Accidental Advocacy

As a new resident of Washington, D.C., I set out on an adventure to attend a vigil in honor of Rachel Corrie. Rachel, a U.S. citizen, was killed by an Israeli army bulldozer as she protested the demolition of houses in Rafah, Gaza in 2003. After seven years in a civil lawsuit filed by the Corrie family, the Haifa District Court rejected accusations that Israel was to blame for Rachel’s death. Upon hearing the court’s ruling I was struck with a bitter sadness for Rachel’s family and for the plight of all those killed as a result of the occupation. Citizens gathered at the State Department demanding justice for Rachel, a credible investigation into her killing, and protection for US citizens’ rights abroad.  In solidarity with the Corrie family and victims of the Israeli occupation, I strapped on my Palestine bracelets and set out to attend the vigil.

 It took me two hours to not get there.  I was a bit ambitious in thinking I could figure out the DC bus system and not experience mishaps. Fate, combined with two missed buses, rush hour traffic and a faulty GPS system on my phone kept me from my destination. These two hours of chaos led to exchanges with a number of people about the woes of DC transit, the unbearable heat of August in the mid-Atlantic region, and most importantly, Rachel Corrie.

I ended up sharing her story with three people: a friend, a sister, and a very benevolent stranger, none of whom had ever heard of her before. I felt a part of a much larger human community as I saw the shock and sadness on the faces of those learning of Rachel’s fate for the first time.  I am somewhat desensitized to the tragedy of the Israeli occupation but was struck by their incredulous responses to this injustice. With three people that day, I grieved the lack of justice for Rachel and Palestine. I didn’t realize the beauty of accidental activism then, but today I thank the D.C. Metrobus system and the GPS that betrayed me for allowing me these very special exchanges.
For those who are interested in learning more about Rachel’s death and trial, visit Foreign Policy in Focus to read Stephen Zunes’ article at


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