On the Eastern hemisphere, news of the verdict exonerating the the Israel Defense Forces of wrongdoing in a lawsuit by the family of Rachel Corrie, the American pro-Palestinian activist who died a young, tragic, but avoidable death in Gaza, echoed with the same acrimonious howls that her death did nearly ten years ago.
“23 year old American activist murdered by the terrorist Israeli military,” commentator Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi tweeted to his 137,000+ followers.
A columnist for The Guardian wrote that the verdict “reveals the lie of the IDF’s claim to be the world’s ‘most moral army.'”
Others called the verdict proof of the erosion of Israel’s legal institutions, an insult to America, and even proof that non-violence resistance doesn’t pay dividends. Despite these pronouncements, the most basic facts of the case haven’t changed much in nine years:
Despite the warning by her own country’s state department against travel to Gaza, Rachel Corrie went anyway, entered a closed military zone where the IDF had been attacked hours before, and evaded prior efforts by the Israeli army to move her and other activists from the area. Judge Oded Gershon said as much in his 62-page decision: Corrie had put herself in danger. He also did not see evidence that proved Corrie had been in the line of sight of the driver of the bulldozer that struck her.
Her death was hailed as the ultimate martyrdom by Corrie’s group, the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a pro-Palestinian organization that has been accused of–wittingly and unwittingly–running cover for Palestinian terrorists, speaking out in favor of Palestinian attacks on Israelis, and disrupting the security efforts of the Israeli Defense Forces, a foreign army. (The ISM has also had some of its members sexually assaulted, wounded, or killed by Palestinians with no real resulting cries of condemnation or ideological reconsiderations.)
Corrie’s death spawned a subculture of passion plays and tone deaf art, little of which bore the nuance needed to show the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict as something other than a cartoonish battle between good and evil. To some of Corrie’s celebrators, she was human and she was killed by an evil machine. It seems to matter little to many of Corrie’s champions that the driver who accidentally killed her was, in all likelihood, a 19-year-old kid serving compulsory army service. Unlike Corrie, he had no choice but to be there in Gaza carrying the heavy burden of defending his country from the very real killers who stole their way into Israel during the Second Intifada, targeting civilians–far from closed military areas, in pizza parlors, cafes, and college cafeterias.
The Corrie verdict was announced in Haifa, not too far from the home of Gilad Shalit, who today celebrates his first birthday out of captivity since 2005. Shalit’s abduction from his own country by Hamas–a terrorist group running the very same Gaza that Israel left a few years after Corrie’s death–did not ignite any outrage from the many human rights satellites that decried Corrie’s unfortunate death. Even as Shalit was kept in a basement while his health deteriorated and his family knew nothing of his well-being, his very human cause did not make its way into much of the literature.
Meanwhile, the Israel that traded 1,000 prisoners for Shalit’s life is the same Israel that still lamented Corrie’s death even while deciding that it was not at fault. It is also the same Israel that, while extremely flawed, investigated the circumstances of Corrie’s death and carried out a long and painful trial that less moral countries wouldn’t have bothered with.