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News / Northwest

Israeli military cleared in activist’s death

Olympia resident was crushed by army bulldozer

The Columbian
Published: August 27, 2012, 5:00pm

HAIFA, Israel — An Israeli court on Tuesday rejected a civil lawsuit brought by the family of a Washington state activist crushed to death in 2003 by an Israeli army bulldozer as she tried to block its path in the Gaza Strip, ruling that the killing was accidental.

In his verdict at the Haifa District Court, Judge Oded Gershon accepted the military’s version of events, finding that 23-year-old Rachel Corrie was not visible to the bulldozer driver at the time of the incident and was hidden by the blade and a mound of earth.

The judge said that Corrie had “put herself in a dangerous situation” when she stood between the bulldozer and a Palestinian house she feared would be destroyed, and that she had died in an “accident the deceased brought upon herself.”

Corrie, from Olympia, was in the southern border town of Rafah with other activists from the International Solidarity Movement, a group that aids Palestinians and works to document and nonviolently disrupt Israeli military actions in the Palestinian areas. The activists were acting as human shields, trying to block the razing of Palestinian homes by Israeli forces along the frontier between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.

The Corrie family argued in the lawsuit, filed in 2005, that Rachel, who was wearing a bright red jacket, was clearly visible at the time of the incident on March 16, 2003, and that she had been intentionally run over by the bulldozer driver. The driver testified in court that he could not see Corrie.

Corrie’s mother, Cindy, told reporters after the ruling that the family was “deeply saddened and deeply troubled” by the court’s decision.

“I believe that this was a bad day, not only for our family, but a bad day for human rights, for humanity, for the rule of law and also for the country of Israel,” she said.

The court ruling, following military investigations that found no wrongdoing, pointed to “a well-heeled system to protect the Israeli military and the soldiers who conduct actions in that military, to provide them with impunity at the cost of all the civilians who are impacted by what they do,” Cindy Corrie added.