Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Deconstruction Zone: The Myth of St. Corrie

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Bren Carlill


Rachel Corrie died under an Israeli bulldozer in March 2003. A year later, a Hollywood actor and Guardian journalist collaborated to create a play in her honour. That play, My Name is Rachel Corrie, recently showed in Sydney. Director Shannon Murphy is hoping to organise a national tour. I went along as a guest of SBS’s “Dateline.”

The script consists entirely of excerpts from Corrie’s e-mails and journal entries, a fact its backers use to excuse its obvious one-sidedness.

These excerpts are divided roughly equally between her life before Gaza, and her two months there. Together, they comprise a 90-minute play, without intermission. That’s way too long for a one-person play, especially when the first 45 minutes is given over to Corrie’s self-righteous tripe about how selfless she is, and how much she’d like to change the world, if only given a chance.

If it weren’t for the controversial circumstances of her death, Corrie’s writing wouldn’t have given a decent editor cause for second thought. Aside from its marginal quality, it’s filled with inaccuracies, many of which are reproduced in the play. Among other porkies was this: “The vast majority of Palestinians right now, as far as I can tell, are engaging in Gandhian non-violent resistance.”

But whereas Gandhi abhorred violence, Corrie justified it - as long as Palestinians were the perpetrators.

The International Solidarity Movement (ISM), which sent Corrie to Gaza, specialises in turning impressionable youths into human shields (in violation of the Geneva Conventions), so as to prevent Israel from carrying out military operations.

On March 16, 2003, Corrie was attempting to prevent an Israeli bulldozer from uncovering and destroying weapons smuggling tunnels near the Gaza-Egypt border. She slipped whilst attempting to climb a pile of rubble being shifted by a bulldozer. The driver didn’t see her, and she was accidentally buried.

Whereas many blame the death on either Corrie or the driver, the real culprit is the ISM.

Led by Palestinians since its inception in 2001, the ISM claims to be committed to non-violence. But, like Corrie, the ISM describes members of terrorist groups as “resistance fighters” and has gone on record saying Palestinians should pursue both violent and non-violent tactics.

A co-founder, Huwaida Arraf, acknowledged in the Washington Post that the ISM “cooperates with Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.”

Not two weeks after Corrie died, the Israeli army discovered a senior member of Islamic Jihad sheltering in an ISM office.

But the audience isn’t told such inconvenient truths. In fact, and despite part of its handbook being quoted verbatim, the ISM isn’t mentioned at all.

The play’s creators manipulate less than glamorous facts in other ways. For instance, in a diary extract written while still in America, Corrie mentions her ex-boyfriend, Colin. The audience isn’t told that Colin, according to Murphy, was a drug addict.

Why was this excluded? Because the intention is to turn Corrie into a blameless martyr, and anything making her look less than a naïve, well-intentioned saint was expunged.

There is no doubt she was naïve. The play revealed that she’d mistakenly told someone the IDF was about to demolish his house. In fact the IDF was about to detonate an explosive left on the street outside by what Corrie called the “resistance.” (The “Gandhian non-violent resistance” she mentioned earlier?)

Thus, because of Corrie, this man walked into, not out of, a conflict situation. Even though she admitted this, it didn’t cause her to consider that perhaps ignorant foreigners, knowing neither Arabic nor Hebrew, don’t solve, but rather complicate very dangerous environments.

The play also revealed a Palestinian had told her that before the Intifada, there were no Israeli tanks or bulldozers in Gaza. Again, instead of putting two and two together, and realising that Palestinian violence had brought about the calamity that is Gaza (and not the other way round), she went on to justify Palestinian violence.

While Corrie was in Gaza, a suicide bomber killed 17 people on a bus in Israel. One of those people was Avigail Litle, 14-years old and, like Corrie, an American citizen. She was involved in the Jewish-Arab Centre for Peace (http://www.givathaviva.org.il/english/), advancing coexistence between the two communities.

Avigail’s role in the conflict was not protecting terrorists, but reconciling Arab and Jew. Unfortunately, no play has been written about her life.

What Corrie thought about the bus bombing that ended Avigail’s life isn’t revealed in the play. Nor is it known if she was aware that polls consistently show that Palestinians support suicide terrorism, that the Palestinian Authority names schools, sports stadiums and other public buildings after terrorists, and so on.

More than ennui, the play’s biggest weakness is its bias. In the end, the only people it will convince are those already on side. Everyone else will see it as nothing more than unmitigated propaganda.

People should and do come to their own conclusions on the Arab-Israel conflict. But those wanting the conflict to end should learn the facts, not the propaganda, and support Palestinians who want to talk with, not kill, Israelis. The ISM and the play about Rachel Corrie are not helping to resolve the conflict; they are helping to prolong it.

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