The Haifa District Court rejected on Tuesday accusations that Israel
was at fault over the death of American activist Rachel Corrie,
who was crushed by an army bulldozer during a 2003 pro-Palestinian demonstration in Gaza.
Corrie's family had accused
Israel of intentionally and unlawfully killing their 23-year-old daughter, launching a civil case in Haifa after a military investigation had cleared the army of wrong-doing.
In a ruling read out to the court, Judge Oded Gershon called Corrie's death a "regrettable accident", but said the state was not responsible because the incident had occurred during what he termed a war-time situation.
At the time of her death, during a Palestinian uprising, Corrie was protesting against Israel's demolition of Palestinian homes in Rafah
in the southern Gaza Strip.
"I reject the suit," the judge said. "There is no justification to demand the state pay any damages."
He added that the soldiers had done their utmost to keep people away from the site. "She (Corrie) did not distance herself from the area, as any thinking person would have done."
Rachel Corrie's parents in court (Photo: Avishag Shaar-Yeshuv)
He rejected a claim of negligence explaining that the bulldozer's driver had limited vision unlike Corrie. "She consciously put herself in harm's way," Gershon said. The accident had been self inflicted, he added.
In a 162-verdict, the Judge Gershon pointed to three entry bans and noted that the Philadelphi route had effectively been a war zone formally declared a closed military zone at the time of the accident. He mentioned that the US had issued an Israel travel advisory warning its citizens to avoid Gaza and the West Bank.
The judge added that the organization where Corrie worked "abuses the human rights discourse to blur its actions which are de facto violence. He claimed that it specialized in disrupting IDF activity. "This included an army of activists serving as 'human shields' for terrorists wanted by Israeli security forces, financial and logistical aid to Palestinians including terrorists and their families, and disruption of the sealing of suicide bombers' houses."
Judge Gershon also rejected the Corrie family's claims that Military Police had not done its best to investigate the incident.
Corrie's death made her a symbol of the uprising, and while her family battled through the courts to establish who was responsible for her killing, her story was dramatised on stage in a dozen countries and told in the book "Let Me Stand Alone."
"I am hurt," Corrie's mother, Cindy, told reporters after the verdict was read.
Attorney Hussein Abu Hussein, who represents the Corries, said that the family belives the verdict contradicts international law. "The court has given a stamp of approval to harm innocent lives," he said.
Attorney Irit Kalman, of the Tel Aviv Prosecutor's Office, said that evidence showed there was no intent to harm or any negligence.
Corrie came from Olympia, Washington and was a volunteer with the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement.
Senior US officials criticized the original military investigation into the case, saying it had been neither thorough nor credible. But the judge said the inquiry had been appropriate and pinned no blame on the army.