HAIFA, ISRAEL // A young American activist crushed by a 60-tonne armoured Israeli bulldozer in Gaza nine years ago was to blame for her own death, a judge ruled yesterday.
Rachel Corrie "put herself in a dangerous situation" and her death was an "accident she brought upon herself", Judge Oded Gershon told Haifa District Court, rejecting all claims of negligence and awarding no compensation.
For Rachel's parents, who had sued for a symbolic one US dollar in damages, compensation has never been the issue. It has always, they say, been about justice for their daughter and the
[ Palestinian cause ]
she passionately defended until her last breath.
"It's not a good day for
[ Israel ]
because what's happened here will resonate throughout the world," Cindy Corrie, 64, said after the verdict. The family will appeal.
After 15 hearings and evidence from 23 witnesses, the judge yesterday reached the same conclusion as an internal Israeli military investigation in 2003.
Two years later the Corrie family launched the civil lawsuit that failed yesterday.
They will fight on. Mrs Corrie and her husband, Craig, 65, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, vowed to appeal to Israel's Supreme Court, based on "discrepancies" in their daughter's case.
They want to know how a military-grade Caterpillar D9R bulldozer that moved at less than one mile an hour could crush Rachel in broad daylight as she stood in front of a Palestinian home in Rafah on March 16, 2003.
"Why were no Palestinian witnesses ever interrogated by the military?" said their lawyer, Hussein Abu Hussein.
"Or what happened to the military's video footage of the incident, which has never been produced?"
The family, from Olympia, Washington, believe Rachel was deliberately run over by the bulldozer. The military driver, who remains anonymous, has said in evidence he never saw Rachel standing in the vehicle's path.
In evidence, Israeli military officials classified Rachel and other activists as legitimate military targets.
A commander in southern Gaza at the time, Pinhas Zuaretz, described them as "either negligent or naive, cynically sent to the front by terrorists".
Anyone in the area where Rachel died was "doomed to death", he said.
Mr Corrie believes this shows the thinking at the "highest levels of the military" was that they "could kill with impunity, and they did that".
If anything, he said, it made him feel even more admiration for his daughter. "I'm proud of Rachel."
To Palestinians, yesterday's verdict was an illustration of the treatment they and their supporters can expect in Israel's justice system.
Saeb Erekat, a senior
[ Fatah ]
official, called it evidence of Israel's descent into "fascism". "Rachel Corrie was murdered in cold blood," he said.
Palestinians point to statistics indicating discrimination in the legal system. Of 304 cases in which Israeli soldiers killed Palestinians, only nine indictments were issued, according to figures provided by the Israeli human-rights group B'Tselem.
Nevertheless, said Issa Amro, 32, a Palestinian activist from Hebron, Rachel's death was not in vain.
He said it gave an international face to the hardships Palestinians face every day. American activists in particular took notice of a fellow citizen working for the International Solidarity Movement, which regularly protests against Israel's policies, and who stood her ground between the bulldozer and the Palestinian homes that Israeli forces were levelling.
However, anger from the verdict still resonated. "Unfortunately, I'm not surprised," said Irene Nasser, 30, a Palestinian activist from Jerusalem.
"I think it's a racist play that shows the mockery of the Israeli justice system."
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