Israeli court throws out family’s lawsuit over death of US activist Rachel Corrie

U.S. citizen Rachel Corrie, 23, speaks through a megaphone to an Israeli army bulldozer on the day she was killed in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip on March 16, 2003.
U.S. citizen Rachel Corrie, 23, speaks through a megaphone to an Israeli army bulldozer on the day she was killed in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip on March 16, 2003.
Reuters, file

HAIFA, Israel – An Israeli court rejected on Tuesday accusations that Israel was at fault over the death of American activist Rachel Corrie, who was crushed by an army bulldozer during a 2003 pro-Palestinian demonstration in Gaza.

Corrie’s family had accused Israel of intentionally and unlawfully killing their 23-year-old daughter, launching a civil case in the northern Israeli city of Haifa after a military investigation had cleared the army of wrongdoing.

In a ruling read out to the court, judge Oded Gershon called Corrie’s death a “regrettable accident,” but said the state was not responsible because the incident had occurred during what he termed a war-time situation.

At the time of her death, during a Palestinian uprising, Corrie was protesting against Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

“I reject the suit,” the judge said. “There is no justification to demand the state pay any damages.”

He added that the soldiers had done their utmost to keep people away from the site. “She (Corrie) did not distance herself from the area, as any thinking person would have done.”

Rachel Corrie's parents Craig and Cindy and her sister Sarah, left, are seen prior to the announcement of the verdict at the Haifa district court on Tuesday.

Mom: ‘I am hurt’
Corrie’s death made her a symbol of the uprising, and while her family battled through the courts to establish who was responsible for her killing, her story was dramatized on stage in a dozen countries and told in the book “Let Me Stand Alone.”

“I am hurt,” Corrie’s mother, Cindy, told reporters after the verdict was read.

Corrie’s mother Cindy told a news conference after the court’s decision that the bulldozer personnel had the “ability” and also an “obligation” to have seen that her daughter was in its path.

NBC station KING5: ‘Rachel Corrie’ aid ship boarded by Israelis

She said she hoped the lawsuit would help change Israel’s policies regarding the demolition of Palestinian houses.

Cindy Corrie said that previously a senior Israeli soldier had said there were “no civilians in war.”

“Rachel was in Gaza because there were and are civilians there, those who have rights and deserve protection,” she added. “Rachel’s right to life and dignity were violated by the actions of the Israeli military.”

She said her daughter was a “rich thinker and a beautiful person” from “Olympia, Washington, USA,” her voice breaking as she spoke.

The family’s attorney, Hussein Abu Hussein, said that the court’s decision was so close to the Israeli government’s position that the state’s lawyers could have written it themselves, according to The Jerusalem Post.

The U.K.’s Guardian newspaper reported that Corrie was with a group of international activists acting as human shields against the demolition of Palestinian houses.

“She was standing on top of a pile of earth,” fellow activist and eyewitness Richard Purssell, from Brighton, U.K., said at the time, according to the Guardian. “The driver cannot have failed to see her. As the blade pushed the pile, the earth rose up. Rachel slid down the pile. It looks as if her foot got caught. The driver didn’t slow down; he just ran over her. Then he reversed the bulldozer back over her again.”

Few Israelis showed much sympathy for Corrie’s death, which took place at the height of the uprising in which thousands of Palestinians were killed and hundreds of Israelis died in suicide bombings.

Rachel Corrie speaks during an interview with MBC Saudi Arabia television on March 14, 2003 in the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza strip.

Corrie was from Olympia, Washington, and was a volunteer with the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement.

Senior U.S. officials criticized the original military investigation into the case, saying it had been neither thorough nor credible. But the judge said the inquiry had been appropriate and pinned no blame on the army.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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