Rachel Corrie: Death of Justice

By Jamal Kanj

Last week an Israeli court ruled the state of Israel was not at fault for the death of US activist Rachel Corrie, who was crushed to death by an Israeli military bulldozer on March 16, 2003.

The 23-year-old college student from Olympia, Washington, was killed as she stood with a bullhorn over an earth mound in a bright orange vest, attempting to stop a US-made D9 Caterpillar from demolishing a Palestinian home in the border town of Rafah, Gaza.

Within days, Prime Minister Areil Sharon promised then US president George W Bush a "through, credible and transparent" investigation into her death.

Thirty days later, the military issued a summary report, exonerating the army and ordering the case closed.

Meeting her parents, US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro slammed the investigation for not being "thorough, credible and transparent".

In 2010, the case was reopened after Corrie’s parents filed a lawsuit demanding a symbolic $1 and court fees.

The family spent more than $200,000 on legal fees hoping to get justice and peace for her soul.

But in his 62-page ruling, Israeli judge Oded Gershon blamed Corrie for being "in a dangerous situation" and allegedly not moving away "as any reasonable person would have done".

Human Rights Watch condemned the verdict, accusing Israel of using the court system to "legally" absolve the army of its "obligations to spare civilians from harm… and to credibly investigate and punish violations by its forces".

During a Press conference, Corrie’s mother attributed the ruling to a "well-heeled" judicial system designed to protect soldiers. The family’s lawyer said "impunity has prevailed over accountability".

In fact, there have been umpteen documented cases were the army has deliberately lied or covered up the rogue killing of innocent civilians by active military personnel.

In one case, 11-year-old Khalil Al Mughrabi was shot dead in 2001 as he was playing football in Rafah.

Israeli Human Rights organization B’Tselem filed a complaint, demanding a formal inquiry. The army’s investigation concluded that the soldier who killed the boy had acted with "restraint and control" during riots in the area.

However, the army’s judge advocate’s office made a mistake releasing inadvertently, along with the response to the human rights organization, an internal "confidential investigation" revealing that there were no riots when Al Mughrabi was killed.

The verdict in the Corrie case is not surprising.

In other similar incidents, internal army investigators reached the same conclusion such as in the killing of British UN worker Iain Hook, British film-maker James Miller and photographer Tom Hurndall.

Even worse is the case of an Israeli army officer who in 2004 emptied 17 bullets into the body of Iman Al Hums, a 13-year-old Palestinian girl.

The judge found him blameless and paid him more than $20,000 in compensation and legal fees even after the officer asserted in court he would have done the same even if she was three years old.

This is Israel, using its legal system shamelessly to legitimize military criminal acts.

Absolving the army in the killing of Corrie was just another outward manifestation of a nation infatuated with protecting the guardians of the professed Zionist ideals, not human justice.

– Jamal Kanj (www.jamalkanj.com) writes frequently on Arab issues and is the author of Children of Catastrophe, Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. (This article was first published by the Gulf Daily News newspaper.)

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