Israeli Court Blames Rachel Corrie: She “Put Herself in a Dangerous Situation”

by James M. Wall

An Israeli civil court’s decision to exonerate the Israeli Defense Force in the death of Rachel Corrie, was not a surprise.

Rather, the decision, written by an Israeli court, in standard Israeli narrative language, reinforces the obvious: Israel’s judicial system has become a legal front that protects the power of Israel’s military dictatorship.

The court’s verdict blames the victim with all the subtlety of a court describing a rape victim who invited trouble by wearing provocative clothing.

Gary Spedding, a Huffington Post blogger from Belfast, Ireland, writes:

After waiting for almost ten years for today’s court verdict the family of Rachel Corrie have left an Israeli court in Haifa this morning feeling the bitter sting of injustice from Israel’s politicized justice system.

Early Tuesday morning the Israeli court rejected accusations that Israel was at fault over the death of US citizen Rachel, who was crushed by an army bulldozer during a 2003 pro-Palestinian demonstration in the occupied Gaza strip.

Summarizing a 62-page verdict the Israeli Judge Oded Gershon noted Rachel’s “involvement with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM)” adding that “ISM activists had even defended Palestinian families involved in terror, aiding, even if indirectly the activities of terrorists”

Further into the court decision the Judge absolved the Israeli military of its actions by claiming in his decision that, “The army had not been involved in demolishing houses, just clearing an area of places from which IDF had been attacked”.

Ha’aretz, a Jerusalem-based Israeli newspaper, described the death of Rachel Corrie in language that assumes there is only one narrative that Israel accepts as “good for Israel”.

At the time of her death, during a Palestinian uprising, Corrie was protesting against Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

Protesting during a Palestinian uprising?  That’s one way of describing her death. But what is a protest and what is an uprising?  Who defines these terms?  A different way of seeing her death was that Rachel Corrie was an American volunteer, working with the non-violent International Solidarity Movement (ISM), an organization that the state of Israel, the official keeper of the Israeli narrative, tries to smear with unproven “terrorist” connections.

Was Rachel Corrie protecting terrorists?  Was this 23-year old from Olympia, Washington defending the home of a Rafah, Gaza, family from an IDF bull dozer, or was she protecting “terrorists”? The Haifa court does not offer an answer to those questions.

An ISM photo (above) was taken just before Rachel’s death. Rachel is at the far right, wearing a brightly colored orange vest. She does not look like a “terrorist”, unless any American activist peaceably standing up against an IDF bull dozer, is automatically assumed to be a danger to the state of Israel.  This is not the  mindset of a modern democratic nation.  It is paranoia in its most malignant, dangerous and acute form.

According to the JTA, “The global news service of the Jewish people”, the “core issue” involved in the final verdict came down to a simple legal question.

The verdict by a court Tuesday in the case of Rachel Corrie, an American activist killed in Gaza by an Israeli bulldozer in 2003, may have captured international attention and touched on a range of ethical issues at the center of Israel’s military operations.

But at its core, the ruling on whether Israel was responsible for Corrie’s death nine years ago hinged on one simple question: Did the bulldozer driver who ran her over see her, or not? The court ruled that he did not. Corrie’s family maintains that he did.

Larger issues were part of the proceedings and their surroundings: What are the responsibilities of civilian activists in an armed conflict? Does a civilian area with terrorist activity count as a war zone? What distinguishes between an organization that peacefully opposed the Israeli occupation of Gaza and one that aided terrorists? However, those matters took a back seat to the actual reasoning of the legal ruling.

Who put “those matters” into that back seat? The answer is simple: “those matters” have already been decided by the people who carry the biggest guns and the exclusive means to deceive the public into believing that those “biggest guns” are protecting “the sacred Zionist narrative”.

“Those matters”, however, still remain in that “back seat”, waiting for the chance to break out into the open and challenge the Israeli narrative. It is not the Palestinian people that Israel fears. It is the threat of losing control of a carefully honed Israeli version of truth.

After the verdict was handed down, the Corrie family, including her parents and her sister Sarah, who were in the courtroom for the trial (pictured here) vowed to continue to seek justice for Rachel. They will continue to rescue “these matters” from their confinement to that back seat.

Thanks to the Corrie family, Rachel, as JTA admits, “has become a symbol for some American and other groups that oppose Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and its policies toward Gaza.”

She is one of a vast number who have suffered from Israel’s occupation. She is, however, one of the few Americans who has died on Palestinian soil in a peaceful effort to oppose the occupation of the  Palestinian people. A much larger number of Americans have died on other battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan in U.S. military invasions promoted by the same Israeli narrative that led to Rachel Corrie’s death.

It is this narrative that is being assumed in the background of all foreign policy discussions in the Republican party’s national convention, and will most certainly be the dominant narrative during next week’s Democratic party’s national convention.

Engaging in peaceful actions against that narrative can be dangerous, as Rachel and her family discovered.  What makes their actions dangerous is that they are a threat to unrestrained military-enforced power structures that manage to remain in power through gullible American and Israeli publics easily pacified by the Zionist  narrative.

The court’s ruling did not rest solely on the simple question of who was telling the truth about Rachel’s death. The British-based newspaper, Guardian, offered this summary of the court’s finding:

in clearing the state of all charges, Judge Oded Gershon of Haifa’s district court said that Corrie voluntarily risked her life by entering a place where there was daily live fire. Moreover, Gershon said that the bulldozer driver did not see Corrie as she was standing behind a pile of dirt, and that Corrie did not move out of the way when she saw the bulldozer moving toward her – instead climbing on the pile of dirt.

Corrie “put herself in a dangerous situation opposite a bulldozer when he couldn’t see her,” Gershon said, reading the verdict. “She didn’t move away like anyone of sound mind would. She found her death even after all of the IDF’s efforts to move her from the place.”

Gershon also dismissed charges that the state tampered with the evidence in an investigation into Corrie’s death. The judge added that the IDF’s operations on the day of her death were an “act of war” and that the area was a closed military zone.

He reserved some of his harshest words, however, for Corrie’s organization, calling ISM “mixed up in terror” and accusing it of hiding aid to terrorists behind a façade of human rights activism.

“There’s a big gap between the organization’s declarations and the character of its actions,” Gershon read from the verdict. “ISM activities include placing activists as human shields for terrorists,” and “financial, logistical and moral assistance to Palestinians, including terrorists.”

At a press conference after the verdict was read, Rachel Corrie’s mother, Cindy said:

“A civil lawsuit is not a substitute for a legal investigation, which we never had. The diplomatic process between the United States and Israel failed us. Rachel’s killing could have and should have been avoided,” Mrs. Corrie said.

The New York Times reported after the verdict:

Bill Van Esveld of Human Rights Watch called the verdict “a missed opportunity” for the Israeli Defense Force to reform an investigative system that he characterized as deeply flawed.

Before the Haifa District Court ruling, even the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, a long-time Israeli supplicant, told Rachel’s family that the IDF investigation into Rachel’s death, had not been “transparent”. Since the verdict, there has been no official American response to the ruling.

The diplomatic process between the United States and Israel continue to fail the Corrie family.

The picture of Rachel Corrie above, was taken in 2002, a year before she was crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer. The picture was taken by Denny Sternstein for the Associated Press. The family picture from the courtroom in Haifa, is used courtesy of the Rachel Corrie Foundation. The ISM photo earlier appeared on Mondoweiss.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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6 Responses to Israeli Court Blames Rachel Corrie: She “Put Herself in a Dangerous Situation”

  1. AWAD PAUL SIFRI says:

    You said it right, Jim. The Israeli court sided with the rapist in justifying his degenerate act and blaming the victim for instigating it, instead. The unjust and despicable Israeli verdict is much more than the case of martyrdom of one noble American, as huge as her sacrifice has been within its own right.
    Israel’s deceptive strategy has always been to adamantly refuse giving the Palestinian narrative any “victory”, at any level whatsoever, no matter how big or small. It is an integral part of Israel’s intricately designed psychological warfare to extinguish and squash any Palestinian, or pro-Palestinian, efforts of any kind. Israel’s cunning methods are so deep-rooted that it would, at times, admit some non-Palestinian success efforts of Hezbollah, or Syria, or Libya, or Egypt for only one reason: To falsely project itself as being objective and credible, in order to fortify its false stories when it comes to denying, or suppressing the Palestinian narrative.
    The story of the cold-blooded murder of our American hero, Rachel Corrie, is a true reflection of Israel’s abysmal history of usurping another people’s homeland, human dignity, and narrative.

  2. Samuel Jones says:

    The following statistic from the Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din tells you all you need to know about Israeli “justice” in the occupied territory: “… 91% of investigations [by Israeli police in the OPT] into crimes committed by Israelis against Palestinians and their property are closed without indictments being served. 84% of the investigation files are closed because of the investigators’ failure to locate suspects and evidence. … Indictments were served in less than 3% of these cases.”

    The IDF, however, did not silence Rachel Corrie. In her sacrifice she has become an inspiration for people across the globe working for peace with justice. I had the good fortune to visit the kindergarten that had been erected in her honor in Rafah in 2004, and you could tell by local residents’ reverence for the place, the place in their heart that Rachel occupies.

    “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

  3. I guess Americans are too busy chanting, “USA! USA!” to pay attention to the brutal murder of a young USA citizen who was brave enough to do more than sit at home and chant. Thank you, James, for doing what the mainstream media, the State Department, the entire USA government refuses to do — reveal the truth, and seek justice. Happy to assist…

  4. Tim King says:

    Thanks so much for this Jim, here is the link for the article:

  5. Pingback: Israeli Court Blames Rachel Corrie: She “Put Herself in a Dangerous Situation” | My Catbird Seat

  6. Charlton Price says:

    Jim, your reporting is the only instance I have seen to link explicitly the Rachel Corrie murder to the far more numerous and not fully accountable number of deaths in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and (by drones, etc.) elsewhere, in which we, Americans, are complicit..

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