Why I Won't See the Rachel Corrie Play
A play about Rachel Corrie was performed here in Seattle recently by the Bread & Puppet Theater, and My Name is Rachel Corrie will be presented next year in Seattle by the Seattle Repertory Theatre. I won't go to see it.
I believe Rachel Corrie was sincere in her belief that she could help protect Palestinians from a house demolition, and admirable in her sympathies. Whether or not the bulldozer driver who killed her did so deliberately is in dispute. There is more than one account of the incident. Either way, it was a tragedy. If it was deliberate, that was certainly a heinous and criminal act, but that is not my concern here.
House demolitions by Israel on the West Bank were generally inflicted on the families of suicide bombers. They were meant to be a deterrent. It was a deplorable policy, and one that has since been rescinded. Demolitions in Gaza were generally of houses that were concealing underground tunnels used to smuggle weapons whose end use was to kill Israelis.
It ill behooves those who have never offered the slightest criticism of Palestinian terror tactics, or any sympathy for Israelis killed by suicide bombers or maimed by rockets indiscriminately lobbed at Israeli towns (as I write, two Israeli Arabs were killed by a Palestinian rocket that exploded tardily) to complain about "American Jews who take it on themselves to protect Israel from the slightest bit of criticism." Anyone who thinks the issues are one-sided, no matter which side they are on, has removed themselves from the community of people seeking peace.
Israel deserves criticism for its house demolitions, use of excessive force on occasion, and seizures of what should be Palestinian land. The Palestinians and their Arab allies deserve criticism for refusing to recognize Israel's right to exist (the PLO has done so belatedly; Hamas still refuses), provoking several wars against Israel, rejecting a reasonable peace offer at Taba, and murdering innocent people. Thomas Friedman, foreign correspondent for the New York Times, and a person quite familiar with the Middle East, wrote a year or so ago that had the Palestinians practiced non-violence they would have had a state thirty years ago. I think he was right.
(Islamic Jihad just announced that the rockets that killed the two Israeli Arabs were intended to disrupt Israel's elections. Such actions generally drive Israelis towards the hard line parties.)
A performance I would go to see is Noa Baum's "A Land Twice Promised." Ms. Baum is Israeli born and raised, though living now in the U.S. She has a Palestinian friend and after much listening, and arguing, she prepared a presentation that dramatizes both sides of the conflict. She has performed it here and in Israel. It is the kind of endeavor that actually contributes to understanding, and therefore to peace. You can read about it at:
If Hamas were to announce that they would renounce terrorism and recognize Israel's right to exist permanently, not as a temporary expedient, on condition that Israel negotiate a two-state solution based on the proposals at Taba, or on the Geneva Accords agreed to on a non-governmental basis by Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, the pressure on Israel to agree, both internal and external, would be so great that peace would, I believe, be inevitable.
Exploiting Rachel Corrie's memory will not promote peace, and that is why I will not go to see the play. Peace will take understanding and sympathy for the grievances on both sides. If I were her parent, I would certainly grieve and be proud of her. She sympathized with people she considered oppressed, and acted on her principles. She was a protester. That was noble. She was not a peacemaker. That would have been more noble.
Editor's Note: Jerome Richard's novel, The Kiss of the Prison Dancer, was a runner-up for the 2005 PEN/Hemingway Award.
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