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Why US Ambassador Condemned IDF Probe, Boosting ISM’s Rachel Corrie Myth


U.S. ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro added his support to the ISM effort to create martyrs in their fight against Israel.

U.S. ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro added his support to the ISM effort to create martyrs in their fight against Israel.
Photo Credit: Uri Lenz/FLASH90

This Tuesday the verdict is expected in a wrongful death suit against the government of Israel brought by the family of an American girl who died when she acted as a human shield against Israeli military anti-terrorism efforts.

As if there weren’t already enough drama and media attention surrounding the Rachel Corrie trial, it appears that U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro this week lent credibility to the plaintiffs’ case against the government of Israel when he reportedly criticized the Israeli investigation into Corrie’s death.

According to several news reports, Ambassador Shapiro told the Corrie family that the U.S. government believes the Israeli investigation was not “thorough, credible and transparent.”  That was enough to feed the liberal blogosphere, which touted the US support for the Corries, convicting Israel in their own court hearing.

But is that really the case?

The Israeli investigation, conducted immediately after Corrie’s death, concluded that what happened was a tragic accident brought on largely because Corrie insisted on entering and remaining in a military zone, and ignored repeated and escalating efforts to leave the area.  Further, that investigation found that the bulldozer operator could not have seen Corrie when she was struck and killed.

A little background, first.

In late January, 2003, Rachel Corrie moved from Olympia, Washington to Gaza, where she joined the virulently anti-Israel International Solidarity Movement and volunteered to act as a human shield in order to stop Israeli efforts to combat terrorism. She died on March 16, 2003, when she placed herself in the path of an Israeli army bulldozer that was in the process of leveling ground and removing booby traps planted by terrorists.

Between the time that Corrie arrived at the site and her death, the IDF issued multiple warnings and attempted to remove Corrie and her colleagues with shock grenades, tear gas and warning shots. The protesters refused to leave the site.

An Israeli military investigation took place immediately after Corrie’s death. The IDF concluded its investigation in June, 2003, finding that the bulldozer driver could not have seen Corrie, that the death was a tragic accident, and that Corrie had endangered herself by entering and remaining in a combat zone.  The investigation determined there was no fault on the part of the Israeli bulldozer driver, and that no charges would be brought.

What happened next within the US government on this issue is nearly as much of a deep mystery as many of Corrie’s supporters believe events surrounding her death is.

When Amb. Shapiro met with the Corries in advance of the court verdict last week, he was representing the US government, speaking to an American family, and discussing the death of an American citizen.  Although much has been made of his statement by supporters of the Corries, in fact he was simply repeating what has been described as the official position of the US government with respect to the Israeli investigation into Corrie’s death.

But where did the position come from?  Upon what was it based?

It turns out, the position appears to simply be the opinion of Rachel Corrie’s parents, the plaintiffs in the case against the government of Israel.

During his confirmation hearing in May, 2011, now Ambassador Dan Shapiro was asked by Massachusetts Senator John Kerry what steps he would take to ensure, as the State Department Spokesperson had called for, “that the Israeli government would continue a thorough, transparent and credible investigation of the circumstances concerning [Corrie’s] death.”

The State Department spokesperson was echoing what, in 2008, Senator Joe Biden asked during the confirmation hearing for Ambassador James Cunningham, now ambassador to Afghanistan, who was leaving his position at the US Consulate in Hong Kong.

Biden asked the future ambassador to Israel about the Rachel Corrie incident.  He asked whether, “in your opinion, has a thorough, credible, and transparent investigation taken place?” The Ambassador did not answer in the affirmative.  Instead, Cunningham stated that “The Department remains committed to providing the highest standards of citizen services  to the Corrie family. If confirmed, I will continue to press the Government of Israel for a thorough and transparent investigation of the tragic death of Rachel Corrie.”

Curious.

For those few who have followed the path of the “official US administration position” regarding Israel’s investigation into Corrie’s death, the trail leads to a letter allegedly written in June, 2004, to the Corries by Lawrence B. Wilkerson, Chief of Staff to then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.  Wilkerson was replying to the Corries who asked him whether, in his opinion, the investigation conducted by Israel was “thorough, credible and transparent.”  According to legend, Wilkerson replied: “no.”

Indeed, according to Rachel Corrie’s father, it was Wilkerson himself who told the family they should sue the government of Israel.

But in all subsequent references to the alleged shortcomings of Israel’s investigations, the specifics are always referred to as “charges” or “complaints” made either by the Corries or by the International Solidarity Movement, the outfit which sent Rachel Corrie into harm’s way.

So how is it possible to determine conclusively whether the US believes Israel’s investigation was flawed?  The best evidence, startling enough, comes from the Corries themselves.

Because, at the same time that their supporters have been touting the view that the US has condemned Israel for a shoddy investigation, the Corrie family has consistently complained about the State Department’s refusal to act in a manner consistent with such a position.  In other words, the Corries apparently know the US does not believe that the Israeli investigation was inadequate.

The Rachel Corrie Foundation in 2010 charged, in a submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council, that

the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for Israel in 2003, 2004 and 2005 (released in 2004, 2005, and 2006, respectively) address Rachel’s killing without mentioning the lack of a credible investigation into her death. The 2004 report suggested that “the Corrie family” believed the Israeli investigations to be inadequate, while the 2005 report noted “inconsistencies” between Israeli investigations and “statements among those observing the incident.” Exclusion of U.S. government opinions in the reports creates a misleading sense that the U.S. was ignorant of the inadequacy of Israeli investigations.

The answer seems to be that it was Rachel Corrie’s parents who believe that Israel’s investigation of their daughter’s death was flawed.  And it was the alleged response of one State Department employee to the Corries, in a private letter, that led to a the myth of the “official US government position” in the form of a mantra that took on a life of it’s own.

It is not surprising that Ambassador Shapiro gave comfort to the Corries on the eve of their trial’s verdict, in language which has been bandied about in the State Department for years. Nonetheless, a full understanding of how that mythic position arose should salve the sting of criticism against the Israeli government by its closest ally.

The Corrie family took Wilkerson’s advice and sued the government of Israel in a wrongful death suit in an Israeli district court in Haifa, Israel.  That case went to trial in March, 2010. Since that time there have been 15 court hearings at which 23 witnesses testified, producing more than 2,000 pages of court transcripts. Judge Oded Gershon is expected to issue the verdict tomorrow, August 28.

What Actually Happened To Rachel Corrie,

the Most Famous Martyr of the Palestinian Cause

By Jewish Press Staff

Rachel Corrie

Rachel Corrie

“Couldn’t the bulldozer driver see or hear Corrie?” asks blogger Lenny Ben-David in I*Consult. He points out that the noise generated by the bulldozer is deafening, and Corrie, who had used a megaphone before, did not have it on the afternoon in question.

“The field of vision on the armored bulldozer is exceptionally limited, and the driver could not see her,” argues Ben-David.

And while Corrie’s associates testified that she was standing in front of the bulldozer, which would still place her below the driver’s line of sight, their own witnesses at the time of the incident reported, and the NY Times dutifully cited that “when the bulldozer approached a house today, Ms. Corrie, who was wearing a bright orange jacket, dropped to her knees.”

“The bulldozer drove toward Rachel slowly, gathering earth in its scoop as it went,” an International Solidarity Movement (ISM) associate said in 2003. “She knelt there, she did not move.”

Another ISM witness said: “She did not ‘trip and fall’ in front of the bulldozer. She sat down in front of it, well in advance.‎“

They were trying to make her appear very martyr-like, hence the silent, meditative figure sitting motionless before the Zionist bulldozer. But as soon as it turned out the driver couldn’t spot her sitting down – the ISM pulled her up to a standing position.

Dead martyrs are very handy that way.


The area in which Corrie died was a closed military zone and Corrie ran to the site specifically to interfere with the efforts of the IDF.

“The IDF’s ground-clearing operation was carried out only 50 meters from the Egyptian border – near the infamous Philadelphi road,” writes Ben-David. “Up until Corrie’s death, the IDF had uncovered more than 40 tunnels from Egypt used to smuggle weapons and terrorists into Gaza. In recent years, after the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, the number of tunnels approached 1,000.”

“Why was the ISM trying to block the bulldozers seven years ago?” asks Ben-David, suggesting they were “attempting to protect Hamas’ tunnels.”

But there was a less than wholesome subtext to the Corrie incident, exposed, of all strange possibilities, by Newsweek writer Joshua Hammer in a lengthy article in Mother Jones. That morning, before her fatal accident, Rachel Corrie had been fighting off jovial advances from her Palestinian host:

“Don’t go,” Naela’s father teased her. “Stay here and marry me.”

“You’re an old man, and besides, you’ve already got a wife,” Rachel joked back.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “I’ll teach you Arabic. You’ll teach me English. We make a perfect pair.”

Begging off the family’s continued pleas, at 8:30 Rachel climbed through the hole in the rear of their house and walked down the sandy alley toward her office.

Apparently, the ISM band was fast becoming the focal point for anti-Western resentment, never mind whose side they were on.

Hammer is insightful and, we think, on the money, in describing Corrie’s and her comrades’ state of mind before the fatal confrontation:

She was propelled, in part, by frustration. During the past few days she and the nine other ISM activists had become preoccupied with an anonymous letter circulating through Rafah that cast suspicion on the human shields. “Who are they? Why are they here? Who asked them to come here?” it asked. The letter referred to Corrie and the other expatriate women in Rafah as “nasty foreign bitches” whom “our Palestinian young men are following around.” It was a sobering reminder that outsiders — even international do-gooders — were untrustworthy in the eyes of some Palestinians.

That morning, the ISM team tried to devise a strategy to counteract the letter’s effects. “We all had a feeling that our role was too passive. We talked about how to engage the Israeli military,” Richard “Fuzz” Purssell told me by phone from Great Britain. “We had teams working in the West Bank, going up to checkpoints, presenting a human face to soldiers. But in Rafah we’d only seen the Israelis at a distance.” And as is so often the case in the Middle East, lack of any humanizing interaction meant that the IDF and the ISM knew each other only by their worst acts.

Few activists had spent much time in Israel or spoken to soldiers except in moments of conflict; the soldiers experienced the peace activists only as nuisances who were getting in their way in highly volatile situations. That morning, team members made a number of proposals that seemed designed only to aggravate the problem. Purssell, for instance, suggested marching on a checkpoint that had been the site of several suicide attacks. “The idea was to more directly challenge the Israeli military dominance using our international status,” Purssell told me.

Lenny Ben-David points out that Corrie was not singled out, and at least two ISM members were pulled out from under the bulldozers “after they started acting in accordance with their more aggressive policy.”

Hammer reported: “An Irish peace activist named Jenny was nearly run down by a D9. ‘The bulldozer’s coming, the earth is burying my feet, my legs, I’ve got nowhere to run, and I thought, This is out of control,’ she told me. ‘Another activist pulled me up and out of the way at the last minute.’”

“The ISM has a long record of putting its members, particularly young Western women, into harm’s way,” suggests ben David. The list he cites is long:

April 2, 2002, Australian Kate Edwards was shot and wounded in Beit Jala near Jerusalem having been made to stand where Palestinians were firing on the Jewish neighborhood of Gilo.

Also in April, 2002, Irish Caomhe Butterly served as a human shield in Yasir Arafat’s compound in Ramallah, and on November 22 she inserted herself as a human shield again and was wounded during an IDF operation in Jenin. (Butterly was later an organizer and spokesperson aboard the 2010 Gaza flotilla).

On April 13, 2003, Thomas Hurndall was shot and killed when he challenged an Israeli tank force in Gaza.

On April 24, 2010, Bianca Zammit, a Maltese national, joined Palestinians who charged the security fence between Gaza and Israel and was shot through the thigh by a sniper.

On May 31, 2010, Emily Henochowicz, an American Jew, lost her eye after she was hit by a tear gas grenade that ricocheted off a highway divider during a violent demonstration near Qalandia in Judea and Samaria.

There’s appears to be no doubt that the ISM has been methodical about throwing its members into the line of fire.

How much preparation did those hapless martyrs receive?

Well, Kate Edwards actually told a reporter: “I never thought for a moment that they would fire live ammunition at us.”

While Rachel Corrie wrote to her mother about the possibility of an American activist’s death as a propaganda tool:

“You just can’t imagine it unless you see it, and even then you are always well aware that your experience is not at all the reality: what with the difficulties the Israeli Army would face if they shot an unarmed U.S. citizen.”

That’s how much.

About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.


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23 Responses to “Why US Ambassador Condemned IDF Probe, Boosting ISM’s Rachel Corrie Myth”

  1. Remember that it was the Bush administration that first stated that the IDF investigation was not as thorough, credible or transparent as desired which President Bush was assured by Sharon would occur.
    According to Oslo, the IDF had no right to be in the area they were working as they were over 150 meters off of the Philadelphi Corridor. Per Oslo it was the the IDF that was in the wrong place. And, the Israeli military command knew that this Oslo stipulation was problematic for them….so they took the matter into their own hands and violated Oslo and were creating the buffer zone. The last thing the IDF needed was a video like showed up two days before Rachel's death showing the bulldozers working well into Palestinian territory and inside the wall….Oslo Oslo Oslo. That is what this is about and photographs and videos surfacing proving the IDF in huge violation.

  2. Sylvia Navon says:

    An American girl with no personal ties to the region decides that she is going to change an old and complicated conflict by interfering with the IDF, a powerful military force which has developed over many years to defend Israeli citizens from violent attacks by 21 Muslim countries which want to destroy it. With an obvious sense of great righteousness she sits down in front of a huge bulldozer.
    She is killed. Her cohorts then contend that she was killed on purpose. The righteous white, Western, Christian damsel becomes their martyr. Ms. Corrie put herself in danger. In a combat zone, unarmed journalists and photographers, and combatants get killed, sometimes by friendly fire. The hubris of this girl and her family and the rest of the ISM gang makes me sick. For two thousand years Christianity has blamed the Jews for murdering Jesus, a death which they exalt theologically as their salvation. What's the difference?

  3. Anonymous says:

    What happened to Charity begins at Home USA veterans suicide 14 a month Go Help your own, FIRST. USA Homeless needs help, Why they need to go around the world stick their nose anywhere like a Drone strike or suicide bomber. Americans go home clean house,"When your living in a Glass House, throw no stones".

  4. Sandy Haas says:

    I know plenty of Christians who are supportive of Israel and those who think that they can make a statement and change the world by stopping a bulldozer are truly naive! I blame that Anti-Israel brain manipulation movement that contributed to placing her in a definite life/death situation. She chose to be there and the organization allowed her to be in danger- perhaps Israel should pass a law that foreigners are not allowed to live there and join these lethal organizations! I pray for the Peace of Jerusalem! Shalom

  5. Ambassador Shapiro's statement is not credible. It seems the Obama administration is not yet finished with slapping the faces of the righteous people of Israel. What's next? Sending Rabbi Lynne Gottlieb as the next ambassador?

  6. Sandy Haas says:

    You are right- we have enough to clean up in our own back yard!

  7. There was a report that Corrie was taken to a Palestinian hospital, alive. Either her injuries were beyond the capabilities of the hospital – or she was "sacrificed" for their propaganda cause.

  8. Ruby Harris says:

    the corries are racist jew haters, and rachel is the worst.

  9. Yori Yanover says:

    Well, it's over, I believe. The Haifa court just ruled for the IDF. ISM needs fresh, new martyr recruits.

  10. Janet Finkel says:

    they lost the court case in Haifa's eastern district.

  11. Liad Bar-el says:

    Yes, you're right Yori. They have to keep the new martyr recruits coming. Maybe more girls would come if they knew that they were going to be part of Arafat's 72 women.

  12. Anya Khan says:

    As i understand it, most US Christians side with Israel. No all of course but some. Real Christians know that the death of Christ was not because of Jews.

  13. Anya Khan says:

    Cheryl Brodersen wow you wind biggest lying bigot award for tody? Related to the Corries then?

  14. Anya Khan says:

    Where did you see that? This is the first time I heard it, but it does seem plasuible.

  15. Anya Khan says:

    The Corries must share part of the blame. When you raise a bigot to support terrosim you shoud be ashamed. My prays for their grief, but hopefully they will change their lives and renounce the anti-semitic livestyle.

  16. Robin Rosenblatt says:

    She was just plain stupid to sit behind a D9 Bulldozer. Once in the military the same thing almost happen to me and I was at fault. I was not being careful.

  17. דוד רובנשטין says:

    It is hard to think of a better instance of natural selection than Rachel Corrie (Vittorio Arrigoni, the anti-Israel Italian pacifist who was strangled by his Gazan terrorist hosts certainly comes to mind) who grew up in a privileged setting in the States and ended up joining the ISM, a virulently anti-Israel organization which has consistently aided terrorist groups such as Islamic Jihad in deadly attacks on Israeli commercial establishments. And now the people from whom she inherited her defunct "useful" idiot DNA are doing everything in their power to perpetuate the same vapid lie of Israeli injustice that surely was responsible for misleading their deceased offspring to run off to a war zone and kneel in bushes in the path of a D9 bulldozer.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Cheryl Brodersen Thank you for pointing out the Oslo connection. I hadn't read that anywhere. Do you think there will be repercussions?

    What I did read is that now people are calling for Nato/UN to invade Israel, secure its nuclear weapons, and set up an international government. Do you think there's any possibility that this would be attempted?

  19. All fingers of accusation point to Israel. The French courts are currently investigating the death of Arafat and, I expect, will conclude that his death was a homicide. The usual suspects will be "rounded-up" and yes, you guessed it…they will accuse Israel and the Mossad. Interestingly enough, the Polonium-210 found on the remains of Arafat has a half-life of only 138 days…so…do the math..someone at the autopsy "tampered"
    with the evidence since Arafat died in 2004.

  20. Yori Yanover says:

    Also, they found the polonium in his clothes but not in his hair. Explain that miracle of modern science.

  21. Rachel OKelley says:

    The article highlights how even Palestinians distrusted women like Rachel Corrie.

  22. Rachel OKelley says:

    And how they don't hesitate to put them in harms way

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