Family of US activist crushed by bulldozer in Gaza await verdict

Almost a decade after their daughter was crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer as she tried to block its path in a Gaza Strip conflict zone, Rachel Corrie’s parents are preparing for a judge’s ruling in their high-profile civil lawsuit against the military.

They hope today’s court decision will conclude a case that has turned their daughter into a rallying cry for pro-Palestinian activists, taken years of their life and drained their savings.

“We are here with a great deal of anticipation,” said Rachel Corrie’s mother, Cindy, 64, a homemaker and musician from Olympia, Washington. “We are hoping for some accountability here for what happened to Rachel.”

The pro-Palestinian activist was 23 when she was killed in Mar 2003 while she and other activists sought to block an Israeli military bulldozer in the Gaza border town of Rafah. The driver has said he didn’t see the young activist, and that the death was accidental.

Rachel Corrie opposed the Israeli military’s demolition of Palestinian homes, part of a campaign designed to halt shooting and mortar attacks against soldiers and Jewish settlers travelling in the densely populated border area.

According to the UN agency handling Palestinian refugees, the military had left more than 17,000 Gazans homeless in the four years after a Palestinian uprising against Israel erupted in Sept 2000. The demolitions drew international condemnation.

While several foreign activists were killed or wounded in confrontations with the Israeli military during the last decade, Rachel Corrie’s case has taken on special meaning for Palestinian activists. For her supporters, she became a symbol of what they say is Israel’s harsh repression of nonviolent protest to occupation.

They saw in her a young middle-class American who died believing that she was defending the homes of strangers. She was a passionate writer whose works showed how deeply moved she was by the suffering she saw.

Rachel Corrie’s parents published those letters, and artists made a play about her life. She belonged to the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement, whose activists enter conflict zones and try to interfere with activities of Israel’s military. Supporters of Israel argue that Rachel, like thousands of other foreign activists, recklessly chose to risk her life.

“Rachel Corrie was injured as a result of her prohibited action, for which she is solely responsible, due to her considerable negligence and lack of caution,” said the Justice Ministry in a statement.

The family’s case is the first civil lawsuit of a foreigner harmed by Israel’s military to conclude in a full civilian trial. Others have resulted in out-of- court settlements. Since the Corries went to court in 2005, there have been 15 hearings and testimony from 23 witnesses.

They hope the court will apportion blame to the bulldozer driver and his superiors, who have all been cleared of wrong-doing in a military court.

The Corries are seeking a symbolic $1 in damages, along with compensation for the money they’ve spent bringing the case to trial.

They said their case underscored how difficult it was for families to pursue justice for loved ones killed by Israeli forces.

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