Ever since the tragic death more than nine years ago of Rachel Corrie, the 23-year-old American woman who had come to Gaza to support the Palestinian cause, harsh critics of Israel have insisted that the driver of the Israel Defense Forces bulldozer that crushed her acted deliberately. This week’s ruling in Haifa that the death was accidental will do nothing to change that point of view, though the facts suggest otherwise.
Corrie, a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement, was in a place she was not supposed to be, a closed military zone that had been under attack, and she had evaded attempts to move her out of the area. The Haifa District Court judge said that she could have avoided danger, and called her death “a regrettable accident.” He had strong criticism for the ISM, and said they have at times indirectly aided terrorists.
The driver of the bulldozer, whose identity was protected by the IDF, was not held responsible, with the court accepting the state’s argument that he had limited vision and did not see Corrie.
Over the years the young woman has been made a martyr to the Palestinian cause amid charges that Israel purposefully crushed her, just as it is alleged to crush innocent Palestinians every day, at least figuratively. No doubt the court ruling will be held as evidence by some that there is no fairness in Israel, including its legal system.
But it should be noted that the Jewish state carried out the long trial with meticulous attention to detail in keeping with its democratic values. Rachel Corrie’s death was a shame, but it was no travesty of justice, neither on the ground nor in the courtroom.