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.