Robert Mackey
The New York Times
August 28, 2012 - 12:00am

As my colleagues Jodi Rudoren and Danielle Ziri report, an Israeli judge ruled on Tuesday that the state bore no responsibility for the death of Rachel Corrie, an American activist who was crushed to death by a military bulldozer in 2003 as she tried to block the demolition of a Palestinian home in Gaza.

Ms. Corrie, who was a student at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., joined the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement in January 2003, and was killed two months later in the Gazan town of Rafah, which straddles the border with Egypt.

Photographs published by The Electronic Intifada on March 16, 2003, the day she died, showed that Ms. Corrie confronted the heavily armored bulldozer wearing a bright orange vest and holding a bullhorn. The same Web site also published sworn affidavits recorded within days of the deadly incident by three other international activists who were present when Ms. Corrie was killed. One of those witnesses, a Briton named Tom Dale, sent the following statement to The Lede on Tuesday from Cairo, where he now works as a journalist:

The verdict in Rachel’s case is saddening for all those who knew Rachel, and for all who believe in what she stood for. It should be disappointing for all those who want to see justice done in Israel and Palestine.

On March 16, 2003, Rachel could not have been more visible: standing, on a clear day, in the open ground, wearing a high visibility vest. On that day, she had been in the presence of the Caterpillar D9 bulldozers used by the Israeli army for some hours.

She was standing in front of the home of a young family which was under threat of demolition by a bulldozer. Many homes were demolished in such a way at that time, and Rachel was seeking to protect her friends, with whom she had lived.

Whatever one thinks about the visibility from a D9 bulldozer, it is inconceivable that at some point the driver did not see her, given the distance from which he approached, while she stood, unmoving, in front of it. As I told the court, just before she was crushed, Rachel briefly stood on top of the rolling mound of earth which had gathered in front of the bulldozer: her head was above the level of the blade, and just a few meters from the driver.

Those of us who are familiar with events under occupation in Palestine are may not be surprised by this verdict, which reflects a long-standing culture of impunity for the Israeli military, but we should be outraged.

I didn’t have a chance to get to know Rachel as well as I would have liked, since we spent just a few weeks together, but I do know that she is a tremendous loss to us all.

Later on Tuesday, Mr. Dale elaborated on his statement in a BBC radio interview and a Skype interview with The Telegraph in London.

A video interview with Tom Dale, a British journalist and activist, posted online by The Telegraph.

Mr. Dale, who is now the news editor of the Egypt Independent, the English edition of the Cairene daily Al-Masry Al-Youm, noted in an e-mail on Tuesday that video he recorded late last year, documenting in vivid detail the use of force against Egyptian protesters, helped draw global attention to the use of violence against activists in Tahrir Square. “I was behind the camera filming the Egyptian army as it rampaged across Tahrir Square in December,” he recalled. “None of us had a video camera when Rachel was killed. I can’t help but wonder now how much difference it would have made to the court case.”

While there is no footage of the moment Ms. Corrie was dealt a fatal blow by the bulldozer, the trailer for a documentary on her life and death does include Israeli military audio of the soldier who struck her reporting the incident, and images of her and other activists trying to prevent home demolitions on a previous day in 2003.

The Israeli military’s destruction of homes in Rafah was part of an effort to seal the border between Gaza and Egypt by destroying the tunnels underneath it used by smugglers to move goods and arms into the Palestinian territory.

Four months after Ms. Corrie was killed, the comic-book journalist Joe Sacco published “The Underground War in Gaza,” a New York Times Magazine report on the Israeli military’s antitunnel operations in Rafah. That report from can be viewed elsewhere on this Web site as a slide show or a PDF.

In an interview with the Arab satellite network MBC, days before she was killed, Ms. Corrie spoke about the effort by international activists to prevent the demolition of Palestinian homes in Rafah.


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