On August 28 2012, Israel was tried for the murder of a girl who was crushed nine years ago by a bulldozer that demolished Palestinian homes. People around the world protested, demanding justice and an end to Israeli occupation. The trial occurred three months before the start of the World Social Forum Free Palestine, which will take place between November 28 and December 1 this year. The forum is a historic global event that is built by dozens of civil society organizations from across the world including Brazil and Palestine. The outcome of the trial on August 28 highlights the urgency of this initiative.
Israel in the Dock
On August 28, the Court of Haifa announced the verdict of the case concerning the death of American activist Rachel Corrie, killed on March 16, 2003, at the age of twenty-three. A Caterpillar bulldozer driven by an Israeli military officer deliberately ran over Rachel three times when she posed as a human shield to try to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home in the Rafah refugee camp found in the Gaza Strip. The Haifa court, however, ruled that Israel did not intentionally kill Corrie.
Israeli tribunals have demonstrated numerous times that they guarantee impunity of Israel and its military over respect for human rights and international law. Nevertheless, in 2005 the parents of the activist, Cindy and Craig, started a long criminal case against the Minister of Defence at the time as well as the State of Israel. Fifteen hearings and dozens of testimonies have helped remember Rachel Corrie and kept solidarity with Palestine alive.
Sharing this vision, the WSF Free Palestine will be a space to break impunity, promote international law and strengthen solidarity at a global level.
The action that killed Rachel Corrie, an activist with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) , was reported a day after in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz as "routine." Unfortunately, military harassment, torture and murders committed by the Israeli army against Palestinian people are all considered routine. Thousands of homes continue to be demolished in the occupied Palestinian territories as part of Israel’s strategy to expel Palestinians. This Israeli strategy started, according to Palestinian and Israeli historians, well before its creation on May 15, 1948. In only six months, 530 villages were destroyed and 800,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes.
Today the forced displacement of Palestinians from their homes continues. In August Israel announced the impending destruction of twelve Palestinian communities and the expulsion of over 1,500 inhabitants. Since the beginning of this year, more than 2,000 people have been affected by forced displacement enacted by Israel. These crimes aim to make the creation of a free and independent Palestinian state impossible.
Rachel Corrie’s case is not an isolated one;others have been killed and wounded in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle. Although she was unable to protect the Palestinian home, an optimistic edge was added to her tragic story. Rachel’s heroic gesture inspired an increasing number of international activists and the growth of solidarity within Palestine. The fight for justice for her family has also alerted the world to the plight of Palestinians, swelling the ranks of those who demand the end to the policy of occupation, apartheid, and ethnic cleansing. Beyond the court case the parents of Rachel Corrie are fighting for governments and businesses to break contracts with the Caterpillar bulldozer brand that aided the murder of their daughter and continues to collaborate with ethnic cleansing in Palestine. Recently, they obtained a victory for the BDS movement - which claims boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until Israel complies with international law - when Caterpillar lost the investments of the powerful American investment fund TIAA-CREF.
The World Social Forum Free Palestine
The World Social Forum Free Palestine in Brazilwill be a demonstration of global solidarity, with many self-organized activities, speakers and personalities who will talk about ways to transform Palestinian lands. Major conferences will be held along five thematic axes: Self-determination and right of return; human rights and international law; social movements and forms of resistance; for a world without walls and without racism; and lastly BDS and strategies of struggle. Also scheduled are concerts and cultural shows. On November 29 a large event is planned to celebrate the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.