Needless Deaths. (Impressions)

By Wall, James M. | The Christian Century, May 31, 2003 | Go to article overview

Needless Deaths. (Impressions)


Wall, James M., The Christian Century


I HAVE TWO FILES on my computer desktop labeled "Rachel" and "Shaden." They remind me of the deaths of an American woman and a Palestinian woman. One contains stories and editorials about Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old native of Olympia, Washington, who was crushed to death on March 16 by an Israeli bulldozer. Rachel died as she was protesting the demolition of a Palestinian home in Rafah, Gaza. The other file contains clippings about Shaden Abu Hijleh, a 62-year-old Palestinian grandmother who was shot by Israeli soldiers on October 11, 2002, as she sat with members of' her family on her front porch in Nablus, a city in northern Palestine.

Shaden, a well-known peace activist, environmentalist and former school teacher, was making plans to travel to Chicago to visit her son Rami and meet his new American wife. On the day of her death, Nablus was under one of its extended curfews, and the streets were quiet. Shaden was sitting with her husband, Jamal, a physician, and son Saed, a professor of social geography at Najah University in Nablus. An Israeli jeep drove slowly down the street and stopped in front of the house. One of the soldiers took out his weapon and fired more than 15 hollow-point bullets (illegal under international law), killing Shaden and wounding both her husband and her son. The Israeli army says it continues to investigate her death.

Shaden is one of more than 2,000 Palestinians killed by Israeli-occupying forces during the current intifada. Her death might have passed unnoticed outside of Palestine and Israel except for the fact that she had four adult children who have all received degrees from the University of Iowa, a link that has prompted an Iowa congressman to take an interest in the situation. There is also the fact that her sons Rami, who lives in a Chicago suburb, and Raed, who lives in Dubai, are American citizens.

Shaden's daughter Lana lives in Jerusalem, where she is chief engineer with a United Nations program of assistance to Palestinians. Her children have been unable to visit their grandparents for five months because curfews and road closures prevent them from traveling the short distance between Jerusalem and Nablus. The family has established a Web site to honor their mother, and to link to others who have suffered because of the Israeli occupation (www.remembershaden.org).

Rachel Corrie was a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in the refugee camp of Rafah, Gaza. In the 1980s her family helped start an alternative elementary school that focused on the environment, social justice and peace. In the fifth grade, Rachel and her classmates held a news conference inside the state capitol to call attention to world hunger. …

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