Cindy and Craig Corrie hoped for better. So did sister Sarah. The world knows Israel murdered their daughter, Rachel, in cold blood. On August 28, Israeli justice ruled otherwise.
It's unsurprising in a nation contemptuous of rule of law principles, democratic values, and life itself.
Israel is a rogue terror state. It's an out-of-control blight on humanity. It's a regional menace. Racism and persecution are institutionalized. It's unfit to live in for most Jews. For Arabs and supporters of equal rights and justice, it's dangerous.
On March 16, 2003, an Israeli bulldozer soldier/driver murdered Rachel Corrie in cold blood.
Courageously she tried to stop a lawless Rafah refugee camp home demolition. Eye witnesses said she climbed atop a giant militarized Caterpillar tractor, spoke to the driver, climbed down, knelt 10 - 20 meters in front in clear view, and blocked its path with her body.
Activists screamed for it to stop. The operator ignored them. He deliberately crushed Rachel to death. To be sure, he ran over her twice.
He murdered her in cold blood. Israel's government and military supported him. They still do.
They believe Arab lives and well-being don't matter. They target activists who support them. They're considered enemies of the state.
Opposition isn't tolerated. Murder is official policy to eliminate it. Rachel's death bears stark witness to institutionalized lawlessness.
Legitimizing it reveals corrupt Israeli justice. Punishment follows Jewish killings. Arab ones or supporters are whitewashed. Orders from the top mandate it. Investigations when they're held are shams. Israel's said:
"The state believes that it was proved that the activity of the IDF force is within the framework of 'war activity."
"In addition, the state proved that the deceased willfully endangered herself and, sadly, her contributory fault stood at 100%."
In 2005, Rachel's family sued: "The estate of Rachel Aliene Corrie v. State of Israel, Ministry of Defense."
They waited over nine years for justice. The Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace & Justice (RCFPJ) supports it. Its mission and guiding principles state:
The Foundation continues what Rachel began. It reflects "her vision, spirit, and creative energy...." It supports "build(ing) understanding, respect, and appreciation for differences, and that promote cooperation within and between local and global communities."
The New York Times, America's newspaper of record, at first reported nothing. Belated coverage appeared. Online AM editions excluded it. The Washington Post ran an AP piece. Front page headlines omitted it.
AP said "(a)n Israeli court on Monday rejected a lawsuit brought against the military by the parents of a U.S. activist crushed to death by an army bulldozer during a 2003 demonstration, ruling the army was not at fault for her death."
Rachel was in plain sight. Her bright orange vest and bullhorn made her easy to spot. The soldier-operator lied. He knew she protected a Palestinian home with her body. He claimed he didn't see her.
Israel called Rachel's death accidental. A sham investigation report said:
"Rachael Corrie was not run over by an engineering vehicle but rather was struck by a hard object, most probably a slab or concrete which was moved or slid down while the mound of earth which she was standing behind was moved."
She and others with her were accused of "illegal, irresponsible and dangerous" behavior.
Cindy and Craig sued for justice. Israeli district court judge Oded Gershon contemptuously justified murder. "I reject the suit," he said. "There is no justification to demand the state pay any damages."
He claimed Rachel "put herself in a dangerous situation." He called her death "an accident she brought upon herself." Blame the victim is Israeli policy.
He said the IDF conducted a proper investigation. It whitewashed Rachel's death. It absolved cold blooded murder. So did judge Gershon. He rejected her family's symbolic suit for $1 in damages plus legal expenses.
Family lawyer Hussein Abu Hussein called the verdict "blam(ing) the victim." His full statement was as follows:
"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."
"We knew from the beginning that we had an uphill battle to get truthful answers and justice, but we are convinced that this verdict distorts the strong evidence presented in court, and contradicts fundamental principles of international law with regard to protection of human rights defenders."
"In denying justice in Rachel Corrie’s killing, this verdict speaks to the systemic failure to hold the Israeli military accountable for continuing violations of basic human rights."
"We would like to thank everyone who supported the family and the legal team; including activists, NGOs, legal observers, US embassy officials, interpreters, reporters who covered the trial, and we look forward to talking to you at the press conference."
Addressing reporters, Hussein called the ruling "a black day for activists of human rights and people who believe in values of dignity."
Cindy and Craig will appeal to Israel's Supreme Court. They'll continue speaking publicly about Rachel, they said. They won't let her death be in vain. They criticized Israel's failure to properly investigate.
"A civil lawsuit is not a substitute for a legal investigation, which we never had," said Cindy. "The diplomatic process between the United States and Israel failed us. Rachel's killing could have been and should have been avoided."
"We're deeply troubled by what we heard today," she added. "From the beginning, it was clear to us that there was….a well-heeled system to protect the Israeli military, the soldiers who conduct actions….to provide them with impunity at the cost of all the civilians who are impacted by what they do."
Israel "worked extremely hard so that the truth behind what happened to my daughter is not exposed."
"I believe this is a bad day not only for our family, but….for human rights, for humanity, for the rule of law, and also for the country of Israel."
According to Human Rights Watch representative Bill Van Esveld:
"The idea that there can be no fault for killing civilians in a combat operation contradicts Israel’s international legal obligations to spare civilians from harm during armed conflict and to credibly investigate and punish violations by its force."
"Military investigators repeatedly failed to take statements from witnesses, to follow up with the witness’s lawyer and to re-interview witnesses to clarify discrepancies."
In March 2010, multiple oral testimony sessions began. In July 2011, they concluded. They produced over 2,000 pages of court transcripts. Witnesses were flown in. Israeli ones appeared behind screens to conceal their identities. Criminals and supporters sought anonymity.
Cindy and Craig drained their savings. They spent about $200,000 on travel, legal costs, translation services, and other expenses. Their struggle for justice continues.
Sarah Corrie Simpson met with representatives in over 200 congressional offices. She said:
"I hope someday (the bulldozer operator) will have the courage to sit down in front of me and tell me what he saw and what he feels."
Before the verdict, Craig said:
"You don't really close a wound like this, but it certainly is a big milestone."
For days ahead of the ruling, he carried a photo of the then six-year old Palestinian girl whose home Rachel tried to protect. "I think this (picture) in some ways is more hopeful," he said. "She deserves a future that we all want for our children."
AP said their case was "the first civil lawsuit of a foreigner harmed by Israel's military to conclude in a full civilian trial." Others were settled out of court.
Rachel was an International Solidarity Movement (ISM) volunteer. It's a nonviolent, direct-action Palestinian movement against occupation and injustice.
Its members used their bodies as human shields to stop home demolitions. During the second Intifada (2000 - 2004), over 1,700 Rafah homes were bulldozed. Around 17,000 Palestinians were left homeless.
Many others throughout Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem lost their homes. Doing so violates Fourth Geneva's Article 147. It prohibits targeting civilian property.
Rachel justifiably tried to prevent it. Fourth Geneva's Article 10 supports humanitarian workers. Occupying powers are obligated to protect them. Moreover, Article 54 prohibits targeting civilians.
Rachel was a committed anti-war activist before coming to Gaza in 2002. She arranged peace events in Washington state.
She died in Rafah in southern Gaza. She and other ISM protesters used their bodies to stop other home demolitions. Extremist members of Netanyahu's coalition government called judge Gershon's ruling "vindication after vilification."
PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi denounced the decision, saying:
"Despite the testimonies of eyewitnesses, the audio-visual evidence and the overwhelming proof that Rachel was deliberately murdered, the Israeli court insists on victimizing her again in her tragic death."
"This proves that once again the occupation has distorted the legal and judicial systems in Israel and that the lack of accountability for its violence and violations has generated a culture of hate and impunity."
"We must make sure that Rachel Corrie's death is not a senseless incident. It must be stressed that Israel's habit of blaming the victim and exonerating the criminal is not applied to Palestinian victims, but has also it has extended its reach to international solidarity activists and victims of Israeli violence."
"The U.S. government has been noticeably absent and its silence is deafening. In their lack of engagement and human empathy, both the legislative and executive branches are complicit in compounding the crime."
"The Palestinians as a whole will continue to love Rachel and cherish her memory. Her sacrifice will always be a source of hope and a tribute to genuine humanity."
Ahead of judge Gershon's ruling, ISM announced it's scheduled August 28 date, at 9:00AM, in Haifa District Court. Rachel died at age 23. A glorious human being was lost. A militarized Caterpillar D9-R bulldozer crushed her to death.
In its summer newsletter, the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace & Justice highlighted the scheduled ruling date. Proceedings began seven and a half years earlier. August 28 was painfully long in coming.
On arrival it left nothing resolved. Rachel's family members called on others "to show support for this lengthy effort and to seize this moment to challenge the home demolitions (she) opposed…."
In Israel, impunity triumphs over accountability, fairness and justice. Institutionalized lawlessness assures it.
The issue remains as urgent as when Rachel died. On August 29, a live 9:30PM EDT conference call with family members discussed the court ruling. Visits the Foundation site for details and perhaps an audio transcript.
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|William A. Cook|