U.S. Activist's Death Pits Parents Against Israel American Rachel Corrie was killed by a bulldozer manned by Israeli soldiers as she tried to stop the demolition of a Palestinian home. The military ruled the death accidental, but her parents say the investigation was flawed. Now they have become the activists -- suing Israel for answers on behalf of Palestinians who don't have the same opportunity.
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U.S. Activist's Death Pits Parents Against Israel

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U.S. Activist's Death Pits Parents Against Israel

U.S. Activist's Death Pits Parents Against Israel

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In the Middle East, an event that took place seven years ago is still playing out in Israel's court. American Rachael Corrie was killed in 2003 during a protest. She was trying to stop an Israeli military bulldozer from demolishing a Palestinian home in the Gaza Strip.

Her death was ruled an accident, but her parents wanted to know more. And they're pursuing a legal case to get a full accounting of their daughter's death. The couple spoke to NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro in Jerusalem.

LOURDES GARCIA: There seems to be nothing out of the ordinary about Cindy and Craig Corrie. They're soft spoken, educated; both with gray hair, glasses, conservative clothes. Their daughter Rachel came here seven years ago, drawn by what she saw as the injustices faced by Palestinians. Cindy says she'd given little thought to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict until Rachel became immersed in it.

CINDY CORRIE: She checked out films - documentary films - from the college library and we watched them together. She sent me books about the situation in Gaza. My really deeper education into this began with her.

GARCIA: But it wasn't until Rachel was killed that her parents were catapulted out of their comfortable life in Olympia, Washington, and into their unlikely roles as activist icons.

CRAIG CORRIE: When Rachel was killed that was overwhelming. And I, for instance, was employed at the time, but they gave me a six month leave of absence to deal with it. But at the end of six months, oddly enough, I was in Gaza instead of back at my office.

GARCIA: In Gaza, looking for answers they say they had yet to get. The internal military investigation at the time ruled that Rachel's death was an accident, that she had been partially hidden by a mound of dirt so those driving the bulldozer couldn't have seen her. No one was charged.

The Corrie family feels the investigation was flawed. The U.S. State Department has said many questions were left unanswered.

CORRIE: We've tried all these other means, but, at the end of the day, the only thing we can do and we can control is a civil lawsuit in Israeli courts. So when you look at all of the Palestinians, for instance, that had been killed or injured by the Israeli military who don't have that opportunity, then it seems to me that we also have an obligation to bring it forward.

GARCIA: They are in the midst of that trial now. They're asking for symbolic damages of $1.

CORRIE: I'd say with every witness, there are surprises and there are bits of information or confirmation of things that we haven't had in this way before. So, to me, while we can't be at all sure of what the outcome will be, I think that the process has been very, very important to me, personally.

GARCIA: Assuaging their as grief of parents is part of the reason they're here, they say. But they say they've also come to care deeply about Rachel's cause.

CORRIE: We've come here because of Rachel and to seek some accountability in her case. But we're also very much aware of all of the cases that are not fully investigated here, and that are never prosecuted in any way, here. And so I do feel like that it is part of the reason why we're here, as well.

CORRIE: You have to search for justice. A lot of activists will say: Without justice there's no peace. You find, no matter what happens in court, we will have at least done our part to bring this forward. We'll have been done our part to bring it in front of the world.

GARCIA: The family has spent tens of thousands of dollars of their own money, and given up pretty much everything else in their lives to pursue that goal.

CORRIE: It is a sacrifice, I think, both emotionally and financially. For instance, the entire proceedings goes on in Hebrew, so we have to have translators. And I'm not sure what we're up to in the cost of that, but I think it's probably $50,000, something like that, and it'll go higher. And then there is our staying here and flying back and forth. And so far we've managed to do that pretty much just through our own resources, but it is exhausting.

GARCIA: Whatever the result of the trial, they say, they won't stop fighting for Rachel and what she stood for.

CORRIE: I can't describe exactly what the form of it will take, but I know that we're learning things that we'll be able to utilize as we move forward.

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro NPR News, Jerusalem.

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