Tuesday, April 4, 2006
Idealist Rachel Corrie was misled
By GILEAD INI
All can agree that the death of a young woman is tragic. Like the hundreds of young lives lost as the target of Palestinian suicide bombers, and like those unintentionally killed during Israeli counterterror operations, the loss of Rachel Corrie undoubtedly has affected many in a painful way.
It is understandable, then, that her friends and family want to keep her memory alive, and they have done so successfully. But whether Corrie’s message deserves to be propagated and celebrated by audiences in theater productions such as “My Name is Rachel Corrie” and “Daughter Courage” is a different story. Corrie was an idealist; but as fate had it, her idealism ended up channeled through the radical International Solidarity Movement, an organization that not only puts at risk the lives of Israeli civilians but also the lives of its members.
ISM tells its young followers that Palestinians have the right to armed attacks against Israelis, while at the same time making clear through its activities that Israel has no right to protect its citizens. While the two positions seem mutually contradictory, the organization apparently reconciles them by summing up the complex Israeli-Arab conflict as singularly caused by a sadistic Israel seeking arbitrarily to oppress Palestinians.
In ISM’s world, legitimate Israeli security concerns don’t exist. The group’s narrative obscures the fact that Palestinian terrorism began even before Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip, that Israel acquired those territories in a war precipitated by neighboring countries openly threatening to destroy the Jewish state and that Israel repeatedly offered to turn over land to the Palestinians. Hamas, whose charter makes clear that the group’s violence against Israeli civilians is rooted in racist ideology and is aimed at destroying Israel, and other groups seeking Israel’s annihilation, are invisible in the Middle East portrayed by ISM.
Why are those and other important realities about the conflict excised from ISM’s depictions? Is it because creating a false dichotomy of blameless Palestinians and faceless Israeli oppressors makes it easier for the group to persuade naïve idealists to risk their lives? Perhaps ISM’s activists would be less likely to throw themselves before Israeli bulldozers if they were told that the bulldozers are used to search for very real smuggling tunnels that bring weapons and explosives used against Israeli children. Whatever the reasons, ISM’s activists are misled.
But theatergoers should not be misled. They should know that any play based on the ISM’s dogmas might possibly provide audiences with a better understanding of the organization’s propaganda, but certainly will not offer viewers an accurate, complete or nuanced understanding of the difficult situation in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. ISM’s partial and simplistic views are more geared toward building hatred against Israel than toward forwarding peace, human rights or justice.
Gilead Ini is a senior research analyst with the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.
The newspaper regrettably cut from the column a passage noting that among the the lives taken by Palestinian suicide bombers were “a number of American youths whose names have been forgotten by the media.” To see a flyer (published by StandWithUs) capturing this point, click here. CAMERA’s column in the Post-Intelligencer followed the newspaper’s publication of a March 13 editorial and a March 16 piece by P-I columninst Robert L. Jamieson Jr. lauding the play “Daughter Courage.” The play was reviewed by the newspaper’s art critic on March 10.