Saturday, October 23, 2010
No justice yet for Rachel Corrie
by Larry Geller
Media accounts of the trial in Israel that, after seven years, is finally dealing with the death of activist Rachel Corrie in Gaza in 2003 have each been very different. Each news story has part of the information. Why?
Israel has attempted to manage the media coverage and protect the military, including the bulldozer driver who ran her down while she sought to protect a Palestinian home from demolition.
Here’s one description of the courtroom scene:
Apart from the fact that it took five years from the time the Corries filed the lawsuit to the trial date – the court procedures and last minute changes by the Israeli state attorneys are simply embarrassing for a country that claims to be a democracy and practice the rule of law.
Sub par translators, erratic trial dates and a judge that stops proceedings because he has made other appointments (as happened today cutting the session short by two hours) have delayed the trial and frustrated everyone.
The Corries, journalists and rights groups were told they could enter the courtroom at 9am this morning.
At 8.15am the state filled the room with its "observers", which meant apart from the family and their lawyers, only three or four journalists were allowed (in rotation) into the trial room to listen and report on what was happening.
I was inside for barely half an hour - just enough time to hear the driver make the point that he was simply following orders. [Al Jazeera, .Justice, Israeli style, 10/21/2010]
Reports of the trial contain bits of disturbing information. Military witnesses, including the bulldozer driver who ran down Rachel Corrie and then backed over her, were protected by barriers that hid them from being seen by the public. The testimony at times contradicted earlier testimony by the same witness.
At this time, 2010, and after all the publicity:
The bulldozer driver who crushed to death American activist Rachel Corrie seven years ago struggled Thursday just to recall her name. [LA Times, Bulldozer driver testifies in Israeli trial over Rachel Corrie's death, 10/21/2010]
The driver certainly knew the name of the person he killed at this point, rendering his testimony bizarre. His appearance behind the screen at this trial was far from the first time he has been asked about the incident in which he took part and stood accused of perpetrating (but was exonerated by an Israeli investigation).
The same article reported that the driver didn’t recall the time of day, either.
Other stories presented different details. It seems necessary to read several of them to understand what happened in that courtroom. For example, The Independent reports:
The driver's evidence painted an at times confusing and contradictory picture which exposed apparent deviations from statements made by witnesses – including himself – to a Military Police investigation.
While two soldiers had said she was buried while standing on the far side of a mound of earth – away from the approaching bulldozer – YB declared: "I am absolutely certain that she was between me and the pile."
He said that with protective armour on the front of his 66-ton bulldozer, he had a "dead" area of vision which meant that he could see ground only from about 30 metres in front of him. When he was reminded that he had told the military police that the dead area was only three metres, he insisted: "It's not three or four metres. It's more."
On the fact that he had not gone to help Ms Corrie as she lay on the ground he said: "We are not allowed to leave our vehicles." Asked why he had not radioed for an ambulance, he said: "It was not at my level of command." He acknowledged that he knew there were foreign activists in the area. [The Independent (UK). Bulldozer driver insists he did not see Rachel Corrie, 10/21/2010]
The Independent article includes an AP photo of Corrie standing in the path of the bulldozer in her bright orange jacket.
Israel is protecting itself even as the trial goes on. From the LA Times story:
"They don't want him to have to look at us," she said. "That's the point, isn't it? The state is protecting soldiers from having to come face to face with the acts they committed and the people they've impacted. Israel is hiding behind that screen."
Israel is a bad joke! The Corries are to be commended for pursuing justice. American Gov. silence is shameful!