Public Comment

Remembering Rachel Corrie

By Ralph E. Stone
Sunday June 13, 2010 - 08:19:00 PM

The Irish-owned MV Rachel Corrie is one of the ships in the international aid Gaza Freedom Flotilla that was attacked by Israeli naval forces on May 31, 2010. On June 5, Israeli forces seized the ship. 

Remember Rachel Corrie, the 22-year old peace activist from Washington State, who attempted to stop a bulldozer operated by the Israeli military from demolishing homes and other buildings in Gaza. Rachel was struck and killed. Some witnesses claimed she was struck deliberately, but an Israeli inquiry found her death to be an accident. 

At last year's San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, I saw "Rachel," a documentary about the 2003 incident. The film depicts the circumstances surrounding her death. The documentary is not just about Corrie's death. It is also about activists who fight injustice without hope of winning, but do so without despair.  

The film is also about the ongoing conflict in Gaza, which stretches back to the creation of Israel in 1947. Then, the United Nations partitioned the land, allotting the Jews 55 percent of Palestine. The Arabs did not agree to this partition. In the 1948 “war of independence” (called the “El Naqua,” the catastrophe, by the Arabs), Israel ended up with 78 percent of the area of Palestine. This war displaced 750,000 Palestinians and over 450 Arab villages were erased. In the war of 1967, the remaining Palestinian territory was captured by Israel. Out of this captured land, Israel created the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by chopping up the land into isolated enclaves surrounded by Jewish settlements and Israeli occupation forces. The Palestinians lost 78 percent of their land to Israel and are left with 22 percent. Recently, Israel has erected a wall or fence, which cuts deep into Palestinian territory, joining large Jewish settlement blocks to Israel, further confining the Palestinians to isolated enclaves. Israel continues to establish new settlements (called outposts), demolishing homes and uprooting plantations in the process. And the Israeli-Palestinian conflict goes on and on. 

At the time, I commended the Jewish Film Festival for showing the film. Unfortunately, some within the Jewish community see a "new anti-Semitism" when criticism of Israel is depicted in films like "Rachel." I like to think that "Rachel" sparked a healthy debate within the Jewish Community about the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The mostly Jewish audience at the documentary enthusiastically welcomed the film. 

Prior to showing the film, the audience booed and hissed at the right-wing representative of the Voice of Israel invited to calm those critics who attempt to enforce the axiom that there shall be no public criticism of Israel. However, the Voice of Israel representative was not there to dialogue, but rather only to chastise. The crowd refused to be chastised. Then the large theater audience enthusiastically welcomed the film and the Q and A afterwards with Cindy Corrie, Rachel's mother.  

I have urged our San Francisco Bay Area theater groups without success to stage the play "My Name Is Rachel Corrie," which is composed from Rachel Corrie's journal entries and e-mails. The play was edited by Katherine Viner and Alan Rickman and directed by Rickman. It had a successful run in London at the Royal Court Theatre where it went on to win the Theatregoers' Choice Awards for Best Director and Best New Play, as well as Best Solo Performance for actress Megan Dodds. The Royal Court wanted to stage the production in Rachel's home country first. The New York Theatre Workshop agreed to stage the show in March 2006, but succumbed to "pressures" and delayed the production. The Royal Court took this as a cancellation. I understand the play has been performed at the The Seattle Repertory Theatre in 2007 and a one-time performance by Kitchen & Roundhouse Theatre in Silver Spring, Maryland, also in 2007. Hopefully, now other theater groups will stage the play. 

It is fitting to remember Rachel's fight to end injustice as the world contemplates Israel's attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.