JERUSALEM — The family of a slain American activist on Wednesday appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court to overturn a lower court's ruling and hold the military accountable for their daughter's death.
Rachel Corrie was crushed to death over a decade ago while trying to block a military bulldozer that was preparing to demolish a Palestinian home in the southern town of Rafah near the Egyptian border. The army frequently razed homes in the area that it said militants used for cover.
The Corrie family is challenging the findings of a lower court, which exonerated the state of all wrongdoing in 2012.
The earlier ruling supported the findings of an Israeli military investigation, which determined that the bulldozer operator could not have seen Corrie. The bulldozer was heavily armored with only small slits for vision.
These findings — and the investigation itself — have been disputed by the family and supporters.
The Corries have listed multiple concerns, including what they see as a disregard for international humanitarian law and the interpretation that the incident occurred in a war zone and therefore was immune from charges.
"You put these things together, and what you have are the pillars that hold up the continued immunity that the Israeli defense forces have for their actions in this country," said Craig Corrie, Rachel's father. "And that needs to be challenged."
The Corries also argued that the military should have halted operations altogether at the time, due to the presence of civilians in the area.
Rachel Corrie, who was 23, was a member of the International Solidarity Movement, a pro-Palestinian group that sends activists to Gaza and the West Bank to intervene in Israeli military activities. She had traveled to Gaza with a group of international activists to engage in nonviolent activism.
The incident occurred during the height of a Palestinian uprising, which involved heavy fighting between the Israeli army and Palestinian militants.
Over the past decade, Corrie's case has become emblematic of the fraught and deeply contested three-way relationship between the Israeli military, the Palestinians and the international community.
For pro-Palestinian activists, Rachel Corrie's death represents what they see as the heavy hand of the Israeli occupation that acts with impunity against Palestinian citizens. For Israelis, the case represents media misrepresentation and what many feel is misguided idealism by international activists who try to intervene in regional conflicts.
The family believes the Israeli government should be held accountable for Rachel Corrie's death. They are asking that the verdict be overruled and that the case be sent back to district court for a new ruling.
Yuval Shany, dean of law faculty at Hebrew University, said the Supreme Court was highly unlikely to overturn the factual findings of the lower court.
He said the court did not hear any new witness testimony, meaning no new factual evidence will be presented. Instead, it is relying on the factual findings of the military investigation that the lower court already approved.
Additionally, said Shany, the previous ruling that the incident occurred in a closed military zone grants additional immunity to the state, and would be another challenge to overturn.
"It appears to be a rather water-tight decision," he said.
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