Backgrounder: International Solidarity Movement
Posted: November 29, 2010
The 2003 death of Rachel Corrie, an American college student and International Solidarity Movement (ISM) volunteer, has played a key role in shaping public perception of the group and its activities.
Corrie died in the Gaza town of Rafah on March 16, 2003, while trying to block demolition of a Palestinian home by an Israeli army bulldozer. The Israeli Army's investigation of the incident concluded that the soldiers operating the bulldozer did not see Corrie and thus had no intention of harming her.
Corrie's tragic death is often portrayed by ISM and other anti-Israel groups as evidence of brutal and self-serving Israeli policy. If Americans Knew (IAK), a California-based organization that aims to mobilize people to demand an end to U.S. support for Israel, points to Corrie's death as a symptom of a corrupt political alliance in an article on its Web site. "If Israel can get away with using an American financed, American-built bulldozer to kill a young American woman, then it will feel it can get away with anything," the article reads.
Some groups use Corrie's legacy to promote their anti-Israel agenda. In June 2010, the ISM-affiliated Free Gaza Movement attempted to send a boat named after Corrie to Gaza (the MV Rachel Corrie was intercepted by Israeli authorities and rerouted to the Israeli port of Ashdod).
Following Corrie's death, several anti-Israel groups quickly established awards in her name. In 2003, Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, the largest Palestinian-American grassroots organization in the U.S., presented ISM with an award named for Corrie and meant to honor those who "demonstrate exceptional dedication to the Palestinian cause."
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the largest Arab civil rights groups in the U.S., has presented its Rachel Corrie award to multiple ISM activists, including co-founders Huwaida Arraf and Adam Shapiro, and Brian Avery, an ISM activist who was shot while volunteering in the West Bank.
Another award established in Corrie's honor by the Muslim Public Affairs Council was awarded to her parents two months after her death. In fact, many anti-Israel groups have embraced her parents, Craig and Cindy Corrie.
The Corries have become fixtures in the anti-Israel movement since their daughter's death. They have organized several events through the Rachel Corrie Foundation, which they established, and regularly give presentations at events sponsored by established anti-Israel groups, including Friends of Sabeel in North America, and Students for Justice in Palestine and Muslim Student Union at UC Irvine. The Corries have also endorsed a range of anti-Israel initiatives, such as the U.S. delegation being organized in conjunction with the upcoming Freedom Flotilla to Gaza, scheduled to sail in spring 2011.
The Corries were also instrumental in the creation of "My Name is Rachel Corrie," a one-woman play based on her diaries and emails from childhood through her last days in Rafah. Since it opened at London's Royal Court Theatre in 2005, dozens of theaters across the U.S. and Canada, as well as at least one in Israel, have hosted the play—often amid a swirl of political debate. A handful of planned productions have been canceled due to the surrounding controversy.