Rachel Corrie Gets Her Day in Court

By Robert Naiman

On March 10, in the Israeli city of Haifa, American peace activist Rachel Corrie will get her day in court. Rachel’s parents, Cindy and Craig Corrie, are bringing suit against the Israeli defence ministry for Rachel’s killing by an Israeli military bulldozer in Gaza in March 2003.

Four key American and British witnesses who were present at the scene – members of the International Solidarity Movement – will be allowed into Israel to testify, despite having been barred previously by the Israeli authorities from entering the country. This reversal by the Israeli authorities is apparently due to U.S. government pressure, the Guardian reports. (Three cheers for any U.S. officials who contributed to this pressure. What else could you make the Israeli government do?)

A Palestinian doctor from Gaza who treated Corrie after she was injured has not been given permission by the Israeli authorities to leave Gaza to attend. (This would seem to be important testimony concerning the nature of Rachel’s injuries – did U.S. officials exert pressure for his appearance?)

This case isn’t just about accountability for Rachel’s death. It’s a test case for the power of the rule of law in Israel, when the rule of law comes into conflict with the policies of military occupation.

When the rule of law in Israel comes into conflict with the policies of occupation, the rule of law often loses. But it does not always lose, particularly when the rule of law gets a boost from vigorous protest and political agitation. This month, Reuters reported, Israel began rerouting part of its “West Bank barrier” near the village of Bilin – the site of many Palestinian, Israeli, and international protests – in response to a petition filed in 2007 by Palestinians whose land was confiscated for the project. This was only a partial victory, because it only affected a minority of the confiscated land. But it shows that the rule of law in Israel is not totally impotent against the occupation, particularly when the rule of law is aided by protest and agitation.

It’s also a test case for the power of nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation. It’s a commonplace among some poorly informed commenters – Edith Garwood of Amnesty International cites Bono, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and President Obama as recent examples – that Palestinians should “find their Martin Luther King.” But this commentary is foolish and retrograde, as Rahm Emanuel might say. A necessary condition for the ascendance of a King or Gandhi -type movement in Palestine is that if Palestinian nonviolence activists are killed by the Israeli occupation, the government of Israel pays a significant price for that killing. If the Israeli government can kill an American peace activist and pay little price, what chance do the Palestinian Kings and Gandhis have?

It’s instructive to do a press search on the recent developments in the Rachel Corrie case. Searching on Yahoo News, I found Israeli and Palestinian press, Jewish and Arab press, British and Australian press. But outside of the Seattle Weekly – Rachel is from Olympia, and Brian Baird is her Representative – I found no general US press. Isn’t it remarkable that we Americans have to read the British press to find out about developments in the case of our compatriot? Isn’t this state of affairs something that Bono, Nicholas Kristof and President Obama ought to reflect on, especially given the fact that they have significant ability to do something about it?

The persistence of Rachel’s case as a thorn in the side of the Israeli occupation authorities recalls the 1960s Costa-Gavras docudrama “Z,” about the political fallout from the assassination by the U.S. – supported Greek government of the Greek parliamentarian and peace movement leader Gregoris Lambrakis. There is a powerful scene in the movie in which one of Lambrakis’ associates visits Lambrakis’ widow to deliver the news that four high-ranking military police officers have been indicted in the killing. On the way to meet her Lambrakis’ associate passes a group of Greek students painting the letter “Z” on the sidewalk, meaning “he (Lambrakis) lives.” Marveling at the students’ determined activism in the face of mounting repression, Lambrakis’ associate says, “It’s almost as if he were alive.”

They murdered her, and yet she dogs them. It’s almost as if she were alive.

Originally appeared AT


  1. February 26, 2010 at 19:28


  2. kassandra said,

    February 26, 2010 at 19:41

    “My Name Is Rachel Corrie”, the play based on her diary and letters, is now touring Australia and New Zealand. It seems to be continously in production somewhere. Not only is her message on point, the play is a very personal and slyly humorous view of her life, whether in the USA or in Gaza. I have seen the play produced by a professional theater — there was a standing ovation at the end. There is also a book based on her letters. A very talented writer was also lost.

  3. David G said,

    February 27, 2010 at 04:21

    Rachel Corrie, alive or dead, would get the same treatment in an Israeli Court: a parody of justice.

    Israel, like America, lives by its own rules and truth is what Israel says it is!

  4. GDriver said,

    March 11, 2010 at 14:26

    Rachel Corrie and IDF Codes of Conduct against militants and Palestinian civilians

    1. Military action can be taken only against military targets.
    2. The use of force must be proportional.
    3. Soldiers may only use weaponry they were issued by the IDF.
    4. Anyone who surrenders cannot be attacked.
    5. Only those who are properly trained can interrogate prisoners.
    6. Soldiers must accord dignity and respect to the Palestinian population and those arrested.
    7. Soldiers must give appropriate medical care, when conditions allow, to themselves and to enemies.
    8. Pillaging is absolutely and totally illegal.
    9. Soldiers must show proper respect for religious and cultural sites and artifacts.
    10. Soldiers must protect international aid workers, including their property and vehicles.
    11. Soldiers must report all violations of this code.

    All 11 Codes of Military Conduct (with the exception only of No.8) were apparently deliberately violated by the Israeli forces in December 2008 and January 2009 in their attack against the civilian population of Gaza.

    Yet no action is known to have been taken against the men and commanders responsible for the reported violations that resulted in the alleged killings of 320 children and 112 women that were committed over the six week attack.

    If the Israeli government and its military commanders cannot control the actions of their forces, then not only are the Palestinians (and the Lebanese) at further risk of death and destruction but also all of Israel’s neighbours and the wider world.

%d bloggers like this: