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The Political Question and Moral Accountability

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message eileen fleming       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   3 comments

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Last week in the Al Bureij refugee camp, in central Gaza, a USA made Caterpillar bulldozer was the weapon that brutally murdered 19 year old Mahmoud Khafafi. Bulldozers and tanks entered Mahmoud's farmland village at dawn and uprooted olive trees, razed the land and demolished thirteen homes. Young Palestinians threw stones at the tanks, which began shooting in return. The victim ran behind an olive tree and when the bulldozer began to uproot the tree, Mahmoud was shot in the neck, yet attempted to flee until the blade cut his head off and his brains spilled out. [ human rights organization in Gaza gathered the details]

Cindy Corrie was less graphic as she recounted the chilling episode in an update on Gaza and her family's case against Caterpillar, in a conference call hosted by the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation of Palestine on September 26, 2007.

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Mahmoud was killed by a Caterpillar bulldozer just three days after the Corrie's federal lawsuit was dismissed by the 9th Circuit Court. The case against Illinois-based Caterpillar, Inc. was initiated on March 15, 2005 and on May 2, 2005, the complaint was amended to include four Palestinian families whose family members were killed when Caterpillar bulldozers demolished their homes on top of them.

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On September 18, 2007, a US federal appeals court ruled that Caterpillar Inc. cannot be held legally liable for the use of its bulldozers in an Israeli military operation which caused the death of 23 year old Rachel Corrie and ten members from the four families. Eye witnesses reported that Rachel had stood up for hours in her orange jacket begging the soldiers not to destroy the home of a pharmacist and five children.

"An Israeli investigation stated the bulldozer team was clearing debris on an anti-smuggling mission…The federal appeals court rejected the family’s argument that the equipment used in Israeli military operations is paid for with American government funds and therefore represents an extension of American foreign policy."


This extraordinary case was also dismissed without hearing any oral arguments, "In a case of this import it was almost unheard of to not hear oral arguments,” Cindy Corrie commented then related how the "Political Question" emerged as the reason why justice has yet to be served.

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In June of 2006, the Justice Department filed a “friend of the court brief” and a three judge panel determined that they did not have jurisdiction because the bulldozers were paid for by funds from the US government. They made the decision based on information not presented in the case, but researched within the US government. For the case to proceed, the court would be forced to interfere in politics specifically reserved for the executive and legislative branches, and thus a dismissal was granted based on the “political question.” The appeals court did not even bother to examine the law, only the political question.

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Eileen Fleming,is a Citizen of CONSCIENCE for US House of Representatives 2012 Founder of Staff Member of, A Feature Correspondent for Producer "30 Minutes with Vanunu" and "13 Minutes with Vanunu" (more...)

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