This is a much longer version of a letter my newspaper wouldn't print. I'd have no complaint if they had published a letter from someone else calling attention to this anniversary; they did not.


As we welcome March and its promise of spring we should recall the loss of a young, promising life. Rachel Corrie's death was horrific. On March 16, 2003, this 23-year-old American college student was crushed by an Israeli Army bulldozer.

International volunteers were conducting peaceful protests against Israel's demolition of Palestinian homes. In a February incident, according to Ms. Corrie's e-mails, bulldozer operators had physically pushed protesters with their machines' large shovels. The protesters went inside a house, and bulldozer operators, knowing they were there, proceeded to knock one of the walls down.

On the fatal day in March Ms. Corrie was wearing a bright orange jacket and using a megaphone. The confrontation had been in progress for hours. At one point a bulldozer operator had backed Ms. Corrie up against a fence, pinning her between the scooped-up earth and the fence before he stopped and let her extricate herself.

At 4:45 p.m. an advancing bulldozer knocked her off her feet. Protesters waved frantically, yelling, "Stop!" But the operator ran over her, then reversed and ran over her a second time. She was still conscious, screaming, "My back is broken!" Her skull, arms, and legs were fractured. She was pronounced dead soon after reaching a hospital.

The Israelis claim this was an accident. They say Ms. Corrie had scaled a mound of dirt, then lost her footing and fell behind it, out of the operator's view. But even if that's so, if he was close enough that she couldn't get out of the way (with help from friends if necessary), he was also close enough that he should have seen her fall, and should then have stopped to ascertain what had happened to her.

The bulldozer operators had demonstrated a pattern of recklessly endangering the lives of peaceful protesters. They should be called to account, if only for that. And it's not inconceivable that after an hours-long confrontation, one of them had become sufficiently frustrated that he--or perhaps she--committed outright murder. (Not only has this bulldozer operator not come forward to express regret, he or she has never been publicly identified.)

Weeks later an Israeli soldier shot a 21-year-old British volunteer who was rescuing children endangered by the Israelis' firing on a mosque. Tom Hurndall lingered in a coma for nine months before he died. Under international pressure, Israel has charged the soldier with manslaughter.

There has been no comparable action in the Rachel Corrie case. Our State Department asked the Israeli government to investigate, but apparently didn't press them. A resolution calling for an investigation by our own government is stalled in Congress. Concerned citizens should urge their Representatives to support House Concurrent Resolution 111.


Addendum on the illegality of the home demolitions:

These demolitions took place near the southern tip of the occupied Gaza Strip. The Israelis claimed they were endeavoring to root out terrorists. But the home Ms. Corrie was defending when she died belonged to a Palestinian physician who was not linked with any group accused of terrorism.

Demolition of private property by an occupying power is banned by two Articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention:

Art. 33. No protected person [i.e., resident of an occupied territory protected by the Convention] may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.

Pillage is prohibited.

Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.

Art. 53. Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.

The framers of the Convention expected most occupation of territories to take place while full-scale war was in progress; that explains the reference to "military operations." They undoubtedly would not have condoned its meaning being extended to include small-scale hunts for alleged terrorists--essentially police actions--in a region that had been under occupation for 36 years.