2009 Rachel Corrie Ramadan Soccer Tournament, Gaza

By Gaess, Roger | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, September/October 2009 | Go to article overview

2009 Rachel Corrie Ramadan Soccer Tournament, Gaza


Gaess, Roger, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


"Reeling from the Israeli occupation, a crippling siege and the after-shocks of a violent factional struggle, Palestinians in Gaza face a grim and grinding daily fight to prevent social collapse and cultural extinction."

That was my assessment after I visited Gaza in the winter of 2008 as a citizen-representative of Sister Cities International. As Washington Report readers know, with the added brutality and destruction of Israel's December-January massacre, the situation has since worsened.

In the U.S., the question I hear from many people is "What can I do to help?" There are many ways to become involved and make a difference, but for me the answer came directly from my friends in Gaza.

As an officer of Washington state's Olympia-Rafah Sister City Project and a friend of Rachel Corrie's family, my travels took me to Rafah, where my friends Khaled and Adnan live. It was there I was introduced to a special community project.

We toured a field located at the border between Gaza and Egypt: a wasteland where Israel had demolished whole neighborhoods to create a "security" buffer. Not far from here, Rachel Corrie died defending a home slated for demolition while Khaled's wife and children watched fearfully from inside.

The community had cleared the rubble that was once their neighborhood. There was no hope of rebuilding (Israel allows no construction supplies to enter Gaza). So with great effort they leveled it off, placed sand over it, and dubbed it the "Unity Field."Its purpose was to provide a safe community space that was free of politics and Gazan political enmity.

Khaled and Adnan told me they wanted to put on a special event at the field for Ramadan: the "Rachel Corrie Soccer Tournament." "Rachel did not think in terms of this faction or that faction," Khaled explained. "She joined us in our struggle for justice as Palestinians."

Adnan, who worked with Rachel with young Gazans, added, "The great fear is that factional divisions are driving the young in the wrong direction. There is an increase in rage among the youth as a result of infighting and lawlessness that have recently taken place in the Gaza Strip."

The result is a retreat from the basic values of good citizenship, democracy, participation and humanitarian action, all replaced by the exchange of accusations and violent actions. …

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