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The Rachel Corrie Affair

Losing a child must be the worst thing that can happen to a parent.

Nine years ago, 23-year old Rachel Corrie stood in front of an Israeli military bulldozer and was crushed. The enquiry at the time cleared the operator and laid the blame squarely on Corrie. Her parents sued the State of Israel, claiming that the bulldozer operator killed their daughter purposefully.

On Tuesday the Haifa District Court handed down its judgment: There was no way that the operator of the heavy equipment could have seen Rachel. She stood there purposefully, and her tragic death was her own fault. Said the judge: "[Corrie] did not distance herself from the area, as any thinking person would have done... she consciously put herself in danger."

Corrie was in Israel to help “free Palestine”. She came as part of a mission of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), an NGO.

Rachel Corrie’s parents had full faith in the Israeli justice system, and rightly so. Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, has a legal system equal to the best in the world. And yet, to hear Mrs. Corrie on Israel TV after the decision, one could have thought that the judges’ findings would to lead to the end of democracy as we know it, in the entire world.

Strangely, the Corrie’s lawyer, in the same news broadcast, said that the parents intend to appeal – to the Supreme Court of Israel. It seems to be a matter of: “We like the Israeli justice system, we believe in the right to appeal, but don’t expect us not to besmirch the system if it awards against us”. (An aside – in its decision, taking into account the tragic circumstances, the court waived costs. The Corrie’s paid not a cent.)

Rachel Corrie was perhaps a naive and innocent young girl, manipulated by the ISM into believing that she had a duty to “free Palestine”. The problem is that organizations like the ISM uses the code word “free Palestine” to mean “kill the Jews”. And here Corrie’s parents must share the blame – for not educating their beloved daughter Rachel that anti-Semitism is the very basest form of rabid racism. Yes, Rachel Corrie was to blame for her own death, but that blame must be shared by her parents and by the ISM.

My own cousin David, white, Jewish, was killed in similar circumstances in an incident on a gold mine near Bulawayo, in Zimbabwe, almost around the time Rachel Corrie died. Zimbabwe was and is one of the most repressive autocracies in the world. Yet I’m betting the ISM hasn’t sent activists there. I’m betting you never heard of David’s appalling death. David’s parents (who had left Zimbabwe for safer Australia but still have relatives there) did not dare to sue in the Zimbabwe courts. And no divestment NGO reared its head to yell for a boycott of the Caterpillar Company, the manufacturers of the heavy equipment in both cases, as they have now as a result of the Corrie case.

The tragedy of the Corrie case is not only that Corrie’s parents have lost their daughter, but that they now fan the hatred and racist anti-Semitism that was the cause of her death. How sad is that.

Jonathan Danilowitz is a Contributing Writer for The Propagandist living in Israel.

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