My Name is Rachel Corrie, from the writings of Rachel Corrie,
edited by Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner
Minetta Lane Theater, New York City, opening date October 15, 2006 runs through December 30.
Quiet and immovable, the battered concrete walls that define the set sit like an ancient Greek chorus. They judge the humans whose lives play out before them. We know when we walk into the theater that Rachel Corrie died while attempting to protect a cement home from the heavy and unforgiving blade of an Israeli bulldozer. The monoliths evoke both that house and the wall that Israel is building through Palestine.
Rachel Corrie joined the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) January 25, 2003 and died 50 days later on March 16th in Rafah, a town in the West Bank that borders Egypt. The ISM is a group that organizes volunteers from all over the world to take an active, but non-violent role in defense of the Palestinian people, their homes, farms, water sources, and to act as witnesses and media conduits to the daily struggle to survive under Israeli occupation.
On one side of the stage concrete rubble litters the perimeter and on the other sits Rachel’s warm bedroom in Olympia, Washington. It’s the series of warm bright tones, red wall covered with photos and clippings from magazines, and a comfortable bed with a flowered quilt, that contrast with the stark coldness of her future.
Rachel, played wonderfully by Megan Dodds, talks about her life while she proceeds to pack away all of the symbols of girlhood: fashion magazines, books, a tumble of clothing (including some silly, silver, sparkling boots), family photos, a radio, and the lamp that looks like any bought in the local five and dime store. She pulls her bed offstage and shoves the red wall aside fully revealing the stark reality for many people in the occupied territories of Palestine. Rachel has just moved from the land of safety to the war zone.
The play isn’t just a coming of age story; it is one person’s transformation from idealist to realist. Rachel finds the facts of life seriously challenging her long-held beliefs about human nature. She writes a long email to her mother explaining her shifting ideas.
For a long time I’ve been operating from a certain core assumption that we are all essentially the same inside, and that our differences are by and large situational. That goes for everybody — Bush, Bin Laden, Tony Blair, me, you, Sarah, Chris, Dad, Gram, Palestinians, everybody of any particular religion. I know there is a good chance that this assumption actually is false. But it’s convenient, because it always leads to questions about the way privilege shelters people from the consequences of their actions. It’s also convenient because it leads to some level of forgiveness, whether justified or not.
The play, a series of journal entries and emails from was edited together by actor Alan Rickman and Katharine
Viner, a long-time editor for The Guardian newspaper of London. After two successful runs in London the production prepared to move to New York City to appear Off-Broadway at New York Theater Workshop (NYTW) when it was suddenly canceled.
So why is the moving story of one person who died in an area that has seen so many deaths controversial? Artistic Director James Nicola of the NYTW "postponed" a scheduled production of the play (It was going to open March 22, 2006) when he "discovered how deeply ingrained the attitudes were on all sides and what a marketing and contextualizing challenge this posed." (Playgoer) Katharine Viner characterized Nicola’s move this way, "The political climate, we were told, had changed dramatically since the play was booked. As James Nicola, the theater’s ’s artistic director, said Monday, ’Listening in our communities in New York, what we heard was that after Ariel Sharon’s illness and the election of Hamas in the recent Palestinian elections, we had a very edgy situation.’ Three years after being silenced for good, Rachel was to be censored for political reasons. …We always felt passionately that it was a piece of work that needed to be seen in the United States." (LA Times 3/1/06 Opinion section)
Luckily when Pam Pariseau and Dena Hammerstein of the Minetta Lane Theater saw the show in London they "thought, God, it would be so amazing to present that Off-Broadway so that New York theatergoers would have
that same experience." (NY Times 6/22/06) The show opened on October 15, 2006 to favorable reviews.
But the issue is bigger than the self-censorship practiced by NYTW. It’s the same issue that Rachel Corrie died for, Palestinian self-determination. The issue of the Middle East, especially regarding Israel and Palestine, is subject of much argument world-wide. However the thing that motivated Rachel Corrie was the fact that the United States supports Israel with billions of dollars every year. Rachel said that she wanted to join the ISM in Gaza "…to meet the people who are on the receiving end of our [U.S.] tax dollars." The U.S. government has always had various reasons for supporting Israel, many of which have nothing to do with "supporting democracy" or fighting anti-Semitism. Former Secretary of State Alexander Haig reportedly said that "Israel is the largest American aircraft carrier in the world that cannot be sunk, does not carry even one American soldier, and is located in a critical region for American national security."
The reason why the region is so critical is oil. Oil is not simply an extremely valuable commodity; it is a strategic resource and one that the U.S. has struggled to control for most of the last century. By having a client and dependent state in the Middle East, the U.S. has been able to project its considerable interests there. While some claim that powerful lobbies control U.S. policy toward Israel, it is actually the other way around. If the billions of U.S. dollars that pour into Israel each year were withdrawn the government there might collapse. That fact makes the U.S.
complicit in Israeli actions, be they bombing civilian targets in Lebanon or bulldozing Palestinian homes in Gaza. Rachel Corrie felt that complicity deep in her heart when she stood before the American-made bulldozer and tried to stop it from destroying a friend’s home.
Some argue that the ISM is a pawn of the Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Brigades. However the founders of the ISM see themselves as a non-violent activists carrying out civil disobedience. Their mission statement reads: "As enshrined in international law and UN resolutions, we recognize the Palestinian right to resist Israeli violence and occupation via legitimate armed struggle. However, we believe that nonviolence can be a powerful weapon in fighting oppression and we are committed to the principles of nonviolent resistance." (ISM) The group is by no means monolithic, various activists from all over the world bring their own views, experiences, and analysis to the actions that they take. Rachel Corrie was both distinctly North American and an emerging internationalist. Several ISM volunteers have been injured by Israeli Defense Forces including Tom Hurndall who died after being shot in the head.
Most cable television viewers who have taken the time to watch the BBC news or news shows from other European countries notice a stark difference in the way the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is presented. The European stations talk about the devastating effect of attacks and incursions by the vastly superior Israeli military on civilian
populations in Palestine. Any such new coverage in the U.S. is muted in a false attempt to put an equal sign between the violence of the oppressor and the resistance of the oppressed.
The question we in the United States must ask is: how can we stop the use of our taxes to oppress people in Palestine, Iraq, Latin America, Africa, Asia or any where else, including here at home?
In a final email Rachel Corrie said to her mother:
What we are paying for here is truly evil. Maybe the general growing class imbalance in the world and consequent devastation of working people’s lives is a bigger evil. Being here should make me more aware of what it means to be a farmer in Columbia, for example. …This has to stop. I think it is a good idea for all of us to drop everything and devote our lives to making this stop. I don’t think it’s an extremist thing to do any more. …Disbelief and horror is what I feel. Disappointment. I am disappointed that this is the base reality of our world and that we, in fact, participate in it. This is not at all what I asked for when I came into this world. This is not at all what the people here asked for when they came into this world. This is not what they are asking for now. This is not the world you and Dad wanted me to come into when you decided to have me. This is not what I meant when I was two and looked at Capitol Lake and said, "This is the wide world and I’m coming to it."
Rachel’s life and determination have been preserved by her words and the generosity of her family for sharing them with the world. Rachel’s death was not more or less important than any person’s who has died in the conflict, but luckily she was a passionate and prolific writer. She filled her life with the struggle for justice and My Name is Rachel Corrie fills the stage with vitality and meaning.
We could to help Rachel’s voice be heard
PHILIP WEISS, thenation, US
"My Name is Rachel Corrie" Controversy Over The Play in New York
Democracy Now, USA
Who is Afraid of Rachel Corrie?
WARREN GUYKEMA - Seattle, US
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BBC documentary proves Israeli army murdered Rachel Corrie
by Christopher Bollyn
The BBC has released a remarkable film about the killing of three international peace activists by the Israeli army in the occupied Gaza Strip. Documentary evidence provided in the film strongly suggests that the American Rachel Corrie - and two British activists - were murdered.
Last spring, within a period of seven weeks, one British and one American peace activist were killed by the Israeli army in Rafah, a Palestinian town at the southern end of the occupied Gaza Strip. A second Briton was shot in the head leaving him brain-dead. In two of the cases the Israeli army is being blamed for murder; the third is considered "attempted murder."
An Israeli military bulldozer crushed the 23-year-old American peace activist Rachel Corrie, who was the first to die on March 16, as she tried to prevent it from demolishing a Palestinian doctor’s home.
British photographer Tom Hurndall, 22, was left brain dead after being shot in the head by an Israeli soldier on April 11. British cameraman James Miller, 34, was shot by an Israeli sniper as he left a house with two other journalists on May 2.
A recently released 50-minute "hard-hitting" program produced by the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) investigated the three killings and provides crucial video evidence. "That’s murder," an Israeli soldier said after viewing footage from the film, When Killing is Easy.
When Killing is Easy was shown 4 times to a worldwide audience on the commercial BBC World television network on November 22 and 23. Some cable television viewers in the United States would have been able to view the program.
The three international observers died, or nearly died, at the hands of the Israeli military between the middle of March and the first week of May. Hurndall was shot in the head as he took a Palestinian toddler, who had frozen under Israeli fire, into his arms. Today, Hurndall is brain-dead and is kept alive on life-support equipment.
Tom’s father, Anthony, is a lawyer in the City of London. After six weeks of investigation, Hurndall has come to the conclusion that the shooting of his son by Israeli forces is "a case of attempted murder. If Tom dies, and that is a likelihood, then it will be murder," he said.
Jocelyn Hurndall wrote to The Guardian after an Israeli government check for about $12,000, sent to the Hurndall family to pay for "a fraction of the expenses incurred," bounced. When the check finally arrived after five months of negotiations with the Hurndall family, the Israeli government check was not "honored" by the Bank of Israel, Hurndall wrote. "Insufficient funds’ was the reason given.
According to evidence provided in Sweeney’s film, the IDF report on the shooting of Hurndall is completely wrong about where he was, what he was wearing, and what he was doing when an Israeli soldier shot him in the head.
"It is a mind-numbing task to understand the morality and to use the logic of the Israeli government," Hurndall wrote. "What hope do Palestinians have when such profound disregard and disrespect is shown to humanity, collectively and individually?"
The BBC film was produced by John Sweeney, whose article on the killings, "Silenced Witnesses," was published in The Independent (UK) on Oct. 30.
"Making our film, When Killing is Easy, has been the most harrowing ordeal of my professional life," Sweeney wrote. "But it is vital that it is evidential - and that is really tough when the Israeli government and the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) have refused to speak to us."
Rachel Corrie, the first of the three to die, was using her body to defend the home of Dr. Samir Nasser Allah from an American-made bulldozer used by the Israeli army to demolish the homes of Palestinians. Corrie was a member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). ISM members stand between the Israeli bulldozers and the homes that the IDF wants to flatten.
Israeli bulldozers have razed thousands of Palestinian homes in the occupied Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The bulldozers are primarily made by the Illinois-based Caterpillar company.
Tom Dale, an ISM eyewitness, had a clear view of the incident: "He [the driver] knew absolutely she was there. The bulldozer waited for a few seconds over her body and it then reversed, leaving its scoop down so that if she had been under the bulldozer, it would have crushed her a second time. Only later when it was much more clear of her body did it raise its scoop."
"MY BACK IS BROKEN"
"My back is broken," Rachel told Alice Coy, a fellow ISM activist who was with her.
An Israeli pathologist, Dr. Yehudah Hiss, noted that Rachel appeared to have been run over by the bulldozer, Sweeney wrote. Hiss found the cause of death to be "pressure to the chest." Her shoulder blades had been crushed; her spine was broken in five places and six ribs broken. Her face was apparently slashed by the bulldozer blade.
The IDF produced a report that says, "Corrie was not run over by an engineering vehicle." It added, "for good measure" Sweeney says, that Corrie was "hidden from view of the vehicle’s operator."
The footage seen in the BBC film proves these statements to be false. The family of Rachel Corrie believes the IDF report to "be a blatant fabrication," Sweeney wrote.
The British cameraman James Miller was shot dead by an Israeli sniper as he left a house in Rafah with two other journalists on the night of May 2. An Associated Press TV News (APTN) cameraman filmed the entire scene.
One of the three journalists held a white flag; Miller was shining a light on the flag and a third journalist held up her British passport. There was no shooting and the area was quiet as the audio track of the film clearly proves.
The three had walked about 60 feet toward an Israeli armed personnel carrier to request safe passage to leave the area when the first shot was fired. "We are British journalists," Saira Shah cried out into the darkness.
"Then comes the second shot, which killed James," Sweeney wrote. "He was shot in the front of his neck. The bullet was Israeli issue, fired, according to a forensic expert, from less than 200 meters [600 feet] away."
The IDF maintains that Miller was shot during crossfire, although no shooting is heard on the APTN tape apart from the two shots fired from the Israeli military vehicle.
When the APTN tape was shown to an Israeli soldier, who is shown in the film, he said the television team did not look like Islamic terrorists and concluded: "That’s murder."
Christopher Bollyn is a regular contributor to American Free Press .
"Should international communism ever complete its plan of bringing civilization to naught, it is conceivable that SOME FORM OF WORLD GOVERNMENT in the hands of a few men could emerge, which would not be communism. It would be the domination of barbarous tyrants over the world of slaves, and communism would have been used as the means to an end."
(The Patriot (London) November 9, 1939; The Rulers of Russia, Father Denis Fahey, pp. 23-24)
Links of related interest:
"Silenced witnesses," an article by John Sweeney
BBC-TV (The documentary When Killing is Easy is not presently listed on the BBC’s website—has Israel pressured the network to drop it? We are looking into this matter and ask anyone with information to please contact us at our e-mail address: [email protected])
International Solidarity Movement:
Israeli Defense Force:
Concerning Rachel Corrie:
Concerning Tom Hurndall:
Concerning James Miller:
Concerning Brian Avery (a fourth victim of the Israeli army):
The Brian Avery shooting: When will we realize that there can’t be this many "accidents"?
Other concerned groups:
Jews for Justice for Palestinians