Friday, November 30, 2007

The Words of Rachel Corrie

Thanks for the well-wishes for my kick-ass dancing night, but my kick-ass friend called in sick at the last minute and I had a few minutes in which to decide whether or not to go by myself and decided ... no.

Today, however, I had a very different sort of cultural experience. I went to see the one-woman show The Words of Rachel Corrie. This is a powerful play produced by Alan Rickman and a reporter (whose name I forget and I'm too lazy to look up), who took the actual words of Rachel Corrie, from her diary and emails, and created a show about this 23 year old who was bulldozed over and killed by the Israeli Defense while she stood protesting the demolition of Palestinian homes. It has been banned in New York because of the one-sided nature of its portrayal of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Of course it is one-sided. It's one woman's voice. One actual human being who was killed standing up for what she believed in. Rickman has spoken out strongly against the censorship the play has encountered. As for me, censor something and I'll go out of my way to see it or read it. So that's what I did.

The play was held at a local college and was followed by a panel of responders, including a Holocaust survivor. I appreciated the chance to have a conversation afterwards, but unfortunately couldn't stay for most of it because of a work commitment I needed to get back to.

So, at the risk of opening a can of worms I really don't need to open, I will say that I visited Israel and the Occupied Territories in 1990, during the first Intifada. I lived for five weeks on the border between Israel and the West Bank. There was a check point set up on the road right by the entrance to the place I was staying. This was long before the building of the wall, which goes right through that area now, so I didn't witness the demolition of homes and farms that Rachel did, but I did see a lot of difficult encounters and was deeply saddened by the effect that strict curfews, travel rules and economic barriers had on the Palestinian people.

It is a very complicated situation and not one I pretend to have any answers to. But I will say that the dialogue in Israel about the situation is far broader than the dialogue in this country. Jewish Israelis have a wide variety of opinions on the occupation, the wall, the possibility of a two-state solution and they are expressed vibrantly in the newspapers and the public square. Women in black --Jewish mothers who have lost children in the fighting -- protest the occupation daily and young Israeli soldiers complain about the Orthodox Jews (who have a strong influence on what the army has to do, but don't serve in it themselves). There are resistance movements within the military, with soldiers who refuse to serve in the territories. These are just some examples of the kind of dialogues I experienced there that I seldom hear about when this is discussed here.

Peace talks were once again attempted in Annapolis this week. The thought that the Bush administration could have any possible credibility in Middle East peace talks is so far beyond absurd that I won't go there. But that is not to say that I don't pray for the peace of Jerusalem. And all of the Middle East.


Kirstin said...

Thank you for posting this. I haven't seen the play, but Rachel came from my hometown. I never met her, but we had/have tons of friends in common, and I became friends with her family.

She was killed the week the Iraq war began. That time, in that town, is seared into me.

Here is a post I wrote for Rachel, on the third anniversary of her death.

Thank you, again, for this.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

What kind of person deliberately runs over a young woman? What kind of warping must be done in the name of "patriotism" and the state to give someone the idea that is an appropriate response?

May God have mercy on those who think that killing and destruction are an answer to anything. And may She also have mercy on those of us who stand by and watch while it is done in our names...

Kirstin said...

Amen, Doxy. Amen.

Here is a huge link-fest that a local (Quaker) activist put together, and has maintained ever since.

The continued willful blindness is staggering.

pj said...

No can of worms here.

The fact that the play was banned in New York is an embarrassment.

In fact, I'm going to call the very act of banning this play anti-semitic — because it implies, once again, that American Jews are all in lockstep about the Israel-Palestine situation, and that we're too sensitive to deal with some harsh realities, AND – bear with me here – it implies that Jews have so much influence on American culture and foreign policy that everyone else must placate us. Which isn't freaking true, unless everyone acts like it is and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Okay, so maybe just a small can of worms. :)

lj said...

Thanks, all, for your comments. I have lots to say as I've sat with this for a few days, so I think a new post is in the works about how we speak to each other in this country. Stay tuned.

Diane said...

I wish I could see this play. And I like what you say about the Jewish people in Israel having more diverse opinions than here. It is complicated. We have friends who have lived in Palestine for several years, and they are very much pro the palestinian people.