18 December 2003

No justice for killers of Rachel Corrie

By Stanley Heller

I can't imagine how hard this holiday season is for the Corrie family. The men who killed their daughter have never been punished, and their government refuses to take action.

Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old college student from Washington state, was killed on March 16. She was run over and backed over by a Caterpillar bulldozer as she tried to protect a family's house from demolition.

According to eyewitnesses, two soldiers in the bulldozer had her in direct view as they rolled over her body.

Corrie was killed in the Gaza Strip, the land Israel has occupied in defiance of the U.N. Security Council for 35 years. She was trying to stop the home of a Palestinian doctor from being destroyed.

There has never been a claim that the doctor was a terrorist or a criminal.

Israel has knocked down the homes of 10,000 Palestinians since it took over the West Bank and Gaza, according to Amnesty International.

Danny Rubenstein, in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, states that 5 percent of the homes were knocked down as punishment for terrorism.

That means 9,500 houses were knocked down because the Israeli government wanted the land for other purposes: settlements, roads, security features.

The 10,000 families were not given other housing. They were left on their own.

The Israeli government launched two investigations into Corrie's death.

The first neglected to speak to witnesses or look at the photos, even the picture with the mound of her half-buried body between two bulldozer treads.

The second investigation did gather all the evidence, but ignored its own autopsy and came to the conclusion that Corrie had not been run over by the bulldozer. The report said that the bulldozer operators had not seen Corrie and that no one was to blame in any way for the "accident."

I spoke to Corrie's parents when they visited the University of Connecticut and spoke on the dangers facing human rights workers. They had just come back from Israel and occupied territories.

They are soft-spoken people, but they are determined to get to the bottom of what happened that day.

Craig Corrie said they had gone to Rafah as a kind of pilgrimage, to walk where Rachel had walked and to meet the people she had known.

The house she tried to defend is still standing. The doctor still lives in it with his wife and children. It's pockmarked with bullets. The children have to sleep in the kitchen at night because of the shooting. Craig Corrie said this was not the result of fighting. He's a Vietnam vet, and said that at night he could recognize the sound of machine gun fire. Only the Israelis have those weapons.

Reportedly, President Bush met with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon the day after Rachel Corrie's death and insisted on a full and transparent investigation. Instead, there was a whitewash. Our political leaders have been uncharacteristically silent on the matter.

Rachel Corrie's congressman and nearly 50 co-sponsors have produced a resolution calling for a U.S. investigation into her death, but the bill was sent to committee, where it has not been raised.

Connecticut members of Congress won't support the bill even though over 600 Connecticut residents have asked that they do so.

In letters to constituents, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, talks about a Rachel Corrie "tragedy," but won't explain why the United States shouldn't investigate.

A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-5, says she has full confidence in the Israeli government investigation.

Their responses are typical.

In 1994, an American who committed vandalism in Singapore was facing being caned on his buttocks. There was a furor. Even the president made a statement.

Why then the silence now about the killing of an American hero? Why aren't politicians and newspaper editors demanding punishment for the people who killed Rachel Corrie?

Stanley Heller is chairman of the Middle East Crisis Committee, Box 3626, Woodbridge 06525. His e-mail address is mail@theStruggle.org.

İNew Haven Register 2003

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