Berkeley council asked to act on Rachel Corrie

Berkeley's Peace and Justice Commission passed a resolution Monday calling for the city to request government officials to launch an inquiry into the death of pro-Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie.

Barring the calling of a special meeting, the resolution won't be presented to the city council until Sept. 9, when meetings resume after a summer break.

Corrie, a native of Olympia, Wash., was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer in the Palestinian village of Rafah on March 16. While fellow International Solidarity Movement activists and onlookers claim the driver knowingly killed Corrie, Israeli officials have repeatedly called the incident an accident — and have accused pro-Palestinians of politicizing the 23-year-old's death.

The commission voted down a proposed amendment calling for investigations into the deaths of all Americans killed by all sides in the region.

To launch an investigation into the death of Corrie — and ignore the 17 Americans killed by Palestinian terrorists since the outbreak of the intifada — rankled members of the Jewish Community Relations Council.

"The fact is, Berkeley's Peace and Justice members are focusing only on Rachel Corrie's death and the ISM, which is an anti-Israel organization. So there's a bias," said Yitzhak Santis, the JCRC's Middle Eastern affairs director.

"They're focusing on one American victim in the conflict, purely for political purposes."

Berkeley City Councilman Kriss Worthington said he was confident the council would not pass a biased resolution.

"The last time we dealt with this controversy, I argued we should not ignore the suicide bombers who are killing innocent civilians," he said, referring to a measure voted down in April of last year that would have divested the city from goods produced in Israel or the Palestinian territories or produced by companies that do business there.

"My concern back then and still is we need to be sending a clear signal that we're against suicide bombers killing innocent people. We're against killing people on both sides."

Worthington added that he'd "be shocked" if the amendment calling for investigations into the deaths of all Americans killed in the region didn't resurface at the council level.

"I believe the overwhelming majority of Berkeley is passionately opposed to the settlements in the occupied territories, and believe Israel should pull back," he said.

"But I also feel that people in Berkeley are equally opposed to the violence being inflicted on civilians in both Israel and the occupied territories. I expect our council will want to have a balanced approach."

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.