International Solidarity Movement’s ‘Fauxtographic’ record of Rachel Corrie’s death

A guest post by AKUS

I was stunned to see the following picture in an article by Amira Hass in Ha’aretz. I had never seen such a clear image that purports to show Corrie about to be crushed by a bulldozer:

The caption reads:

Rachel Corrie opposite the bulldozer, 16 March, 2003. Photo: AP

But does it really show what happened?

A little digging on the internet turned up a blog post by “Carlos” at “Peace with Realism” from 2003: “The Death of Rachel Corrie” which investigated the photograph, and found yet another. Both were published by ISM, and are easily found by googling “Rachel Corrie” and looking for images.

At first sight, it seems obvious what happened – she stood near the bulldozer shouting at it to stop using a megaphone, and then was crushed by it. But was that really what these pictures show?

Well, Electronic Intifada ran with the pictures supplied to it by ISM and rather gave the game way. Under the left hand picture, it noted that the picture was taken “between 3:00-4:00PM”:

Picture taken between 3:00-4:00PM on 16 March 2003, Rafah, Occupied Gaza. A clearly marked Rachel Corrie, holding a megaphone, confronts the driver of one of two Israeli bulldozers in the area that were attempting to demolish a Palestinian homes. She was confronting the bulldozer in order to disrupt its work, and prevent it from threatening any homes. Photo by Joseph Smith.

But under the right hand picture, the time of 4:45 PM was given for the accident – the picture was obviously taken seconds after the accident:

Picture taken at 4:45PM on 16 March 2003, Rafah, Occupied Gaza. Other peace activists tend to Rachel after she was fatally injured by the driver of the Israeli bulldozer (in background).

Noting the discrepancy, “Carlos” then took a deeper look at the pictures (my emphasis):

These pictures have been shown to be a hoax. The “before” picture shows Rachel standing in front of the bulldozer with a megaphone, some distance away and foreshortened by perspective, making her appear to be in clear sight of the bulldozer. The presentation also makes it appear that this took place immediately before the incident. However, the photographer himself later admitted that no one with a camera had been present at the site just before Rachel’s accident, that the picture with the megaphone had actually been taken hours earlier, and that at the time of the accident Rachel was not in sight of the driver. An examination of the pictures themselves, noting, for example, the difference in the color of the sky, shows they could not have been taken close to the same point in time. In addition, the bulldozers shown in these supposed “before” and “after” pictures are not the same.

Indeed both CNN, which ran the two pictures, and the New York Times, which ran the first one, published the following corrections:

CNN, March 25, 2003:

Caption clarification: Photos by an International Solidarity Movement eyewitness show Rachel Corrie protesting earlier, and then later, after she was hit by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza on Sunday.

The New York Times, March 26, 2003:

A picture caption on March 17 with an article about an American protester who was crushed by an Israeli Army bulldozer in Gaza referred incorrectly to the bulldozer shown. It was one that the protester, Rachel Corrie, had earlier tried to stop from destroying a Palestinian home. It was not the one that killed her.

Nevertheless pro-Palestinian web sites, including the International Solidarity Movement’s own web site, continue to present the two pictures with incorrect and misleading labels.

Finally, according to “Carlos”, “A later report from ISM Media Coordinator Michael Shaik in Beit Sahour offered more details about the event”. In fact, Shaik made an admission that makes it clear why the bulldozer driver could not have seen Corrie, and why the first photograph has no direct connection to the accident that killed her:

Rachel was sitting in the path of the bulldozer as it advanced towards her.

Only when she realized she could not be seen, did she try to escape:

When the bulldozer refused to stop or turn aside she climbed up onto the mound of dirt and rubble being gathered in front of it wearing a fluorescent jacket to look directly at the driver who kept on advancing. The bulldozer continued to advance so that she was pulled under the pile of dirt and rubble.

To claim that the “bulldozer refused to stop or turn aside” is a gross distortion – how could he have seen someone sitting on the ground behind a growing pile of dirt and the huge blade of his bulldozer? Then when she realized her situation, instead of moving back or sideways, perhaps in a panic she advanced towards the moving bulldozer, something no sensible person would do, and was crushed under the dirt and rubble.

Moreover, if you look at the two bulldozers, the one visible at the scene of the accident appears to be much larger, with a much larger blade and a much smaller aperture for the driver to see through than the one photographed earlier. Both these differences would have made it harder for the driver to seen anyone in his path.

Corrie was callously used in life by ISM, and is callously being used in death by all those trying to make a case against Israel.

If the picture used by Ha’aretz, to its shame, is the one we start to see in articles about Corrie, it pays to remember that once again the death of this woman is being used, like the Al Durrah affair, as a typical piece of Pallywood fauxtography.

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