"Rachel Corrie died trying to protect her friends"

Tom Dale, who witnessed Corrie's death, reacts to the verdict clearing Israel of blame.

In 2003, pro-Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer while protesting the destruction of houses in Rafah.

Today, an Israeli court found:

There had been no fault in the internal Israeli military investigation clearing the driver of the bulldozer that crushed Corrie to death in March 2003 of any blame. The judge said the driver had not seen the young American activist. Corrie could have saved herself by moving out of the zone of danger as any reasonable person would have done, said Judge Oded Gershon. He ruled that no compensation would be paid and the family would not have to pay costs of the case.

(via The Guardian)

We asked Tom Dale, news editor at the Egypt Independent - who was protesting alongside Corrie that day - for his reaction to the verdict.

He told us:

The verdict in Rachel's case is saddening for for all those who knew Rachel, and for all who believe in what she stood for.  It should be disappointing for all those who want to see justice done in Israel and Palestine.

On 16 March 2003, Rachel could not have been more visible: standing, on a clear day, in the open ground, wearing a high visibility vest.  On that day, she had been in the presence of the Caterpillar D9 bulldozers used by the Israeli army for some hours.

She was standing in front of the home of a young family which was under threat of demolition by a bulldozer.  Many homes were demolished in such a way at that time, and Rachel was seeking to protect her friends, with whom she had lived.

Even going by the visibility charts provided by the Israeli state during the case, in my judgement the bulldozer driver must at some point have been able to see Rachel, during the period in which his vehicle approached her.  As I told the court, just before she was crushed, Rachel briefly stood on top of the rolling mound of earth which had gathered in front of the bulldozer: her head was above the level of the blade, and just a few metres from the driver. I do not find it plausible that he did not see her.

Those of us who are familiar with events under occupation in Palestine are may not be surprised by this verdict, which reflects a long-standing culture of impunity for the military, but we should be outraged.

I didn't have a chance to get to know Rachel as well as I would have liked, since we spent just a few weeks together, but she is a tremendous loss to us all. 

Rachel Corrie. Photo: Getty Images
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Inside the Momentum rally: meet the Jeremy Corbyn supporters challenging Labour’s rebel MPs

The Labour leader's followers had been waiting a long time for him to come along. 

Ed Miliband’s leadership of the Labour Party is at stake. As the news filters through the party’s branches, hundreds of thousands sign petitions in his support. But this is no online craze. By evening, thousands of diehard fans have gathered in Parliament Square, where they shout “Ed, Ed, Ed,” to the beat of a drum. Many swear Ed was the only thing keeping them in the Labour Party. They can’t imagine supporting it without him.

Am I stretching your credibility? Even a Milifan would be hard pressed to imagine such a scene. But this is precisely Labour’s problem. Only Jeremy Corbyn can command this kind of passion.

As the Shadow Cabinet MPs began to resign on Sunday, Momentum activists sprang into action. The rally outside Parliament on Monday evening  was organised with only 24 hours notice. The organisers said 4,000 were there. It certainly felt to me like a thousand or more were crammed into the square, and it took a long time to push through to the front of the crowd. 

In contrast to the whispered corridor conversations happening across the road, the Corbyn fans were noisy. Not only did they chant Jeremy’s name, they booed any mention of the Parliamentary Labour Party and waved signs denouncing rebel MPs as “scabs”. Other posters had a whiff of the cult about them. One declared: “We love Jeremy Corbyn”. Many had the t-shirt. 

“Jeremy Corbyn brought me back into the Labour Party,” Mike Jackson, one of the t-shirt wearers, told me. He had voted Remain, but he didn’t care that the majority of the Shadow Cabinet had resigned. “He’s got a new Shadow Cabinet. It’s more diverse, there are working class voices at last, there are women, the BME community. It is exactly how it should be.” Another man simply told me: “I am here for Corbyn.”

The crowd was diverse, but in the way a university campus is diverse, not a London street or school playground. They shouted angry slogans, then moved aside obligingly for me to pass through. Jack, a young actor who did not want to give his full name, told me: “I used to vote Green. I am joining Labour because of Jeremy Corbyn. I like the guy. He listens. I have seen friends frustrated with him, but I really think he can do it.”

Syada Fatima Dastagir, a student, has supported Labour for years - “Old Labour”. She thought Corbyn would survive the coup: “I voted Green and Plaid Cymru, because I didn’t think Labour supported its roots. This has brought Labour back to its roots.”

This belief that Jezza will overcome was present everywhere in the crowd. When I asked Momentum organiser Sophie Nazemi if she thought Corbyn would go, she replied: “He won’t.”

She continued: “It is important that we demonstrate that if there is a leadership election, Jeremy will win again. It will be three months of distraction we don’t need when there is likely to be an election this year.”

Instead of turning on Corbyn, Labour should be focused on campaigning for better local housing stock and investment in post-industrial towns, she said. 

Whatever happens, she said Momentum would continue to build its grassroots organisation: “This is more than just about Jeremy, whilst Jeremy is our leader.”

As I moved off through the chanting crowds, I remembered bumping into Corbyn at an anti-austerity march just a year ago. Although he had thrown his hat into the ring for Labour leadership, he was on his own, anonymous to most of the passers by. In the year that has passed, he has become the figurehead of an unlikely cult.

Nevertheless, it was also clear from the people I spoke to that they have been waiting ages for him to come along. In other words, they chose their messiah. The PLP may try to bury him. But if these activists have their way, he’ll rise again.