| Israeli Supreme Court to hear Rachel Corrie appeal!

Israeli Supreme Court to hear Rachel Corrie appeal ~ International Solidarity Movement, Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace & Justice | Occupied Palestine.

Nine years after filing a civil suit against the State of Israel for the wrongful death of American peace activist Rachel Corrie, her family will have their appeal heard before the Israeli Supreme Court on May 21 at 11:30 a.m. in Jerusalem. The appeal, which will be argued by attorney Hussein Abu Hussein, challenges the Haifa District Court’s August 2012 ruling which concluded that the Israeli military was not responsible for Rachel’s death and that it conducted a credible investigation.

“During the past nine years, we have sought accountability in the Israeli courts for Rachel’s killing but were handed a verdict that showed blind indifference to the rights of the victim and little interest in seeking truth and justice,” said Craig Corrie, Rachel’s father.

The Corrie family appeal focuses on serious flaws in the lower court verdict which erred by ignoring and misinterpreting essential facts and misapplying legal norms. The appeal also challenges the lower court’s total disregard of international law obligations as well as procedural advantages that were regularly granted to the state during the proceedings. Lawyers for the Corries and the State of Israel have submitted their arguments in writing to the panel of three justices – Deputy-President of the Court Miriam Naor, Esther Hayut, and Zvi Zylbertal.

Speaking of his family’s hopes, Craig Corrie said, “It is a tragedy when the law is broken, but far, far worse when it is abandoned altogether.  The Supreme Court now has a choice, to either show the world that the Israeli legal system honors the most basic principles of human rights and can hold its military accountable, or to add to mounting evidence that justice can not be found in Israel.”

Rachel, a 23-year-old human rights defender from Olympia, Washington, was crushed to death March 16, 2003, by an Israeli military bulldozer while nonviolently protesting demolition of Palestinian civilian homes in Rafah, Gaza. The following day, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised President George W. Bush a “thorough, credible, and transparent” investigation into Rachel’s killing. In 2004, Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff informed the Corrie family of the U.S. Government’s position that the Israeli investigation did not meet these standards and advised them to “use the Israeli court system.” The Corries filed suit in 2005, charging the State of Israel and its Ministry of Defense with responsibility for Rachel’s killing.

The civil trial before Haifa District Court Judge Oded Gershon began March 10, 2010, and 23 witnesses testified in 15 hearings, spread over 16 months. Each session was attended by the Corrie family,American Embassy officials, and numerous legal and human rights observers.

Testimony exposed serious chain-of-command failures in relation to civilian killings, as well as indiscriminate destruction of civilian property at the hands of the Israeli military in southern Gaza. Four eyewitnesses from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) testified that Rachel was visible to soldiers in the bulldozer as it approached. Military witnesses testified that they saw ISM protesters in the area; and the on-site commander asked to stop operations due to their presence, but was ordered to continue working. An Israeli colonel testified that there are no civilians in war, and the lead military police investigator, himself, stated his belief that the Israeli military was at war with all in Gaza, including peace activists.

Testimony also revealed serious flaws in the military’s investigation into Rachel’s killing. Investigators failed to question key military witnesses, including those recording communications; failed to secure the military video, allowing it to be taken for nearly a week by senior commanders with only segments submitted to court; failed to address conflicting testimony given by soldiers; and ignored damning statements in the military log confirming a “shoot to kill” order and a command mentality to continue work in order to avoid setting a precedent with international activists.

On August 28, 2012, Judge Gershon ruled against the Corrie family, handing down a verdict stating the Israeli military was not to blame for Rachel’s death and that she alone was responsible for her demise. The Judge lauded the military police investigation and dismissed the case, adopting the Israeli Government’s position that the military should be fully absolved of civil liability, because soldiers were engaged in operational activities in a war zone.

The verdict was widely condemned by legal and human rights organizations monitoring the case, citing misrepresentation of facts and the fundamental principle of international humanitarian law – that in a time of war, military forces are obligated to take all measures to avoid harm to both civilians and their property. President Jimmy Carter stated that the court’s decision confirmed “a climate of impunity, which facilitates Israeli human rights violations against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Territory.” 

Seating in the courtroom is limited, and members of the press are advised to arrive early with press credentials.  Proceedings will be in Hebrew. The family is seeking permission from the Court to provide simultaneous translation for court observers.  However, pending the Court’s decision, journalists should make plans to bring their own translator. Cameras and audio recording equipment will not be permitted once proceedings begin.  Photos may be taken before the judges enter the room.

A performance of My Name is Rachel Corrie, a play drawn from the diaries and e-mails of Rachel and staged around the world, will be presented in Hebrew on Monday, May 19 at 21:00 at the Arab-Hebrew Theatre in Jaffa. It will be followed by a panel discussion with the Corrie family, moderated by human rights lawyer Michael Sfard. For more information, visit The Coalition of Women for Peace, which is sponsoring the event.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

Israeli soldiers to testify behind screen in Corrie Case

October 8, 2010FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 5 October 2010 | Rachel Corrie Foundation Extraordinary state secrecy motion is granted Haifa, Israel – The Haifa District Court on Thursday granted a government request to allow soldiers to testify behind a screen in the lawsuit filed by Rachel Corrie’s family against the State of Israel for her unlawful killing in Rafah, Gaza.

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| Continuing Apartheid: Institutionalised discrimination in Israel!

Institutionalised discrimination in Israel ~ Khaled AmayrehAl-Ahram Weekly.

The Israeli Supreme Court has further cemented discrimination in Israel against non-Jews in a decision that highlights the non-democratic basis of the state, writes Khaled Amayreh in occupied East Jerusalem.

A recent decision by the Israeli Supreme Court that asserted “Jewish nationality” over “Israeli nationality” has further alienated Israel’s large Arab minority and rekindled the old question of whether it is possible to really reconcile parochial Jewish laws with broad democratic principles.

The court rejected a request by 21 mostly Jewish Israeli citizens to be registered as “Israeli nationals” rather than Jews or Arabs.

The rejection of Israeli nationality by the Israeli state, the petitioners argued, was utterly undemocratic and exposed the state’s non-Jewish citizens to institutionalised discrimination.

Critics, both Jewish and Arab, described the decision as an undemocratic move with a disingenuous legal façade, aimed at perpetuating the status of non-Jews — particularly Israel’s Palestinian citizens — who comprise about 20 per cent of the population as inherently lesser or inferior citizens.

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Israeli officials and supporters of the court decision, however, argue that it is vital to maintain Israel’s “Jewish character”, regardless of the import of democracy and equality as the basis of citizenship.

PR-savvy Israeli spokespersons contend the decision has no impact on the issue of discrimination against Israeli non-Jews, adding that Israel’s Jewish identity shouldn’t collide with the civil rights of ethnic and religious minorities.

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JEWISH AND DEMOCRATIC? Israeli officials often claim that Israel is both Jewish and democratic in nature. Critics, however, argue that this is “an empty slogan” devoid of truth since Israel can’t be both Talmudic and democratic.

“This is a big lie. Israel can either be Jewish or democratic; it can’t be both, pure and simple,” says Hanna Issa, a prominent legal expert in Ramallah.

“And we all know that whenever there is the slightest conflict between the ‘Jewish’ and ‘democratic’ aspects, which comes first.”

Issa said Israel intended to achieve two strategic goals by “invoking the Jewish state mantra”.

First, the expulsion and ethnic cleansing of the two million strong Arab community. Second, preventing the repatriation of Palestinian refugees who fled or were expelled from their homes when Israel was created in 1948.

Issa adds: “When non-Jewish citizens in Israel demand equality as citizens they are confronted with the ‘Jewish state’ mantra, but when the international community criticises Israel for the often brazen discrimination against its non-Jewish citizens, the democratic state mantra is invoked. So, we are effectively talking about a totally dishonest discourse.”

 

NORMAL NATION-STATE: Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, denies any contradiction between his “reassertion of Israel’s national Jewish character” on the one hand and possible discrimination against the state’s non-Jewish citizens.

“Israel is Jewish in the same sense that France is French and Norway is Norwegian. The two European countries maintain their respective national identities despite the existence of ethnic and religious minorities in both countries,” Palmor says.

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Palmor argues that despite the existence of the Kvens in Norway, Norway remains Norwegian although the Kvens are not Norwegian. (The Kvens are a group of people who originated from the northern Baltic Sea areas of Finland and Sweden but who immigrated to Norway).

“And in France, there are millions of French citizens of North African origin, but France remains French. And the same thing applies to Israel more or less. There are some non-Jewish minorities, but Israel remains a Jewish country. It is the state of the Jewish people. This is exactly what the Supreme Court’s decision tried to assert.”

Palmor’s comparisons are strongly disputed by Jewish as well as Arab intellectuals.

Hasan Jabarin is the head of Adalah, the Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. He describes Palmor’s analogies between Israel and France as “corrupt, scandalous, utterly mendacious and insulting to people’s intelligence”.

“In France, once you are granted French citizenship, you become a full citizen. They don’t ask about your ethnicity or religion or about the genealogy of your mother. In Israel, your Israeli citizenship doesn’t help you if you are not Jewish,” argued Jabarin, a veteran lawyer, in interview with Al-Ahram Weekly.

He added: “The French-ness of France and the Jewish-ness of Israel are not the same thing. To claim they are is an insult to truth and common sense. In France, one can become a French citizen without having to convert to Catholicism or Christianity in general, but in Israel one can’t become Jewish unless one has a Jewish mother or converts to Judaism according to Jewish Orthodox rituals. These are the proscriptions of Jewish religious law.

“Besides, France is a state of all its citizens, but Israel is defined as the state of the Jewish people, as the Israeli Supreme Court repeatedly refused to define Israel as a state of all its citizens.”

Jabarin argued that Israel’s “brazenly discriminatory laws” are aimed at achieving two main goals: denying Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes and villages in what is now Israel, and curtailing the demographic growth of Israel’s Arab community, even by way of expulsion and ethnic cleansing if need be.

“That is the reason [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu keeps demanding that the Palestinians recognise Israel as an exclusively Jewish state.”

WHAT IS JEWISH? Palmor and other Israelis don’t claim to possess a unified or monolithic definition of who is a Jew. But, arguably for public relations purposes, Israeli hasbara (propaganda) spokespersons would claim that being Jewish means belonging to “the Jewish ethnicity”.

However, according to a recent survey as many as 50 per cent of Israeli Jews define being Jewish as observance of Jewish religious law.

For Gideon Levy, a veteran Israeli journalist and intellectual, mixing “nationality with religion is the mother of all problems”.

“If being Jewish means religion, then secular Jews like myself can’t define themselves as Jews. But if it is nationality, then I am an Israeli national first and foremost.”

Levy labels as hypocritical many American and European Jews who support institutionalised discrimination against non-Jewish Israeli citizens, whereas in their respective countries they aggressively and doggedly defend secularism and the principle of equality, irrespective of ethnicity and religion.

“Israel can’t be both Jewish and democratic. And under existing conditions, a non-Jewish citizen in Israel has no chance of having real equality with a Jew,” Levy says.

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Ada Ravon, a prominent lawyer from Tel Aviv who deals with civil rights issues, concurs: “There is no chance for a non-Jewish citizen in Israel to obtain full and complete equality. This is at least how I see it under existing circumstances.

“According to the Law of Return, Israel is a Jewish state, and non-Jews can’t be equal citizens.”

Responding to cwritics, Palmor admits, “there might be problems here and there,” but “there are sufficient laws in Israel that guarantee basic equality.” He adds: “Politics is politics and not every law can pass in the Knesset.”

Chaim Cohen, a Jewish intellectual, tried to coin a personal, non-controversial definition of who is a Jew. He argued that a Jew is one who feels Jewish. The vast majority of religious Jews rejected the definition, calling it diluted, ambiguous and too abstract.

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Portrait of a boy with the flag of Palestine painted on his face

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