Zionists Censor Rachel Corrie Play in Toronto but Political Art Prevails in Seattle

0 Posted by - April 16, 2007 - Blog, Performance
Performing "My Name is Rachel Corrie"


It appears that anti-free speech Zionists have chalked up another point for fanaticism against art – at least in Canada, where a new theatre production has been recently censored. The one-woman play “My Name is Rachel Corrie” was conceived by actor/director Alan Rickman and Katherine Viner, an editor at the UK news publication The Guardian. The 90 minute play is based on the journals and emails of American anti-imperialist activist Rachel Corrie, who, frustrated with protesting her own government’s involvement in the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, joined with International Solidarity Movement volunteers in the Gaza Strip to activate change. On March 16th, 2003, she stood between an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) bulldozer and a Palestinian’s dwelling, in order to save it from becoming one of hundreds of piles of rubble that were once called “homes.” The driver of the bulldozer proceeded to run over Corrie with the blade of the machine, dragging it over her forward, then — not lifting it until it had finished the job — dragging it back over her. Corrie suffered severely broken limbs and a crushed skull and died in hospital shortly after. She was 23 years old.

It is a tragedy that this young activist was brutally murdered by the Israeli government, and it is a sad fact that scores of young people continually die in the illegal occupation of Palestine, both Israeli and Palestinian. And while it is also sad that it often takes an American losing her or his life for others north of Mexico to take a closer look at the occupation it is just downright (predictably) disappointing that when Corrie’s life, politics, and murder are turned into art, it is vehemently censored in both Canada and America…

Recently, the cowardly Canada Stage Company in Toronto caved in to “certain members” of their Board who were worried the play would offend and upset certain members of Toronto’s Jewish community (as if there is one Jewish community). Let’s not beat around the bush here, the “certain members” are bound to be of the conservative/rightwing/Zionist variety who also pressured theatre owners in New York City to back down in the face of political art (where the play was to have its debut, instead of where it was moved to, London). It was also recently cancelled/censored in Florida.

The play has received excellent reviews where it has managed to be performed, and Gina Whitfield reported today on infoshop.org that it has been selling out in Corrie’s home town of Seattle. It seems that controversy follows this piece of art wherever it goes however, and as activist handed out pamphlets against the occupation to people in the line-up, Whitfield says that one bystander responded by saying she deserved to die because she blocked the bulldozer. The vitriol continued inside the theatre as well. Again, Whitfield reports:

The program for My Name is Rachel Corrie, incredibly, contains prominent advertisements that attempt to discredit the play. One from the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle called “All the Rachels” claims that Corrie “fell in front of an Isreali Army Bulldozer” as she was trying to stop “an Isreali counter-terrorism operation”. The ad then goes on to list Israelis named Rachel who have been killed in suicide bombings. Further on in the program, a full-page ad warns audience members not to be “misled” because the play “does not tell the whole story,” and goes on to claim that Corrie was actually a member of an “extremist group”.

David Esbjornson, the Artistic Director of the theatre, has a letter in the program in which he explains his views on the play and the controversy surrounding it:

You may notice the advertisements that have been placed in the program attempting to discredit this play. Unfortunately, most who are critical of our decision to present My Name is Rachel Corrie have not seen the play…Buying ads in our theatre publication to denounce the work on our stage is unprecedented…Though deeply saddened by these actions, I acknowledge the rights of these groups to their free expression. Similarly, presenting My Name is Rachel Corrie is a form of free expression that we should embrace and protect.

One thing is certain, criticizing Israel and it’s illegal occupation of Palestine is akin to criticizing the good ‘ole USA these days: if you’re critical it means that you’re anti-semitic (or pro-terrorist/anti-patriotic, take your pick). Journalist Samer Elatrash puts it this way: “Not that I cared [about being accused of being anti-Semitic], overuse of the charge against pro-Palestinians had made it as banal as the porno money shot.” The ultra-ultra right wing mental midgets in Yankee land have even put their own disgusting, hate-filled “art” online with a piece entitled Rachel “Road Kill” Corrie, proving once again that art is the weapon for not just the progressives out there.

And from Whitfield:

The purpose of art is to inspire us to be more than we are, to question our own assumptions or our entrenched ideas. My Name is Rachel Corrie certainly achieves this; it is an impassioned call to action. The depiction of her life forces the audience to question their assumptions about a young radical, who was in fact not dogmatic or hateful, but whose spirit was caring and who was desperately trying to find good and genuine beauty amidst a hideous conflict.

Let’s hope that more people feel this way and are brave enough to have the conviction to back it up instead of caving in to pressure groups who would rather censor expression. For more on the play and the Zionist censorship, visit the International Socialist Online, for more on Rachel Corrie visit her tribute site, and for more on the International Solidarity Movement, go here. Finally, read the Guardian’s review of the play.

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