By Jenn Oswald, Columnist
On March 16, 2003, a 23 year old American woman named Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by an Israeli Army Bulldozer in Gaza.
Corrie was a part of a group of young pro-Palestinian peace activists that were taking part in non-violent protests at the height of the Second Intifada, a time of intensified Palestinian–Israeli violence, in the area.
As tanks approached to demolish the home of a local pharmacist, Corrie stepped in to stop this destruction.
According to the eyewitness account by Tom Dale, a fellow protestor, she climbed a mound of dirt directly between the house and approaching bulldozer, with more than enough distance between them for the driver to see her and stop. She was wearing an orange fluorescent jacket and screaming through a megaphone.
As the driver continued, despite her act as a human shield, he “essentially pushed her forward down the mound of earth.”
The bulldozer continued until the place where her body had just stood was directly beneath the center of the vehicle. Though an ambulance was called immediately to bring her to a hospital, by the time it arrived, she was dead.
Corrie was a well-spoken woman from Washington with an inspiring sense of hope in what she believed to be the true goodness of human nature. It is heartbreaking that she spent the final years of her life defending the people of a place that was not willing to return this favor.
The Prime Minister of Israel guaranteed President Bush a “thorough, credible and transparent investigation.” But, as is too often the case when dealing with the Israeli government, legal action was not in the favor of justice.
The original investigators on the site neglected to gather statements from witnesses or create any maps of the scene. From the very day she was killed, there was no concern for the credibility of the outcome of Corrie’s death from the authority figures involved in the case. Unsurprisingly, it has taken the nine years since her death for a conclusion to her case.
On August 28, 2012, the Israeli court ruled Corrie’s death an accident for which she was responsible and that the Israel Defense Forces were cleared of any wrongdoing.
According to the court, because Corrie was in a warzone and had placed herself in a dangerous situation, she was at fault. The most responsibility the Israeli Government was willing to take for the incident was to call her death “a regrettable accident.”
The judge ruled that, since Corrie was not visible to the driver of the bulldozer, he could not be faulted for crushing her. On the other hand, it is the responsibility of any driver to be constantly aware of their surroundings, especially when one is driving a vehicle which weighs 49 tons.
There were several other factors that worked in Israel’s favor during the hearing. The autopsy was never published, though requests were filed numerous times since her death.
Also, medically, the Gazan doctor who originally examined her was not allowed into the country for the trial, preventing solid incriminating medical accounts from consideration in verdict.
At the very least, Corrie’s parents, who made many trips to Israel in the past decade to continue fighting for justice in their daughter’s name, deserve to know that their daughter did not die in vain.
All they hoped for going into the trial was “a reasonable conclusion.” Such a hope seemed to be too much to risk for the sake of Israel’s reputation. This injustice proves Israel has a broken sense of accountability when put to the test.
There is a pathetic lack of interest from the Israeli government in protecting the people who reside in their country. It is increasingly sickening to see how little concern the world has for human life, particularly when that life is as selfless as Corrie’s was.
Hers is a story that needs to be told until the ending is different.