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Former Congressman 'Unsurprised' by Corrie Verdict

Brian Baird, who in the past called to halt aid to Israel, claims the Corrie verdict is "standard procedure" in claims against the IDF.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 8/31/2012, 10:12 AM

PA children protest the Israeli court's ruling on Rachel Corrie
PA children protest the Israeli court's ruling on Rachel Corrie
Reuters

A former congressman who represented Rachel Corrie's district said on Thursday he was unsurprised by an Israeli court verdict to dismiss a civil suit filed by the family.

Speaking to the Bethlehem-based Ma’an news agency, Democrat Brian Baird of Washington said the trial was undermined by Israel's failure to conduct a transparent investigation into Corrie’s death in 2003.

“The verdict was not a great surprise” because the outcome resulted from “a process that seemed designed to obfuscate the facts rather than clarify,” the ex-lawmaker said.

“Sadly, as I've come to understand, this is standard operating procedure” for many complaints alleging Israeli military misconduct, he said. “The case was dismissed without proper consideration.”

On Tuesday, a Haifa court ruled that Corrie caused her own death by intentionally remaining in front of an IDF bulldozer.

Judge Oded Gershon supported the IDF claim that the driver of the bulldozer could not see Corrie, who was protesting the 2003 demolitions of structure in Rafiah, Gaza.

The court noted that the case of Corrie is sad but that the young woman, who was 23 years old, was fully aware that she was in danger and that she could have prevented her own death by moving out of the path of the bulldozer.

Judge Gershon found the IDF free of blame and said it did not act recklessly.

Corrie was protesting with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), whose members have often worked with Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists to help them hide from Israeli security personnel.

Baird told Ma’an he regretted the case never became a top foreign policy priority.

“In the early days after Rachel's death, there was extraordinary compassion,” he said, emphasizing that certain officials in the State Dept. had done an "outstanding job" in support of the family. However, he added, "There was not the same level of support from Congress."

He charged that “Representatives of the Israeli government resisted providing full information, and in some cases provided false information.”

In one instance, Baird claimed, “I was personally and repeatedly told by representatives of Israel and representatives of AIPAC that the bulldozer driver was suffering from a deep depression and undergoing therapy. That was in direct contrast to the (future) hearing where he implied he had little recollection of the event.”

“At that time I was not saying Israel was culpable, but it was necessary to ask for an investigation ... We had a responsibility if it was any country -- friendly or unfriendly.”

Baird is the same Congressman who in 2010 called on President Barack Obama to force Israel to allow open borders for the de facto Hamas rule in Gaza.

Baird referred to Israel's partial ban on the flow of goods and merchandise to Gaza as a "blockade." He previously called for cutting aid to Israel unless it opens up the border crossings, which it has closed because of repeated attempts to smuggle weapons into the Gaza region.

He also supported the Goldstone Report that alleged Israel committed war crimes in the war against Hamas terrorists last year. Arguing against a Congressional resolution that called for rejecting the Goldstone Report, Baird noted he had visited rocket-battered Sderot but that Israel violated human rights of Arabs in Gaza.

After the verdict on the Corrie case was handed down, the United States sympathized with the Corrie family. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the United States has worked with the Corries “all through this process and we will continue to provide consular support.”

She added, “We understand the family's disappointment with the outcome of the trial. Under Israeli law the family has the right to appeal the verdict and we've seen reports that they are considering doing that. So we will see how this proceeds going forward.”

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee and head of the PLO Department of Culture and Information, said that the evidence shows Corrie was “deliberately murdered” and that the Israeli court has victimized her again.

“We must make sure that Rachel Corrie's death is not a senseless incident,” Ashrawi said. “It must be stressed that Israel's habit of blaming the victim and exonerating the criminal is not (only) applied to Palestinian victims, but also it has extended its reach to international solidarity activists and victims of Israeli violence.”