State Accused of Whitewash as Rachel Corrie Suit Begins

The family of an American activist fatally crushed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza in 2003 accused Israel of whitewashing its investigation into her death, as their civil case against Israel got underway yesterday.

The parents of Rachel Corrie, Cindy and Craig, along with her sister and three representatives from the American Embassy were present in the Haifa District Court.

The family's attorney said U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's aides, who met with the Corrie family, made clear that the Obama administration held firmly to the position of the Bush administration - which maintained that the Military Police probe was insufficient and that Israel needed to conduct a more thorough investigation of the case.

The family was told that a representative of the U.S. Embassy in Israel will be present at all hearings.

Corrie was 23 years old when she was run over by an Israel Defense Forces bulldozer after she and fellow activists in the International Solidarity Movement tried to block the destruction of Palestinian homes in Rafah.

Craig Corrie said in court yesterday that his family was seeking justice.

His wife Cindy said the trial would provide the opportunity to hear the witnesses clearly, and that many other people have been waiting to see how the case turns out.

The family's civil suit states that the investigation by the Military Police was not handled properly and that Rachel's death was caused either on purpose or through negligence on the part of the bulldozer operator. The suit also states that sections of a video, which documented moments before Corrie was hit and the incident itself, had been erased.

The state prosecutor said the driver of the bulldozer had a very limited field of vision and could not have spotted Corrie.

He added that due to the danger of terror attacks, soldiers were prohibited from leaving their armored vehicles. The IDF and the Military Police had investigated the incident thoroughly, he said.

The family is not looking for monetary compensation, but rather that the state take responsibility, the Corries' attorney Hussein Abu-Hussein said. Abu-Hussein said the case was not about "who is right - Israel or the Palestinians - but rather whether Rachel Corrie's death was the result of negligence or not. We see Corrie's death as criminal negligence."