The ISM volunteers operate by deliberately placing themselves in volatile situations in order to prevent harm or injury to Palestinians and their property. Their logic is that foreign citizens are less likely to be harmed, and Corrie had recently written in a web journal of the freedom and protection foreigners felt they have here.
Corrie was the first international volunteer to die since the intifada began 29 months ago, but she was the fourth foreign citizen to be killed by Israeli troops. Soldiers have shot and killed a German doctor, Harald Fischer; an Italian photographer, Rafaeli Ciriello; and a British UN worker, Iain Hook.
The ISM volunteers, who range in age and origin, coming from Asia, Europe, and North America, receive two days of intense training to prepare for this environment. They are taught various forms of nonviolent resistance as well as the finer points of dealing with Israeli soldiers, weapons, and being arrested.
Alcohol, drugs, and relationships are forbidden. At the end of their training, they sign "personal responsibility" forms, committing themselves to nonviolent verbal and physical action.
Corrie's death raises the question of whether the training is adequate. But many activists say that training wouldn't make a difference in face of what they say is systematically and consistently hostile army opposition.
"We were expecting something to happen, especially down at Rafah," says Marlous, a Dutch woman who occasionally participated in protests with Corrie. Marlous, who works for a Palestinian organization in the West Bank, said protesters had been increasingly wary of Israeli army tactics. "This is the first death, it's hard to understand."
James Delano, a documentary filmmaker from Honolulu who had participated in missions with Corrie, said she wasn't prone to take unnecessary risks. "I wouldn't describe her as a zealot," he says. "Rachel was passionate about her work. She was an intelligent, caring human being. I'm sure she was doing what she saw as a reasonable action."