An Open Letter to Jim Nicola, Artistic Director, New York Theater Workshop
Dear Mr. Nicola:
I write an open letter to encourage you to set a firm date for the opening of "My Name is Rachel Corrie" and to ask you to help me understand what is going on at the workshop that caused it to "postpone" the production that, while apparently not "announced" as firm, was deemed certain enough that its London-based authors booked flights to New York to see it, and tickets were advertised on the Internet.
I live in Olympia, Washington and am a friend and supporter of the Corrie family, and also a friend of Andrew Ford Lyons, with whom you recently corresponded. I also read widely, and notice a substantial difference in your very personal response to Mr. Lyons -- it was simply all about having enough time, though this is a one-actor play and the actor knows the play cold -- and the report in The New York Times that you polled "the Jewish community" and detected a lot of edginess about several factors that really have nothing to do with the magnificent life Rachel lived for 23 years which is enshrined in this award-winning play. Now I see on your web site the suggestion that you are simply waiting to hear from the Royal Court Theatre in London. Which is it, Jim?
In a lifetime of playgoing, journalism and public service, I can’t recall a theatre company polling any particular community to determine whether or when a dramatic work should be presented. The fact that you have done this and, on the basis of the results, have "postponed" this drama to a time uncertain makes me extremely uncomfortable about whether the arts are to retain their traditional, vigorous freedom of subject and _expression. I speak as one who has consistently opposed attempts by the National Endowment for the Arts or other groups to pressure or influence what artists do.
One of my questions concerns your perception of "the Jewish community." Many of the outstanding voices against the occupation of Palestine are those of Jewish organizations. For exampe, Brit Tzedek v Shalom. And the New York-based Jews Against the Occupation. Did you speak to those leaders? And was it in any sense a scientific poll, or was it just calling around to some friends of one of your benefactors?
And why did you do this, Jim? Have you ever "polled" the gay/lesbian/transgender community, or the anti-abortion community, or the evangelical community? Specifically, I ask you if this "poll" was a response to any contact from the Mayor’s office, as is being rumored on both sides of the Atlantic.
I will not cry censorship, but I will tell you that I am extremely uncomfortable, especially at a time when faculty members of leading educational institutions from New York to Los Angeles are under intense pressure if they don’t hue to the State of Israel/AIPAC line. Not to mention all the machinations of the Bush administration to perpetuate its views.
You have spoken of "sinister forces" which will try to use this play to their own ends. Since when is that a standard for making artistic judgments? And what are those "sinister forces," Jim? Could you be referring to those who oppose the State of Israel’s 39-year occupation of Palestinian lands? Much of the civilized world, including Jewish groups, mainline Protestant and Cathlic groups and probably the majority of Europeans oppose the occupation. Were these the "sinister groups" to which you were referring?
I am an Episcopalian. My church is actively involved in "corporate engagement" to discourage the makers of Caterpillar D9s -- for example -- from doing business with the Israeli Defense Force. Are we Episcopalians "sinister?"
The workshop’s action in "postponing" this play has catapulted it into a spotlight. Thousands of people will be asking the same questions I put to you here, and many will do so more stridently, and will have more questions. I’m not trying to begin a debate. I’m wanting to support you in your statement that you want to produce this play.
To get out of this firestorm, I believe you have to be totally forthcoming on these questions. And the fastest way to end the controversy will be simply to announce a firm performance schedule in the fall of 2006. Jim, only you can assure that you will present this work with integrity, as you state on your website. But you will never be able to control how groups with varying positions will view this or other work you might produce, nor will their views ever impeach your integrity.
Warren Guykema is a member of the Bishop’s Committee on Justice and Peace of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia (Western Washington) and also of the Olympia-Rafah Sister City Project. Before retiring, he owned a printing business and earlier served as a state official and as a reporter and department manager for media companies in Seattle. He can be reached at [email protected]
We could to help Rachel’s voice be heard
PHILIP WEISS, thenation, US
"My Name is Rachel Corrie" Controversy Over The Play in New York
Democracy Now, USA
Who is Afraid of Rachel Corrie?
WARREN GUYKEMA - Seattle, US
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BBC documentary proves Israeli army murdered Rachel Corrie
by Christopher Bollyn
The BBC has released a remarkable film about the killing of three international peace activists by the Israeli army in the occupied Gaza Strip. Documentary evidence provided in the film strongly suggests that the American Rachel Corrie - and two British activists - were murdered.
Last spring, within a period of seven weeks, one British and one American peace activist were killed by the Israeli army in Rafah, a Palestinian town at the southern end of the occupied Gaza Strip. A second Briton was shot in the head leaving him brain-dead. In two of the cases the Israeli army is being blamed for murder; the third is considered "attempted murder."
An Israeli military bulldozer crushed the 23-year-old American peace activist Rachel Corrie, who was the first to die on March 16, as she tried to prevent it from demolishing a Palestinian doctor’s home.
British photographer Tom Hurndall, 22, was left brain dead after being shot in the head by an Israeli soldier on April 11. British cameraman James Miller, 34, was shot by an Israeli sniper as he left a house with two other journalists on May 2.
A recently released 50-minute "hard-hitting" program produced by the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) investigated the three killings and provides crucial video evidence. "That’s murder," an Israeli soldier said after viewing footage from the film, When Killing is Easy.
When Killing is Easy was shown 4 times to a worldwide audience on the commercial BBC World television network on November 22 and 23. Some cable television viewers in the United States would have been able to view the program.
The three international observers died, or nearly died, at the hands of the Israeli military between the middle of March and the first week of May. Hurndall was shot in the head as he took a Palestinian toddler, who had frozen under Israeli fire, into his arms. Today, Hurndall is brain-dead and is kept alive on life-support equipment.
Tom’s father, Anthony, is a lawyer in the City of London. After six weeks of investigation, Hurndall has come to the conclusion that the shooting of his son by Israeli forces is "a case of attempted murder. If Tom dies, and that is a likelihood, then it will be murder," he said.
Jocelyn Hurndall wrote to The Guardian after an Israeli government check for about $12,000, sent to the Hurndall family to pay for "a fraction of the expenses incurred," bounced. When the check finally arrived after five months of negotiations with the Hurndall family, the Israeli government check was not "honored" by the Bank of Israel, Hurndall wrote. "Insufficient funds’ was the reason given.
According to evidence provided in Sweeney’s film, the IDF report on the shooting of Hurndall is completely wrong about where he was, what he was wearing, and what he was doing when an Israeli soldier shot him in the head.
"It is a mind-numbing task to understand the morality and to use the logic of the Israeli government," Hurndall wrote. "What hope do Palestinians have when such profound disregard and disrespect is shown to humanity, collectively and individually?"
The BBC film was produced by John Sweeney, whose article on the killings, "Silenced Witnesses," was published in The Independent (UK) on Oct. 30.
"Making our film, When Killing is Easy, has been the most harrowing ordeal of my professional life," Sweeney wrote. "But it is vital that it is evidential - and that is really tough when the Israeli government and the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) have refused to speak to us."
Rachel Corrie, the first of the three to die, was using her body to defend the home of Dr. Samir Nasser Allah from an American-made bulldozer used by the Israeli army to demolish the homes of Palestinians. Corrie was a member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). ISM members stand between the Israeli bulldozers and the homes that the IDF wants to flatten.
Israeli bulldozers have razed thousands of Palestinian homes in the occupied Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The bulldozers are primarily made by the Illinois-based Caterpillar company.
Tom Dale, an ISM eyewitness, had a clear view of the incident: "He [the driver] knew absolutely she was there. The bulldozer waited for a few seconds over her body and it then reversed, leaving its scoop down so that if she had been under the bulldozer, it would have crushed her a second time. Only later when it was much more clear of her body did it raise its scoop."
"MY BACK IS BROKEN"
"My back is broken," Rachel told Alice Coy, a fellow ISM activist who was with her.
An Israeli pathologist, Dr. Yehudah Hiss, noted that Rachel appeared to have been run over by the bulldozer, Sweeney wrote. Hiss found the cause of death to be "pressure to the chest." Her shoulder blades had been crushed; her spine was broken in five places and six ribs broken. Her face was apparently slashed by the bulldozer blade.
The IDF produced a report that says, "Corrie was not run over by an engineering vehicle." It added, "for good measure" Sweeney says, that Corrie was "hidden from view of the vehicle’s operator."
The footage seen in the BBC film proves these statements to be false. The family of Rachel Corrie believes the IDF report to "be a blatant fabrication," Sweeney wrote.
The British cameraman James Miller was shot dead by an Israeli sniper as he left a house in Rafah with two other journalists on the night of May 2. An Associated Press TV News (APTN) cameraman filmed the entire scene.
One of the three journalists held a white flag; Miller was shining a light on the flag and a third journalist held up her British passport. There was no shooting and the area was quiet as the audio track of the film clearly proves.
The three had walked about 60 feet toward an Israeli armed personnel carrier to request safe passage to leave the area when the first shot was fired. "We are British journalists," Saira Shah cried out into the darkness.
"Then comes the second shot, which killed James," Sweeney wrote. "He was shot in the front of his neck. The bullet was Israeli issue, fired, according to a forensic expert, from less than 200 meters [600 feet] away."
The IDF maintains that Miller was shot during crossfire, although no shooting is heard on the APTN tape apart from the two shots fired from the Israeli military vehicle.
When the APTN tape was shown to an Israeli soldier, who is shown in the film, he said the television team did not look like Islamic terrorists and concluded: "That’s murder."
Christopher Bollyn is a regular contributor to American Free Press .
"Should international communism ever complete its plan of bringing civilization to naught, it is conceivable that SOME FORM OF WORLD GOVERNMENT in the hands of a few men could emerge, which would not be communism. It would be the domination of barbarous tyrants over the world of slaves, and communism would have been used as the means to an end."
(The Patriot (London) November 9, 1939; The Rulers of Russia, Father Denis Fahey, pp. 23-24)
Links of related interest:
"Silenced witnesses," an article by John Sweeney
BBC-TV (The documentary When Killing is Easy is not presently listed on the BBC’s website—has Israel pressured the network to drop it? We are looking into this matter and ask anyone with information to please contact us at our e-mail address: [email protected])
International Solidarity Movement:
Israeli Defense Force:
Concerning Rachel Corrie:
Concerning Tom Hurndall:
Concerning James Miller:
Concerning Brian Avery (a fourth victim of the Israeli army):
The Brian Avery shooting: When will we realize that there can’t be this many "accidents"?
Other concerned groups:
Jews for Justice for Palestinians