Rachel Corrie was all of 23 when she was run over by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza in 2003. According to reports, Rachel was protesting the building of Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and was run over by a bulldozer in the process, instantly killing her.
Now, a play on Rachel’s life called My Name is Rachel Corrie has been banned in New York by the New York Theatre Workshop because it is deemed to be anti-semitic. According to Democracy Now!, the play was also banned in Canada – ostensibly for the exact same reason.
Isn’t it amazing that in a society that prides itself in free speech, a play about a young peace activist who was killed in probably what was an accident is labeled Anti-Semitic and shut out from the theatre circuit in one of the greatest cities of the world.
It brings me back to my original point – for all the freedom that America provides – Israel and its policies are something of a holy grail. Anything remotely questioning the policies of Israel is instantly labeled Anti-Semitist and shunned. Jimmy Carter talking in Meet the Press said it could be because most Americans are religious people and in the biblical view of the world, Israel is the promised land. And hence there is a natural proclivity to falling lock-step with everything Israel does or proclaims. Also, the clout of the Israeli lobby in American polity isn’t a secret – and that could be another reason. Doesn’t exactly explain the depth of public opinions but a lot of opinions can be shaped in 50 years.
Which brings me back to the original topic. When a play about a peace activist is banned ( though, at this point, I must mention that Rachel Carrie had pro-Palestinian views) simply because it portrays an alternate view of a deep and complicated conflict, it seems to me a sad and dangerous state.
Sad for Rachel Carrie and her family – because whatever she stood for has lost its chance to make it into the public consciousness of her own country. Dangerous because this serves as a reflection of how and why American foreign policy towards the Israel-Palestinian conflict is so skewed and one-sided.
Which is why, I feel Jimmy Carter’s new book is so invaluable. If nothing, it opens up an avenue for a debate about the Israel-Palestinian conflict and possibly change some established presumtions in the American public policy debate. Read about it in my earlier post here.