Get ready Seattle. The latest attempt to beatify the late Rachel Corrie is coming to a theater near you. My Name is Rachel Corrie is based on the 23-year-old Washington-native's diary entries and emails home. Ms. Corrie, you may remember, was the American protestor killed three years ago in the Gaza Strip while attempting to prevent Israeli military operations, thereby endangering the lives of countless Israeli civilians.
My Name Is Rachel Corrie the play has been controversial, not so much due to its content, but because a New York theater postponed its March 22 production following Ariel Sharon's stroke and the election of the terrorist Hamas faction. This led to the delightful and amusing spectacle of leftist artists and activists catfighting with New York theater management, with the latter protesting its progressive bona fides while the former spat accusations of censorship and capitulation to a mysterious Zionist cabal. Even Hollywood joined in the circus with actress Vanessa Redgrave calling it a disgrace, this "blacklisting of a dead girl and her diaries." It was all great fun.
The New York Theater Workshop naturally disputes the censorship allegation, and provided numerous reasons for the cancellation -- some of them rather lame -- but ultimately decided it would not be bullied by author Katherine Viner and director Alan Rickman. This, I suppose, is what passes for courage among liberals.
Like all good agitprop, the play makes no pretence to objectivity. Its blatant anti-Israel bias is semantically disguised as "anti-violence" bias. (Yeah, and The Jungle was part of a PR campaign by the meatpacking industry.) Throughout the play, the heroine tediously records the amount of time Palestinians linger at checkpoints -- carefully avoiding any mention of why checkpoints are necessary. She then compares the time it takes one Palestinian man to build a home with how long it takes the Israeli military to knock it down. (No mention that some Palestinians allow terrorists to use their homes to smuggle weapons.) Throughout, we hear references to Israel's "chronic, insidious genocide," and the necessity of the Palestinians' "somewhat violent means," which is apparently Rachel-speak for the bombing of a Tel Aviv cafe.
At one point in My Name Is Rachel Corrie, the heroine avers that "the vast majority of Palestinians right now, as far as I can tell, are engaging in Gandhian non-violent resistance." I suspect Gandhi would not have cared for the comparison, particularly since "as far as I can tell" none of his followers blew up buses full of school children.
The consensus among Arab media and American leftist activists is that Ms. Corrie was a saint and a sacrificial lamb for human rights. "Rachel Corrie was a martyr in all the implications of the word," writes the Yemeni columnist Hassan Al-Haifi, without spelling out those implications.
MR. AL-HAIFI'S CURIOUS ideas notwithstanding, what do we know of the real Rachel Corrie? Was she simply the terrorists' useful idiot, or but a common, naive, upper middle class liberal arts school grad who fell in with the wrong crowd? Certainly Rachel's brief career followed the now familiar trajectory of the self-loathing American of the sort that attends pro-Hamas rallies, burns American flags and puts George Bush on mock trial for crimes against humanity (she did all three). In college she got involved with an organization called the International Solidarity Movement, a Palestinian group formed during the second Intifada. Its goal was to recruit naive, but radical American and European college students as "human shields" who would interfere with Israeli army anti-terrorist operations. Lee Kaplan notes that, "If the volunteers were injured or arrested, the international repercussions would be detrimental to Israel, a propaganda win for the PLO." Whether ISM actively supports terrorists remains unclear, but certainly its critics have compiled an impressive amount of damning evidence.
The events surrounding Ms. Corrie's passing have been disputed since her death. The official Israeli military investigation ruled her death an accident, that she was in fact not run over by a bulldozer, as nearly every newspaper account claimed, but was killed by falling debris. The Israeli army report found that Corrie was "struck as she stood behind a mound of earth that was created by an engineering vehicle operating in the area and she was hidden from the view of the vehicle's operator who continued with his work. Corrie was struck by dirt and a slab of concrete resulting in her death" (The Guardian, April 14, 2003). Yet virtually all media coverage chose to ignore these findings. Just the other week the Seattle PI began a story, commonly enough, "The parents of a 23-year-old who was killed trying to prevent the demolition of an occupied Palestinian home have appealed a judge's decision to dismiss their lawsuit against Caterpillar Inc., the company that made the bulldozer that ran over her."
Yes, Rachel's parents, Craig and Cindy Corrie -- the same folks who accepted a plaque from Yasser Arafat on behalf of their daughter -- have been for three years attempting to sue the Peoria, Illinois-based tractor manufacturer. Just how jeopardizing the jobs of hundreds of blue-collar workers will spread social justice or lessen the sting of Rachel's death is unclear. It will, certainly, fatten the Corrie family's (and their trial lawyers') pocketbook. Recently a federal judge in Washington state threw out the lawsuit, saying Caterpillar was not responsible for what the Israeli army did with its product, regardless of whether those activities are legal or -- as the Corries claim -- illegal.
Predictably, there is no mention in the play nor in newspaper accounts that the Israeli bulldozers only destroyed homes suspected of concealing the extensive network of tunnels under Rafah used to smuggle weapons across the border from Egypt. Greg Yardley, writing at Frontpage.com, notes that one Israeli Consulate officer told him that the bulldozer alleged to have killed Rachel was not even attempting to raze a home, but to clear shrubbery used to conceal a tunnel.
The left remains outraged at the New York theater's betrayal, but if it is any consolation, Rachel's words will soon be echoing through empty theaters in the Grunge State. In a recent Jerusalem Post interview, Jen Marlowe, co-founder of the Rachel's Word's Initiative (one of dozens of foundations and memorial sites dedicated to Ms. Corrie's memory) suggest we "Let dialogue arise from the content of the play. Let is spur open discourse about very difficult issues." But then agitprop doesn't really promote discussion, does it, so much as brainwash naive youngsters like Rachel Corrie. As for Rachel's words, what about The Other Rachels, the many unsung and silently mourned Israeli Rachels murdered by bombs smuggled through the tunnels under the very homes Rachel Corrie lived in and died trying to protect. Have they no voice?
So we await the U.S. premier of a play that is -- depending on whom you ask -- either about Israel's ongoing genocide against the Palestinian people, or a depressing bit of pro-Palestinian propaganda. For now conservatives can stand above the fray while the left slugs it out.
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