On Tuesday morning, August 27, 2012, an Israeli court dismissed a civil suit filed against the government by the parents of American peace activist Rachel Corrie, who was killed by an Israeli army bulldozer while trying to prevent the destruction of Palestinian homes in Gaza in 2003. Corrie was unarmed at the time of her death.
The lawsuit accused the State of Israel of responsibility for Rachel’s death and failure to properly investigate the killing. The Israeli ruling stated that Corrie “was accidentally killed in the framework of a ‘war-related activity’ … [and] the state bears no responsibility for the damages inflicted on the plaintiffs resulting from a war-related action.”
It would appear, then, that demolishing Palestinian homes is now deemed a “war-related activity” by Israel. The Israeli judge who ruled on the case called the crime, or war crime by Israel’s own definition of the term, a “regrettable accident” that Rachel brought upon herself.
The ruling has essentially created a de facto “legal lack hole” – to use the words of the Corrie family lawyer – for the Israeli military to use the excuse of “war-related activity” to behave with impunity toward civilians, including foreigners.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) described the ruling as setting a “dangerous precedent” and going against protections under international law for non-combatants in war zones. “The idea that there can be no fault for killing civilians in a combat operation flatly contradicts Israel’s international legal obligations to spare civilians from harm during armed conflict and to credibly investigate and punish violations by its forces,” said senior Middle East researcher at HRW Bill van Esveld.
Rachel’s mother, Cindy, told reporters:
“This is a sad day, not only to us, as a family. This is a sad day for Israel, a sad day for human right activists, a sad day for international law, a sad day for justice.”
“I don’t think that Rachel should have moved. I think we should all have been standing there with her.”
We will continue to stand with Rachel and all of those fighting for freedom, dignity and self-determination in Palestine and all around the world.