An Israeli judge ruled Tuesday morning that the State of Israel is not to blame for the death of Rachel Corrie, an American who was killed on March 16, 2003 in the Gaza Strip when she she stood in front of an IDF bulldozer that crushed her. The judge called her death a “regrettable accident.”
Rachel Corrie was in Rafah as an activist with the International Solidarity Movement, acting as a human shield to protest the demolition of Palestinian homes. She was 23 years old at the time of her death. She had arrived in Israel in January 2003 and spent two days getting trained in the West Bank with the ISM before going to demonstrate in the Gaza Strip. During this period there were demolitions happening on an almost daily basis.
An Israeli military investigation into the incident in 2003 found that the IDF was not to blame, arguing that the area was a “combatant” zone that protesters should not have entered in the first place, and that Corrie put herself in a dangerous position. The IDF also argued that she was not visible to the soldier operating the bulldozer and was in fact killed by debris falling on her.
Corrie’s parents, Cindy and Craig Corrie, filed a civil claim of negligence against the Israel Ministry of Defense in 2005, and now, almost 10 years after her death, an Israeli judge in Haifa has reaffirmed the military findings, clearing the Defense Ministry of any responsibility.
According to the family’s attorney Hussein Abu Hussein:
While not surprising, this verdict is yet another example of where impunity has prevailed over accountability and fairness. Rachel Corrie was killed while non-violently protesting home demolitions and injustice in Gaza, and today, this court has given its stamp of approval to flawed and illegal practices that failed to protect civilian life. In this regard, the verdict blames the victim based on distorted facts and it could have been written directly by the state attorneys.
Dozens of activists were at the courthouse in Haifa Tuesday morning to show support for the Corries and to protest the expected verdict. Supporters say there is no way she was not visible as she was photographed wearing an orange high visibility jacket.
At a press conference held after the ruling, Cindy Corrie said, “This was a bad day not only for my family but for human rights, humanity and the rule of law and also for the country of Israel.” The family intends to appeal the decision with the High Court in the next 45 days.
Here is a video interview with Rachel, filmed just two days before she was killed.