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Israeli Impunity Exposed: Judge Lets Army Off the Hook For Death of Young American Activist

Rachel Corrie was crushed by an Israeli army bulldozer in 2003, but an Israeli judge says Corrie is to blame for her own death.

The Haifa District court ruled earlier today that the Israeli military is not responsible for killing American activist  Rachel Corrie, and that Corrie was to blame for her own death.

“Even when she saw the mount of earth moving towards her, she did not move away. The accident was caused by the deceased,” said Israeli Judge Oded Gershon, as he read out a summary of the 62-page ruling in front of a packed courthouse and with Rachel’s mother Cindy, father Craig and sister Sarah sitting in the front row.

Rachel’s death, Gershon said, “was not due to negligence of the state or any of its actors. The state did not violate the right of the deceased [Rachel Corrie] to life.”

Twenty-three-year-old American activist Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer in March 2003. At the time of her death, she was trying to prevent Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes in the Gaza border town of Rafah.

“There is no basis for the claim that the bulldozer hit her intentionally. It was a very unfortunate accident. I am confident the operator wouldn’t have continued if he saw her. This was an accident,” Gershon said, adding “the state is not responsible for damages in actions [that occur] in combat operations.”

Seven years in court

The Corrie family intends to appeal the Haifa District Court’s decision at the Israeli high court within 45 days.

The case was originally filed against the state of Israel in 2005 in Haifa District Court. The family accused the state of being responsible for Rachel’s death and of not conducting a thorough investigation into what happened.

Oral testimonies began in March 2010 and 23 witnesses have testified over 15 court hearings since that time. Israeli soldiers testified in court behind a curtain during the trial and a high-ranking Israeli army officer testified that there are no civilians in war.

“We are, of course, deeply saddened and deeply troubled by what we heard today,” said Rachel’s mother, Cindy Corrie, in a press conference following the verdict. “I believe that this was a bad day, not only for our family but a bad day for human rights, for humanity, for the rule of law and also for the country of Israel.”

Contrary to the court’s ruling, Cindy Corrie said that her family and their legal team believe that the Israeli soldiers driving the bulldozer saw Rachel the day she was killed. The family also said that Israeli military’s investigation into Rachel’s killing was wholly inadequate.

“I can say without a doubt that I believe my sister was seen as that bulldozer approached her,” said Rachel’s sister, Sarah, during the press conference. “I hope someday [the bulldozer driver] will have the courage to sit down in front of me and tell me what he saw and what he feels.”

The Israeli courts, Cindy said, holding back tears, are part of “a well heeled system to protect the Israeli military, the soldiers who conduct actions in that military” and “provide them with impunity at the cost of all the civilians who are impacted by what they do.”

“We believe that Rachel was seen. Everything that we knew coming into this process, reinforced by everything we saw and heard in court, confirmed our belief that at least one soldier knew she was there. [It was the soldiers’] ability and obligation to see who was in front of their machine. We believe someone in that bulldozer did,” she said.

Last week, the American Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, reportedly told the Corrie family that the Israeli military investigation into Rachel’s killing had not been “thorough, credible and transparent.” Shortly after Rachel’s death, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised US President George W. Bush that such an investigation would be conducted.

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