"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
Getty Images.
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Brexit is teaching the UK that it needs immigrants

Finally forced to confront the economic consequences of low migration, ministers are abandoning the easy rhetoric of the past.

Why did the UK vote to leave the EU? For conservatives, Brexit was about regaining parliamentary sovereignty. For socialists it was about escaping the single market. For still more it was a chance to punish David Cameron and George Osborne. But supreme among the causes was the desire to reduce immigration.

For years, as the government repeatedly missed its target to limit net migration to "tens of thousands", the EU provided a convenient scapegoat. The free movement of people allegedly made this ambition unachievable (even as non-European migration oustripped that from the continent). When Cameron, the author of the target, was later forced to argue that the price of leaving the EU was nevertheless too great, voters were unsurprisingly unconvinced.

But though the Leave campaign vowed to gain "control" of immigration, it was careful never to set a formal target. As many of its senior figures knew, reducing net migration to "tens of thousands" a year would come at an economic price (immigrants make a net fiscal contribution of £7bn a year). An OBR study found that with zero net migration, public sector debt would rise to 145 per cent of GDP by 2062-63, while with high net migration it would fall to 73 per cent. For the UK, with its poor productivity and sub-par infrastructure, immigration has long been an economic boon. 

When Theresa May became Prime Minister, some cabinet members hoped that she would abolish the net migration target in a "Nixon goes to China" moment. But rather than retreating, the former Home Secretary doubled down. She regards the target as essential on both political and policy grounds (and has rejected pleas to exempt foreign students). But though the same goal endures, Brexit is forcing ministers to reveal a rarely spoken truth: Britain needs immigrants.

Those who boasted during the referendum of their desire to reduce the number of newcomers have been forced to qualify their remarks. On last night's Question Time, Brexit secretary David Davis conceded that immigration woud not invariably fall following Brexit. "I cannot imagine that the policy will be anything other than that which is in the national interest, which means that from time to time we’ll need more, from time to time we’ll need less migrants."

Though Davis insisted that the government would eventually meet its "tens of thousands" target (while sounding rather unconvinced), he added: "The simple truth is that we have to manage this problem. You’ve got industry dependent on migrants. You’ve got social welfare, the national health service. You have to make sure they continue to work."

As my colleague Julia Rampen has charted, Davis's colleagues have inserted similar caveats. Andrea Leadsom, the Environment Secretary, who warned during the referendum that EU immigration could “overwhelm” Britain, has told farmers that she recognises “how important seasonal labour from the EU is to the everyday running of your businesses”. Others, such as the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, the Business Secretary, Greg Clark, and the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, have issued similar guarantees to employers. Brexit is fuelling immigration nimbyism: “Fewer migrants, please, but not in my sector.”

The UK’s vote to leave the EU – and May’s decision to pursue a "hard Brexit" – has deprived the government of a convenient alibi for high immigration. Finally forced to confront the economic consequences of low migration, ministers are abandoning the easy rhetoric of the past. Brexit may have been caused by the supposed costs of immigration but it is becoming an education in its benefits.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.