the blink of an eye, leaving us grieving for the life we once thought was simply ordinary.

Kenn Orphan, May 2022

Elon Musk: Controller of Memes and the Universe

The wealthiest man on the planet, who is aiding the militarization of space and, for the first time in human history, is ruining the night sky with 2100 low orbit satellites, has bought one of the biggest social media platforms on earth for $44 billion USD.

Since then, Musk has made it a point to underscore his commitment to free speech. But today, online speech is governed, almost entirely, by algorithms which are designed by corporate programmers. It is rare that one person or group is deliberately or specifically targeted for the restriction of their speech. However, these algorithms are designed to weed out speech that is deemed as oppositional to the current arrangement of economic and political power by placing them lower on the list. In other words, you can tweet or post whatever you like, because most people will never see it. It will be rendered almost invisible on newsfeeds and in internet searches. Musk probably knows this better than anyone else.

Elon Musk may have been joking about controlling the universe via control of memes. Hopefully, the joke will not end up being on the rest of us.

Kenn Orphan, April 2022

As calls for unions grow, it is worth revisiting the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.

“You are doing many things here in this struggle. You are demanding that this city will respect the dignity of labor. So often we overlook the work and the significance of those who are not in professional jobs, of those who are not in the so-called big jobs. But let me say to you tonight, that whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity, and it has worth. One day our society must come to see this. One day our society will come to respect the sanitation worker if it is to survive, for the person who picks up our garbage, in the final analysis, is as significant as the physician, for if he doesn’t do his job, diseases are rampant. All labor has dignity.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. Excerpt from the “All Labor Has Dignity” speech delivered on March 18, 1968 at Bishop Charles Mason Temple of the Church of God in Christ in Memphis, Tennessee. The church was overflowing with sanitation workers on strike and their supporters.

On February 12, 1968, 1,300 Black sanitation workers went on strike in Memphis, Tennessee. It began a few days after the gruesome deaths of two sanitation workers, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, who were crushed to death by a garbage truck. These men were in thankless jobs that were extraordinarily dangerous and they were paid a pittance for it. They were not allowed to form unions and were paid far less than their white co-workers.

The strikers faced enormous police state violence too. They were beaten and teargassed. One 16 year old boy, Larry Payne, was shot and killed by police during one of the demonstrations. Martin Luther King, Jr, along with other civil rights activists, traveled to Memphis in solidarity with the strikers. It was there that he delivered the speech where he said: “I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.” Dr. King was assassinated one day later.

Toward the end of his life, King’s rhetoric was considered too radical by many white “moderates” or liberals. This, and his stand against the imperialistic war against Vietnam and militarism, made him a pariah to polite, white, bourgeois society. In fact, at the time of his death 75% of Americans disapproved of his antiwar and pro-labour stances. King terrified the ruling class because he called for revolutionary socio-economic changes that defied the capitalist hegemony.

King was right. War and militarism never benefit the poor or working class no matter the country in which they happen to reside. In fact, it is the exact opposite. And ALL labour does have dignity. But dignity is not merely a pat on the back. It means fair wages and benefits, sick pay, holiday pay, worker safety, paid maternity leave and equal representation. It also means guaranteed healthcare and housing that is not tied to labour at all.

Just as the sanitation workers in Memphis were treated with disdain and exposed to dangerous working conditions, the pandemic revealed that little has changed when it comes to protecting and compensating workers. Whether it be store clerks, delivery people, janitors, baristas, truck drivers, hospital staff or others in so-called “frontline” positions, we witnessed firsthand how neoliberal, corporate culture devalues human beings and their worth when it matters most.

Recently, Starbucks founder and interim CEO Howard Schultz lamented that companies are being ‘assaulted’ by the ‘threat’ of unionization. Shultz net worth is estimated at 4.3 billion dollars USD. How any person who has more wealth than some small countries could feel threatened by workers who only want what is fair is staggering, but it is a safe bet that his sentiments are shared by most of his class.

After what Schultz admitted, it is worth repeating some other things King said to these Memphis sanitation workers that day in 1968:

Now let me say a word to those of you who are on strike. You have been out now for a number of days, but don’t despair. Nothing worthwhile is gained without sacrifice. The thing for you to do is stay together, and say to everybody in this community that you are going to stick it out to the end until every demand is met, and that you are gonna say, “We ain’t gonna let nobody turn us around.” Let it be known everywhere that along with wages and all of the other securities that you are struggling for, you are also struggling for the right to organize and be recognized.

Now the other thing is that nothing is gained without pressure. Don’t let anybody tell you to go back on the job and paternalistically say, “Now, you are my men and I’m going to do the right thing for you. Just come on back on the job.” Don’t go back on the job until the demands are met. Never forget that freedom is not something that is voluntarily given by the oppressor. It is something that must be demanded by the oppressed. Freedom is not some lavish dish that the power structure and the white forces in policy-making positions will voluntarily hand out on a silver platter while the Negro merely furnishes the appetite. If we are going to get equality, if we are going to get adequate wages, we are going to have to struggle for it.

Today, as we see people around the world organizing labour unions and fighting back against an oppressive, exclusionary and deeply unequal culture of corporate despotism, we should keep King’s words on our minds and in our hearts. Because as the backlash grows, we will need to remember them now more than ever before.

Kenn Orphan, April 2022

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Earth Day is Not a Celebration

The first Earth Day was in 1970. It came about as a response to a major oil spill off of Santa Barbara, California, in 1969. This, along with Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring which documented the devastation caused by the pesticide industry on birds and other wildlife, the end of the Vietnam War, and the famous 1968 Earthrise NASA photograph of the earth from the moon, galvanized millions of people to protest the destruction of our biosphere caused by war and powerful industries. More than 20 million people took to the streets that day, making it still the largest single-day protest in US history.

In the decades since then, corporations, NGOs and the military industrial sector have managed to co-opt the very essence of this movement, turning it into a complete farce. After the Vietnam War exposed the murderous lies of imperialistic militarism, weapons manufacturers decided to rebrand their profit making scheme as “peace keeping” efforts. Today, the military is the biggest polluter on the planet.

And corporate greenwashing kicked into high gear too. It had to. After all, decades of plunder and pollution was bad for business since it tarnished their public image. Thus, the sham of recycling was created to cover up the ongoing extraction of fossil fuels in order to make single use, plastic items.

Today, 91 percent of plastic never gets recycled. Much of it winds up in landfills, as litter along roadsides or in parks, or in the ocean. In fact, it is estimated that 5.25 trillion macro and micro pieces of plastic are churning in the world’s oceans, torturing and killing marine wildlife, with millions of plastic items joining them every single day. And the use of fossil fuels is rapidly altering the earth’s climate systems, leading to devastating storms, drought, fires, desertification, coral bleaching and rising sea levels.

The official theme for Earth Day this year is “Invest In Our Planet.” If we read between the lines, it is clear that this theme is a call for the wholescale financialization and privatization of nature. It is apparent that Wall Street has taken the helm and the course they have set will only lead us all to the precipice of ecological catastrophe.

It doesn’t have to remain this way. Just as the ownership of Earth is a scam, so too is the ownership of Earth Day. It begins by us refusing to swallow the corporate, government and military greenwashing lies about a day that was never meant to be a celebration, but a call to radical and revolutionary action to save the biosphere on which we all depend.

Kenn Orphan, April 2022

Putin and the Church: an Unholy Alliance

Following what appear to be horrendous war crimes, Putin continues his rampage through Ukraine. It is becoming an exercise in absurdity for anyone to defend this war, yet it still has its supporters. Some may still believe that he wants to “de-Nazify” the country. While Ukraine undoubtedly has a serious problem with fascism and far right extremists, one need only to listen to Putin himself to understand that his “justifications” are pure nonsense.

Lest anyone has doubts as to Putin’s racist and imperialistic vision, he was quoted as saying:

“The United States continues to receive more and more immigrants, and, as far as I understand, the white, Christian population is already outnumbered … White Christians have become a minority, less than 50 percent now. … Russia is a vast territory, from its western to eastern borders, it is a Eurasian space. But as regards culture, even language group and history, this all is undoubtedly a European space, as it is inhabited by people of this culture. … we have to preserve all this to remain a significant centre in the world.”

In addition to this, Putin has a great ally in the Russian Orthodox Church. Kirill, patriarch of the church, has been one of the most vocal cheerleaders for Putin’s aggressive nationalism and this murderous war. In a recent sermon he declared that this was a “struggle to defend human civilization” against the “sin” of “gay-pride parades.” To odious men like Kirill, the scenes of cities reduced to rubble or bodies strewn on city streets, many with their hands bound, is somehow “holy” while human sexuality in all of its marvelous diversity is depraved. It is a testament to how extremist religious beliefs are fundamentally anti-human.

Without a doubt, Kirill cares little for the young conscripted Russian soldiers condemned to be cannon fodder in this imperialistic venture. As the death toll mounts, he has been able to spew bile from the lavish Main Cathedral of the Armed Forces, a monstrosity built two years ago as a celebration of Russian militarism. One can hardly fathom the depths of depravity required to design and construct this temple to war and then consecrate it to the Prince of Peace.

But before we wag our fingers too much, we should understand the danger in our own backyards. Most religious people hope and strive for peace and hold compassion as a supreme value. But religion has been frequently used by the powerful as a means of social control. It can be an effective bludgeon for silencing opposition and dissent. A loudspeaker for despots. An arm of state repression and militarism.

And this is most often a reciprocal arrangement. Whether it be the use of Islam to crush women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, or the use of Hinduism to subjugate Muslims and Dalits in India, or the use of Judaism to deny Palestinians their human rights, or the use of Buddhism to ethnically cleanse the Rohingya, or the use of Christianity to oppress women and persecute LGBTQ+ people in the United States, religious leaders and zealots will seize on any opportunity they are given to impose their worldview upon others, and they will utilize the state to this end.

Patriarch Kirill offers us a glimpse into state sanctioned, religious barbarism. His alliance with Putin underscores the need for the separation of church and state. And he is being lauded by racists, white supremacists and fascists the world over. But he is also a reminder that religious zealots have little use for this earth we call home. To them, it is stained with human sin. So, a “holy war” of fire and brimstone might actually be appealing to those with such nihilistic and misanthropic leanings. As the world inches ever closer to nuclear war, this should give us all good reason to be worried.

Kenn Orphan, April 2022

*Photo is of Russian president Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church. Getty Images.

The Oscars Have Never Been Civil

Too often, things are swept down the memory hole in popular culture. This is especially true in Hollywood.

The outrage and shock being displayed by many in regard to Will Smith’s slap of comedian Chris Rock at the Oscars is very telling. But what I find the most interesting is this persistent belief about this ceremony being some kind of fortress of civility. It is farcical on so many levels.

Were the Oscars civil to Hattie McDaniel when she was the first Black woman to win the coveted award for best supporting actress in Gone with the Wind? McDaniel was segregated from the rest of the cast at the awards ceremony and not allowed to attend the “whites only” gala that followed. She was lucky, in many ways. Other Black actors in the film were not even credited. Were they civil to Vanessa Redgrave when she courageously defended Palestinian human rights? Redgrave was booed and partially blacklisted by that “oh so civil” Hollywood industry.

And then there was the case of Native-American actress, model, and civil rights activist Sacheen Littlefeather, who accepted the Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando in 1973 for The Godfather. Brando declined in protest due to the continued negative portrayal of Native Americans in Hollywood movies and asked Littlefeather to represent him. She gave a speech decrying, in the most mildest of ways, the rancid stereotyping of her people to both boos and applause.

John Wayne, that emblem of ugly white supremacist America, had to be restrained by no less than six body guards in order to keep him from rushing the stage to manhandle Littlefeather off. The rest of the evening was full of backhanded jeers and jokes at the expense of her and Native Americans.

Will Smith’s outburst was certainly newsworthy, but let’s not pretend that Hollywood is some kind of bastion for civility or ethics. Its history is laced with odious prejudice and bigotry that dwarf the spectacle of an ill-tempered slap in the face.

Kenn Orphan, March 2022

They Just Want the Bombs to Stop Falling

“The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.“ —  George Orwell

As the world watches the horror of Putin’s war on Ukraine unfold, there is another that must be remembered. Nineteen years ago, on the 20th of March, 2003, George W. Bush launched his infamous war on the people of Iraq. It was a war based on lies. Yet Bush was never sanctioned. Never had to face charges. Never saw the inside of a courtroom, let alone a jail cell.

On the contrary, Bush’s image was rehabilitated from war criminal to statesman by a sycophantic media that adores the myths of American exceptionalism far more than they honour the truth. A grandfather who paints portraits, goes to football games with Ellen DeGeneres, and gets hugs from Michelle Obama. How quickly the focus shifted from the mountains of corpses and rivers of blood he was responsible for.

His partner in crime across the pond, Tony Blair, would receive a similar makeover. His crimes were rewarded with knighthood. In fact, the only ones punished in this tale of corruption and brutality have been those who revealed it all to the public. Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange. And now Assange sits in a gulag awaiting a terrible fate of extradition to the US.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the wars led, supported or funded by the US and its allies, from Afghanistan to Iraq to Yemen. But their ghosts fade into the fog of Western memory with each passing year. Those souls tortured in Abu Ghraib have been rendered invisible by a culture obsessed with rebranding history.

The hypocrisy of the West has been painfully obvious these past few weeks. As in Yemen, the people of Afghanistan have all but been forgotten as they starve thanks to a freeze on their assets by the US. Their plight and its cause are seldom discussed in mainstream media. If it was, then the selective outrage over Ukraine would be revealed. How could they explain their deliberate starvation of children, women and men in some of the poorest places on earth while they lambast Putin?

Without a doubt, Putin’s war on Ukraine is abhorrent. It and his imperialistic ambitions should be condemned. But no more so than the imperialism and scores of military actions taken against the Global South by the US and its allies. This isn’t “whataboutism,” it is fact. And it is only thanks to racism that this ridiculous charge is brought up over and over against anyone who dares jog the short memory of the Western elite.

On this grim anniversary, it is worth a reminder that most people in war zones, whether it be in the Middle East, Africa or Europe, don’t care very much about which flag is emblazoned on the bombs falling on their houses. They just want the bombs to stop falling.

Kenn Orphan, March 2022

*Photo is of Hiroshima after the US dropped an atomic bomb on the city killing hundreds of thousands of civilians. The US is the only country thus far to have used nuclear weapons against civilians. Getty Images.

Remembering Rachel Corrie

Eighteen years ago today, the American peace activist Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) armored bulldozer in Gaza. She was only 23 years old. Rachel was in Gaza with the International Solidarity Movement, a Palestinian-led human rights organization that is dedicated to nonviolent methods. Rachel had been standing in front of armored bulldozers with other activists, in a peaceful protest against the demolition of Palestinian homes, a common tactic of collective punishment meted out by the IDF, when she was run over.

Witnesses to the events that day said there was no way that the operator of the bulldozer did not see Rachel, and that she was dragged for 10 to 15 meters while activists shouted to him that she was being crushed. And although an investigation was carried out, it was done by the Israeli military. Israeli human rights organizations B’Tselem and Yesh Din, along with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, criticized the investigation as severely compromised and biased.  

In the month prior to her death, Rachel provided support to the civilians of Gaza attempting to repair the Canada Well which had provided 50% of Rafah’s water supply prior to damage done by Israeli bulldozers. Israeli tanks and snipers would routinely shoot at the workers there so the presence of international activists was necessary to reduce harm and provide a witness.

Rachel also worked closely with the children of Gaza who had suffered enormously from the ravages of war and from living under the collective punishment of the IDF in what today has become the world’s largest open air prison. 78 children in Rafah alone had been killed from 2001 to 2003. Despite all of this, she described the people of Gaza as being incredibly hospitable and kind.

Rachel’s life and death have been memorialized in a cantata by the Alaskan composer Philip Munger and in a play by the late Alan Rickman and journalist Katharine Viner, based on her journals and emails to her parents. Songs were written in her honour by Billy Bragg, Mike Stout and David Rovics. And there have been several documentaries made.

I had the great privilege of meeting Rachel’s parents, Cindy and Craig Corrie, at a fundraiser for Medical Aid for Palestinians in California several years ago. They never gave up on seeking justice for their daughter, but they have done so with enormous grace, determination and humanity.

As the world watches the war against Ukraine in horror and the brave Russians coming out to oppose it, it is worth remembering that Rachel also courageously opposed her own government’s brutal war against Iraq. She understood the principle of internationalism. That borders were far less important than our shared humanity. In truth, there was no equivocation when it came to her commitment to universal human rights. And even though her life was short, she had an impact on how we think and act on issues of injustice that is both profound and enduring.

Kenn Orphan, March 2022

*Title image is “Rachel Corrie” by Palestinian artist: Imad Abu Shtayyah