• Father, mother of murdered peace activist speak out about decade-long fight for justice
By Pete Papaherakles
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On January 17, Craig and Cindy Corrie, parents of Rachel Corrie, the young American peace activist who was murdered in Gaza, spoke at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Over the course of the evening, the couple detailed their decade-long legal battle with the Israeli government to try to get justice for their daughter.
Of special interest was the attendance by the legendary former White House news correspondent, Helen Thomas.
The Corries took turns telling Rachel’s story from the time she left Olympia, Washington as a young peace activist to go to Nazareth and then to Rafah, at the southern tip of Palestine’s Gaza Strip, where she died, culminating with the family’s civil lawsuit trial held in Israel five months ago.
AMERICAN FREE PRESS readers are familiar with the tragic story of how the 23-year-old woman was brutally murdered in Gaza on March 16, 2003, when she was deliberately run over by an Israeli bulldozer that was about to demolish the house of local pharmacist Samir Nasralla’s family, whom she had befriended.
Although Rachel was wearing a bright orange fluorescent jacket and using a bullhorn, the American-made Caterpillar bulldozer, which was given to Israel for free, courtesy of American taxpayers, ran her over repeatedly, resulting in a fractured skull, shattered ribs and punctured lungs. Despite this, the Israeli government in May 2003 declared the incident an accident, claiming that the bulldozer operator could not see her.
In 2005 the Corries filed a civil lawsuit against Israel. The lawsuit charged Israel with not conducting a full and credible investigation into the case and with responsibility for her death, contending that she had either been intentionally killed or that the soldiers had acted with reckless neglect. They sued for a symbolic shekel in damages to make the point that their case was about justice for their daughter and the Palestinian cause she had been defending.
After seven long years, in August 2012, in a packed courtroom, an Israeli court rejected their suit and upheld the results of Israel’s 2003 military investigation, ruling that the Israeli government was not responsible for Rachel’s death.
The ruling, the Israeli justice system and the investigation that exonerated the Israeli killer have all been severely criticized. The 62-page ruling ignored testimony by American and British eyewitnesses who saw the bulldozer driver, in sight of Israeli troopers in armored personnel carriers, run over Rachel, then scoop up the still breathing young woman in the bucket of the Caterpillar, dump her on the ground and run her over two more times. It also ignored contradictory and false testimony under oath by the bulldozer driver and other Israeli soldiers.
The chief investigator privately admitted to the Corries that he knew right away that Rachel was deliberately run over. Cindy explained how Israel’s policy was “shoot to kill.” Knowing that they can get away with it, Israeli soldiers routinely kill anyone who gets in their way, declaring it an “act of war.”
Two weeks after Rachel’s murder, another American, Brian Avery, was shot in the face and killed by an Israeli sniper. A month later, James Miller, a British filmmaker working for HBO, was shot in the neck and killed while carrying a white flag. The list goes on.
The Corries commended the thousands of Israeli citizens, Jews, Muslims and Christians alike, who were very supportive of them over the years, but expressed their disappointment with the lack of support by the United States government, which did not investigate or even protest the murder of an American citizen by Israel. The U.S. State Department reported that there was no wrongdoing by Israel. Although Secretary of State Colin Powell and his deputy at that time had promised to help the Corries, the U.S. did nothing.
Asked by AFP if they intended to file suit against the U.S. government for not demanding justice for their daughter, the Corries explained how all these years of struggle with the Israeli government coupled with their grief over losing Rachel had taken their toll and they are just looking to get on with their lives.
Rachel’s life has been memorialized in several tributes, including the play, “My Name is Rachel Corrie,” and the cantata, “The Skies Are Weeping.” Her collected writings were published in 2008 under the title LET ME STAND ALONE: The Journals of RACHEL CORRIE. The Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice has also been established to continue her work.
Rachel’s heroic defiance against tyranny has inspired activists around the world to stand up to Zionist oppression of not only the Palestinians but the whole planet. She will always be remembered for her courage and sacrifice.
Peter Papaherakles, a U.S. citizen since 1986, was born in Greece. He is AFP’s outreach director. If you would like to see AFP speakers at your rally, contact Pete at 202-544-5977.