The loss of the fine actor Alan Rickman has understandably sparked differences of opinion.
I empathise with people who thought it was premature to talk about his contribution to the Israel/Palestine narrative. I do hope he is now free from pain and send condolences to those close to him.
But it is possible to distil the acting from the man. All acting is pretending and great acting is great pretending. Amongst many memorable roles, Rickman pretended to be Professor Snape in the Harry Potter films. And he pretended to be the Vicomte de Valmont in Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Many of us felt great affection for the characters he temporarily inhabited, and for the person we believed him to be.
But the real Alan Rickman, and not Professor Snape, co-wrote/edited a one sided play called ‘My Name is Rachel Corrie.’
May her soul rest in peace, but according to sources, this young woman was not a passive bystander in her anti-Israel activity. Her death was a tragedy, but an Israeli enquiry decided she wasn’t deliberately targeted. Judge Oded Gershon said:
“She consciously put herself in danger.” And an Israeli military inquiry found: “Rachel Corrie was not run over by an engineering vehicle but rather was struck by a hard object, most probably a slab of concrete which was moved or slid down while the mound of earth which she was standing behind was moved.”
It isn’t Israel who deliberately targets civilians
I haven’t seen the play that Alan Rickman put together from Corrie’s own anti-Israel diary and emails, but responsibility for the now entrenched biased narrative about Corrie’s ‘martyrdom’ by the Israelis is, to a great extent, down to him.
Here is Clive Davis, The Times, April 2005 (via Wikipedia): “As for the scenes set in Israel….an element of unvarnished propaganda comes to the fore. With no attempt made to set the violence in context, we are left with the impression of unarmed civilians being crushed by faceless militarists”.
Rickman’s fame gives seeming credibility to a play, a fiction, which elevates Corrie to quasi martyrdom. The play has been performed and read all over the world, and is used to demonise Israel. It influences the naive and hardens those who are already single mindedly anti.
I believe that a writer has a responsibility to look at all the facts and tell the truth, especially where the narrative is likely to fan flames. But Alan Rickman was a pal of Mark Rylance, a noisy signed up cultural boycotter of Israel. Rylance is a pal of George Galloway, an ex UK MP who hates Israel and banned Israelis from his then constituency of Bradford East.
The play was birthed at the Royal Court Theatre, London, a historical source of influential and one sided anti- Israel cultural activity, which for years, has shown on its website a map of the Middle East with Israel as a blank. This is where Alan Rickman obtained backing to publicise his own and Rachel Corrie’s so called ‘facts’
Do you want to know names of people in the cultural world who work to demonise and delegitimise Israel?
Do you want to support the work of those who, just by signing up to cultural boycotting in its various forms, give spine to those who would destroy Israel?
Some people have made it clear that they don’t know and don’t care, and they have every right to make that choice.
Here’s me, an opera lover who has tried and failed to enjoy Wagner. Who has tried and failed to listen properly to the stunning music. But the history gets in the way. All I can hear is jackboots. All I can imagine at Bayreuth is Hitler. Many Jewish people feel like me and many others adore his work. Kol hakavod!
What about living artists who boycott Israel? Or who make it plain, like David Hare (not a boycotter), that they find Israel rather distasteful and think it should never have existed? Or at least that is how I interpret Hare’s revisiting his play of 1997, Via Dolorosa, in The Guardian 28/10/2000:
“It occurs to me, as I look out of the window, that the Jews do not belong here. This thought is so unexpected and of course implicitly so inflammatory that I turn guiltily, blushing, to see whether anyone in the back of the car can tell what I’m thinking. Up till now I have spent time in Tel Aviv, a town which on its surface at least, is sophisticated and western, but now I am speeding through a huge land mass — I feel the topography, I feel the land, a great hot continent stretching away to my right, Arab country after Arab country — and for the first time I understand how odd, how egregious Israel must look to the Arab eye.”
With eyes open, I recently chose to see “The Moderate Soprano” by David Hare. The play is about the beginning of Glyndebourne, a private Opera House in Sussex. It portrays the amazing Christie family and how their vision, together with the talents of Fritz Busch and Carl Ebert, refugees from Hitler’s German, helped shape a very British institution. Why, I figured, should I let his views on Israel stop me seeing it? I loved the play but at the same time, like a fugue by Bach, there was an overshadowing counterpoint of unease about Hare that played in my head, and my heart, for the duration.
So I make my choices and so does each one of us. I feel the need to make an educated choice because planning to see, for instance, a play, in the UK, has, for me and many others, turned into a cultural minefield. Before that final click on the computer, I will have scoured the Artists for Palestine Boycott list, and I also google names elsewhere. I look up the director, writer and the leading actors.
I need those facts, just as I need to know whether I respect their talents. Then I consider whether or not to book, and as with the David Hare, it depends! Because if we live in Israel, in the UK or any democratic society, information is free, and we are also free to make our own informed choices!
Before you say I’m bonkers, just remember this: those who have signed up to the cultural boycott of Israel have been free to make their own, possibly ill informed choice, to demonise, delegitimise and slander Israel. Why should I support them?