Commentary

Rachel Corrie Verdict Draws Strong Reactions

Middle East In Focus

Middle East In Focus

Nine years after the death of American activist Rachel Corrie, an Israeli court has found not guilty the IDF soldier who drove the bulldozer that crushed her, ruling that Corrie’s own recklessness led to her demise. The verdict has angered many in the region, although in Israel (for the most part) there is a sense that the court is right to blame Corrie.

The Jerusalem Post editorial comes to the defence of the court’s verdict, arguing “if anyone is responsible for what happened to Rachel Corrie besides Corrie herself, it is the International Solidarity Movement, the anti-Zionist organization that provided her with training in ‘direct action’ tactics before bringing her to the ISM-organized demonstration in Rafah. The circumstances of her tragic death should be a wake-up call for the ISM and other organizations and media outlets that have taken it upon themselves to single out Israel rather than confront the real violators of human rights in the region.”

In an op-ed for the same newspaper, Anne Herzberg asserts: “The sad but undeniable truth is that Rachel Corrie was reckless and needlessly put herself in danger when she decided to join the ISM, travel to a war zone, and directly participate in the Gaza hostilities. When Corrie chose to engage in that extremely high-risk activity, the chances were high that she would get imprisoned, hurt, or killed....it is time to come to terms with the fact that Rachel was responsible for her own poor choices.”

Writing for the Yedioth Ahronoth, Hagai Segal calls Corrie “anything but a peace activist,” adding “This is what makes it possible for someone to throw stones at IDF soldiers in Bilin or Na'alin and publicly support suicide bombings and still be considered a peace activist. Actually, most of the hostile acts against us in the 21st century were carried out by peace activists. Terrorists and Israel-haters are long gone — only human rights activists remain.”

Meanwhile, regional newspapers and commentators have been clear about their disagreement with the verdict. The Gulf Times editorial calls the verdict a ‘miscarriage of justice,’ adding “An Israeli court’s verdict absolving the country’s military of any blame in the death of pro-Palestinian peace activist Rachel Corrie and ruling it as ‘accidental’ has come as no surprise. If there was any surprise, it was in the hope millions of people across the world had clung to: that the Israeli legal system would show some moral fibre and punish a member of its armed forces — despite the fact that there was no worthy precedent to base such hope on....The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) calls itself the ‘most moral’ military in the world. Such delusions of grandeur can have now gone for a toss. Not that many believed it in the first place.”

Noting that the judge’s decision made a ‘mockery of justice,’ the Khaleej Times editorial concludes: “Israeli intransigence has no bounds. And that was squarely evident as an Israeli court refused to fault the Jewish state for the death of Rachel Corrie in Gaza at the hands of transgressing soldiers....It is now more than a decade since Israel rolled its tanks into Gaza, sending its elected government packing and indulging in genocide. Irrespective of the fact that Rachel’s parents and sympathisers couldn’t get justice, the slain activist has made a point. She has touched the human conscience. Rachel has simply put Israel in the dock.

For the Oman Tribune staff, the verdict was not surprising, since “Israel’s bulldozing army has always been unstoppable, with the result that many Palestinians have suffered casualties. Early this year an Israeli army driver drove a trailer hooked to a tractor over the legs of a Palestinian worker in the village of Al Dirat....Such brutal incidents and heartless behaviour by Israeli forces are rife near Israeli settlements in occupied areas where Palestinian homes have been demolished and they are being prevented from constructing dwellings there. The tragedy is that while Israel continues to inflict atrocities on Palestinians in occupied territories, builds more settlements and continues its unilateral actions all that the world can do is condemn such brutality.”

There were also some who raised the question why the American government had done so little to protect one of its citizens. The Gulf Today editorial, for example, called attention to the fact that “The court verdict should raise serious questions among the American people over the country’s relationship with Israel. One of them was killed by an Israeli soldier under highly questionable circumstances but an Israeli court has given a clean bill to the Israeli military. They should be asking why the administrations of George Bush and Barack Obama failed to follow up their finding that the investigation into her death was unsatisfactory. The American people should realise that the court verdict underlines the absurdity of the U.S.-Israel relationship. They should be questioning why their country is being manipulated against their own interests.”

Finally, the Saudi Gazette draws attention to what many view as the court’s most egregious findings, i.e. that Rachel Corrie was guilty of aiding terrorists: “What the judge got completely wrong was that ‘any thinking person’ would be revolted by the callous destruction of the homes of Palestinians, deemed guilty of trying to defend their homeland. Indeed, if they had the same courage as Rachel Corrie and her fellow pro-Palestinian activists, who tried to form a human shield to protect the buildings, every thinking person would also have stood in front of the bulldozer in an attempt to stop the destruction from going ahead.”


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