NPR logo U.S. Citizen Died In Israel Sea Raid. Does It Matter?


U.S. Citizen Died In Israel Sea Raid. Does It Matter?

Now that it turns out an American was among the nine activists killed when passengers on a ship attempting to run an as Israeli blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip confronted Israeli commandos, the question arises, how does that change the situation for U.S. policymakers?

The State Department confirmed Thursday the death of US and Turkish national, Furkan Dogan. Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley, said Dogan received fatal gun wounds.

This wouldn't be the first time a U.S. citizen and activist was killed by the Israel Defense Force in a confrontation. So it might be worthwhile taking a quick look at what happened in an earlier case.

It's important to note, however, that many details aren't known about what actually happened aboard the Marmara, the ship that was part of the aid flotilla the Israelis stopped earlier this week.

In March 2003, Rachel Corrie of Olympia, Wash. was killed when an armored Israeli bulldozer operated by an an IDF soldier crushed her. She and other activists were attempting to stop Israeli soldiers from destroying Palestinian homes in Gaza the Israelis claimed were linked to terrorism against Israel.

The U.S. formally asked Israel to investigate the killing. The Israeli military did and concluded its soldiers weren't at fault, that it was all a tragic accident.

The Corrie family filed a lawsuit in 2005 against the Israeli government and the Israeli Defense Force. The trial only started this March.

Whether the Dogan case will follow the Corrie pattern is impossible to know. But it's at least an available precedent.

Again, not enough details are known about what happened aboard the Marmara. For instance, Israel has said its commandos were attacked by some of the activists and there's video that seems consistent with that.

But the activists and their supporters claim Israel used excessive force and that the activists were merely defending themselves.

Whatever the facts in the recent incident, Corrie and her group of activists weren't accused of attacking Israelis. So that's a significant difference which could color how the Obama Administration manages the fact of a dead American, at least until more facts are known.

Worth mentioning is that there's an aid ship with with Irish activists now headed towards Gaza. It is the MV Rachel Corrie.

If the Obama Administration intends to change its approach to the incident because of the death of an American, that wasn't readily apparent in how White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs responded to a reporter's questions Thursday.

REPORTER: Does the fact that one of the victims was an American born in Troy, NY change at all the U.S. view of what happened or the U.S. position on what happened.

GIBBS: Well.., we've condemned the acts... We have called for and the UN Security Council presidential statement call for a full and credible UN investigation so that we have all the facts about what happened...

REPORTER: Doesn't that change it to a degree the fact that one of the dead, the fact that one of those killed by the Israeli armed forces was an American? Doesn't that by necessity change the view of the U.S. government, of the American government?

GIBBS: Again, we.


REPORTER: It's different. I don't mean to sound callous but if ten Greeks are killed or ten Turks are killed, the U.S. government might condemn the act and think it's a horrible thing. But it's different if an American is killed.

GIBBS: Which, Jake, is why I started the answer to this question by expressing the deep condolences of the U.S. government and the president's condolences.