JERUSALEM – An Israeli judge ruled Tuesday that the state bore no responsibility for the death of Rachel Corrie, the Olympia woman who was run over by a military bulldozer in 2003 as she protested the demolition of Palestinian homes in the Gaza Strip.
The lengthy verdict in the civil case, read in part to a courtroom in Haifa packed with supporters of Corrie’s family, called the death a “regrettable accident” – a characterization that Corrie’s allies strongly disputed.
“She chose to put herself in danger,” said the judge, Oded Gershon. “She could have easily distanced herself from the danger like any reasonable person would.”
Corrie, a former student at The Evergreen State College, has become an international symbol of the Palestinian resistance. A play based on her writings has been performed in 10 countries, and a ship in an attempted aid flotilla to Gaza bore her name. Books, documentaries and songs have recounted how Corrie, a 23-year-old student, dressed in an orange vest and wielding a bullhorn, stood between a bulldozer and the home of a Palestinian family in March 2003 during the height of the second intifada, or uprising.
Hussein Abu Hussein, the lawyer who brought the wrongful-death suit on behalf of the Corrie family, said he would appeal the ruling within 45 days to Israel’s Supreme Court.
“It’s a black day for activists of human rights and people who believe in values of dignity,” Hussein said.
In his ruling, Gershon said the military’s mission that day “was not, in any way, to destroy homes,” but to clear brush and explosives “to prevent acts of hatred and terror.” He said the bulldozer was moving slowly, about 1 kilometer per hour, and that the driver could not have seen Corrie, finding “no base to the plaintiff’s claim that the bulldozer hit her on purpose.”