(JNS.org) A Haifa court on Aug. 28 rejected accusations that Israel was to blame for the death of American activist Rachel Corrie, who was crushed by an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) bulldozer during a 2003 pro-Palestinian demonstration in Gaza, Israel Hayom reported.
Ruling on a civil case Corrie’s family brought against Israel, Judge Oded Gershon said the incident was a “regrettable accident” but absolved the IDF of wrongdoing because Corrie—who was standing on a mound of earth that gave out—“did not distance herself from the area, as any thinking person would have done… she consciously put herself in danger.”
The IDF had been conducting an operation to clear homes that Palestinian terrorists were using as a front for smuggling tunnels, and according to Israeli investigations of the incident, the bulldozer driver claimed he could not see or hear Corrie. Gershon said soldiers did their best to keep people away from the area where Corrie died on the day of the Palestinian protest.
Corrie traveled to Gaza as part of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) during the height of the Second Intifada, a Palestinian uprising from 2000-2005 that saw frequent terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians.
ISM describes itself as a “Palestinian-led movement committed to resisting the Israeli apartheid in Palestine by using nonviolent, direct-action methods and principles,” according to its website. According to a Telegraph article from 2004, the movement’s co-founders, Adam Shapiro and Huwaida Arraf, said, “The Palestinian resistance must take on a variety of characteristics, both non-violent and violent.”
Some have criticized ISM for “direct-action” tactics that put volunteers such as Corrie in harm’s way.
“Corrie’s death was entirely unnecessary, and the leaders of the ISM—who encourage their activists to work in war zones—bear much culpability for her death,” said Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, in a statement on the ruling. “ISM’s cynical and immoral strategy endangers the lives of its members,” Steinberg added.
Others note that Corrie’s death has been manipulated to criticize Israel’s presence in disputed territories. JNS.org contributor Jonathan Tobin wrote for Commentary that Corrie has become “a martyr to the cause of peace and freedom for the Palestinians.” Actor Alan Rickman and journalist Katherine Viner adapted Corrie’s diary into a play called “My Name is Rachel Corrie,” and several documentaries about her have also been produced.
The Corrie family’s lawyer, Hussein Abu Hussein, said the Israeli verdict contradicted “the fundamental principles of international law with regard to protection of human rights defenders.” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, noting the family’s “disappointment with the outcome of the trial” and its “right to appeal the verdict,” said the U.S. “will continue to provide consular support” to the Corries.