The Corrie family and their attorney Hussein Abu Hussein at a press conference after the verdict was announced. (Photo: Leehee Rothschild)
Almost ten years after Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old American peace activist, was run over by a bulldozer in Gaza while trying to prevent the demolition of a house in which a family was hiding, Israel’s First District Court in Haifa handed down its ruling in the civil lawsuit filed by her parents. Judge Oded Gershon cleared the Israeli army from any responsibility in Corrie’s death.
Gershon accepted the IDF’s arguments that Rachel and her friends were protesting in a combat area, despite the fact that no combat was taking place in the area on that day, and there was no closed military zone order presented in court. Judge Gershon decided that Rachel’s death was a sorry accident resulting from her refusal to clear from the area, and not, let’s say, from the insistence of the army to clear an area in which people were protesting with an armored bulldozer. He also ruled that the army held a full and thorough investigation of the matter, even though it was managed by a team of 19-year-old inexperienced boys, who never interrogated a single Palestinian or non-military witness.
This decision is yet more proof to the fact that the Israeli courts are but another arm of the occupation and apartheid regime, which fortifies oppression instead of striving for justice. In a press conference with Rachel’s family and lawyer held after the hearing, Cindy Corrie, her mother, said “This is a sad day, not only to us, as a family. This is a sad day for Israel, a sad day for human right activists, a sad day for international law, a sad day for justice.”
While not holding their hopes high, the family is intent on pursuing the case and appealing to the Israeli Supreme Court. The Corries are seeking to draw attention to the story through the process and they feel obliged to continue promoting Rachel’s message of “building connections” through all possible means, among which the legal system is but one.
“We started this trial seeking truth, but we also seek changes,” Cindy said. And throughout the conference Rachel’s family stressed that their struggle for acknowledgment is inseparable from the Palestinian struggle. They put Rachel’s presence in Rafah that day in the context of 16,000 who had lost their homes, in the prior months, as well as the family of Rachel’s friends, amongst them children, who were hiding behind the walls of the house that Rachel was protecting. They emphasized the fact that many more Palestinians killed by the IDF cannot seek justice in the Israeli court systems, as they do, and that their struggle for justice is done in the name of Palestinians as well.
Another major point highlighted both by the family during the press conference, as well as by a dozen or so Israeli activists who held a protest vigil outside the court, was the need to put an end to Israel’s impunity. Cindy openly stated “My family and I personally, as well as the Rachel Corrie Foundation are in full support of BDS”, as a means to this end. She specifically voiced her support for the campaign targeting Caterpillar, manufacturers of the D9 bulldozer that killed Rachel, with whom the family has tried to communicate throughout the years, to no avail.
The last question that Rachel’s family was asked before the conference concluded was how they feel about the fact that the judge in one out of many victim-blaming phrases in his ruling said that Rachel should have moved out of the bulldozer’s way. To that Cindy Corrie replied “I don’t think that Rachel should have moved. I think we should all have been standing there with her.”