I recently wrote about the tragedy of Rachel Corrie (it’s always tragic when a young person dies, more so when she dies for a mistaken cause, and even more when she is cynically brainwashed by a group like ISM which is directly connected to terrorist groups).
Rachel was a student at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, when she proposed an independent study project for her senior year to establish a sister-city relationship between Olympia and Rafah, a town that lies directly on the border between the Gaza strip and Egypt, a nexus of conflict between the IDF and terrorists smuggling weapons into Gaza.
Evergreen is a paradigm of the progressive cause-based model of education, where you can get what author Howard Jacobson (The Finkler Question) called a “modular degree.” For example, the home page for the “Gender and Sexuality: History, Culture and Politics” program includes this bemusing note:
Enrollment is open to any Evergreen student with sophomore through senior standing. It is likely that many students will have a sexual or gender identity, but this is not a prerequisite for enrollment. If you have such an identity, switching it out at any time is also perfectly fine.
Hmmm… everyone that I know has a “sexual of gender identity,” although they don’t “switch it out” too often (not that there would be anything wrong with that).
Among the many courses in gender and ethnic studies, activism, etc., I did not find anything like a course in Western Civilization. The closest to one in American History was “The Formation of the North American State,” described thus:
This program will examine the movement of the North American colonies in their separation from Britain to the emergence of the United States through the election of 1800. It will investigate the conflict; the social, racial and class divisions; and the distinctly different visions of the proper social, economic and political system that should predominate in the new nation. Much conflict surrounded the separation of the settler colonies from Britain, including a transatlantic revolutionary movement, development of slave-based plantations and the birth of capitalism. Capitalism was not a foregone conclusion. …
I just bet it wasn’t.
Rachel didn’t get her sister-city project off the ground, although it is presently being pursued in her name. What she did do on arrival was join up with several ISM activists (Olympia and Evergreen have provided a disproportionate number of members to the ISM) for a training session, then traveled to Gaza, where she did her (unfortunately effective) best to throw herself against the machine of Occupation.
Shockingly, Evergreen State College is proud of her, and offers an annual scholarship in her name:
Rachel Corrie, a lifelong Olympia resident, Evergreen student and community activist was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Rafah, Gaza, on March 16, 2003, while defending the home of a Palestinian family against unlawful demolition.
This [$2,000] scholarship is for students dedicated to gaining a better understanding of the Middle East and to working locally or internationally to further Middle East peace. Applicants must show how they will use their studies to promote human rights and social justice through community activism and/or political advocacy.
Areas of interest related to the Middle East may include: Arab culture and Arabic language, US Policy in the Middle East, and peace, justice and conflict resolution studies.
There has been some speculation about the faculty members who encouraged her and perhaps approved her “independent study.” Simona Sharoni, who called Rachel her “beloved student and friend,” and Steve Niva, who “met with Rachel Corrie before she left for Gaza,” appear to have been among them.
Sharoni is aggressively anti-Zionist. Now department chair of Gender and Women’s Studies at SUNY Plattsburgh, she coined the term “compassionate resistance” as she
…struggled to reconcile my grief, frustration and anger with the empathy, love and compassion I felt for people who put their bodies on the line to resist oppression.
I could find no expression of empathy, love or compassion in her writing for the Jewish victims of Palestinian terror, except insofar as she sees them as misguided. Indeed, she criticizes left-wing Israelis who are involved in dialogue with Palestinians because they don’t sufficiently understand that the needs of the occupied Palestinians take priority over those of the Jewish occupiers, even leftist anti-occupation types.
Steve Niva is a professor in Political Science and Middle East Studies, and a long-time boycott-divestment-sanctions (BDS) activist. He’s a frequent contributor to the viciously anti-Israel (and anti-American) “Counterpunch” newsletter. A list of some of Niva’s courses will give you an idea of his ideology:
Spring 2012. US Foreign Policy and the Roots of Terrorism. This program examined debates over the nature and causes of terrorism in the Middle East and considered alternatives to the policies adopted in the “war on terror.”
Fall/Winter 2013-14: Alternatives to Capitalist Globalization. This program will explore and critically analyze the diverse social movements and alternative visions for creating more just global and national institutions and societies.
Spring, 2013: Beyond Protest: New Theories and Practices of Political Action. This program will explore the theory and practice of new forms of oppositional political action that go beyond familiar modes of public protest.
Both Sharoni and Niva are mentioned several times in Rachel Corrie’s Journals, and clearly they were important in her decision to go to Gaza. The radical community in Olympia/Evergreen has beatified Rachel Corrie while demonizing Israel; Rachel is not the only one who bought the Palestinian story hook, line and sinker.
Doubtless those adult mentors believe that they are free of guilt for her death. They are not. Rachel Corrie’s Journals mentions a “Joe F.” who was her Arabic teacher — there is a Joe Fahoum teaching Arabic at Evergreen — who, according to a footnote (provided by the family), urged her not to go to Gaza.
Possibly he understood the real nature and objectives of the ISM and the danger Rachel would be in, and unlike the others, cared enough to see her as a young woman with a future rather than as a pawn to be sacrificed in the war against the Jewish state.