Monday, September 21, 2020

Rachel Corrie‘s death deemed a self-imposed accident

By Dylan Collins - August 28, 2012
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Rachel Corrie] [Gaza] [2nd Intifada] [IDF]

Ramallah, West Bank—The death of pro-Palestinian activist and American citizen Rachel Corrie was not caused by the negligence of the Israeli army, a judge ruled today in a Haifa district court.

Ms. Corrie, who had been using herself as a human shield to protect a Palestinian home slated for demolition in Rafah along the Gaza-Egypt border, was run over and crushed to death by an armored Israeli military bulldozer on March 16, 2003.

Today’s ruling came in response to a 2005 civil lawsuit filed by Corrie’s parents, Cindy and Craig of Olympia, Washington, against the Israeli Ministry of Defense, accusing the Israeli military of either unlawfully or intentionally killing Rachel, gross negligence, and the failure to conduct a legitimate investigation. They sought a symbolic $1 in damages and legal fees.

Judge Oded Gershon ruled that the Israeli soldier driving the bulldozer had not seen the young American activist who had been “protecting terrorists in a designated combat zone.” Gershon added that was Corrie’s own fault for not “distancing herself from the area, as any thinking person would have done.”

Rachel Corrie was not run over by an engineering vehicle but rather was struck by a hard object, most probably a slab of concrete which was moved or slid down while the mound of earth which she was standing behind moved,” the report said

When asked how she felt about the judge blaming Rachel for not getting out of the way, Cindy Corrie reportedly replied, “There were children behind the walls of the home Rachel was trying to protect…. We should have all been there.”

23 year old Corrie’s death came during the height of the Second Intifada, when the Israeli army was purportedly demolishing homes in the Gaza Strip in order to prevent the harboring of militants and/or the concealing of weapons and arms-smuggling tunnels. Human rights groups, however, argue that such demolitions are in fact a form of collective punishment.

In a report entitled Razing Rafah: Mass Home Demolitions in Gaza, Human Rights Watch (HRW) estimates that in the period of 2000-2004 the Israeli military demolished 1600 homes in Rafah, rendering up to 16,000 people homeless.

Within a month after Corrie’s death, the Israeli army had completed its own internal inquiry and concluded that the driver of the bulldozer had not seen Corrie, its forces were not to blame, there would be no charges brought and the case was closed.

“Rachel Corrie was not run over by an engineering vehicle but rather was struck by a hard object, most probably a slab of concrete which was moved or slid down while the mound of earth which she was standing behind moved,” the report said. Investigators accused Corrie and the other  activists from the International Solidarity Movement of “illegal, dangerous and irresponsible” behavior.

The verdict came as no surprise to the Corrie family and their attorney, Hussein Abu Hussein, who imparted to press shortly after the verdict was given that the court had “given its stamp of approval to flawed and illegal practices that failed to protect civilian life.”

The family plans to submit an appeal to today’s verdict to the Israeli Supreme Court within the next forty-five days.

Biased Legal Proceedings?

As recently as last week, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro told the Corrie family that Israel’s investigation into Rachel’s death “wasn’t as thorough, credible or transparent as it should have been.”

Shapiro’s statement is supported, amongst a variety of other sources, by HRW’s 2005 report entitled, Promoting Impunity: The Israeli Military’s Failure to Investigate Wrongdoing, which details the Israeli army’s failure to conduct thorough and impartial investigations into the deaths or serious injuries of Palestinian and international civilians, among whom is Rachel Corrie.

Cindy and Craig Corrie at a Nablus rally in 2008


Promoting Impunity found that from September 2000 through November 2004, Israeli security forces killed over 1600 Palestinian civilians not involved in hostilities, including upwards of 500 children, with thousands more seriously injured. By May 2004, the Israeli army had informed HRW that it had investigated just seventy-four (less than 5%) of the civilian deaths in nearly four years.

The Rachel Corrie investigation and other cited inquiries notwithstanding, Human Rights Watch found that “the Israeli military’s investigative practices and procedures are not impartial, thorough, or timely. The military rarely has brought wrongdoers to justice, and existing practices have exerted little deterrent effect.”

HRW insists that the heart of the problem lies in the fact that Israeli army relies solely on its own soldiers to determine when an investigation is warranted. Even then, the few inquiries that are initiated are conducted by soldiers within the same unit “investigating” each other, without input of external (read Palestinian) witnesses or judgment from impartial authorities.

In other words, the equation stands as the Israeli army adjudicating the Israeli army which equals an almost certain win for the Israeli army.

These type of internal investigations do not constitute proper investigations: “They are wholly inadequate to determine whether there is evidence of a violation of human rights or humanitarian law, and they serve as a pretext for maintaining, incorrectly, that an investigation has taken place,” states HRW’s Promoting Impunity.

As the Israeli army has deemed itself its own magistrate, it is able to effectively escape any external review of its actions, and as a result, keep in place policies and practices that blatantly violate human rights with impunity.

As for seeking justice for her murder, the family of Rachel Corrie join the thousands of other Palestinian families who have lost their loved ones to the Israeli army’s “culture of impunity”, without the international community holding Israel accountable for its crimes committed against humanity.


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