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Rachel Corrie Returns to Gaza in the Face of Further Military Threats

Posted on June 04, 2010 by Flashpoints

Much to the dismay of the Israelis, Rachel Corrie is on her way back to the Gaza Strip. Of course we’re not talking about the young woman who was crushed under an Israeli bulldozer driven by the IDF in 2003, but rather a boat named in her honor, bringing humanitarian supplies to the Gaza Strip. We reached the Rachel Corrie as it was some eighty-five miles off the coast of Gaza in international waters earlier today. Soon after we made contact with the ship, reports began to surface that the Rachel Corrie was being pursued by three Israeli Naval vessels, and that the ship’s radar was jammed. The Rachel Corrie is the first of the Gaza Freedom Movement to set sail for Gaza since Israeli commandos attacked the six fleet Freedom Flotilla last Monday. Again, the activists on board are attempting to break the Israeli embargo.

The Rachel Corrie

Despite Israeli claims that these boats are sponsored and peopled by Al Qaeda-connected terrorists, the ship’s manifest lists among its passengers a Nobel Peace Laureate, a former assistant secretary of the United Nations, and a member of the Malaysian Parliament. We got in touch with the Rachel Corrie on a very shaky line as its passengers braced themselves for an attack. According to those on board, they are hoping to reach port without another deadly encounter, but they are prepared for the worst.

We spoke with Derek Graham, a long time anti-occupation activist from Ireland who was himself on another Free Gaza Movement flotilla last year which was violently boarded by Israeli commandos. That vessel was pirated at sea and its contents were seized by Israeli Defense Forces. At the time we spoke with Graham, the Rachel Corrie was five miles closer to Gaza than the previous flotilla, which was ambushed at sea early on Monday morning. That attack left nine people dead and dozens wounded.

Despite the calculated violence by Israel’s military earlier this week, Graham seemed calm and focused on the mission at hand, but tension is rising among the activists. “People are determined, but at the same time they’re starting to get a little bit more anxious… I have personal experience of these commandos coming on board, because I was arrested last year by these same commandos, and I understand exactly how frightening it is.”

When questioned about the statement by Israel’s Prime Minister that these were nothing but terrorists, Graham dismissed the accusations as “absolutely ridiculous.” He explained that that if the vessel is attacked by Israeli commandos, they are unarmed and have no intention of fighting back. “This is a completely peaceful mission… We will not resist in any way, shape or form. We are unarmed. These [commandos] are extremely heavily armed, and we will not resist them.”

Graham said that the boats were fully vetted and searched, and the activists welcome all legitimate international inspections of the cargo. “This ship has been inspected fully by customs and X-rays, which were in Ireland before we left… Once they finished their inspection, the hatch covers were sealed and the security tags are still on the hatches and have not been touched.” Graham said they’re bringing “things like children’s toys, educational materials and reconstruction materials… We also are carrying medical aid.” These are precisely the items that were confiscated by the Israeli military in the kidnapped flotilla which Graham was on last year.

All the activists on board the Rachel Corrie hope to honor Corrie’s legacy to the best of their ability, and are honored to continue her work. Referring to Corrie, Graham said, “She was an amazingly brilliant girl, and we’re proud to have the ship named after her.”

Rachel Corrie, the vessel's namesake

In an interview earlier this week, Cindy Corrie, the mother of Rachel Corrie, who is now suing the Israeli government for the bulldozer murder of her daughter, is also very proud that her daughter’s name lives on and that her daughter’s work has inspired activists to take up the mantle of liberation of the Palestinian people, and to continue her work to break the blockade on Gaza. She said, “It was very moving to us to hear that [the boat] was being named the Rachel Corrie. We know some of the Irish activists who were involved in making this happen, and we have such respect for their work.”

Meanwhile, there is tremendous concern among Gaza boat activists that the Israeli violence will continue. Witness the fact that Henry Norr, a long time anti-occupation activist, journalist and flotilla supporter spoke with one of those arrested from the San Francisco Bay Area, 68 year old Janet Colberne. She told Norr “They were still beating people in the airport as the detainees were loading up at Ben Gurion International Airport.”

The Rachel Corrie

These brutal actions will not deter the anti-occupation activists on board the Rachel Corrie. Derek Graham was focused on the ultimate goals of the Free Gaza Movement, and ended our interview with a message for President Obama: “Please get in touch with the Israeli government and ask them to lift the siege… and let this aid in. There will never be peace in the Middle East until people are treated equally and with respect.”

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Dennis Bernstein and Jesse Strauss based this report on interviews done for “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network. You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net. You can get in touch with the authors at dbernstein@igc.org and jstrauss@riseup.net.

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