New flaws are starting to come out in the case of American peace activist Rachel Corrie’s death in Gaza in 2003. Corrie was crushed to death by an Israeli military bulldozer while non-violently standing in front a Palestinian house slated for demolition in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafeh. Today, the state is providing testimony in a civil suit started by Corrie’s parents. According to the press relase from the Rachel Corrie Foundation:
The first state witness, a Military Police investigator known to the court as Oded, was part of a three-person team that investigated Rachel’s killing. Oded corroborated much of the testimony provided by El’ad, an investigator who testified in March, and added additional details about the inadequacy of the investigation :Oded confirmed that a commander of the unit involved in Rachel’s killing interrupted the questioning of the bulldozer operator, telling him that Doron Almog, head of the Israeli military’s Southern Command, had ordered that the questioning cease. He also said that, in his experience, interference of this nature from military commanders was not uncommon. When asked why he did not challenge the intervention, Oded said that as a junior investigator, it was not his place to do so. He was 20-years-old at the time, with only a high-school education and three-months of training in investigation. Corrie’s case was the first civilian killing that Oded investigated from beginning to end. Like El’ad, Oded stated that neither he nor any other investigator visited the site of the killing. Oded said that he did not obtain the video-audio recording from the military surveillance camera which filmed 24/7 until March 23, a week after he began the investigation. Oded said he did not request the video-audio recording with radio transmissions of the 2 bulldozer drivers and commanders from the hours leading up to the incident, transmissions which might have provided further context to the killing. Oded stated he did not believe they were relevant, even though Rachel and her friends from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) were protesting the bulldozer activity for several hours prior to her death. When military police transcribed the radio transmissions, they failed to include an exchange in Arabic in which one soldier said, “Yem mawatu!” which in English means, “What, Did you kill him?!” and another soldier replied, “Allah Yerhamo,” “May God have mercy on him.” When asked about the discrepancy, Oded said that he did not understand Arabic and the investigation team did not think it was important. Oded testified that none of the investigators interviewed any of the Palestinian witnesses – including medical personnel who examined Rachel immediately following the incident. When asked why, he said he did not think they could provide any useful information.
Israel is also about to reopen the case of Tristan Anderson, an American peace activist who was disabled after being hit with a high velocity tear gas projectile during a demonstration in Ni’ilin in 2009. The case was closed earlier this year on grounds of “lack of wrongdoing”, and will now be reopened following an appeal filed on behalf of Anderson’s family by attorneys Michael Sfard and Ido Tamari. The appeal, which pointed out grave flaws and negligence in the original investigation, was based on an independent investigation, held parallel to the one the police conducted. It shows clearly that the police decided to close the case despite the fact that the investigating team had never visited the scene of the shooting, and as a result questioned officers who had nothing to do with Anderson’s shooting and, in fact, could have had nothing to do with the shooting, as there was no direct line of fire between where they were positioned and were Anderson was shot. A second Border Police crew, which was located in the area where Anderson was shot from according to all civilian eye witnesses, was never questioned at all. The force’s commanders, who carry responsibility for the shooting were also not held accountable.
Both of these cases demonstrate the failure of Israeli soldiers to follow the IDF’s own rules of conduct without any major repercussions. It is unclear whether the Israeli court system will find the army to be in breach of its own rules. The blatant lack of procedure in non-violent demonstrates is an issue that must be addressed with international pressure on Israel. Often, the soldiers in these situations prove to be the most dangerous and escalating elements in the demonstrations. The result is the death or serious injury of non-violent activists.