HAIFA, Israel (AP) — An Israeli court on Monday rejected a lawsuit brought against the military by the parents of a U.S. activist crushed to death by an army bulldozer during a 2003 demonstration, ruling the army was not at fault for her death.
The bulldozer driver has said he didn’t see 23-year-old Rachel Corrie, a pro-Palestinian activist, who was trying to block the vehicle’s path during a demonstration in the Gaza Strip against the military’s demolition of Palestinian homes. The military deemed her March 2003 death to be accidental, but Corrie’s parents were not satisfied by the army investigation and filed a civil lawsuit two years later.
Explaining the district court’s ruling, Judge Oded Gershon said Corrie “put herself in a dangerous situation” and called her death “the result of an accident she brought upon herself.” He said the military conducted a proper investigation, and rejected the Corrie family’s request for a symbolic $1 in damages and legal expenses.
Corrie’s parents, Craig and Cindy Corrie of Olympia, Washington, did not speak immediately after the verdict, but clasped each other’s hands.
Their lawyer, Hussein Abu Hussein, lamented the court’s ruling, saying “the verdict blames the victim.”
“While not surprising, this verdict is yet another example of where impunity has prevailed over accountability and fairness,” he said. “Rachel Corrie was killed while non-violently protesting home demolitions and injustice in Gaza, and today, this court has given its stamp of approval to flawed and illegal practices that failed to protect civilian life.”
The home demolitions were part of an unsuccessful campaign to halt thousands of attacks on soldiers and Jewish settlers in southern Gaza, along the border with Egypt, in the preceding 3 ½ years. On the day Rachel Corrie died, she and other activists had entered a closed military zone to protest the demolition policy.
According to the U.N. agency handling Palestinian refugees, the military had left more than 17,000 Gazans homeless in the four years after a Palestinian uprising against Israel erupted in September 2000. The demolitions drew international condemnation at the time.
In her death, Corrie became the embodiment of what Palestinian activists say is Israel’s harsh repression of nonviolent protest to occupation. Israel says by entering conflict zones to try to interfere with military activities, activists recklessly choose to risk their lives.
For her parents, her death was a family tragedy that cost them a beloved child and drained their savings. Since the Corries went to court in 2005, they say they have spent $200,000 to fly in witnesses, attend 15 hearings and translate more than 2,000 pages of court transcripts.
Their case was the first civil lawsuit of a foreigner harmed by Israel’s military to conclude in a full civilian trial. Others have resulted in out-of-court settlements.