BY RACHEL CORRIE
[The following are excerpts from an email to Rachel Corrie's family on February 7.]
I have been in Palestine for two weeks and one hour now, and I still have very few words to describe what I see... I don't know if many of the children here have ever existed without tank-shell holes in their walls and the towers of an occupying army surveying them constantly from the near horizons. I think, although I'm not entirely sure, that even the smallest of these children understand that life is not like this everywhere.
An eight-year-old was shot and killed by an Israeli tank two days before I got here, and many of the children murmur his name to me, "Ali" — or point at the posters of him on the walls. The children also love to get me to practice my limited Arabic by asking me, "Kaif Sharon? Kaif Bush?" ("How is Sharon? How is Bush?"). They laugh when I say "Bush majnoon" and "Sharon majnoon" back ("Bush is crazy. Sharon is crazy.")
There are eight-year-olds here much more aware of the workings of the global power structure than I was just a few years ago — at least regarding Israel.
Nevertheless, I think about the fact that no amount of reading, attendance at conferences, documentary viewings and word of mouth could have prepared me for the reality of the situation here. You just can't imagine it unless you see it.
So, if I feel outrage at arriving and entering briefly and incompletely into the world in which these children exist, I wonder conversely about how it would be for them to arrive in my world. They know that children in the US don't usually have their parents shot and they know they sometimes get to see the ocean.
But once you have seen the ocean and lived in a silent place, where water is taken for granted and not stolen in the night by bulldozers, and once you have spent an evening when you haven't wondered if the walls of your home might suddenly fall inward waking you from your sleep, and once you've met people who have never lost anyone — once you have experienced the reality of a world that isn't surrounded by murderous towers, tanks, armed "settlements" and now a giant metal wall, I wonder if you can forgive the world for all the years of your childhood spent existing — just existing — in resistance to the constant stranglehold of the world's fourth largest military — backed by the world's only superpower — in it's attempt to erase you from your home. That is something I wonder about these children. I wonder what would happen if they really knew.
As an afterthought to all this rambling, I am in Rafah, a city of about 140,000 people, approximately 60% of whom are refugees... Currently, the Israeli army is building a 14-metre-high wall between Rafah in Palestine and the border, carving a no-mans-land from the houses along the border. Six hundred and two homes have been completely bulldozed. The number of homes that have been partially destroyed is greater.
Today, as I walked on top of the rubble where homes once stood, Egyptian soldiers called to me from the other side of the border "Go! Go!" because a tank was coming. Followed by waving and "what's your name?".
There is something disturbing about this friendly curiosity. It reminded me of how much, to some degree, we are all kids curious about other kids: Egyptian kids shouting at strange women wandering into the path of tanks. Palestinian kids shot from the tanks when they peak out from behind walls to see what's going on. International kids standing in front of tanks with banners. Israeli kids in the tanks anonymously, occasionally shouting — and also occasionally waving — many forced to be here, many just aggressive, shooting into the houses as we wander away.
From Green Left Weekly, March 26, 2003.
Visit the Green Left Weekly home page.