US gov’t has failed its promise to get answers from Israel about Rachel Corrie killing, her mother says

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Cindy (center) and Craig Corrie with their daughter Sarah in Jerusalem on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2012 while being interviewed by the Associated Press. (Photo: AP/Sebastian Scheiner) 

The family of Rachel Corrie, who was killed by the Israelis nine years ago at age 23, has been shocked by the failure of the US government to get answers from its close ally about the killing, Rachel Corrie’s mother said today.

“Yes we have had support from the US government,” Cindy Corrie said. “Has enough been done at this point? I don’t think so.”

She compared the US government’s inaction to the British government, which has had a strong response to similar killings– to the point of seeking the extradition of Israeli soldiers.

Speaking in a conference call from Haifa, where the Corrie family’s wrongful-death civil suit against Israel was denied yesterday by an Israeli judge, Corrie said: 

“Definitely there have been [US] officials who are compassionate and caring, who care about Rachel and this case, and some have stepped out to make sure that it gets investigated and looked at in a better way. But the bottom line is that it’s our family that’s out here pursuing this. We can’t fulfill the promise made by [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon to [former President] Bush. That is the responsibility of the US government, and that has not yet happened.”

During the call, set up by the Institute for Middle East Understanding, Cindy Corrie reviewed a pathetic history of US promises to get to the bottom of the matter. 

Then-President Bush and then-Israeli PM Sharon had a telephone conversation on March 17, 2003, the day after Rachel was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in the Gaza Strip, and Sharon promised a “thorough, credible, and transparent investigation of Rachel’s killing,” Corrie said. 

At that time, North Caroline Senator Jon Edwards was the Corries’ senator, and a member of his staff had a connection in the White House and told the Corrie family that “Bush read the riot act to Prime Minister Sharon.”

But when Israelis completed a military police investigation of the case in 2003, American government officials read it and said it was not thorough, credible, or transparent. This was stated first by Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff, Lawrence Wilkerson, and later by Michael Kozak, a human rights official at State, in testimony to Congress about Israel’s human rights record.

“Subsequently we’ve met with Anthony Blinken, Vice President Biden’s national security adviser, and he also confirmed to us in 2010 that this remained the  position of the US government,” Corrie said.

Last week the Corries and their daughter Sarah met with Dan Shapiro, US ambassador to Israel, as well as with two other US officials, including consular officer Lawrence Mire. Shapiro affirmed that the US government position had not changed: the Israeli investigation was not thorough, transparent, or credible. 

Cindy Corrie also pointed to a 2008 letter she got from Michele Bernier-Toff, then Managing Director of the Office of Overseas Citizen Services at the Department of State.

“We have consistently requested that the Government of Israel conduct a full and transparent investigation into Rachel’s death. Our requests have gone unanswered or ignored.”

Corrie commented, “This was shocking to us. Given the support the US Government has for what happens here… [in Israel and in the occupied territories] it was shocking to us that this many high level officials in the US Government could not get a better response from our ally.” 

Corrie said the British response to killings of its citizens demonstrated the American passivity. In the 2003 killings of James Miller and Thomas Hurndall, the Israelis had also whitewashed their soldiers’ conduct, and the British government had pursued the matters “very strongly,” Corrie said. 

The British conducted a “coroner’s inquest in the UK” and found that “James had been murdered, Tom intentionally killed. And at that time, they started to move for extradition of soldiers to the UK. And it was Tzipi Livni [former Israeli foreign minister] who said, this had become too difficult between the two governments.” Then a financial settlement was reached.

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