Aletho News


The Rachel Corrie Verdict

Blaming the Victim

By HUSSEIN ABU HUSSEIN | CounterPunch | September 4, 2012

On Tuesday, Judge Oded Gershon of the Haifa District Court dismissed the civil lawsuit I brought on behalf of Rachel Corrie’s family against the State of Israel for the unlawful killing of their daughter, an American peace activist and human rights defender who legally entered Gaza to live with Palestinian families in Rafah whose homes were threatened by demolition.

While not surprising, the verdict is yet another example of impunity prevailing over accountability and fairness and it flies in the face of the fundamental principle of international humanitarian law – that in a time of war, military forces are obligated to take all measures to avoid harm to both civilians and their property.

It is not the first time courts have denied victims of Israeli military actions the right to effective remedy. Just ask the many Palestinians who have faced a myriad of legal hurdles and fought for decades simply to have their day in court. Thousands of legitimate claims continue to be denied based on the controversial legal theory – which Judge Gershon adopted – that soldiers should be absolved of civil liability because they were engaged in military operational activities in a war zone.

Rachel’s case is unique because she was the first foreign national to be killed while protesting Israeli occupation, though she was hardly the last. Tom Hurndall, a British peace activist, was shot in the head and killed by an Israeli sniper less than three weeks after Rachel was killed. And less than a month after that, James Miller, a British cameraman was also shot and killed by the IDF in Rafah.

In reaching his decision in Rachel’s case, Judge Gershon accepted virtually all of the government’s legal arguments and either ignored or distorted critical facts in order to reach his decision. For example, he concluded that Rafah was a closed military zone, as declared by the Israeli military’s southern command (never mind that no such order was presented in court, and the ground unit commander testified he was unaware of the area’s designation as a closed zone). And that conclusion had implications.

When the former Gaza Division’s Southern Brigade Commander Colonel Pinhas (Pinky) Zuaretz, who was in charge in 2003, testified, he confirmed that the rules of engagement at the time Rachel was killed were to “shoot to kill any adult person on the [Philadelphi] route.” As another Israeli colonel who testified put it: “There are no civilians in a war zone.” By accepting the testimony of Zuaretz and others, Judge Gershon essentially accepted that the “shoot to kill” order was acceptable, which violates the fundamental tenets of international humanitarian law, mandating that soldiers distinguish between combatants and civilians.

We knew from the beginning that it would be an uphill battle to find truth and justice, but we are convinced that this verdict not only distorts the strong evidence presented in court, but also contradicts fundamental principles of international law with regard to protection of human rights defenders. In denying justice in Rachel Corrie’s killing, this verdict is part of a systemic failure to hold the Israeli military accountable for continuing violations of basic human rights. As former U.S. President Jimmy Carter put it: “The court’s decision confirms a climate of impunity, which facilitates Israeli human rights violations against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Territory.”

The Corrie family has always stressed that the purpose of this lawsuit was larger than compensation for their loss. For them, it was about understanding exactly what happened to Rachel and exposing the injustices their daughter and her friends in the International Solidarity Movement stood against. They filed suit on advice of Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who, on behalf of the State Department, told the family in 2004 that the United States did not consider the investigation into Rachel’s death to be “thorough, credible and transparent.”

The U.S. government has repeatedly reiterated its position regarding the failed investigation, and after nearly seven years of mounting evidence since the case was initially filed, it has become even clearer that the military conducted its investigation not to uncover the truth of what happened, but rather, to exonerate itself of any blame.

In his decision, Judge Gershon concluded that because Rachel put herself in harm’s way, she is to be blamed for her own death. That conclusion puts at serious risk the lives of human rights defenders and it creates yet another dangerous precedent regarding the protection of civilians in war. Not surprisingly, the court avoided any analysis of international law obligations.

The verdict ensures that the Israeli culture of impunity will continue unchecked. Rachel Corrie lost her life standing non-violently with those who have been subject to Israel’s systematic policy of destruction and demonization. Like the Freedom Riders in the United States who, during the civil rights movement, joined oppressed black communities in their struggle for equality, Rachel and her friends in the ISM presented a new challenge and model of non-violent activism, solidarity and resistance to the longest military occupation in modern history.

In a country in which the judicial system has enabled the occupation for almost 50 years, I suppose it’s not surprising that the judicial system blamed the victim for her own death.

Hussein Abu Hussein is a human rights lawyer and co-founder of the Arab Association for Human Rights. He represented the Corrie family in their case against the Israeli government and the Israeli Ministry of Defense.

September 4, 2012 - Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , ,


  1. Just what you would expect from those filthy murderers.

    Comment by Watcher465 | September 5, 2012

  2. When a person is murdered for their politics, aimed at effecting other political action, with intent to effect historical development; it is an ASSASSINATION.

    Martin Luther King Jr, was assassinated. He did not die of cancer, but shot to death to prevent him from uniting the US Civil Rights Movement with the Anti-War Movement at the upcoming National Democratic Convention in Chicago that summer.

    There you have the motive and consequences. It worked, that unity never took place, over his dead body. MLK’s assassination effected history, it set it backwards, extended the Indochina War 7 more years. Exactly what the illegal power elite in positions of power conspired to do and did with impunity.

    Words matter, and therefore, when a life it taken for political reasons, it is an assassination, especially if it effects or is meant to effect, the political actions of others.

    Obama is an assassin, Clinton is an assassin, Panetta is an assassin, and so are the Members of Congress who voted for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2012, which unconstitutionally contains article 2021 stating that the president can order anyone abducted, tortured, and/or assassinated if put on list by who-knows-whom, and he merely gleefully signs or initials it.

    Therefore, think of the people ‘killed’ on 9/11 as assassinated. For it was a political act, to effect history, and certainly has. Likewise, the Rachel Corrie was most definitely assassinated, as was BTW the crewmen on the USS Liberty assassinated by Israel too.

    And as we now know, there was a criminal conspiracy by the Joints Chiefs of Staff of the US Armed Forces to assassinate astronaut John Glenn as he rode a rocket into space, and blame Cuba for electronic sabotage. That plan is known as Operation Northwoods, it is online, and published in James Bamford’s ‘Body of Secrets’ published in 2001, and having read it a week before 9/11, I knew in real time that 9/11 was an updated rewrite of Operation Northwoods.

    Comment by Bill Mitchell | September 5, 2012


    The Murder Of Rachel Corrie And
    The Israeli Court Coverup

    From Anthony Lawson

    The Murder Of Rachel Corrie & The Israeli Court Coverup

    Comment by Bill Mitchell | September 6, 2012

  4. Sorry, I don’t intend to read what you say because you talk about a coverup. There is no coverup because the Jews blatantly said it was OK to murder a young woman. A young woman who had hope for a peaceful world. May I add “A peaceful world without Jew Warmongers”? (Me speaking). I’m sure you are well meaning but blatant Jew shit is not a coverup, it is what it is.

    Comment by Watcher465 | September 8, 2012

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