By Amira Hass
Israel's investigation into the death of American activist Rachel Corrie was not satisfactory, and wasn't as thorough, credible or transparent as it should have been, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro told the Corrie family this week.
The bereaved family - parents Craig and Cindy, and sister Sarah - are in Israel awaiting the verdict in the civil suit they had filed two years ago against the State of Israel over their daughter's death. The ruling by the Haifa District Court is expected on Tuesday.
The U.S. government's position is not new to the Corries, but their attorneys said that hearing it only a few days before the verdict was "important and encouraging," because it signals to the Corrie family that the U.S. government will continue to demand a full accounting from Israel about their daughter's killing, regardless of how Judge Oded Gershon rules.
In 2002 Rachel Corrie joined a group of International Solidarity Movement activists who had been living among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, in areas that were subject to Israel Defense Forces incursions and attacks. In Rafah, where Corrie spent the last few weeks of her life, the activists wanted to demonstrate against the systematic destruction of Palestinian homes for what the IDF called operational purposes.
On the afternoon of March 16, 2003, an IDF Caterpillar bulldozer crushed Corrie to death, when she and her friends were standing in front of it to prevent what they believed was the planned demolition of two occupied homes.
The IDF claimed that Corrie's death was an accident, and that the driver of the bulldozer never saw her.
In 2005, after the military prosecutor closed the file, the family filed a civil suit against the Israeli government, accusing it of being responsible for Corrie's death and for not conducting a full and credible investigation. The state responded that the IDF bulldozer driver had never seen Corrie, that she should not have been in a battle zone, and that the Military Police investigation had not found any violations of the law.
In May 2011, when Shapiro was questioned by the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee before his appointment as ambassador to Israel, he repeated the administration's position regarding the Israeli investigation.
Sen. John Kerry asked Shapiro what steps the embassy, under his administration, would take that would be in keeping with the remarks of State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. On June 30, 2010 Crowley had said, "We continue to stress to the government of Israel at the highest levels, to continue a thorough, transparent and credible investigation of the circumstances concerning [Corrie's] death."
Shapiro responded: "For seven years, we have pressed the government of Israel at the highest levels to conduct a thorough, transparent and credible investigation of the circumstances of her death. The government of Israel has responded that it considers this case closed and does not plan on reinvestigating the incident."
Shapiro then noted that the case had gone to court in March 2010 and said, "We hope this venue will finally provide [the Corries] with the answers they seek. We will continue to work with and assist the Corrie family as appropriate."
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