“What happened to Rachel will never be OK” Cindy Corrie

“The loss, the void, is permanent. You feel it every day of your life, What happened to Rachel will never be OK”.

These are the words of Cindy Corrie, the mother of Rachel Corrie who was killed in Gaza in 2003. She was interviewed a few days before a judge was due to rule on the civil lawsuit that she had bought against the State of Israel. Today the judge’s rulings were announced.

How it feels to lose a daughter at such a young age is something that I cannot begin to fathom. In Cindy’s own words, “for parents there’s that dread of something happening to a child. I don’t even know how to describe how we got through those first minutes and hours”.

Rachel died at the age of 23 in March 2003. She was crushed to death by a bulldozer as she stood in front of it aiming to protect a Palestinian’s house that was due for demolition. This house, which was finally demolished a year later, was one of 1,700 houses in Rafah that were demolished between 2000 and 2004. The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem described these demolitions as ‘collective punishment’.

Richard Purssell, from Brighton, who witnessed Rachel’s death said at the time. “The driver cannot have failed to see her. As the blade pushed the pile, the earth rose up. Rachel slid down the pile… The driver didn’t slow down; he just ran over her. Then he reversed the bulldozer back over her again.”

Despite testimonies supporting this view, the Judge today concluded that the driver had not seen her – despite the fact she was wearing a bright orange jacket and was stood on top of the pile of earth he was driving towards. The judge added that “She [Corrie] did not distance herself from the area, as any thinking person would have done.”

Sadly, death remains an ever present reality in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Since January 2009 (the end of Operation Cast Lead) 302 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces. 38 of those killed were minors.

Indeed, an often forgotten fact is that on the same day that Rachel Corrie died in March 2003 a four year old Palestinian girl was also killed. This, in a world where the value of your death is dependent on the colour of your passport failed to make the headlines.

A death of an international was embarrassing to Israel. The then Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, promised US president George W Bush that Israel would conduct a “thorough, credible and transparent” investigation into the incident.

The judge ruled today that the initial internal IDF investigation did take place and its findings were valid.

For many Palestinians however the possibility of an investigation into a loved one’s death is often an impossibility. B’Tselem states that “Israel has increasingly avoided accountability for serious violations of human rights…as a rule, [Israelis do] not open criminal investigations in cases in which soldiers killed Palestinians who were not taking part in the hostilities”.

Indeed, in cases of alleged torture no criminal investigations have been launched despite over 700 complaints being filed with the State Attorney’s Office. This failure led to B’Tselem concluding that the “State of Israel breaches its obligation under international law to investigate allegations of torture and, where the findings dictate, prosecute the perpetrators”.

Just as the families of many Palestinians are awaiting justice so are the families of murdered Israelis. Amnesty International noted that Hamas has made no attempt to investigate the alleged war crimes and possible crimes against humanity committed by Hamas’ military wing and other Palestinian armed groups in Gaza during Operation “Cast Lead”. Families left to mourn with no prospect of an investigation.

This is something I cannot comprehend going through. Cindy Corrie’s grief is something I cannot comprehend going through. The thought of losing a loved one in this way is more than anyone should have to experience.

Rachel Corrie emailed home on the 27th February 2003 saying, “I really can’t believe that something like this can happen in the world without a bigger outcry about it”. Sadly, for nearly 10 years this lack of outcry is what has enabled the atrocities to continue throughout the region.

Today’s verdict has failed to offer any sense of accountability. It has however created a global outcry.

I am now waiting for a similar sized outcry next time an Israeli or Palestinian dies.


Filed under Human rights, Middle East, War

6 responses to ““What happened to Rachel will never be OK” Cindy Corrie

  1. I’m going to lazily copy something I’ve just posted on the Guardian as it is relevant to this discussion too:

    “At one extreme, represented by eg the Guardian editorial, is the idea that any idea this was an accident is a sinister fabrication. At the other is the denial that he had any idea she was anywhere in the vicinity. I was swayed by the visibility evidence, particularly as it was supported by the Corries’ own witness, but he could still have been aware she was in the general area, as suggested by the witness who said he came towards for some time – assuming that is accurate.”

    @M Bard – Steve explicitly mentions victims of Hamas in his post.


  2. Steve – do you not think there was a chance it was an accident? Apparently even an expert brought in to support the Corries agreed that the driver would have not been able to see her – that’s just one point of course, and there are many different issues the case raises – whether or not a proper investigation was carried out at the time for example.


    • Sarah – the straight answer is I don’t know how Rachel died, like you mentioned, I wasn’t there. There seem to be two competing accounts that just don’t add up…So in answer to your question, I don’t know.

      What I do know though is that I don’t trust the “deeply flawed” (Amnesty’s words) investigation. AI concluded “More than nine years after Corrie’s death, the Israeli authorities still have not delivered on promises to conduct a ‘thorough, credible and transparent’ investigation. Instead, an Israeli court has upheld the flawed military investigation and issued a verdict that once again shields the Israeli military from any accountability ” (see http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/rachel-corrie-verdict-highlights-impunity-israeli-military-2012-08-28)


      • I tend to think Amnesty is pretty anti-Israel and that piece struck me as rather one sided. But – it may be the case that the initial investigation wasn’t adequate, I simply don’t know. That might have been the case – and yet the verdict may have been correct. Anyway – you seem less dogmatic than the Guardian, and most certainly than many of its BTL commenters!


  3. M. Bard

    Your depiction of the facts is wrong – read the summary of the investigations under R C in Wikipidia. Every reasonable attempt and beyond was made to protect Rachel in a fire zone with snipers and a grenade going off 40 mins before. Her colleague from ISM stated the army always stopped before when they set out to provoke them. The bulldozer was not out to demolish a house but was clearing rubble and shrub to prevent roadside bombs; the earth gave way under her and she was mortally injured in a matter of seconds. Photos showing in front of a bulldozer are not of the caged type with extremely poor visibility. She clearly had a agenda to place herself in harms way. Etc etc. No court anywhere would convict on these facts, or should. What’s more her parents clearly are on a vendetta against the State of Israel, as in clear from their Peace and Justice Foundation set up in her name, supporting BDS and deligitimisimg Palestinian narrative and not a shred of peace or justice for Israel and the Jews. Their further despoil the memory of their daughters sad death. And for you not to mention the thousands of rockets aimed at schools and hospitals and the ordinary citizens of southern Israel over many years from Gaza in this context is equally abominable.


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