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Profile: Peace Activist Rachel Corrie Dies in Gaza Strip, Trying to Prevent the Bulldozing of a Palestinian House

All Things Considered: March 17, 2003

U.S. Asks Israel to Probe Death of Activist



MELISSA BLOCK, host:

The fighting between Israelis and Palestinians is hitting close to home in two American cities today. In Charlotte, North Carolina, the parents of an American college student killed in the Gaza Strip over the weekend are making plans to collect her body. And in the college town of Olympia, Washington, classmates and colleagues of the student are sharing their memories and grieving. From Olympia, Tom Banse has this profile of a peace activist killed in action.

TOM BANSE reporting:

The US State Department has asked Israel for an investigation into the death of 23-year-old Rachel Corrie. The college senior from Olympia, Washington, was killed yesterday while trying to stop an Israeli army bulldozer from knocking down a Palestinian house in the southern Gaza Strip. Fellow peace activist Dennis Mills says Corrie took winter term off to join a Palestinian-led group dedicated to non-violent resistance to Israeli occupation. He says the many foreign participants in the group often act as human shields.

Mr. DENNIS MILLS (Peace Activist): The International Solidarity Movement would stay in the homes of people knowing that certain homes would be targeted for demolition for one reason or another, and that would ward off, sometimes, the military. Now we found, when I was over there, that the more people that were there that had foreign passports, American passports especially--the military was very hesitant.

BANSE: Protesters from the group also have experience stopping bulldozers by sitting down in front of them. That's what Rachel Corrie tried to do yesterday, but this time the bulldozer did not stop. An Israeli army spokesman says the driver had trouble seeing and calls it a `regrettable accident,' but Corrie's group claims the action appeared deliberate.

In any case, the woman's friends and classmates say she was well aware she was getting into a dangerous situation. One of Corrie's saddened professors, Larry Mosqueda, says he admires the courage of her convictions.

Professor LARRY MOSQUEDA: She wasn't naive at all. Basically, she was a very smart person and also very dedicated to peace and justice issues and somebody who wanted to do something about the problems in the world, and not just learn about them.

BANSE: Last night Mosqueda joined hundreds of other local residents in a quiet memorial vigil that doubled as an anti-war protest. He and others held hastily printed posters of Corrie. Her smiling profile was captioned `peacemaker.' Before her departure for the Middle East, the young woman had been a regular at rallies opposing war with Iraq, and earlier the bombing of Afghanistan and fighting in the Middle East.

In Gaza City's central square today, Palestinians gathered around an empty coffin to pay their respects. Corrie's body is being held at the hospital morgue awaiting the arrival of her parents from North Carolina. For NPR News, I'm Tom Banse in Olympia, Washington.

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