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Open Letter to State Department

Verdict in Corrie Case Requires U.S. Investigation

October 2012

Dear Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,

We, the undersigned organizations, urge the U.S. government to conduct thorough, credible, and transparent investigations into the death of Rachel Corrie and into each case involving the death or serious injury of an American citizen by the Israeli military since 2001. We urge that these cases be examined comprehensively, as a potential pattern of gross violations of human rights. The United States cannot sit idly by as Israel continues to injure and kill our human rights defenders with impunity. Given U.S. funding of the Israeli military, the U.S. government cannot ignore its own legal obligations under U.S. and international human rights laws.

Rachel Corrie was a U.S. citizen and a human rights defender committed to ending Israel’s illegal demolition of Palestinian homes. According to the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, Israel has demolished an estimated 27,000 Palestinian structures in Occupied Palestinian Territory since 1967. Rachel was killed by the Israeli military with a U.S.-taxpayer funded Caterpillar D9 bulldozer on March 16, 2003, in Rafah, in the Gaza Strip, while seeking to protect the home of a Palestinian family from demolition.

In response to Rachel’s killing, in March 2003, State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher said: “our policy position on demolishing houses has been expressed many, many times and it remains the same as before…We have made very clear we are opposed to demolishing houses. We have been opposed to it for a long time.” Yet 9 ˝ years later, home demolitions by the Israeli military, and the U.S. funding and sale of Caterpillar D9 bulldozers – a militarized weapon – continue. Calls to Israeli officials, from the highest levels in the U.S. government requesting improved safety measures for use of the machines in civilian areas, have been met with no measurable response. Statements from Israeli officials reflect measures that were all available to them when Rachel was killed in 2003. Essentially, nearly a decade later, the U.S. government has failed to affect even minimal policy change. In light of these policy failures, the presence of human rights monitors and defenders in regions where home demolitions occur is essential. And their safety must be protected.

The U.S. government has long maintained that the Israeli military’s investigation into Rachel’s death was not thorough, credible, and transparent.  This official position was made clear in writing by former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff in 2004. In 2005 Assistant Secretary of State Michael Kozak testified to it as well before Congress. As recently as August 2011, U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro, stated at his confirmation hearing: “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.” In August 2012, a civil case against the Israeli military filed by the Corrie family concluded with the presiding judge not only absolving the State of Israel of any liability, but also blaming Rachel for her own death.  This is unacceptable.

Not only has the United States failed to investigate or hold Israel accountable for Rachel’s death. The United States also has neglected to investigate or hold Israel accountable for the following incidents in which other U.S. citizens were injured or killed by the Israeli military:

• On May 13, 2011 a 25 year-old American student, Christopher Whitman, was shot in the head by the Israeli Defense Forces with a high velocity tear gas canister while documenting a demonstration in the West bank. He had blood loss and the canister removed hair and skin.

• On May 31, 2010, according to a U.N. investigation, Israeli naval commandoes executed 19-year-old U.S. citizen Furkan Dogan at point-blank range after commandeering in international waters the Mavi Marmara, which was part of an international flotilla attempting to break Israel’s illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip and deliver humanitarian supplies.

• Also, on May 31, 2010, an Israeli soldier fired a tear gas canister directly at 21-year-old U.S. citizen Emily Henochowicz, blinding her left eye, while she was participating in a  nonviolent protest in East Jerusalem against Israel’s attack on the flotilla

• On March 13, 2009, an Israeli soldier fired a tear gas canister directly at 37-year-old U.S. citizen Tristan Anderson, puncturing a large hole in his forehead and causing massive brain damage, while he was filming a nonviolent protest in the Palestinian West Bank village of Ni’lin.

• On April 5, 2003, an Israeli soldier shot 24-year-old U.S. citizen Brian Avery in the face, causing serious injury, in the Palestinian West Bank city of Jenin

• On March 20, 2003, Israeli soldiers in Nablus shot Eric Hawanith with three rubber-coated steel bullets during a demonstration, wounding him in the chest and leg. He was rushed to hospital by Palestinian paramedics, who were being shot at by Israelis as they attempted to provide Hawanith with first aid.

Under international human rights principles, governments have a duty to protect human rights defenders and to take steps to implement appropriate measures to investigate alleged human rights violations against them. The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders has concluded: “Fighting impunity for violations committed against defenders is crucial in order to enable defenders to work in a safe and conducive environment.”

The United States must investigate and hold Israel accountable for its injuring or killing of these U.S. human rights defenders.

Signed by,

National Organizations

  1. US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
  2. Center for Constitutional Rights
  3. American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
  4. American Friends Service Committee
  5. American Jews for a Just Peace
  6. American Muslims for Palestine
  7. CODEPINK: Women for Peace
  8. Council for the National Interest
  9. Episcopal Peace Fellowship Palestine Israel Network
  10. Friends of Sabeel--North America
  11. Grassroots International
  12. If Americans Knew
  13. Interfaith Peace-Builders
  14. Jewish Voice for Peace
  15. Methodist Federation for Social Action
  16. Network for Environmental and Economic Responsibility, United Church of Christ
  17. Peace Action
  18. Progressive Democrats of America

Local Organizations

  1. 14 Friends of Palestine-Marin, San Rafael, CA
  2. American Friends Service Committee-Chicago, Chicago, IL
  3. Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights, Portland, OR
  4. Brooklyn for Peace, Brooklyn, NY
  5. Brooklyn Green Party, Brooklyn, NY
  6. Center for Interfaith Encounter, St. Cloud, MN
  7. Citizens for Justice in the Middle East-Kansas City, Fairway, KS 
  8. Clark University Students for Palestinian Rights, Worcester, MA
  9. Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel, Albuquerque, NM
  10. Committee for Palestinian Rights, Columbia, MD
  11. Committee for the Open Discussion of Zionism, New York, NY
  12. Friends of Sabeel-Colorado, Denver, CO
  13. Friends of Sabeel-Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
  14. Interdenominational Advocates for Peace, Ann Arbor, MI
  15. Israel-Palestine Task Force, California/Nevada Conference, United Methodist Church, Stockton, CA
  16. Lutheran Peace Group, Jemez Springs, NM
  17. Lutherans for Justice in the Holy Land, Portland, OR
  18. Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, Madison, WI
  19. Middle East Crisis Committee, Woodbridge, CT
  20. Middle East Study Group of Contra Costa County, Lafayette, CA
  21. MidEast: Just Peace, Cedar, MI
  22. New Yorkers Against the Cornell-Technion Partnership, New York, NY
  23. North Coast Coalition for Palestine, Santa Rosa, CA
  24. Palestine Action Union Square East, New York, NY
  25. People of Faith CT, West Hartford, CT
  26. Pointers for Peace in Palestine, Stevens Point, WI
  27. Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice, Olympia, WA
  28. Seattle Mideast Awareness Committee, Seattle, WA
  29. United Methodist Task Force on Peace with Justice in Palestine/Israel of Upper New York Conference, Horseheads, NY
  30. Vancouver for Peace, Vancouver, WA
  31. Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel, Montpelier, VT
  32. West Hills Friends, Peace Committee, Portland, OR
  33. Women Against Military Madness, Middle East Committee, Minneapolis, MN
  34. Women in Black Union Square, New York, NY
  35. Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Santa Cruz Branch, Santa Cruz, CA

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