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Rachel Corrie trial continues in Israel, reviving controversial case

Rachel Corrie, a pro-Palestinian activist, was killed in March 2003 near the Gaza-Egypt border by an Israeli bulldozer. Her parents are suing the Israeli government for a symbolic $1.

By Ben Lynfieldcorrespondent / October 8, 2010

Cindy Corrie (l.) and Craig Corrie (r.), the parents of Rachel Corrie, a pro-Palestinian activist who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza in 2003, sit together with their daughter Sarah at the District Court in Haifa, northern Israel, March 10. The Corrie family is demanding a symbolic $1 in punitive damages from the state for wrongful killing and negligence.

Moti Milrod/AP


Haifa, Israel

Seven years after an Israeli military D-9 bulldozer buried American pro-Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie under sandy soil near Gaza's border with Egypt, her family has effectively put the Israeli army on trial for her death. The Corrie family is demanding a symbolic $1 in punitive damages from the state for wrongful killing and negligence.

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Ms. Corrie, along with other nonviolent volunteers from the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement (ISM), was trying to block two army bulldozers from demolishing Palestinian homes in Rafah when she was killed March 16, 2003. The commander of the two-man bulldozer team denied seeing Corrie, but ISM volunteers said in affidavits that the bulldozer driver could see her while pushing dirt on her body.

On Thursday it was the turn of Shalom Michaeli, who headed the short-lived military police investigation into Corrie's death, to testify in Haifa District Court. During most of his testimony, Mr. Michaeli was cool and self-confident. But on several occasions his voice rose and he told Corrie family attorney Hussein Abu Hussein to "stop putting words in my mouth."

He said that an army manual specifying that the D-9 bulldozer should not be operated near people was not relevant in a situation of war. "There was war going on between the Israel Defense Forces and all the people in that area," said Michaeli.

In the cross-examination it also emerged that Michaeli ordered only a partial transcript of radio transmissions and that he did not question the operator of a surveillance camera that panned away from the scene only minutes before Corrie was killed.

A symbol of idealism

In death, Corrie, from Olympia, Wash., became a symbol of idealism and self-sacrifice to many and an embarrassment to Israel. But her parents, who sat in the observers part of the courtroom taking notes as translators whispered to them, say the case is not about only accountability for Corrie's death. They have paid about $50,000 for translation alone since the case started early this year.

''This is way beyond the means of someone in Gaza. So few of the people killed in Gaza and the West Bank ever get any sort of day in court. When we have the means and we have the voice because Rachel was an international, that brings with it an obligation to go forward,'' said her father, Craig Corrie.