HAIFA, Israel – The parents of an American protester crushed to death by an Israeli military bulldozer in the Gaza Strip got their first chance Thursday to hear from the man who drove the vehicle that killed her.
But they were denied a chance to confront him face-to-face in an Israeli courtroom, dashing a central goal of their civil lawsuit against Israel’s Defense Ministry. The unidentified former soldier was shielded behind a wood-and-plastic partition, and his testimony about the events leading up to 23-year-old Rachel Corrie’s death floated into the hall over a microphone.
“I wish I could see the whole human being,” Cindy Corrie said before the testimony began, her voice shaking. She and her husband, Craig, traveled from their home in Olympia to hear his testimony.
Their daughter was killed in 2003 while trying to block the bulldozer from demolishing a Palestinian home in Gaza.
An army investigation concluded she was partially hidden behind a dirt mound and ruled her death an accident. The driver and his commander were not charged or tried and no one was punished.
The activist’s parents filed their civil suit in 2005, and petitioned Israeli courts for a chance to look the bulldozer driver in the eye. That request was rejected.
The state’s lawyer, Irit Kalman, said the driver was behind a screen because “we want soldiers to feel free to give a real testimony.”
The Corries’ lawyer, Hussein Abu Hussein, spent hours trying to poke holes in past testimony the driver gave to the military inquiry that cleared him.
The driver was questioned for more than four hours, often saying he did not remember what happened.
The Corries were seated between translators about 15 feet from the driver.
“I haven’t heard one moment of remorse, and to me, that’s one of the saddest things,” Cindy Corrie said during a break in the proceedings.
The family has criticized the Israeli military investigation and lobbied U.S. officials to pressure Israel to reopen it.
The Corries, unwittingly drawn into Mideast affairs by their daughter’s death, are seeking a symbolic $1 in damages plus trial costs and travel expenses for themselves and witnesses, which they have estimated at $100,000.
The trial is to resume Nov. 4.