Harvard Square Observer: My Name is Rachel Corrie

Ernest Cassara

On the 16th of March, My Better Half and I were among an overflow crowd at the Parish House of the First Parish (Unitarian Universalist) in Harvard Square, where  Jewish, Christian, and Humanist groups observed the third anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie, as she attempted to flag down an Israeli army bulldozer as it was about to flatten the house of a Palestinian pharmacist in Gaza.  She was crushed under the monster vehicle, and the driver, for good measure, than backed up over her.

Needless to say, when an ambulance arrived, she was dying. But, here is the description by one of the eyewitnesses, as reported in The Nation:

Eyewitness Tom Dale describes the event as follows:

The bulldozer drove toward Rachel slowly, gathering earth in its scoop as it went. She knelt there, she did not move. The bulldozer reached her and she began to stand up, climbing onto the mound of earth. She appeared to be looking into the cockpit. The bulldozer continued to push Rachel, so she slipped down the mound of earth, turning as she went. Her faced showed she was panicking and it was clear she was in danger of being overwhelmed.

All the activists were screaming at the bulldozer to stop and gesturing to the crew about Rachel's presence. We were in clear view as Rachel had been, they continued. They pushed Rachel, first beneath the scoop, then beneath the blade, then continued till her body was beneath the cockpit. They waited over her for a few seconds, before reversing. They reversed with the blade pressed down, so it scraped over her body a second time. Every second I believed they would stop but they never did.

I ran for an ambulance, she was gasping and her face was covered in blood from a gash cutting her face from lip to cheek. She was showing signs of brain hemorrhaging. She died in the ambulance a few minutes later of massive internal injuries. She was a brilliant, bright and amazing person, immensely brave and committed. She is gone and I cannot believe it.

Now, three years later, apparently the name of Rachel Corrie strikes terror in the hearts of some.  After all, apologists for Israel cannot come right out and say that she deserved to be killed by a huge Israel Armed Forces bulldozer, so they have to raise all kinds of doubts about the American 23-year-old woman from Olympia, Washington.

The International Solidarity Movement, of which she was a part, has dedicated itself to helping the Palestinians, often at the risk of their lives.  A young Briton, Tom Hurdall, for instance, was shot in the head by an Israeli soldier, as he was attempting to help a young child cross the road in a turbulent confrontation. He, and Rachel Corrie, were just a couple of the victims of trigger happy youngsters who serve in the Israeli armed forces.

The Royal Court Theatre in London has presented My Name is Rachel Corrie, a one-woman play, performed by Megan Dodds, based on Corrie's diaries, her letters and her e-mails, to the praise of critics and theatre goers.  It was scheduled to be presented in New York City, but, to the indignation of critics and members of the public, it has been postponed.  Apparently, the theatre managers are afraid that they will be criticized by that small group of American Jews who take it on themselves to protect Israel from the slightest bit of criticism.

The uproar over this cowardice continues, in the columns of commentators and in the letters to the editor. A good example, is the following letter, which appeared on 19 March in the New York Times:

Last fall, my wife and I spent a week in London seeing plays. We, fortunately, stumbled upon "My Name Is Rachel Corrie" at the Royal Court Theater. It was the best theater experience we had the whole week.
We still can't stop talking about the play. It was a beautifully crafted, touching story of this remarkable young woman.

If any not-for-profit theater balks at presenting this piece because its directors think it's too controversial, they should close up shop. This is exactly the kind of theater New Yorkers should see and talk about.

James Walsh
New York, March 16, 2006

And, here is a portion of an article in The Guardian of London:

Rickman slams 'censorship' of play about US Gaza activist

Julian Borger in Washington
Tuesday February 28, 2006

A New York theatre company has put off plans to stage a play about an American activist killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza because of the current "political climate" - a decision the play's British director, Alan Rickman, denounced yesterday as "censorship".

James Nicola, the artistic director of the New York Theatre Workshop, said it had never formally announced it would be staging the play, My Name is Rachel Corrie, but it had been considering staging it in March.

"In our pre-production planning and our talking around and listening in our communities in New York, what we heard was that after Ariel Sharon's illness and the election of Hamas, we had a very edgy situation," Mr Nicola said.

"We found that our plan to present a work of art would be seen as us taking a stand in a political conflict, that we didn't want to take."

He said he had suggested a postponement until next year.

Mr Rickman, best known for his film acting roles in Love, Actually and the Harry Potter series and who directed the play at London's Royal Court Theatre, denounced the decision.

"I can only guess at the pressures of funding an independent theatre company in New York, but calling this production "postponed" does not disguise the fact that it has been cancelled," Mr Rickman said in a statement.

"This is censorship born out of fear, and the New York Theatre Workshop, the Royal Court, New York audiences - all of us are the losers."

"Rachel Corrie lived in nobody's pocket but her own. Whether one is sympathetic with her or not, her voice is like a clarion in the fog and should be heard," Mr Rickman said.

My Name is Rachel Corrie consists of her diary entries and emails home, edited by Mr Rickman and Katharine Viner, features editor of The Guardian. It won the best new play prize at this year's Theatregoers' Choice Awards in London.

Our program in Harvard Square consisted of several speakers and the showing of the British film, The Killing Zone, which graphically portrays the vile suppression of the Palestinians by Israeli forces.

Following the presentations, the group held a candle light vigil on Massachusetts Avenue in Harvard Square.

By the way, since My Better Half and I will be spending several weeks in London in April and May, we'll hunt out the play, My Name Is Rachel Corrie, which, I gather has been moved to the West End theatre district.  Presumably, the same actress, Megan Dodds,  will perform, since the New Yorkers have chickened out!

One other point.  The Nation features an article about Rachel Corrie's writings, "Too Hot for New York," by Philip Weiss, with many details of the controversy.

You may read it online: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060403/weiss

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