American student, 23, was killed by a bulldozer in 2003 as she sought to block demolition of a Palestinian home in the Gaza Strip.
JERUSALEM - An Israeli judge ruled on Tuesday that the state bore no responsibility for the death of Rachel Corrie, the young American who was run over by a military bulldozer in 2003 as she protested the demolition of Palestinian homes in the Gaza Strip.
The verdict in the civil case, read to a courtroom in Haifa packed with supporters of Corrie's family, called the death a "regrettable accident" -- a characterization that Corrie's allies strongly disputed.
"She chose to put herself in danger," said Judge Oded Gershon. "She could have easily distanced herself from the danger like any reasonable person would."
Since her death, Corrie has become an international symbol of the Palestinian resistance. Books, documentaries and songs have recounted how Corrie, a 23-year-old student dressed in an orange vest and wielding a bullhorn, stood between a bulldozer and the home of a Palestinian family in March 2003 during the height of the second intifada, or uprising.
Hussein Abu Hussein, the lawyer who brought the wrongful-death suit on the Corrie family's behalf, said he would appeal the ruling to Israel's supreme court. At a news conference after the verdict, he showed pictures of Corrie taken the day of her death, saying "anyone could have seen" her bright garb. "It's a black day for activists of human rights and people who believe in values of dignity."
In his ruling, Gershon said the military's mission that day "was not, in any way, to destroy homes," but to clear brush and explosives "to prevent acts of hatred and terror." He said the bulldozer was moving slowly, about 1 kilometer per hour, and that the driver could not have seen Corrie, finding "no base to the plaintiff's claim that the bulldozer hit her on purpose."
Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, called the verdict a "vindication" of the nation's military and court systems.
Corrie, a student at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., joined the International Solidarity Movement in January 2003 and spent the last weeks of her life in Rafah, a Gaza town that borders Egypt. In a Feb. 27, 2003, e-mail home, she wrote that 600 homes had been destroyed there since the start of the intifada. On March 16, she and seven other U.S. and British activists acted as human shields, dropping to their knees between the bulldozers and a home they believed was marked for destruction.