The Myth of Rachel Corrie
By Ronald Radosh
Dr. Radosh is author or co-author of 14 books, His work has appeared frequently in such venues as The New Republic, The Weekly Standard, National Review, The American Interest, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and other journals and newspapers.
This letter was sent in June to Ed Herendeen, the founder and artistic director of the Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF) in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, in protest of the production of "My Name is Rachel Corrie" (reviewed on HNN this week).
Dear Mr. Herendeen:
I moved to this area [Shepherdstown, West Virginia] one year ago, largely because it is a community of cultured people active in the arts. Last year my wife and I not only bought a series ticket to CATF, but we invited lots of friends to come from the DC metropolitan area to attend the performances.
I wish to tell you why this year I am boycotting the festival, in protest of your production of My Name is Rachel Corrie. On the CATF website, the play is described as a vehicle to show Rachel Corrie’s “eye-opening Middle East reports,” which are said to be “powerfully direct.” In the Shepherdstown Observer article, you are quoted as noting her “passionate commitment: and her quest to “understand one of the most turbulent conflicts on earth.” You connected to this play, you say, “because of Rachel’s idealistic voice,” which reminds you of your “youth and idealism.”
Your comments and the description of the play is disingenuous and utter nonsense. Rachel Corrie was not a simple idealist seeking to comprehend the truth about conflict in the Middle East. She was, rather, a committed member and activist in the so-called International Solidarity Movement, a group whose own description of their position cites their endorsement of “armed struggle” against Israeli men, women and children. At the same time, the ISM rejects Israel’s right to defend itself against never ending terrorism aimed at its very existence.
As I write this letter, the violence and Quassam missles flying into the Gaza town of Sderot are increasing, and Hamas promises to soon use newer long range missiles that will reach further and larger nearby towns. The Hamas Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh, has said that “we will keep to the same path until we win one of two goals: victory or martyrdom.” Their spokesman Abu Obeida has noted that we “will strike at the enemy anywhere in Palestine, whether with suicide attacks or operations against soldiers.” One of its leaders told Al Jazeera: “We recognize that violence is necessary and it is permissible for oppressed and occupied people to use armed resistance and we recognize their right to do so.”
Hamas is serious. Since 2000, it has carried out dozens of “suicide” bombings in Israel, and killed more than 250 people. Hamas and Fatah groups have also smuggled weapons into Gaza in preparation for major attacks against Israel. Last year alone they smuggled into Gaza 33 tons of military grade high explosives, 20,000 assault rifles, 38 long-rage missiles, 12 guided missiles, 95 anti tank rocket launchers and 410 anti tank rockets.
It is the activists of Hamas and other terrorist groups that the ISM uses its American cadre to protect. Rachel Corrie’s parents, who are speaking at the forthcoming “The world condemns Israel” rally on June 10th in our nation’s capitol, have said that their daughter was “working in Rafah with a nonviolent resistance organization…trying to stop the demolition of Palestinian homes and wells.” In the play, Corrie says she is working among “unarmed people” and that the “vast majority of Palestinians…are engaging in Gandhian non-violent resistance.” Poor Gandhi must be turning over in his grave. Where did Rachel Corrie think the Hamas terrorists get their rockets, rifles and rocket launchers from? What does she think they use them for?
The weapons she somehow is supposedly unaware of are in fact smuggled into Gaza by a network of hidden tunnels. One of those tunnels was under the house she was supposedly protecting from destruction. Her claim used in the play that she was seeking to prevent “Israeli demolition of civilian homes” is false.The IDF’s aim was not to destroy the house, but to cover up the tunnel they had found dug there by the terrorist groups. Corrie was knowingly demonstrating in a dangerous war zone where she should not have been. She was a human shield for Hamas terrorists who cynically use gullible Americans to deter attacks on their arms caches and homes that are used as weapon depots. Corrie knew the use to which she was put. As she writes, “imagine the difficulties the Israeli army would face if they shot an unarmed U.S. citizen.” In other words, she knew she and her comrades were good propaganda subjects for Hamas.
Sadly, Corrie died when an Israeli bulldozer ran her over. We have all seen the famous photo: Corrie standing way in front with a bullhorn, and then, the next photo of her lying near death with other ISM cadre standing over her. The intent is to show that Corrie was intentionally killed by the IDF driver, who saw her clearly. Indeed, the play ends with the words of an ISM militant, Tom Dale, who was there. He “knew absolutely that she was there,” the audience hears. Another ISM militant, Joe “Smith,” signed an affidavit that Israel engaged in the “intentional crushing of a human being,” and five other ISM activists who were there seconded his affidavit. They are, and Rickman-Viner’s script agrees, charging Israel with intentional murder of a peaceful protester. As the late Yassir Arafat said, “Rachel Corrie is a martyr.”
I suggest you read the article by investigative reporter Joshua Hammer, which appeared in the progressive magazine Mother Jones, a vehicle sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and firmly on the left/liberal side of the political spectrum. (Sept.-Oct.2003) Hammer found that the very intention of the ISM team Corrie was part of was “to engage the Israeli military.” When they heard an Israeli bulldozer would soon be in the area, the team moved to the house towards which it was heading. Corrie put herself between the wall of the house and the Israeli D-9 bulldozer. Her death, according to Tom Dale, took place in six or seven seconds.
What did Hammer find? First, the famous photo of Corrie with the megaphone was taken way earlier. Half an hour earlier, she had given it to another militant. When the bulldozer was near her, Corrie was kneeling way down in the dirt, a position that made it difficult for her to be seen. The operator of the vehicle had a limited field of vision, and saw no one in front of him. “You can’t hear, you can’t see well. You can go over something and you’ll never know,” he told investigators. Moreover, the IDF takes videos from the bulldozer cockpit for the record. Hammer saw these videos. His conclusion: The IDF “makes a credible case that the operators, peering out through the narrow, double-glazed, bulletproof windows, their view obscured behind pistons and the giant scooper, might not have seen Corrie kneeling behind them.” Why don’t you consider ending the play with this, rather than Tom Dale’s charge of intentional murder?
After the audience hears this, they will see a home video of a ten year old charming Rachel Corrie talking about the horror of world hunger. How sweet. How manipulative. How phony. Did the mature Rachel Corrie ever consider how the jihad she was supporting was viewed by Israeli young women her own age? Did she ever see the effects of the suicide bombings and rockets that the Hamas militants she sought to protect had on Israeli families?
In the case of Rachel Corrie, her youthful idealism led to the advancement of evil acts by terrorist groups. She was not a heroic peace activist. To quote the Wall Street Journal editorial that appeared a day after her death: “It’s a shame that Rachel Corrie died the way she did. It’s shameful that she lived the way she did.” In the context of the increasing attacks on Israel by Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad and Al-Aqsa fighters, presentation of this one-sided play- actually a crude example of agit-prop at its worst- can only inflame sentiment towards the false conclusion that the terrorists are really only freedom fighters.
Rachel Corrie was not an innocent. She was a dedicated believer who was part of the ISM movement. She knew well the importance of propaganda. As she wrote to herself: “Set up system for media work.” Writing home, she asked that her parents when talking to the press never say things like we must end “the cycle of violence,” because it was not a “balanced conflict,” but a case of victims fighting Israeli imperialists. Think of this “before talking to reporters,” she advised them.
Sadly, Corrie’s wish is carried out in the play, and now will spread to Shepherdstown in this forthcoming production.
Prof. Emeritus of History, City Univ. of New York
Adjunct Fellow, The Hudson Institute, Washington, DC
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