Corrie witnesses testify next week

State sued for wrongful death of ISM activist.

By DAN IZENBERG
March 5, 2010 06:15
3 minute read.
rachel corrie 88 298

rachel corrie 88 298. (photo credit: )

 
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The hearing of witnesses in the civil tort filed by the family of Rachel Corrie – a member of the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement (ISM) who was crushed to death by an IDF bulldozer in 2003 – is due to begin next week in the Haifa District Court.

The plaintiffs – Corrie’s father, Craig; her mother, Cynthia; her brother, Christopher; and her sister Sarah Simpson – are suing the state for $324,424 in damages in what they charge was her wrongful death, caused by the use of “deliberate and utterly unreasonable force by the bulldozer driver” who ran over her over.

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Corrie, who came from Olympia, Washington, was 24 years old when she died on March 16, 2003. She was stationed at the time with other ISM volunteers in Rafah, at the southern tip of the Gaza Strip.

The IDF Southern Command conducted an investigation of the incident and closed the file without taking measures against any of the soldiers involved.

According to the plaintiffs, Corrie and two other ISM volunteers were summoned at 2:30 p.m. on March 16, after colleagues spotted two bulldozers and a tank. Corrie and the others donned fluorescent jackets, and she carried a megaphone, which she used to let the soldiers know they were volunteers.

The plaintiffs, represented by attorney Hussein Abu Hussein, wrote that at around 5 p.m., “the deceased was standing near the house of Dr. Samir Nassrallah, which was earmarked for demolition, and one of the bulldozers was standing 10-15 meters from her. The bulldozer approached her and scooped up dirt from under her feet. [Corrie] fell and the shovel crushed her feet and then her body.”

In its response, however, the state described a different scenario: “At around 5 p.m., the deceased began moving toward one of the two bulldozers operating in the area. The bulldozer moved forward and picked up construction debris on its shovel. When it was about 20 meters from the deceased, [Corrie] kneeled down on the ground, believing or figuring that it would stop when it got close to her. The bulldozer kept moving forward with the heap of dry earth ahead of it. When the heap of dry earth reached the place where Corrie was sitting, she began to climb up on it but had trouble keeping her balance. Before reaching the top of the heap, she decided to get back down. She turned around and began walking down the mound, when suddenly her foot apparently got caught in something, and she fell and lay prone on the slope of the mound.

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“At the same time, the bulldozer kept on moving very slowly, according to the directions of the navigator, toward the mound, and the heap of dry earth began to cover her, until she was completely covered. Corrie’s colleagues reached the bulldozer and began signaling to and shouting at the operators to stop. The operator and his commander stopped immediately and moved the bulldozer backwards. Corrie was exposed, lying on the ground, still alive. She spoke with her friends and after a few minutes was evacuated to the hospital.”

The state maintained that Corrie had been 100-percent responsible for the accident and that she had deliberately placed herself in danger. It also argued that Israel had been carrying out war operations in Rafah and had been acting in good faith and with authorization. Therefore, the Damages Law did not apply in this case. Furthermore, Corrie was killed in an act that was an Act of State.

The original civil tort was filed in 2005. In 2008, the plaintiffs amended it to include two more charges. According to one, the manuals of the D9R Caterpillar bulldozer involved in the incident included safety instructions, which the driver allegedly ignored. Furthermore, the state carried out the autopsy on Corrie’s body without a representative of the US embassy being present, in contradiction of a judicial decision instructing that a representative attend the autopsy.

The plaintiffs will present their witnesses from March 10 to 24. Among them will be Corrie’s father, chief coroner Prof. Yehuda Hiss and four British and American ISM volunteers. The volunteers, eyewitnesses to the incident, received permission from the Interior Ministry to enter Israel only two weeks ago, apparently under pressure from Obama administration officials.

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