Commentary: Corrie ‘Parable’ Evokes Spirited Replies

Tuesday January 27, 2004

Editors, Daily Planet:  

I am outraged by John Gertz’ latest attack on our city council (“A Parable for Councilmembers,” Daily Planet, Jan. 23-26). Its offense: daring to request an investigation into the death of Rachel Corrie. The young Corrie was crushed to death by an armored, U.S.-made Caterpillar bulldozer as she nonviolently placed her body in front of Palestinian homes the Israeli army was demolishing. After running her down, the army driver reversed and backed up over Corrie’s still-living body. Only days ago, Tom Hurndall, another young international, died from wounds inflicted when the Israeli army shot him as he was escorting a Palestinian child to safety in the occupied West Bank. 

Why would Gertz smear Corrie after her death? Why would he attack our city council for requesting an investigation of her killing? What does he want covered up?  

In Israel/Palestine, the systematic military violence of occupation harmonizes with the indiscriminate hatred of suicide bombings in a symphony of carnage and revenge. Courageous, big-hearted people worldwide are putting themselves in harm’s way because our nation does nothing to stop the bloodshed.  

To the Berkeley City Council: You have the support of Jews everywhere who do not accept oppression in our name. 

Glen Hauer 

Jewish Voice for Peace 


Editors, Daily Planet:  

In his recent open letter John Gertz condemns the five councilmembers who approved a resolution calling for an independent U.S. investigation into the slaying of Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old American college student who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer as she tried to nonviolently block the demolition of a Palestinian physician’s home. (The Israeli military had rapidly concluded that there was no culpability on the part of the military involved). Mr. Gertz creates a muddled parable, wherein Berkeley becomes a racist southern city and Rachel a war criminal, to express his pain as a Jewish resident that there was no similar call for an investigation into the deaths of American citizens, including Jews, who have been among the victims of the atrocity of suicide bombings. This notwithstanding that for every suicide bombing there is swift and sweeping retaliation by the Israeli government, including military incursions into Palestinian cities and extrajudicial executions of suspected militants, in the course of which scores of innocent Palestinian civilians are also killed.  

There is another kind of pain that many Jewish Americans feel, different from that described by Mr. Gertz. Old enough to remember and join the jubilation when the State of Israel was born, I have had to come to terms with the reality that Israel has become something other than the noble and besieged little country in the region. In reality it is now a formidable nuclear power and the fourth most powerful military in the world that has laid siege for over 36 years to an impoverished and defenseless civilian population. Thousands of innocent Palestinian civilians have been killed by the Israeli military, including hundreds of children. Land and water has been stolen, and more than 3,500 homes have been demolished, leaving an estimated 16,000 Palestinians homeless. (Statistics from B’Tsalem, Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.)  

This is the nightmarish landscape where Rachel Corrie took her nonviolent stand against injustice. She paid with her life. This is the woman whom John Gertz, in his foolish parable, likens to a fictional “Richard Corrie,” a soldier “who had taken part in the Mai Lai massacre and would certainly have faced court martial had he lived …” What hysteria could have lead the good Mr. Gertz to smear the memory of this young American woman, crushed to death in the flower of her idealism? 

Avraham Burg is a member of the Israeli Knesset, and the former chair of the Jewish Agency for Israel. In a recent essay for Ha’aretz, Israel’s leading newspaper, Burg warned that the end of Zionism is near because the Israeli nation today rests on “foundations of oppression and injustice…There may yet be a Jewish state here, but it will be different sort, strange and ugly.” He concludes that “crying out [against Israeli oppression] is a moral imperative” and calls upon “Israel’s friends abroad—Jewish and non-Jewish” to help Israel move toward peace and justice. 

 I am profoundly appreciative that councilmembers Linda Maio, Kriss Worthington, Margaret Brelund, Maudell Shirek and Dona Spring had the courage to act on this moral imperative in demanding an independent U.S. investigation into the slaying of Rachel Corrie. In so doing they join, among others, Representative Barbara Lee, co-sponsor of House Concurrent Resolution 111, Amnesty International, and the Green Party. They give us cause for hope. 

Carol Sanders 


Editors, Daily Planet:  

A recent opinion piece in the Daily Planet excoriates me and four of my city council colleagues for a vote we made on Sept. 9, a vote that raised issues around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The piece offers me the opportunity to let readers know what actually happened the night of the council vote.  

Berkeley’s Peace and Justice Commission had requested that the city council go on record in support of a congressional resolution (HR111), signed by over 40 members of Congress, including our own Barbara Lee. The resolution asked the U.S. government to conduct an independent investigation into the death of Rachel Corrie, an American peace activist who had been killed by an Israeli bulldozer. The Israeli government had conducted an investigation but would not release the report, not even to Rachel Corrie’s parents. My colleagues and I supported the request.  

Another motion, which I seconded, supported additional investigations of all American deaths in Israel, as requested by some members of the community. That motion was withdrawn when it became clear it would not pass. With hindsight, I now realize that what was needed that night was not a motion to investigate deaths, but one condemning all of the deaths and human rights violations in this war of rage and retribution. I take heart in supporting those who continue to stand for and engage in constructive Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, those who actively seek rapprochement and better understanding between the two peoples, those who are sowing the seeds of a just and peaceful solution to this painful and destructive conflict.  

Linda Maio 

Berkeley City Council