Israeli court rules against family of Rachel Corrie


A HAIFA court has rejected accusations that Israel was to blame for the death of American activist Rachel Corrie, who was crushed by an army bulldozer during a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Gaza in 2003.

Ms Corrie’s family filed the civil lawsuit, requesting a symbolic $1 in damages, after a military investigation determined the soldiers involved were not to blame.

Judge Oded Gershon called Ms Corrie’s death a “regrettable accident” and rejected the family’s claim that Israel had intentionally and unlawfully killed their daughter. He invoked a clause that absolved the army because the incident had happened during a wartime situation, adding that the activist had ignored warnings to leave the area.

Ms Corrie, who was 23, was a volunteer with the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement and was wearing a bright orange vest on March 16th, 2003, when she took part in a protest in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, and tried to prevent Israeli military bulldozers destroying Palestinian homes. Fellow activists said they had shouted at the driver to stop but he had ignored them.

Ms Corrie’s family, who flew from the US for the verdict, criticised the court’s ruling.

“We are of course, deeply saddened and deeply troubled by what we heard today,” said her mother, Cindy Corrie, of Olympia, Washington. “I believe this was a bad day. Not only for our family but for human rights, the rule of law, and also for the country of Israel.”

The family said they were considering an appeal to Israel’s supreme court, or even to an international court. Their lawyer, Hussein Abu Hussein, said the verdict contradicted “the fundamental principles of international law with regard to protection of human rights defenders”.

The Israeli army had declared the area a closed military zone and said the buildings being demolished were being used as cover by militants operating on the Gaza border with Egypt during the second Palestinian uprising.

Ms Corrie’s death turned her into a symbol for international activists. Irish members of the Free Gaza Movement named a ship they purchased to sail to Gaza to break Israel’s maritime blockade after her, and her story was dramatised on stage.

The judge said there was no justification to demand the state pay damages, ruling that that the soldiers had done their utmost to keep people away from the site.

“She did not distance herself from the area, as any thinking person would have done. She consciously put herself in harm’s way.”

Mr Abu Hussein said Ms Corrie had been taking part in a non-violent protest and accused the court of providing impunity to the army.

“We knew from the beginning that we had an uphill battle to get truthful answers and justice, but we are convinced that this verdict distorts the strong evidence presented in court,” he said. “The court has given a stamp of approval to harm innocent lives.”