We need to stop funding injustice

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This Friday the Palestinian Film Festival showed its last in a series of films, Rachel: An American Conscience.

Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old nonviolent peace activist, was killed in Gaza when an Israeli soldier crushed her with a bulldozer on March 16, 2003. The soldier ran her over on purpose according to multiple witnesses present, although the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) contests this.

Rachel was trying to stop the demolition of a physician’s home in Gaza. Five young children watched in terror from the windows of the home that was about to be destroyed as the bulldozer crushed Rachel. Rachel’s parents, who are touring the country and the world to continue Rachel’s fight for justice, gave an introduction to Rachel’s life as a peace activist and the situation in the occupied territories.

Rachel went to Gaza to see for herself the impact that U.S. tax dollars were having on the Palestinian people. She went as part of the International Solidarity Movement, a Palestinian-led movement that focuses on nonviolent resistance to the occupation of Palestinian lands. In Rachel’s first call home, her parents could hear gunshots in the background. She assured them that this was a usual occurrence in Palestine. Kids don’t really know that it’s not like this in other parts of the world, she said. A Palestinian child was shot dead days before she arrived.

Over 5817 Palestinian homes have been demolished by Israel since 2000, according to the Israeli Committe Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). Many of the homes destroyed are those of Palestinian refugees, causing them displacement of land and possessions for the second or third time since the declaration of the state of Israel in the Palestinian homeland. These Caterpillar bulldozers are made in the United States and supported by our tax dollars. In America we are often told that Israel bulldozes the homes of suicide bombers to prevent terrorist attacks. ICAHD statistics, though, show that only 10 percent of Israeli home demolitions are what would be called “punitive demolitions” — where someone in the family had been or was expected to be a suicide bomber. Over 60 percent of demolitions are for “clearing” purposes — for construction of the apartheid wall on Palestinian land, and for creating military outposts on borders.

Homes are not the only targets of Israel’s cruel use of U.S.-made bulldozers. Thousands of Palestinian irrigation systems and water wells have been destroyed, continuously limiting access to vital water resources. Palestinians are given no compensation by the Israeli government when their homes, belongings, and very lives are destroyed.

Israel has withdrawn its troops from Gaza, which means the end of home demolitions for the Palestinians who live in this narrow strip of land, although their prison-like existence continues. Israel does, after all, still control borders, airspace, and the movement of people and goods. Destruction of Palestinian homes and property are still ongoing in the rest of Palestine.

In East Jerusalem, Israel is consolidating its presence by using American bulldozers to demolish Palestinian homes. In the neighborhood of Silwan, 1000 Palestinians will lose their homes so that illegal Israeli settlements and Jewish-only bypass roads in East Jerusalem and the West Bank can be connected to Israel. Clearly, the destruction of Palestinian property and infrastructure has only one goal in mind: the continued colonization of Palestinian land with total disregard of the creation of a contiguous Palestinian nation.

Weeks after Rachel’s murder, Thomas Hurndall, a 21-year-old British activist, was shot in the head by the IDF while trying to protect Palestinian children in Rafah. Hurndall was at a peace rally when Israeli soldiers opened fire. As everyone ran for cover, he noticed three children frozen in terror, and ran back to save them. On his way to bring a little girl to safety, he was shot in the head. Rachel, Thomas, and other international activists have been added to the long list of victims of the inhumane, vicious Israeli occupation of Palestine. This includes the murders of over 4197 people, 783 of them children, since September of 2000.

Rachel Corrie is an American whose name is whispered in awe among Palestinian children. She is one of the few people who have come to Palestine to fight for justice and peace. Despite all dangers, she stood in solidarity with the Palestinian people; a true heroine. As Americans, each and every one of us is a little to blame for the death of Rachel and all the innocent victims of this conflict. After all, it is our tax dollars that contribute to the three billion dollars that are given to Israel each year. Much of this money must go to support their inhumane, illegal policies.

We, as Americans, need to be more critical of where our tax dollars are spent. Why put billions into creating enemies in the Middle East, and jeopardizing our foreign relations, when we could be putting that money into improving the health and education systems of these countries — or better yet, into solving issues of poverty in our own country? It is time for Americans to use our freedom and our democracy to right the wrongs we have helped to commit.