During War there are no civilians
Sitting in on the Rachel Corrie trial alarmingly reveals an open Israeli
policy of indiscrimination towards civilians.
Rachel Corrie’s plight symbolised the ruthless policy of Israeli demolition
of Palestinian homes in the social psyche of millions of people outside of
the West Bank and Gaza Strip [Getty Images]
“During War there are no civilians,” that’s what “Yossi,” an Israeli
military (IDF) training unit leader simply stated during a round of
questioning on day two of the Rachel Corrie trials, held in Haifa’s District
Court earlier this week. “When you write a [protocol] manual, that manual is
for war,” he added.
For the human rights activists and friends and family of Rachel Corrie
sitting in the courtroom, this open admission of an Israeli policy of
indiscrimination towards civilians — Palestinian or foreign — created an
Yet, put into context, this policy comes as no surprise. The Israeli
military’s track record of insouciance towards the killings of Palestinians,
from the 1948 massacre of Deir Yassin in Jerusalem to the 2008-2009 attacks
on Gaza that killed upwards of 1400 men, women and children, has illustrated
that not only is this an entrenched operational framework but rarely has it
been challenged until recently.
Rachel Corrie, the young American peace activist from Olympia, Washington,
was crushed to death by a Caterpillar D9-R bulldozer. As she and other
members of the nonviolent International Solidarity Movement attempted to
protect a Palestinian home from imminent demolition on March 16, 2003 in
Rafah, Gaza Strip. Corrie has since become a symbol of Palestinian
solidarity as her family continues to fight for justice in her name.
Her parents, Cindy and Craig Corrie, filed a civil lawsuit against the State
of Israel for Rachel’s unlawful killing — what they allege was an
intentional act — and this round of testimonies called by the State’s
defense team follows the Corries’ witness testimonies last March. The
Corries’ lawsuit charges the State with recklessness and a failure to take
appropriate measures to protect human life, actions that violate both
Israeli and international laws.
Witnesses insisted that the bulldozer driver couldn’t see Rachel Corrie from
his perch. The State attorneys called three witnesses to the stand on Sunday
and Monday to prove that the killing was unintentional and took place in an
area designated as a “closed military zone.” Falling under the definition
of an Act of War, their argument sought to absolve the soldiers of liability
under Israeli law.
The Rachel Corrie trials focus on one incident, one moment, one death, one
family’s grief. However it’s important to include the context within which
the Israeli military operated on that day in March of 2003 in order to
properly understand the gravity of the trial and the reverberations seven
and a half years later.
Yossi, the military training leader, described the area where Corrie was
killed as an “active war zone.” The State’s defense argues the same. Yet
what was happening in Rafah that was so important to Corrie that she
confronted a 4-meter high armored bulldozer in the first place?
According to statistics from Human Rights Watch
<http://www.hrw.org/reports/2004/rafah1004/> , Israel had been expanding its
so-called “buffer zone” at the southern Gaza border after the breakout of
the second Palestinian intifada in late 2000. “By late 2002,” reports HRW,
“after the destruction of several hundred houses in Rafah, the IDF began
building an eight meter high metal wall along the border.”
The area that Israel designates as its buffer zone has since enveloped
nearly 35% of agricultural land, according to an August 2010 report
HASitReps+%28ReliefWeb++-++OCHA+Situation+Reports%29> published by the
United Nation’s Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
OCHA says that this policy has affected 113,000 Palestinians inside the Gaza
strip over the last ten years as their farms, homes, and villages were
intentionally erased from the map.
Rachel Corrie’s nonviolent action — standing in front of the bulldozer in
direct confrontation to this project — cost her her life.
The home Rachel Corrie died trying to protect was razed, along with hundreds
of others. The Gaza Strip remains a sealed ghetto. And countless Palestinian
families have not seen justice waged in their favor after the deaths of
their loved ones.
In 2005, an arrest warrant was issued against Major General Doron Almog — a
senior soldier in charge of Israel’s Southern Command — by a British court
related to the destruction of 59 homes in Rafah in 2002 under his authority. He was warned before boarding a flight to the UK that he could be arrested upon arrival, and canceled his trip.
Related to the Rachel Corrie case, Maj. Almog gave a direct order to the
team of internal investigators to cut the investigations short, according to
Israeli army documents
nto-u-s-activist-corrie-s-death-1.266660> obtained by Israeli daily
This indicates that the impunity of Israeli soldiers and policy-makers can
— and will — be challenged in a court of law. And when the trials continue
next month, the Corries will be back in the courtroom in anticipation of a
long-sought justice for their daughter.