Israel: America crush death activist Rachel Corrie ‘had only herself to blame’ rules judge
A JUDGE in Israel yesterday rejected a civil suit brought by the parents of an American pro-Palestinian activist crushed to death by an army bulldozer in the Gaza Strip in 2003.
Judge Oded Gershon cleared the Israeli army of any responsibility in the death of Rachel Corrie, 23, and praised a military police investigation, which also absolved troops of any blame. American officials described the 2003 probes as lacking in thoroughness, credibility and transparency.
Judge Gershon, sitting at Haifa district court, also rejected Ms Corrie’s family’s request for a symbolic $1 in damages, but waived costs.
He accepted the state’s argument that the bulldozer had not seen Ms Corrie, even though she was wearing a high-vis vest before his vehicle ran over her, then reversed. In his 62-page judgment, he ruled her death was “an accident she brought upon herself”. He also said the army had not been engaged in bulldozing Palestinian homes at the time of her death, on 16 March, 2003, in the town of Rafah, as activists attested .
“I am convinced that in the circumstances created at the site the actions of the force were blameless,” he wrote. “The deceased could have moved away from the danger without any difficulty but chose to endanger herself and in the end found her death in this way.”
Fellow activists from the International Solidarity Movement, whose tactics included being human shields for Palestinians, who were with Ms Corrie, said she was clearly visible to the driver and had been trying to stop the bulldozing of a Palestinian home for five hours.
“This is a bad day, not only for the family, but for human rights, for humanity, for the rule of law and for the country of Israel,” said Ms Corrie’s mother Cindy, of Olympia, Washington State. Her husband, Craig, a Vietnam veteran, said it had become clear from the testimony of Israeli officers at the trial that they believed their forces could kill Palestinians in Gaza with “impunity”. The two plan to appeal Judge Gershon’s decision before the Israeli Supreme Court.
Their lawyer claimed during the trial that Israeli military police investigation was “negligent and unskilled”.
But Judge Gershon ruled the investigation was “conducted with great professionalism and in a comprehensive and fulfilling way”.
Cindy Corrie said the verdict was “part of a well-heeled system to protect the military and provide it with impunity at the cost of civilians”.
In 2004, US officials wrote to the Corries telling them that the Israeli investigation had not been “thorough, credible and transparent”. According to Sarah Simpson, Rachel’s sister, this stance was reiterated last week by US ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro. She said: “I believe that my sister was seen as the driver approached her.”
Bill Van Esveld, of Human Rights Watch, said the findings were “outrageous and very difficult to reconcile with the facts”.
It emerged there had been apparent obstruction of the investigation by Major General Doron Almog, head of Israel’s southern command. According to a military police investigator’s report, the commander of the bulldozer that struck Ms Corrie was giving testimony the day after her death when a colonel dispatched by Maj-Gen Almog entered the room and told the witness to stop testifying. Judge Gershon accepted this, but ruled: “The central questions had already been asked and answered.”
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