No matter how wrong-headed she was, Rachel Corrie’s death under an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza was a tragedy. And I have nothing but disgust for those who have mocked the way she died.
But does she deserve the martyrdom being conferred on her by a new play in London?
If you think that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a simple contest of evil versus good, that virtually all the blame is on one side, and that Israel’s actions have no context other than pure malevolence, you probably believe she does. I think the verdict on Corrie’s participation in activities of the International Solidarity Movement is decidedly more mixed. (Despite its supposed commitment to nonviolence, the ISM supports the right of the Palestinians to “armed struggle.”)
I have not seen the play, but since it appears to be based on her own one-sided writings– as heartfelt as they are– it doesn’t promise much nuance.
However The Observer reported Sunday:
The Royal Court in London announced yesterday that My Name is Rachel Corrie had become one the fastest sell-outs in its 50-year history. Tickets for the play’s 24 performances sold out in less than two days, the majority of them bought by one of the youngest audiences the theatre can recall. Actor and director Alan Rickman, whose idea it was to transform Corrie’s life into drama, is already looking at taking the play to the US where, unlike in Europe, the 23-year-old’s death has generated modest media coverage.
In Britain in particular, the woman from Olympia, Washington, has become an aspirational figure for young people often seen as apathetic and uninterested in international issues.
Katharine Viner, editor of the Guardian Weekend magazine, co-edited Corrie’s writings with Rickman. The diaries form the entire script. Viner said: ‘What’s been so exciting is how young people have been responding to it. It’s not just that they are moved by Rachel’s death, but also that they are inspired by her words and actions, that she found a way to be political in a depoliticised age.’
(Clive Davis of The Times dissented somewhat from the worshipful reviews.)
Why has Rachel Corrie become an “aspirational figure” while a genuine heroine of human freedom like Fern Holland— murdered by the glorious “resistance” in 2004 while working for women’s rights in Iraq– is virtually ignored by the fashionable Left?
“My Name is Rachel Corrie” may well be a skillfully-produced, powerful night of theater. But will anyone ever produce “My Name is Fern Holland” for the stage? If they do, will it draw anything like the media attention of the Rachel Corrie play? I think I know the answer, and I think I know why.