Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old American from Olympia, Washington was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in March 2003 as she stood in front of a Palestinian doctor’s home in Rafah, in the Gaza Strip.
She was trying to prevent the home demolition by standing in front of the house wearing a bright red vest and waving her arms to alert the driver. She had no weapons other than her body. He ran over her, not once but twice. Rachel was not alone. Her friends watched in horror, trying to stop the driver.
Home demolitions are a common strategy used by Israel in maintaining the Occupation. Israel asserts that home demolitions are necesaary for security reasons or because the owner never obtained proper permits to build (failing to mention that it’s nearly impossible for a Palestinian to get a building permit from Israeli authorities). The infamous Caterpillar bulldozer that killed Rachel Corrie came from the US and is now included in the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign.
In October 2004, I visited the site where Rachel was killed. There wasn’t much to see — just a barren, weed-covered lot. Rachel’s emails and journal vividly describe her experience. They’re available here.
Today an Israeli court in Haifa, in a civil wrongful death case brought by Rachel’s parents, ruled that Rachel was responsible for her own death and absolved the driver of the bulldozer and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) from any wrong-doing. The family’s attorney, Hussein Abu Hussein, made a statement after the verdict was read.
I haven’t read the court’s decision yet, but I’m concerned with this ruling. Regardless of what one thinks about the wisdom of this form of peaceful protest (and I can reassure my children, family and friends that I have no intention of putting myself in harm’s way when I’m in Gaza), I am disturbed that the IDF has been exonerated from any culpability in Rachel’s death.
Will the court’s decision embolden the IDF to act with greater impunity in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT)? What impact will this ruling have on international humanitarian law? Will visitors and aid workers be further discouraged from traveling to the OPT?
I believe the Corrie family will appeal the decision. I certainly hope so. Check out The Rachel Corrie Foundation that her parents established after her death. Rachel lived her life fully and completely — more than most people three times her age.