Rachel Corrie: accidental death verdict a blow to campaigners
Israeli judge rules that pro-Palestinian activist’s death beneath an army bulldozer was an accident
ACTIVISTS have responded angrily to a landmark judicial ruling that the death of pro-Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie was not caused by the negligence of the Israeli state or army.
The 23-year-old American was killed in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip in March 2003 after she was hit by a bulldozer tasked with razing Palestinian homes.
An activist with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), Corrie had been acting as a human shield against a programme of home demolitions that local Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem estimate destroyed around 1,700 homes in Rafah between 2000 and 2004.
Seven years later, Rachel’s parents, Cindy and Craig Corrie from Olympia, Washington, brought a civil lawsuit against the state of Israel and its defence ministry, demanding the symbolic sum of $1 plus legal costs as compensation for their daughter’s death.
This morning, at the Haifa District Court in northern Israel, the verdict was finally delivered by Judge Oded Gershon. He concluded that the accused driver was not at fault: “There was no negligence on the part of the bulldozer driver. I reject the suit. There is no justification to demand the state pay any damages."
The Corries’ lawyer Hussein Abu Hussein condemned the ruling, saying it was “based upon distorted facts and could have been written by the state’s attorney”. He has confirmed that the family will appeal the decision, The Daily Telegraph reports.
According to Jon Donnison of the BBC, the ruling will prolong what has already been “an exhausting and expensive process” for Rachel Corrie’s parents. The 30-month long legal battle is believed to have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The Corrie family’s fight for justice met with numerous obstacles over the past decade, including a shift in the official narrative of events. In April 2003, a report by the Israeli military seen by The Guardian concluded that the activist’s death was not caused as a result of a direct action by the bulldozer, but by the falling of earth and building materials”. The report went on to accuse Corrie and her fellow activists of “illegal and irresponsible behaviour”.
However, eyewitnesses always disputed this version of events, maintaining that the young activist was twice hit by a bulldozer. Pictures taken on the day Corrie died show her in an orange high-visibility jacket carrying a megaphone and blocking the path of an Israeli military bulldozer.
Tom Dale, a witness at the scene, today refuted allegations that the driver was unable to see Corrie: “The bulldozer had a clear run across open ground as it drove towards her relatively slowly across 20m or 30m. Even the estimations of the bulldozer’s line of sight offered to the court would clearly suggest that the bulldozer must have seen Rachel.”
After her death, Corrie’s reflections on her time in Gaza garnered international acclaim, following the release of email correspondence dating back to her period there. Her story was later dramatised on stage in a dozen countries and turned into the book, Let Me Stand Alone.