Rachel Corrie Court Ruling Means No Accountability for Israeli Military


In 2003, Rachel Corrie was in Rafah, Gaza with the activist International Solidarity Movement protesting the demolition of Palestinian homes by the Israeli military. As the well-known (among certain circles) story goes, she was standing atop a dirt mound in front of a Rafah house when an Israeli military bulldozer ran her over, crushing her to death. The bulldozer proceeded to demolish the house.

Corrie's parents launched investigations hoping for some accountability for their daughter's death, both within the Israeli military bureaucracy and the U.S.Department of State. Years later, the results of these investigations are still sealed. Receiving nothing in the way of accountability from the Americans, the Corries sued the Israeli military for a symbolic single dollar.

Nine years later, on August 28, the Haifa District Court ruled Corrie's death was an accident, and that she was solely responsible for the incident which led to her death.

For anyone familiar with the Israeli judicial system and its rulings, the Israeli military's actions in the Palestinian territories, or the social and political relationship between the Israeli government and the people it controls, this decision is unsurprising. (For more, peruse Adalah's website.) The most poignant description of the decision came from a Palestinian-Jordanian-American friend of mine, with whom I worked in Israel: "SHOCKER," she wrote with obvious sarcasm in a Facebook post. It's a bummer, but we'd already accepted it as an inevitability.

Isn't this pessimistic? Have we given up on the cause? you might ask. We might be pessimistic, but we are also realistic. From a legal and political perspective, adjudicating a "win" to the Corries sets a dangerous, expensive, and power-shifting precedent within the dynamic that is the Israeli military. To rule in the Corries' favor admits defeat, fallibility, and wrongdoing, something the Israeli military, with the courts and Knesset protecting it, are wont to do.

The military can, and I fear will, now accidentally-on-purpose target non-Palestinians participating in protests and demonstrations which criticize the Occupation and settlements behind the Green Line, with no fear of retribution. Previously we were (perhaps naïvely) convinced our American-ness or European-ness would protect us from tear gas canisters and live bullets, but the legal precedent has been set. (Palestinians were already targeted, and this can now continue with even more impunity, if "more impunity" is possible.) Had the Courts ruled in favor of the Corries, Military and Border Police Units would have to be held accountable both for legitimate accidents involving international activists and targeted acts of violence against the same. As it now stands, reinforced by the Corrie ruling, men and women with guns in Israeli uniforms are (more) immune; both within Israel, and as the Corrie's failed case against the USDOS proves, within the American-led international community.