Since Rachel Corrie’s death, the Israeli establishment has been losing patience with activists of any kind.
The state of Israel is not to blame for the death of Rachel Corrie – this is the decision an Israeli court reached yesterday. The ruling, made by Judge Oded Gershon of the Haifa district court, may have come as a shock to some, but anyone following Israel’s path on a slippery slope, particularly over the past decade, could hardly be surprised when the court literally blamed the victim for her own death. “An unfortunate accident,” is what Gershon chose to call the tragedy. “She did not distance herself as a reasonable person would have done.”
Corrie, bulldozed to death by a massive D9 Caterpillar on 16 March 2003, was part of an activist group called ISM – International Solidarity Movement. This is a group of international activists who advocate nonviolent demonstrations in the West Bank (and Gaza back then, before the disengagement in 2005) in solidarity with Palestinians opposing the occupation.
A nonviolent movement, you say?
Well, isn’t that what Israelis were always looking for? For their enemies to abandon terror, suicide bombings and rockets and to go down the route of Gandhi? Yet, in reality the ISM is probably one of the most hated organisations roaming the roads of Judea and Samaria these days. Seen as foreigners who have come from afar to meddle in local affairs, they have been accused of antisemitism, supporters of terrorists and allies of Hamas. For a majority of Israelis, these people have nothing to do with peace. They’re a nuisance.
A recent example of that attitude is the case of a young Dane called Andreas Ias, who took part in a nonviolent ISM demonstration this year in the West Bank. Footage of IDF colonel Shalom Eisner ramming Ias in the face with his rifle as he was slowly walking around the protest area went viral, and showed clearly the true feelings Israelis have for the Rachel Corries of the world.
The Israeli establishment has less and less patience for activists of any kind of late. As part of the recent government offensive on human rights in Israel, freedom of expression has been hit hard. Not only are leftwing activists who oppose the occupation summoned for interrogations – even J14 activists, those who lead the peaceful social protests against the cost of living, have been interrogated by police long before they take to the streets in an attempt to intimidate citizens of “the only democracy in the Middle East” to exercise their freedom to protest.
As news of Judge Gershon’s decision broke, and as it spread like wildfire across social networks, the local Hebrew media barely batted an eyelid. The items covering the Corrie verdict on websites of Israel’s largest newspapers barely lasted an hour on the home page. Corrie’s story may be well known to Palestinians and leftwing activists, but one would be hard pressed to find people in Israel who actually know who she is to begin with.
Another reason for the sparse media attention in Israel could be the fact that this is a long drawn out case which probably isn’t over – as the Corrie family intends to appeal to the supreme court. And with the American ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, saying only a week ago that the investigation so far into the incident has not been sufficient, the Corries may feel they have the administration’s support to pursue this further. One can only hope that Gershon’s ruling was indeed an “unfortunate accident” as well, to be amended in the future.
For the Corrie family this is, of course, another horrible blow in its attempt to bring someone, anyone, in the IDF to accountability. On that day in 2003, a D9 driver demolished a young girl and her family. Yesterday in Haifa, with what may seem like a single court decision, a judge pushed forward the ongoing demolition of the Israeli justice system and the remainders of Israeli democracy itself.
In a country where the military is considered sacred and investigates itself, and where the judicial system has enabled occupation for over 45 years, could one have seriously expected a different outcome?