Rachel Corrie Civil Suit in Haifa – Israeli Colonel: “There Are No Civilians in War Zones”
I. Anyone reading through the transcripts and findings or articles about the first phase of this suit and what is emerging now, who then continues to believe the U.S. government should allow the Israeli Defense Forces and Defense Ministry to be the ones conducting the investigation into the death of American citizen Furkan Dogan – which is exactly what your congress and senate have demanded your president actually do – is abdicating a serious responsibility we hold toward our injured or killed citizens to an unfair, inadequate process.
After all, in the case of Mr. Dogan, here’s the wan statement Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued, regarding his murder:
Protecting the welfare of American citizens is a fundamental responsibility of our government and one that we take very seriously. We are in constant contact with the Israeli Government, attempting to obtain more information about our citizens.
It has been over 100 days now, and what has this "constant contact" resulted in? Somebody please remind Secretary Clinton.
II. The first half of the second phase of the wrongful death civil suit brought by Craig and Cindy Corrie against the Israeli Defense Forces and the Israeli Defense Ministry, concluded Monday in Haifa. Testimony on both days of this portion of the trial, which was attended by "representatives from the US Embassy, Human Rights Watch and Adalah, a legal and human rights organization," clearly indicates that there was no "investigation" of Corrie’s March 16th, 2003 death near Rafah in the Gaza Strip worthy of being termed thorough or fair. Although there had been additional testimony (the State is presenting its rebuttal to the Corries’ March 2010 presentation) scheduled for September 21st, the trial will not resume until October, when it is set for the the 7th, 17th, 18th and 21st.
In the testimony of Sunday, September 5, it was unmistakable that the IDF had an enormously unqualified young, 20 year-old soldier conduct the most important parts of the early investigation:
Oded confirmed that a commander of the unit involved in Rachel’s killing interrupted the questioning of the bulldozer operator, telling him that Doron Almog, head of the Israeli military’s Southern Command, had ordered that the questioning cease. He also said that, in his experience, interference of this nature from military commanders was not uncommon.
When asked why he did not challenge the intervention, Oded said that as a junior investigator, it was not his place to do so. He was 20-years-old at the time, with only a high-school education and three-months of training in investigation.
Corrie’s case was the first civilian killing that Oded investigated from beginning to end.
Like El’ad, Oded stated that neither he nor any other investigator visited the site of the killing.
Oded said that he did not obtain the video-audio recording from the military surveillance camera which filmed 24/7 until March 23, a week after he began the investigation.
Oded said he did not request the video-audio recording with radio transmissions of the 2 bulldozer drivers and commanders from the hours leading up to the incident, transmissions which might have provided further context to the killing. Oded stated he did not believe they were relevant, even though Rachel and her friends from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) were protesting the bulldozer activity for several hours prior to her death.
When military police transcribed the radio transmissions, they failed to include an exchange in Arabic in which one soldier said, “Yem mawatu!” which in English means, “What, Did you kill him?!” and another soldier replied, “Allah Yerhamo,” “May God have mercy on him.” When asked about the discrepancy, Oded said that he did not understand Arabic and the investigation team did not think it was important. Oded testified that none of the investigators interviewed any of the Palestinian witnesses – including medical personnel who examined Rachel immediately following the incident. When asked why, he said he did not think they could provide any useful information.
There have been unanswered questions about the missing video surveillance tapes and audio of radio conversations between command control and the two people in the bulldozer that killed Corrie since the March phase. None have yet been answered in this current two-day episode. Have they been destroyed, or are they merely being deemed "classified"?
Monday’s proceeding featured what appears to have been an incredibly haughty IDF Colonel, who most reminds me of the Argentine Colonels of the late 70s and 80s, who justified the murder of tens of thousands of liberal and progressive men and women there, because their whole nation was "a war zone."
One of the witnesses, known to the court as Yossi, was a Colonel in the Engineering Corps. He was responsible for writing operating manuals for military bulldozers and other equipment. He also conducted a simulation of what the bulldozer driver would have been able to see. In his testimony:
He repeatedly insisted that there are no civilians in a war zone. His assertion disregards the reality in the Palestinian Occupied Territories as well as international humanitarian law, which was created to protect civilians in armed conflict situations.
Yossi contradicted his own March 2003 testimony, given to military investigators, that the armored personnel carrier (APC) at the incident was intended to protect both soldiers and civilians. Today, he said the APC was there only for the safety of the drivers.
In his affidavit, Yossi wrote that he conducted a reenactment of the incident. However, he testified today that he did not reenact the scene, but rather filmed a bulldozer of the same model with a bulldozer operator, and another soldier, to get a sense of what the operator at the incident might have seen. He also said he did not view the military’s surveillance video of the incident in creating his simulation.
Yossi claimed that the manual on operating instructions for mechanical engineering equipment in low intensity conflict did not apply to real conflict situations, but rather only in training and administrative activities.
Yossi stated that the bulldozer driver and commander have the exact same field of vision and that the commander sat at the same level as the driver, contradicting the government’s expert witness, who stated that the commander had a better field of vision because he sat higher.
Another witness for the state, Major Yoram Manchori, testified as an expert witness on the bulldozer’s field of vision. He was responsible for purchasing heavy engineering equipment and readying it for military use. In May 2010, he created an animated simulation of what the bulldozer driver and commander’s vision might have been.
Manchori insisted he used in the simulation a bulldozer identical to the one that killed Rachel. However, the bulldozer he used had multiple bars on its windows, whereas the bulldozer that struck Rachel had no bars. Upon being informed of this discrepancy, he claimed that the bars did not impact visibility.
He conducted his simulation on terrain that was very different than the terrain at the scene.
He determined the simulated location of the bulldozers based on eyewitness recollections given over 7 years after the incident. He did not cross-check them with eyewitness accounts from the time of the killing, nor did he view the military surveillance video of the incident.
Manchori testified that the price of a Caterpillar D9R bulldozer is currently $700,000 and the cost of arming it is an additional $200,000 – $250,000, figures not previously disclosed. In light of this, it is now known that the cost of mounting a camera, which is often cited as being prohibitively expensive, would be less than 10% of the price of the bulldozer itself.
Manchori testified that after Rachel’s death the Israeli military installed cameras on one bulldozer but due to the high cost, limited increase in field vision and other problems, the installation was discontinued.
Manchori testified that prior to Corrie’s killing, the Israeli military tested the D9R bulldozer field of vision and that he personally had sent three charts of the results to the military investigators in March 2003. In court today, the Corries’ lawyer requested to obtain a copy of this report, stating that he needed it in order to analyze the bulldozer visibility claims made in the military police investigation of Rachel’s killing. The State argued that the report was classified and should not be allowed into evidence, although the Israeli Supreme Court previously ruled that this report was relevant to the case. Judge Gershon upheld the State’s argument.
After Monday’s hearing, regarding the "no civilians in a war zone" statement, Cindy Corrie was quoted as saying, "This was startling to our family, and to others in the courtroom. Rafah is a densely populated town. In fact, Rachel was killed defending the home of two Palestinian families-a pharmacist, an accountant, their wives and small children. It was extremely troubling for their existence to be categorically denied.”
III. An interesting development in the coverage, or lack thereof, of this trial, is the reporting by a source of pro-Israeli information, IMRA, or Independent Media Review and Analysis. As was shown in the MV Mavi Marmara incident, the IDF and Defense Ministry are getting quicker at throwing their propaganda out there and seeing what sticks to the wall than had been the case until 2010. As Max Blumenthal was easily able to demonstrate in the aftermath of that tragedy, accuracy was not an issue with the IDF. Were it not for the incredible courage of Iara Lee and others aboard the MVMM, more of the IDF crap would have stuck to the wall.
In the IMRA coverage of the trial, they now spend a lot of time on the "research" done by American writer and journalist Joshua Hammer in 2003. At that time, working for Mother Jones magazine, he "hammered" what he had hoped would be the definitive nails into Rachel Corrie’s coffin:
Corrie herself has faded into obscurity, a subject of debate in Internet chat rooms and practically nowhere else.
That was September 2003. Phan Nguyen, writing then for Counterpunch, tore Hammer’s piece to shreds, in an article titled Mother Jones Smears Rachel Corrie – Specious Journalism in Defense of Killers.
In early 2004, I corresponded with Phan Nguyen about his article and Hammer’s. I attempted to get in touch with Hammer, but he didn’t respond. I wrote to some of those Nguyen observed Hammer had stolen material from, and they were surprised, though – being right-wing Christian Zionists – they were disappointed to have ended up in what one called "the leftist MoJo."
I wrote about the Hammer-Nguyen contretemps for an April 2004 lecture I delivered in Anchorage. In that lecture I left out my suspicion from researching Hammer’s sources that he had been fed a lot of his 2003 material from an Israeli governmental source or sources, most likely the Mossad or another intelligence-gathering group. Hence, his inability to handle the way he had ripped off American right-wing bloggers in the "leftist MoJo" article. I speculate now that he didn’t even know it was a rip-off, because he probably merely reprinted stuff given to him by his contacts as his own, without checking it.
The way IMRA is sanctifying Hammer’s long-ago blown material now only reinforces what I felt in 2004.