A one-woman play scheduled to debut next week about Rachel Corrie, the young
American pro-Palestinian activist killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza in
2003, has resulted in calls from an area politician to cease funding the theater
hosting it, and concerns over freedom of speech.
The play, My Name is
Rachel Corrie, is based on the 23- year-old’s diaries and emails written shortly
before her death while protesting against Israel, and is slated to be performed
at Jerusalem’s Khan Theater.
“We should not be lending a hand to
problematic plays that harm Jerusalem and the State of Israel in the name of
‘art,’” said Jerusalem Deputy Mayor David Hadari (Bayit Yehudi) earlier this
Hadari went on to call Corrie an “Israeli hater” and subsequently
demanded that the Jerusalem Municipality cease funding the Khan
In a statement issued Wednesday, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat
defended the theater’s right to host the play, despite its objectionable
content, noting Israel’s unrivaled “freedom of expression” in the
“The Jerusalem Municipality and the [Culture and Sport Ministry]
do not support specific plays but rather cultural institutions according to
defined criteria,” the statement read. “Even if the municipality and mayor don’t
agree with the specific content that presents soldiers in a negative light, we
are prevented by law from interfering in the freedom of
Meretz city councilman Dr. Meir Margalit, who holds
the east Jerusalem portfolio, compared Hadari’s attempt to silence the play with
“Hadari’s position is a position of violence,”
he said by phone Wednesday. “It belongs to the kind of people who feel they must
shut up the other side by force. This is the classical side of the settler
[mentality] and shows that they are afraid to hear different positions – to hear
Margalit went on to note the troubling confluence of last
week’s government-mandated cancellation of an east Jerusalem children’s puppet
festival because of sponsorship by the Palestinian Authority and Hadari’s call
to prevent the Corrie play.
“There is a symbolic connection between these
two reactions,” he said. “When a country cannot support criticism and
intellectually different approaches, this is a sign that we are in a very bad
situation – that something is wrong in our society.”
“There are people
who, when they hear the word ‘culture,’ they become nervous,” he
Corrie, of Olympia, Washington, was a member of the pro-
Palestinian International Solidarity Movement (ISM), who came to Israel during
the height of the bloody second intifada to protest the demolition of
Palestinian homes by the Israeli government.
She was crushed to death on
March 16, 2003, by an armored IDF bulldozer in Rafah, near the Gaza Strip while
protesting an IDF home demolition.
The death resulted in international
calls for an investigation, which her family deemed a homicide. Corrie’s family
filed a civil suit against the Defense Ministry seven years ago, claiming that
the IDF either deliberately killed their daughter or was guilty of “gross
However, in 2012, a Haifa District Court judge invoked the
“combatant activities” exception, which states that a country’s armed forces
cannot be held liable for civil damages for physical or economic harm to
civilians in an area defined as a “war zone.”
In a 62-page decision,
Judge Oded Gershon noted that IDF forces were attacked hours earlier in the same
area where Corrie was killed.
Gershon said in his judgment that Corrie
could have avoided the dangerous situation, but called her death “an unfortunate
He went on accuse the ISM of indirectly assisting terrorists in
Furthermore, the Supreme Court concurred that the Rafah
area was a war zone during the second intifada when the incident occurred, even
if combat was not occurring at every moment.
My Name is Rachel Corrie has
previously been shown in Israel, but only in Arabic. Next week’s performance
will be presented entirely in Hebrew.
Its director, Ari Remez, said he is
not surprised by the controversy.
“We expected to get this kind of
response,” he told The Washington Post. “It’s a shame that this response is
coming not from those who have seen the play, but from those who think that
putting on this play is anti- Israel or anti-Semitic.
“In the theater we
try to create a debate,” he continued.
“Some of the ideas you agree with
and others you might not agree with, but the goal is for people to come and
The play has not been without controversy since its debut in
London in 2005. It has been widely criticized for its anti-Israel narrative, and
one off-Broadway theater rescinded on hosting it after deeming the content too