When Greek authorities prevented the US ship the Audacity of Hope leaving its port in Athens this week, they dealt a blow to a group of brave and principled Americans who were trying to carry thousands of letters from US citizens to those who wait on Gaza’s shores. […]
By Cindy Corrie, Originally published in The Guardian
My daughter’s death shows the cruelty of an America that won’t protect its own and is complicit in harming Palestinian civilians
When Greek authorities prevented the US ship the Audacity of Hope leaving its port in Athens this week, they dealt a blow to a group of brave and principled Americans who were trying to carry thousands of letters from US citizens to those who wait on Gaza’s shores.
I know many of the people who were on this boat, and my family’s letter was part of their cargo. In 2003 my daughter Rachel Corrie made her journey to Gaza and was run down and killed by a US-made Israeli military Caterpillar D-9 bulldozer. She was trying to protect a Gazan family and their home, one of thousands illegally destroyed in Israeli military clearing operations.
Now my family is on a parallel journey with those activists as we return this week to Israeli court to confront Colonel Pinhas Zuaretz, the commanding officer of the Gaza Division’s Southern Brigade in 2003. His testimony should shed light not only on actions of troops responsible for Rachel’s killing but also on the Israeli military’s broad failures as an occupying power to protect civilian life and property.
This week’s flotilla was travelling to Gaza, as Rachel did, to stand with Palestinians against oppression and illegal occupation and for a just, enduring peace.
Rory McCarthy, The Guardian
Richard Purssell describes ‘shocking event’ in Haifa court on first day of civil suit brought by Corrie family against Israel
A British witness told a court today about how he had watched an Israeli military bulldozer run over and kill the American activist Rachel Corrie while she was trying to stop Palestinians’ homes being demolished in Gaza.
Richard Purssell, who was also a volunteer activist in Rafah at the time, seven years ago, described the “shocking and dramatic event” in an Israeli court in Haifa on the first day of a civil suit brought by Corrie’s family against the Israeli state.
Twenty-three-year-old Corrie, from Olympia, Washington, in the US, went to Gaza for peace activism reasons at a time when there was intense conflict between the Israeli military and the Palestinians.
The Corrie family lawyer, Hussein Abu Hussein, said he would argue that her death was due either to gross negligence by the Israeli military or that it was intended. If the Israeli state were found responsible, the family would press for damages.
Purssell, a Briton, now working as a landscape gardener, said he volunteered with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) to witness events in the occupied Palestinian territories for himself. In Rafah he had been hoping to prevent the Israeli military from demolishing Palestinian homes. The organisation was strictly non violent, he said. “Our role was to support Palestinian non-violent resistance.”
On the day of her death, 16 March 2003, Corrie was with seven other activists, including Purssell, in Rafah, close to the Israeli-guarded border with Egypt. They saw an Israeli military armoured Caterpillar D9 bulldozer approaching the house of a Palestinian doctor.
Purssell described how the bulldozer approached at a fast walking pace, its blade down and gathering a pile of soil in its path. When the bulldozer was 20 metres from the house Corrie, who like the others was wearing an orange fluorescent jacket, climbed on to the soil in front of it and stood “looking into the cab of the bulldozer”.
“The bulldozer continued to move forward,” Purssell said. “Rachel turned to come back down the slope. The earth is still moving and as she nears the bottom of the pile something happened which causes her to fall forward. The bulldozer continued to move forward and Rachel disappeared from view under the moving earth.”
The bulldozer continued forward four metres as the activists began to run forward and shout at the driver.
“It passed the point where Rachel fell, it stopped and reversed back along the track it first made. Rachel was lying on the earth,” Purssell said. “She was still breathing.” Corrie was severely injured and died shortly afterwards.
The Israeli military says it bears no responsibility for Corrie’s death. A month after her death the military said an investigation had determined its troops were not to blame; the driver of the bulldozer had not seen her and had not intentionally run her over. It accused Corrie and the ISM of behaviour that was “illegal, irresponsible and dangerous”.
Hussein will argue at the Haifa district court that witness evidence shows that the soldiers did see Corrie at the scene, with other activists well before the incident, and that they could have arrested her or removed her from the area before there was any risk of injury.
Before the hearing began, Craig Corrie, Rachel’s father, said the family had been on a “seven-year search for justice in Rachel’s name”. He added: “I think when the truth comes out about Rachel the truth will not wound Israel, the truth is the start of making us heal.”
Cindy Corrie, Rachel’s mother, said the family was still waiting for the credible, transparent investigation Israel first promised regarding her daughter’s death. “I just want to say to Rachel that our family is here today trying to just do right by her and I hope that she will be very proud of the effort we are making,” she said. She said the family had met the staff of US vice-president Joe Biden on Tuesday to talk about the case.
Three other witnesses, two more Britons and an American, who were all at the scene in Rafah when Corrie was killed will give evidence at the Israeli court. It is not clear if any Israeli military officials will speak.
The hearing is scheduled to run for at least two weeks.
Rory McCarthy, The Guardian
Parents of American activist killed by Israeli bulldozer seven years ago take fight for justice to Haifa courtroom
A court today began hearing a civil suit brought against the Israeli government over the death of Rachel Corrie, the US activist who was killed by an Israeli army bulldozer in Gaza seven years ago.
The case, brought before a Haifa court by Corrie’s family, challenges the official Israeli version of events in which the military said its troops were not to blame. The family hopes the hearing will be a chance to put on public record the events that led to their daughter’s death in March 2003. If the Israeli state is found responsible, the family will press for at least $300,000 (£201,000) in damages.
Before the hearing began, Craig Corrie, Rachel’s father, said the family had been on a “seven-year search for justice in Rachel’s name”.
“I think when the truth comes out about Rachel, the truth will not wound Israel, the truth is the start of making us heal,” he said.
Cindy Corrie, Rachel’s mother, said the family was still waiting for the credible, transparent investigation Israel first promised into her daughter’s death.
“I just want to say to Rachel that our family is here today trying to just do right by her and I hope that she will be very proud of the effort we are making,” she said.
The family’s lawyer, Hussein Abu Hussein, will argue that witness evidence shows the soldiers saw Corrie at the scene, with other activists, well before the incident and could have arrested her or removed her from the area before there was any risk of her being killed.
He will argue her death was either due to gross negligence by the Israeli authorities or was intentional.
Four key witnesses – three Britons and an American – who were at the scene in Rafah when Corrie was killed are to give evidence.
The first witness to give evidence was Richard Purssell, a Briton who was an ISM volunteer along with Corrie. He described how he had gone to Gaza to see the situation for himself and to prevent the Israeli military from demolishing Palestinian houses.
He said the ISM told him it was a strictly non-violent organisation. “Our role was to support Palestinian non-violent resistance.”
He briefly described the moment Corrie was killed. “Rachel disappeared inside the earth and the bulldozer continued for 4 metres and then reversed,” he told the court.
Corrie, who was born in Olympia, Washington, travelled to Gaza to act as a human shield at a moment of intense conflict between the Israeli military and the Palestinians.
On the day she died, when she was just 23, she was dressed in a fluorescent orange vest and was trying to stop the demolition of a Palestinian home in Rafah. She was crushed under a military Caterpillar D9R bulldozer and died shortly afterwards.
A month after her death the Israeli military said an investigation had determined its troops were not to blame and said the driver of the bulldozer had not seen her and did not intentionally run her over.
Instead, it accused her and the group she was with, the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), of behaviour that was “illegal, irresponsible and dangerous.”
The army report, obtained by the Guardian in April 2003, said she “was struck as she stood behind a mound of earth that was created by an engineering vehicle operating in the area and she was hidden from the view of the vehicle’s operator who continued with his work. Corrie was struck by dirt and a slab of concrete resulting in her death.”
But several witnesses offered a different version of events, saying the driver had seen her but continued anyway, hitting her with the bulldozer blade. She was severely injured and died shortly afterwards in an ambulance.
While Corrie was in the Palestinian territories, she wrote vividly about her experiences. Her diaries were later turned into a play, My Name is Rachel Corrie, which has toured internationally, including in Israel and the West Bank.