Jerusalem’s Khan Theater is scheduled to present My Name is Rachel Corrie, a play comprised of the writings of Rachel Corrie, an American student who joined the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Corrie died in 2003, attempting to block an IDF bulldozer at the Gaza frontier during anti-terror operations.
Free speech in a democracy dictates that the play should be performed without interference from the government. However, these same values also necessitate an informed public debate about the messaging from a play that lionizes an individual like Rachel Corrie and uses subsidies from the Israeli Ministry of Culture and the Jerusalem Municipality.
Understanding ISM, its ideology and goals, is imperative for this discussion.
ISM is a Palestinian-led non-governmental organization (NGO) involved in often violent demonstrations against Israel. ISM is anti-Zionist. It promotes the boycotts, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS) and supports the maximalist Palestinian claim of a “right of return” which is tantamount to the destruction of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. These positions embody the central dimensions of the infamous 2001 Durban NGO Forum Declaration, which adopted a strategy for political warfare against Israel to accompany the wave of mass terror attacks of that period.
ISM’s leaders encourage foreign volunteers to engage in life-threatening clashes with Israeli soldiers. As noted by one of ISM’s founders, “if some of these foreign volunteers get shot or even killed, then the international media will sit up and take notice.”
In a 2002 article, ISM co-founders Adam Shapiro and Huwaida Arraf wrote, “The Palestinian resistance must take on a variety of characteristics, both non-violent and violent…In actuality, nonviolence is not enough…Yes, people will get killed and injured,” but these deaths are “no less noble than carrying out a suicide operation. And we are certain that if these men were killed during such an action, they would be considered shaheed Allah.”
ISM has also been linked to terror groups and terror activities. ISM members served as human shields for Palestinian gunmen around Yasir Arafat’s Ramallah compound and in the Bethlehem Church of the Nativity in 2002. In 2003, ISM activist Susan Barclay “said in an interview with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, she knowingly worked with representatives from Hamas and Islamic Jihad…” Both groups are designated by the U.S. State Department as Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
ISM members also met with the two British terrorists who carried out the attack on “Mike’s Place” in Tel Aviv in 2003 murdering three people and wounding fifty. Another ISM member, Richard David Hupper, was convicted by a U.S. federal jury for materially aiding Hamas, “giving about $20,000 to Hamas while working in Israel with the International Solidarity Movement.”
In August 2012, an Israeli Court ruled that Israel was not at fault for the death of Rachel Corrie. The judge, responding to a civil suit brought by Corrie’s parents, said the 23-year-old’s death was a “regrettable accident.” In a very detailed decision, Judge Oded Gershon ruled that Corrie had been attempting to disrupt IDF anti-terror operations in a designated combat zone. The evidence clearly showed that the bulldozer driver had not seen her, adding the soldiers had done their utmost to keep people away from the site. Corrie did not “distance herself from the area, as any thinking person would have done.” Thus, the heroic image of Corrie in the play and related advertising posters is fictitious.
Furthermore, the inherent whitewashing of Corrie’s involvement in ISM is insulting to the victims of terrorism. Jerusalem was the scene of dozens of horrific terrorist attacks carried out by the very groups ISM activists have admitted to working with. These terror attacks left many Jerusalemites dead, and the survivors scarred physically and emotionally.
Given the highly politicized background of ISM, and the fact that the Khan Theater is supported by the Israeli Ministry of Culture and the Jerusalem Municipality, the theater management and both government bodies have an obligation to inform the public regarding this production’s funding and details on the processes that approve such support. The public also has a right to know any information on other organizations and institutions that may be involved in promoting and funding the performance – such as political advocacy NGOs.
The decision to show My Name is Rachel Corrie presents an opportunity to enhance freedom of speech and robust public debate. This includes acknowledging the radical agenda, goals, and campaigns of ISM, and not sufficing with the sanitized version provided by the play.