Olympia, Wash. is an “All-American City,” according to the sign that greets visitors. It’s also the hometown of Rachel Corrie, who has had a street named after her in Iran’s capital, a play produced about her life staged on almost every continent, and whose death continues to be a source of controversy.
In 2003, Corrie, a 23-year-old student at Olympia’s Evergreen State College and peace activist, was crushed to death while trying to prevent an Israeli bulldozer from demolishing a Palestinian home in southern Gaza. Following her death, Corrie’s parents, Craig and Cindy Corrie, became embroiled in a heated international issue that they had only given passing attention to in the past. The continue today to find answers to why their daughter was slain while trying to gain some sort of accountability from Israel.
In August, an Israeli judge handed down a ruling on the civil lawsuit brought by the Corries against Israel and its Ministry of Defense. The judge absolved Israel of any responsibility for Corrie’s death, ruling that the state couldn’t be held at fault for civilian deaths that occur in conflict areas. The ruling was panned by human rights advocates, who said that it enforced a culture of impunity in the Israeli military while also setting a dangerous precedent that could affect the safety of activists and journalists operating in conflict areas in Israel-Palestine.
Despite the judge’s ruling, questions concerning why and exactly how Rachel Corrie died remain unsettled. Although the court found her death to be an accident, others dispute that finding, arguing that she was intentionally run over. Additionally, the military investigation into Corrie’s death has been widely criticized, even by the State Department under President George Bush, a staunch ally of Israel.
Following the court ruling, the Guardian newspaper called Corrie a “memory that refuses to die.” A play based on her writings, “My Name is Rachel Corrie,” continues to be produced, and her parents hope to carry on her work through the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice.
Street Roots spoke with the Corries about their experience seeking the truth about their daughter’s death, their plans to appeal the court decision and what it’s like having their daughter become an international symbol.
Jake Thomas: You’re preparing to appeal your case to the Israeli Supreme Court. What are you hoping the outcome will be?
Craig Corrie: Well, I think for one thing, the general opinion of the judge was that Rachel was killed as an act of war, and Israel is not responsible for anything it does as an act of war. I think that flies in the face of a whole lot of international law. I think it flies in the face, as a solider in Vietnam, what I was taught our responsibilities were. I think it flies in the face of common decency. I think it makes it particularly problematic for any civilian in a war or conflict area. I think it makes it difficult for journalists, and certainly for Rachel as a human rights observer. So that overarching finding needs to be challenged, and that’s far bigger than Rachel. I think that when you look at what the judge wrote, I think he ignored most of what our attorney did. For instance, he found that the investigation done by the Israeli military police was, I believe, “faultless” when translated into English.
The day after Rachel was killed, President Bush was promised a thorough, credible and transparent investigation by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and it’s still the position of our government that that never happened.
When people came to the witness stand, particularly the person who conducted the investigation, it became amazingly obvious that the investigation was lacking. They found out that there was a camera on the border that was taking video, and they failed to produce all of that video that was available for the day. They claim that it started right as Rachel was killed, and there was no more video. He said that the copy of that video was first given to the officers in charge of the higher echelons of the chain of command, and I think it was one week later that he got a copy of it. Well, other video from that time has been on Israeli TV, it’s been on different documentaries, our government has seen it, we’ve seen it. This guy is testifying that there is no other video, but we don’t have the chain of custody of that video to produce it in court, so that was a particularly appalling piece of it. Continue reading