Rachel Corrie verdict in Israel

Is "direct action" to blame? Views from the Israeli press

Kate Lieb By Kate Lieb

Tuesday, the family of American activist Rachel Corrie lost their case against the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in a Haifa court.

Parents and sister of Rachel Corrie in Haifa district court before delivery of verdict August 28. (Reuters/Amir Cohen)

It was nine years ago, in 2003, that Corrie died after being crushed by a bulldozer during a protest organized by the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in the Philadelphi corridor between Gaza and Egypt.

The judge in the case, Oded Gershon, said that Corrie, who was killed while protecting homes from demolition, “had been protecting terrorists in a warzone,” wrote the International Business Times. The death was regrettable but, he concluded, was an accident since the bulldozer driver had not seen her.

As reported by the Jerusalem Post, Corrie’s mother Cindy said that the court’s ruling was not only a blow to her family, but also to human rights in Gaza and Israel. Her mother believes that her daughter’s humanity was ignored during the trial and that the IDF investigation into her daughter’s death was flawed “from the start.”

However, a report in the Israel National Newsa news portal identified with religious Zionism—paints a somewhat different picture. In a piece entitled “Rachel Corrie: Who is to Blame? IDF or ISM?” reporter Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu’s answer is clear: the ISM.

Gedalyahu focuses on the testimony of Professor Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor.

“The ISM has a long record of encouraging activists to take ‘direct action,” Steinberg told the court, “even if that means putting them in harm’s way. Rachel Corrie’s actions as an ISM activist were very much part of this strategy of dangerous confrontation.” Steinberg called the ISM strategy “cynical and immoral.”

According to its website, the NGO Monitor’s “objective is to end the practice used by certain self-declared ‘humanitarian NGOs’ of exploiting the label ‘universal human rights values’ to promote politically and ideologically motivated agendas.” Characterized as pro-Israel, NGO Monitor has itself attracted its fair share of criticism within Israel.

Back in Seattle, The Seattle Times expressed disappointment at the verdict, and what it says about freedom of speech in one of America’s closest allies.