Israel’s Rachel Corrie Verdict: Court Rebuffs Case of Slain U.S. Activist

An Israeli court rejects a suit filed by the family of an American activist slain by the Israel Defense Forces in 2003

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Lorenzo Scaraggi / Getty Images

American peace activist Rachel Corrie speaks during an interview with MBC Saudi Arabia television on March 14, 2003 in the Rafah refugee camp on the Gaza Strip

Coming almost a decade after her death beneath the tracks of an armored Israeli bulldozer in the Gaza Strip, the verdict in the Rachel Corrie case was the furthest thing from a surprise. By the time Israeli judge Oded Gershon gathered his robes about him and took his seat in an airy Haifa courtroom Tuesday morning, the trajectory of the proceedings had emerged across 15 court sessions stretched over 2½ years. On the day of judgment, as during the trial, his honor stood with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Israelis overwhelmingly do.

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

What followed in the hallway outside moments later was more illuminating than most of what transpired in almost all of the testimony. As camera operators jostled for position, attorneys for the state spoke first — but only in Hebrew. The Corries’ lawyer followed in English, then Arabic, and finally in Hebrew. Everyone knew their audience and where they could get a hearing.

The wonder is that the Corries sought theirs in Israel. The family began with Israel’s promise to Washington to conduct a “thorough, credible and transparent investigation,” something U.S. diplomats say has not occurred. But filing suit in Israel in hopes of producing firm facts meant squaring off against the IDF, the most admired institution in the country, routinely ranked far above any elected official or organ. Among Israel’s Jewish majority, identification with the military is almost total and not only because young Jewish men are obligated to three years’ service in it (two years for women). The force operates under a motto that translates roughly as “purity of arms” and is often put as “the most moral army in the world.” Others may note the challenge of squaring the motto with the coarsening that inevitably flows from 45 years as an army of occupation in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza, which were afire with the second intifadeh at the time of Corrie’s death. But the ideal remains so firmly fixed in the Israeli mind that when an unambiguous instance of brutality emerges — like the video of a lieutenant colonel rifle-butting a Danish activist — shocked dismay occupied the public discourse for most of a week.

The Corrie lawsuit, however, challenged no one’s preconceptions. Rather it extended Rachel Corrie’s mission in life — using the privileges afforded the holder of a U.S. passport to assert rights into the courts where Palestinians rarely have standing (and from which a proposed regulation would bar them altogether). The case took more than six years to complete and with Gershon’s verdict, appeared to end about where it began: the district court judge articulated the widespread Israeli assumption that a misguided young foreigner flirted with death, and lost. “The state did not risk the defendant,” he said. “The defendant risked herself.” Gershon described the group Corrie was with, the International Solidarity Movement, as proterrorist — also a common view in Israel — and insisted that “under no circumstances” were the IDF bulldozers that day aiming to demolish the Palestinian homes the nonviolent activists were aiming to protect.

The Corries (whom, for the record, my wife volunteered to assist) replied at a news conference as they had in court — with specifics that the state had called beside the point. Cindy Corrie quoted a Human Rights Watch tally of 16,000 Palestinians whose 2,500 homes were destroyed between 2000 and 2004, most of them in the area near the Egyptian border where her daughter would die. Israeli officials argued that the properties provided cover for attacks. The Corries held aloft a photo of the family whose house stood in the area behind where Rachel Corrie stood facing the bulldozer, in a fluorescent orange vest.

“We believe that Rachel was seen,” Cindy Corrie said. The heavily armored Caterpillar bulldozer may have had limited sight lines, the Corries acknowledge, but in addition to a driver, a second soldier was also in the cab, and conflicts in their assorted statements have never been reconciled. In fact, a pair of IDF investigations produced strikingly inconsistent accounts of the incident. The first was cursory at best: investigators failed to interview any eyewitnesses except Israeli soldiers and appeared to misidentify which of two bulldozers on the scene that day was involved. A second investigation, reached into by senior officers, strained to avoid contradicting the first, producing a muddle that the trial did little to sort through.

“I reject the idea that making these things known is somehow an attack on Israel,” said Craig Corrie, who left his job as an insurance actuary to work full time on understanding his daughter’s March 16, 2003 death. He noted the deaths of two other foreigners in the same area within weeks of Rachel’s. In a seven-month period, Cindy Corrie said, the Israeli human-rights advocacy group B’Tselem counted 100 civilian deaths, including 40 children.

“I’m an army veteran,” said Craig Corrie. “In 11 months in Vietnam, I was given nine medals. I think I can talk on some of this. I think that in controlling a military you have to start that before these incidents happen, and we have seen that that’s not the case. We have seen from the highest levels of this military that they thought they could kill people on that border with impunity.”

By the time Rachel was killed, at around 5 p.m., the activists and the crews had been sparring on the rubble field since noon. During the trial the Corries said, as much as anything, filing suit was a way to finally look into the eyes of the driver of the bulldozer. But he was allowed to testify from behind a screen. “I can say without a doubt that I believe my sister was seen as that bulldozer approached her,” Sarah Corrie Simpson said. “As for the intent of the driver, I hope someday he will have the courage to sit down in front of me and tell me what he saw and what he feels.”

128 comments
Ronnie Gotkin
Ronnie Gotkin

An appalling and biased article, written by someone who admits to having a relationship with the Corrie family. What evidence does he bring that the verdict was unfair and that the soldier did not see Rachel Corrie in front of him? None, other than his belief that an Israeli court would not be able to deliver a fair and just verdict.  Shameful.

Ronnie Gotkin
Ronnie Gotkin

An appalling and biased article from someone who admits to having a relationship with the Corrie family.  What evidence does the writer have that the verdict was not fair and that the soldier saw Rachel Corrie in front of him?  None- only the assumption that an Israeli court cannot be fair.  Shameful article.

Justice518
Justice518

The terrorisst Israelis DO NOT CARE ABOUT AMERICANS.

Why should the American people care about Israelis that murder Americans?

Israel send more spies to the United States thanany other country even more than China and Russia, yet supposedly Israel is our best ally? What Has Israel done for the United States? what have the American people received for over 1 Trillion dollars in aid to Israel?

Stop supporting candidates that support Israel and you will see a change in our foreign policy and peace in the middle east

Hephie
Hephie

A hero dies; an evil system justifies the killing.

Suburban345
Suburban345

Or a misguided soul makes a horrible mistake and her family tries to blame someone else for her error.

Ron Helton
Ron Helton

Dear Manipulators of the news at Time Magazine:

I am confused.

Having read the article which is basically a condemnation of the ruling of the Israeli court; I am perplexed as to why so many of the comments on the site are flagged for review.

I guess having a civil discourse about the article is not allowed.

I would think instead of your magazine further degrading itself and appearing  to in actuality be siding with failed state of Israel, that you would collapse the entire conversation thread.

I mean really.  It is now pointless to even read any of the comments when so many are flagged and then the responses to them are left visible.  It makes for quite confused reading.

Thanks for the years of good news coverage in the PAST.  It is such a shame to see your news organization disintegrate.

My condolences to your company's demise.

Sincerely,

Ron Helton

former reader

M.E.S.S.

Eric11210
Eric11210

 Failed state? Hardly. Then again, we know how you feel about Jews. You want to watch and enjoy as Jewish skin is peeled layer by layer so that you can have a Nazi lampshade:

imageshack(dot)us/photo/my-images/38/ronhelton(dot)png/

imageshack(dot)us/photo/my-images/694/ronhelton1(dot)png/

Justice518
Justice518

Israel is only around because we(Americans) allow it. and this is how Israel pays us back? waving their Israeli flags at us and laughing behind our back as they decide whether or not an Israeli should go to jail for murdering an American. This can only tell us that we have supported the wrong side. I wonder if Jewish Americans had to choose between Israel and the United states, who would they choose?

The answer is clear, Israel is not The United States ally, but our enemy!!

spring_cleaner
spring_cleaner

corrie is a joke, along with all the other disillusioned, bandwagon-jumping, misdirected-cause-acting, jackanapes. when one supports the "palestinian cause", they clearly illustrate their ignorance, and their  lackadaisical  pursuit of the facts on the ground over the past 60 years...  corrie got what she deserved, and that is that.

Justice518
Justice518

Israel is an evil state created from blood of innocent women and children, and we're(Americans) supposed to feel sympathy for Israelis when they die when they dont even flinch when they murder an American in cold blood?

Time re-evaluate who are friends are and who is just using us!!

devilindetail
devilindetail

When we reward those who use their power and force to impose their will on others, this is the outcome.  Why should Israel change?  They do whatever they like, and get whatever they want from the US.  Some US politicians can't bend over far enough to do whatever Israel wants them to do.  Enough is enough.  End the madness before more Rachel Corries die opposing the intolerance and injustice that have become endemic in how Israel treats its neighbors.

agarron
agarron

You do not have permission to enter my house and interfere in the affairs of my house.

So too, you do not have permission to enter a foreign country and interfere in the affairs of a foreign country.

That behaviour is considered rude, arrogant and impolite.

No matter what political group you joined.

You stay in your house and fix up your own problems.

How would you react if fundamentalist Muslims entered America and started honour killings and imposing sharia law on Americans?

How would you react if Palestinians started suicide bombing in America?

How would you react if the government insisted on teaching aternative sexual lifestyles to your kids?

How would you react if your next door neighbours from another country decided on slaughtering cows in their front yard?

If you risk illegally enter another person house, don't complain when things turn out really bad.

You weren't legally entitled to enter under this premise in the 1st place, with an orange vest or no orange vest.

Justice518
Justice518

LOL, Israel using the Muslims as an escapegoat once again, i guess when you dont know how to answer questions you just blame the muslims for everything....heres a tip, how about taking responsibility instead of using the sympathy and race card all the time? stop feeling pity for yourself, its Pathetic!!

Davdon
Davdon

What about illegally occupying, brutalizing and bulldozing the homes of poor people would you consider that "

rude, arrogant and impolite."

It is no wonder Israel would prefer not have outsiders" interfere"

Guy Montag
Guy Montag

"Coming almost a decade after her death beneath the tracks of an armored Israeli bulldozer in the Gaza Strip, the verdict in the Rachel Corrie case was the furthest thing from a surprise"Like Pat Tillman’s 2004 friendly-fire death, the nature of Yoni Netanyahu’s 1976 death at Entebbe was covered up the IDF.  Yoni and Pat Tillman were eerily similar characters, both driven by a sense of integrity, honesty and conviction.  As was Rachel Corrie, who was Pat Tillman's hero [see the June 2010 post, “That’s My Hero”:  Pat Tillman, Rachel Corrie, and Yoni Netanyahu,  posted at the feralfirefighter blog].In his mother’s book, “Boots on the Ground by Dusk,” Mary Tillman wrote:  “I remember picking up the article [about Rachel Corrie’s death] from the same spot more than a year ago [in 2003] and asking Pat, “Who’s this?”  “That’s my hero,” Pat said.  “She was a stud; she had a lot of guts.” 

 

Phillip Chalmers
Phillip Chalmers

Each and every article in Time with the character of biased journalism written with a vested interest decreases the credibility and respect with which the publication will be held.

This article is one such.  My comment is from the international audience of Australia not known for its anti-US bias.

Justice518
Justice518

Kid of like the Biased ruling given by an Israeli judge whether an Israeli was guilty of murdering an American or not

Phillip Chalmers
Phillip Chalmers

Each biased article by Time journalist with a conflict of interest increases my disdain for the authority and truthful reporting of events in the world.

From the perspective of a rural Australian professional who was present as a non-combat medico in Vietnam, Timor Leste and Bangladesh this appears to be a chauvinist insult to the integrity of the court in Israel which has a history of verdicts not popular with partisan Zionists.

Davdon
Davdon

Israeli courts are an International joke, The judge could see nothing wrong with the initial military investigation which was even criticized by America. 19 year old investigator no witness testimony taken bla bla bla.  The judge went to great pains to explain what the buldozer was doing there,  Why was that , could that be because the Occupation is illegal or perhaps because it is illegal to bulldoze civilian homes.  

natasha
natasha

Shalom Michaeli, Lead investigator and head of the Israeli Military Police Special Investigations Unit, testified that he believed the Israeli army was 'at war' with everyone in GAZA inc peace activists. While he stood by his 2003 investigation. he testified that he did NOT go to the site of the killing, that he FAILED to order a full transcript of radio transmissions from the event and considered them unimportant, he NEVER interviewed Palestinian witnesses inc medical personnel who first examined Rachel. Though Michaeli knew a video camera recorded the area around the clock he FAILED to secure the videotape until a week later and testified that it had been taken by senior commanders.

- The  information above comes from the RachelCorrieFoundation.org 

I for one have a lot of respect for the Corrie family as they are  from America they will be listened to and heard. Unlike the Palestinian daily scream.....

Anyone who has a passing interest in Israel knows that Israel's has a  corrupt court system  if the above is anything to go by.Israel doesn't for one minute stand UP under international scrutiny. They breaking this and that UN Human Rights Law the irony they cling  to the fact that they were created by the UN 

There are so many reasons every civilised decent person is sick of Israel I will just name a few  because of  the  traumatized  Palestinian children in adult  prisons ( have links to every point if someone wants to be smart)

http://www.guardian.co.uk/worl... 

Checkpoints! Women having babies at checkpoints, the daily humiliations  of mothers and fathers, grandparents at Checkpoints!  I mean really could you imagine? not really interesting in hearing the 'saving us from bombing saga' I live in London and lived through the IRA among other things  

Lots of us saw the coming down of the Berlin wall So Now Israel builds an Apartheid wall... 

The the racist settlements  and apartheid roads which are illegal in every country including America...

South Africa has told us that Israel is an Apartheid State I think we can all agree SA is an expert on what  is and isn't apartheid....  Remember those days now, EVERYONE was the first to speak out against Apartheid and yes there were other atrocities going on in other places  at that time and some worked of those campaigns but South Africa was  so very  open and blatant and smug about what they we doing.. sound familiar ?

Christmas 2008 changed everything White Phosphorous raining down on men, woman and children down the road from Bethlehem WOW that was deep...  

Even our Prime Minster David Cameron  called GAZA the biggest open air prison in the world. Not interested in hearing your thoughts on Hamas ... Live in London Sinn Fein is now part of Government.

Palestine is the cause of this generation, just like South Africa was and Vietnam. before  that.

It should be a lot quicker this time we have the internet.  

Davdon
Davdon

Israeli courts are an International joke, The judge could see nothing wrong with the initial military investigation which was even criticized by America. 19 year old investigator no witness testimony taken bla bla bla. The judge went to great pains to explain what the buldozer was doing there, Why was that , could that be because the Occupation is illegal or perhaps because it is illegal to bulldoze civilian homes.

 

Arty Cohn
Arty Cohn

The Israeli court's decision was eminently sensible. Time's reaction as written by Vick is imbecilic

Justice518
Justice518

of course since you're jewish and couldnt give two sh*amp;* about Americans...ohh unless you need our money and support to murder Palestinians.

BTW you do know that Israel is only around because of the United States right? maybe you should be thanking Americans instead of killing us..what do you think?

gfr
gfr

The israeli's killed Rachel Corrie as a warning to other American and European activists. There can be no other explanation - nobody gets in and out of israel without government approval.

The Israeli explanation: that "they [the bulldozer driver] couldn't see her", doesn't hold water. If you want to operate heavy machinery around demonstrators you need to be able to do so safely or you shouldn't do it. This is more like the Chinese army squashing protesters with tanks in Tianamen square.

If they had denied her entry or had some thugs pick her up and put her in jail - I wouldn't have a problem with it.

If she was a palestinian and they had squashed her with a bulldozer - I wouldn't have a problem with it. I'm not a Palestinian - and the Palestinians want to destroy israel.

She wasn't these things - she was a clueless, young, American woman. She shouldn't have been killed to make a political point.

This isn't the first time Americans have died to further israeli political aims (Google the "USS Liberty").

Why are we giving billions of dollars in aid to these people when they continually sh*t on us?

When Iran nukes israel I will laugh.

Giladish
Giladish

Israel has a fair court system admired throughout the world. Recently the courts have sentenced a former President to a jail term and a former soldier to jail time as well.  While it is tragic that Rachel Corrie died, she stepped in front of a moving bulldozer, in a war zone. She made a poor decision that resulted in a death that was squarely her fault. I wish she had chosen to help the Palestinians by fighting for rights of the minorities that are oppressed now by Hamas, and for women's rights (such as rights for contraceptives, and to end honor killings and female genital mutilation). 

Justice518
Justice518

Blah Blah Blah.. Most of the world doesnt even recognize Israel, most of the world sees how Israel is committing genocide and getting away with it, most of the world does not think Israel has a fair court system, and most of the world knows that Israel has violated more U.N. regulations than any dictatorship or genocidal country in the last 50 years

yet you and only you(jewish) thinks that Israel is an angel

MaPol
MaPol

I'm no fan of Obama, but the movie "2016" sounds like a bunch of crap.  I've already decided to put it on my "don't see" movie list.

gfr
gfr

It's a good movie - you should keep an open mind.

MaPol
MaPol

Have you seen it?  Just curious.

Justice518
Justice518

My Fellow Americans, a Great Injustice was done to America today by Israel. Saying the man who murdered an American citizen is innocent while dozens of witnesses testified otherwise goes to show that Israel is NO friend of the United States.

We Americans need to Unite and stop supporting candidates that support Israel. If we stand up United against Israels tyranny in the world, only than can we gain justice and Freedom for all. Any Senator, Congressman, Mayor, or elected official that supports a tyrannical regime like Israel should not have the luxury or the support of the American People.

If the Israelis can get away with murdering an American now, what will they get away with next time?

Obamarrhoids
Obamarrhoids

Mel Gibson is that you? 

Justice518
Justice518

i wish, atleast one American got the ba(()( to say the truth, unfortunately our leaders are sell outs to their countrymen

LONG LIVE THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!!!