It is one thing to voice criticism of Israeli policy in Israel. All one has to do is read Haaretz on a regular basis and one will see many examples of this. But when Jews in America feature what is essentially Hamas propaganda as art, and show it at a yearly Jewish film festival, it is an altogether different thing. As writer Jamie Glazov asked: “Why is a Jewish film festival giving a platform to a documentary and to an individual that serve the cause of anti-Jewish hate?”
The latest example recently took place at San Francisco’s annual Jewish Film Festival, which featured a screening of the new anti-Israeli documentary, “Rachel,” a documentary that seems to be a film version of the three year old play “My Name is Rachel Corrie,” written by Katharine Viner and Alan Rickman, and based on editing of the late activist’s diaries. The film was directed by Simone Bitton, and featured interviews with activists from The International Solidarity Movement that Corrie had joined. As with the play, The Forward correspondent wrote, “what really moved the story forward was the narration courtesy of Corrie’s idealistic and heartfelt journal entries and correspondence read by her fellow ISM activists.” To make it simple: the film reflects Corrie’s point of view, and was meant to depict her as a martyr to Israeli oppression of the Palestinians.
The festival director asked Corrie’s mother to attend the screening, and to speak afterwards. Because of protests, the festival director brought in a pro-Israel speaker, Dr. Michael Harris, who was given a brief five minutes before the screening. Press reports indicate he could not be heard, and was booed continually. This kind of ploy is often done—a face-saving maneuver that hardly speaks to the issue, and is not sufficient to answer any of the falsehoods and slanders in the film.
No wonder the festival board’s president, Shana Penn, resigned from her office in protest at the screening. In her comments after the film was over, Corrie’s mother Cindy, whose point of view is the same as that of the filmmaker, only revealed the festival’s real intent—-to provide ammunition for Hamas and the opponents of Israel. As the pro-Israeli guest speaker Michael Harris noted after watching it, “Now that I’ve seen the film, I can certainly say it was appalling for its near complete lack of context.” Spoken words, he added, were hardly sufficient to counter “the power of images on the screen.” Even a left-wing Jew who watched the film named Rachel Masters, who is a member of the Tikkun community in Berkeley and the New Israel Fund, commented: “I never expected such an anti-Semitic and anti-Israel atmosphere” from those in attendance.
The film has not as yet come to the East Coast, although most certainly it will. Since its theme is similar in content and purpose to the play that was based on Corrie’s diary entries, I am following this with an Open Letter I wrote during the summer of 2007, when the play came to Shepherdstown, West Virginia, along with a similar appearance by Corrie’s parents. The points I made in this letter are obviously as relevant to the film. Here is the letter, addressed to the producer of the production, Ed Herendeen, director of the annual Contemporary American Theater Festival:
Dear Mr. Herendeen:
I have read the article in the May issue of the Shepherdstown Observer, as well as the announcement on the CATF website about the play, My Name is Rachel Corrie. I wish to tell you why I am not only attending, but am boycotting the Festival in its entirety. My wife and I moved to this area last year. Not only did we purchase tickets for the entire series in 2006, we invited friends from the metropolitan DC area to come here for the Festival.
Your comments as quoted in the newspaper article are, first of all, rather disingenuous. You say you connected to this play “because of Rachel’s idealistic voice,” and that it connected you to your “youth and [your] idealism.” On the website, the blurb refers to Corrie’s “eye-opening Middle East reports,” which are said to be “powerfully direct.” It refers to her would-be “passionate commitment” and her quest to understand “one of the most turbulent conflicts on earth.”
All the above, I must say, is utter nonsense. I have read the script, which as you know, was published by the Theatre Communications Group. The one thing this play will not do is promote dialogue about the Middle East… If it does anything, the only thing it will promote is hatred of Israel, and sympathy for the terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah that are seeking to destroy the beleaguered nation….
I write this letter as Hamas, a group pledged to destroy Israel, has resumed its barrage of Quassam missiles from Gaza into the town of Sderot. They have sent over 160 missiles this past week alone, and are threatening to use longer range missiles which could hit the next nearby town, which has a few hundred thousand people living in it. One of its leaders, Osama al-Muzaini, said yesterday that “it’s only a matter of time” before Hamas resumes suicide bombings within Israel. Rachel Corrie went to the area not to seek understanding, but as a committed militant of a front group of these Palestinian terrorists, The International Solidarity Movement. It proudly proclaims on its website that the victimized Palestinians have a right to resort to violence against their oppressors, while Israel, of course, has no right to defend itself. One of its leaders, interviewed on Al-Jazeera, put it this way: “We recognize that violence is necessary and it is permissible for oppressed and occupied people to use armed resistance and we recognize their right to do so.” One of the activities those would-be noble ISM militants do is organize riots at Israel’s security fence, built to deter infiltration from suicide bombers. Yet Corrie has the nerve to write “I’m really new to talking about Israel-Palestine, so I don’t always know the political implications of my words,” written at a time she was in fact a complicit enthusiast of and supporter of an American group that backs Hamas …and which also protects and cooperates with Islamic Jihad and Al-Aqsa fighters.
Corrie claimed to be engaging in action by ISM militants meant to prevent “Israeli demolition of civilian homes,” as she says in the play. Actually, her Hamas and Fatah recruiters used her and her innocent and gullible comrades as human shields to deter attacks on arms caches and hidden shooters, and on homes that in reality are depots for weapons. The Palestinian terrorists, as we know, have no compunction on using civilian homes as repositories for guns and missiles, hoping that this realization will prevent Israel from acting to stop them. Corrie knew her role. She wrote that she imagines “the difficulties the Israeli army would face if they shot an unarmed US citizen.” In other words, she saw herself as a potential propaganda figure for the terrorists.
When she is tragically killed by an Israeli bulldozer operator, she was participating in a demonstration in front of one of the homes they thought was scheduled to be targeted by Israel. As it turns out, what Israel was trying to do was to cover up one of the tunnels they found dug by the terrorists used to smuggle guns, rocket launchers and other explosives, meant to be used to kill innocent Israeli citizens. She was knowingly demonstrating in a war zone, hoping that her presence would work to enable the Hamas and Fatah soldiers to get away with their actions.
Corrie is no innocent. As the play itself reveals, she was fully aware of her militant role. I enclose with this article a copy of the photo of her that appeared in USA Today. It is not the smiling cheery American girl theatergoers will see photos of. Instead, it shows Corrie smirking and obviously screaming, as she burns an American flag in front of Hamas-Fatah militants. She leaves a message on the voice mail telling her parents to understand that the conflict is not a balanced one, but that of “a largely unarmed people against the fourth most powerful military in the world.” These are the words of a propagandist for Hamas, not a girl seeking the truth. Corrie knows nothing of the background or of Middle East history, of how, as the late Abba Eban once said, that “the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” turning down offers that would have led to peace and a two state solution.
She probably does not even know of how when Israeli statehood was proclaimed, Arab armies waged aggressive war meant to defeat it at the beginning. These are not, as she claims, “unarmed people.” Where does she think they get the rockets and launchers whose use she is supporting? She even has the nerve to say that the “vast majority of Palestinians…are engaging in Ghandian non-violent resistance.” Poor Ghandi would turn over in his grave if he saw this play and heard these words.
Let us return to her death. Corrie was at the site of a bulldozer that was clearing bush to prevent covers for a tunnel that would hold heavy weaponry. We have all seen the famous photo: Corrie standing on a mound of earth, well below the bulldozer, yelling on a bullhorn for the Israeli driver to stop. Next are the photos of Corrie lying near death, as her fellow militants surround her in horror. The play…includes the words of Tom Dale, one of her comrades who was there, who says the Israeli driver “knew absolutely that she was there;” in effect, he is charging Israel and the driver with purposeful intentional murder. And this death is then to be used by the ISM as a tool for gaining further recruits, and for establishing greater hatred of Israel and support for the Hamas-Fatah terrorists. As the late Yassir Arafat put it, Corrie “is a martyr.”
What is the truth about her death? The play leaves audiences with the impression that she was murdered by Israel, which could not permit peaceful protest in Gaza. But Corrie was anything but a martyr. And to make her into one, they lie about how she died. I suggest you read the article in the very left-wing Mother Jones by Joshua Hammer. (Sept.-Oct.2003). Hammer, a man sympathetic to the Palestinians, went to investigate on his own. He noted first that the intention of her ISM team a day before her death was “to engage the Israeli military.” When they got word the bulldozers were coming, they moved to the house it was heading towards, megaphones in hand. Corrie put herself between the wall and the Israeli D-9 bulldozer. Her death, according to ISM militant Tom Dale, took place in six or seven seconds.
The ISM, as the play asserts, says her death was murder. Eyewitness Joe “Smith,” signed an affidavit asserting that it was the “intentional crushing of a human being,” Five other ISM activists said the same thing. They released the photo taken by Reuters of her standing before the bulldozer seconds before being crushed. As it turns out, journalist Hammer revealed that the “infamous photo series” and the “megaphone photo was taken hours before Corrie’s death.” She had given it to a fellow militant and was kneeling, not standing in front of the bulldozer when she was killed.
The IDF (Israeli army) carried out its own investigation. The operator of the machine said he had a limited field of vision, and saw no one in front of the bulldozer. “You can’t hear, you can’t see well. You can go over something and you’ll never know.” The IDF had videos taken from the cockpit when she was killed. Hammer saw them. He writes: “It makes a credible case that the operators, peering out through the narrow, double-glazed, bulletproof windows, their view obscured behind pistons and the giant scooper, might not have seen Corrie kneeling behind them.” Is this going to be added to the end of the play, instead of Tom Dale’s charge of intentional murder?
As for the ISM, they are acting as accomplices of terrorist groups that refuse negotiation with Israel, desiring only to destroy it, as their own charter says. In March of 2003, Israeli soldiers arrested an Islamic Jihad guerrilla who was hiding with two ISM activists, who were protecting him. In April of 2003, two Pakistani born British citizens stopped for tea at the ISM’s Gaza office. Five days later one of them set off the bomb at Mike’s Place, the popular Tel Aviv bar. Ironically, an American documentary filmmaker was there making a film about the possibilities of Arab and Israeli cooperation. He was critically injured and almost died. As Hammer writes, she is an iconic figure “to foolish idealism…to the bittersweet conviction of youth,” involved in a cause that “appears to be one of futility.”
You talk, Mr.Herendeen, of the tribute to “youthful idealism.” Do you not realize that all those who have made evil acts- Stalin’s cadre, Pol Pot’s associates, Hitler’s SS—claim idealism as their motive? Idealism, as in Corrie’s case, led her to engage in evil ends and bad acts. She was acting to protect cadres who goals were to annihilate and destroy Israel. She was defending militants who urge children and now women to become suicide martyrs, and who honor them as martyrs after a successful mission. She was anything but a heroic peace activist portrayed by her defenders. She died for a political group that supports by its own words “armed struggle” against Israel. As a Wall Street Journal editorial put it one day after her death: “It’s a shame that Rachel Corrie died the way she did. It’s shameful that she lived the way she did.”
The play you are putting on in Shepherdstown is nothing but an agit-prop vehicle meant to perpetrate a big lie. As the play ends and the audience hears Tom Dale’s lies about her “murder,” it ends with a home video of a ten year old Corrie talking about the horror of world hunger. How sweet. How manipulative. How phony. One wonders, did Rachel Corrie ever consider how the jihad she supported was viewed by young women her own age, who were Israeli Jews? Did she ever see the effects of the suicide bombings and rockets that her ISM comrades helped promote?
Let me end this letter quoting the powerful words of the noted Jewish author, Cynthia Ozick. Writing in The New Republic (Dec.11, 2006) she concludes: “In view of the play’s manifestly political intent, and particularly in the lurid light of the editors’ (Alan Rickman and Katherine Viner) having concluded with an accusation of deliberate murder, the …audiences who jubilantly welcomed My Name is Rachel Corrie, (and I add the Shepherdstown audiences) who weepily do the same, should know at least this much: they have been spectators at a show trial. And there are Jews in the dock.”
Ronald Radosh, Adjunct Fellow, The Hudson Institute, Washington DC
How sad that those putting the Jews in the dock today are some American Jews, who feature Hamas propaganda at a Jewish film festival.