Another storm around Simone Bitton's movie "Rachel", whose subject is Rachel Corrie, the young non-violent activist who was murdered* by an Israeli bulldozer, as she was attempting to stop a demolition of a Palestinian home in Rafah. More particularly, this controversy centers on the invitation by the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival organize of Cindy Corrie, Rachel's mother, to participate in the event.
* The answer to the question of how Rachel died - whether it was an intentional killing or not- is contested. It's my own firm opinion that she was run over intentionally, and therefore I use the term "murder."
The piece from the Daily Kos, by Tom J., lays out rather nicely the issues around the invitation of Cindy Corrie.
You Must *Not* See This Movie -- Muzzling Jewish Dissent.
by Tom J
Jul 21, 2009
The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, the largest Jewish Film festival in the world, will screen many films this year, many with discussion with filmmakers and others featured in the film. Some of these films will be controversial, there will be all sorts of issues explored.
None has generated more controversy than the film "Rachel", a film by Jewish-Israeli filmmaker Simone Bitton about the death of Rachel Corrie, the young woman killed by an Israeli-military bulldozer as she was protecting homes in the Rafah, Gaza. At the request of the filmmaker, they have invited Cindy Corrie, Rachel's mother to speak. Big time controversy and condemnation by a weekly Jewish magazine and even from the local Israel Consul General.
Cindy Corrie has publicly advocated for ensuring "justice, freedom, security and economic viability for both Israelis and Palestinians."
So what's the problem?
* Tom J's diary
Peter Stein, the film festival's executive director:
"I know there are many members of the community who would prefer if the festival stayed away from programming films on difficult topics or topics of passionate division of opinion. That being said, if we, as an arts organization, are going to remain relevant in our time, it really is part of our role to catalyze conversation, however uncomfortable it may be."
Israel Consul General protests the presence of Cindy Corrie:
"The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival made a serious error in judgment in inviting Mrs. Corrie to the festival," Israel Consul General Akiva Tor said via e-mail. "She is a propagandist who is immune from responsibility for the causes she supports because it was her daughter, Rachel, who was accidentally killed.
"So her staged presence becomes a kind of emotional grandstanding, rather than pursuit of a deeper insight."
Propagandist? The Consul General has been busy supporting policies of expanding settlements in the West Bank, supporting the war on Gaza, supporting a brutal blockade, and now will be supporting a policy of muzzling Palestinians, and Jewish Israelis, who dare to commemorate the Nakba of 1948. The Foreign Minister, his boss, is seen by many (even Israeli diplomats) as extreme as fascist Haider of Austria... and this man is calling Cindy Corrie a "propagandist"? Cindy Corrie who wants justice, freedom, security and economic viability for both Israelis and Palestinians?
I think its a way of saying there is a point of view that the Consul General finds might disturb the status quo. Change might happen. Scary. Also a way to challenge the official narrative. "accidental" he says? That's the official line. Not so fast. Maybe not an accident. as perhaps the deaths of hundreds of civilians in the war on Gaza of December/January is perhaps not an accident, or the continuing blockade that brings hunger to the people of Gaza is not an accident. Perhaps the latter atrocity is nothing more than a joke among its designers.
Jewish Voice for Peace, a national group based in the Bay Area, is one of the groups co-sponsoring this film, and they are to be commended for their courage, as well as the festival organizers. Compare this to the sometimes successful effort to not allow the staging of the play: "My Name is Rachel Corrie" at several theaters around the country (which helped tremendously, no doubt, with publicity and its success where it was produced).
Here is how Cecilie Surasky of Jewish Voice for Peace responds to J Weekly's editorial opposing the presence of Cindy Corrie.
There's something so deeply, deeply depressing about the attack against Cindy Corrie by J Weekly, the Bay Area's Jewish newspaper. True, it's just one of countless examples of the moral malaise that plagues the institutional Jewish world when it comes to Palestinians, but on this day, this day when I am fresh back from Gaza, from Hebron, from Silwan, it has gotten to me.
I'm not sure which is worse- the possibility that the J's editorial writer actually believes the morally groundless drivel he or she is writing? Or the possibility that they know full well that the moral outrage that is the Israeli treatment of Gazans is an affront to all Jews and feeling people, but that they care more about keeping advertisers happy.
Change is happening, both in the Jewish Community and the wider community, and the keepers of the status quo cannot shut it down. that's not to say they are not trying. This should be seen in the wider context. In Israel, beyond the attempt to erase "Nakba" from the history books, (see assaf's diary)there is also the arrest and detention of Jewish groups who desire a different future for Israel, not based on militarism and oppression. The government must resort to repression not just of Palestinians, which is widely-accepted Israeli tradition, but now even Jewish dissidents. It is the criminalization of dissent, by any means necessary.
It won't work. Arrests will not work. Personal attacks will not work. Like the ones that will accumulate below, more likely than not, some based purely on the idea that most of my diaries deal with oppression of Palestinian rights... what if i were focusing on the Health Care debate... would there be this wild accusations without basis if i was consistently unfriendly to insurance company policies? Is there some mathematical formula to determine one's "acceptable" criticism of Israel? It really is nothing less than a lame attempt to avoid dealing with substance, and diverting people's attention.
This movement to demand justice in the Middle East is already too large, too diverse for that to work. They will call Rachel and her mother "terrorist sympathizers" who have no business going to Gaza. Like they say that Ezra Nawi has no business protect homes in the West Bank. Like others said that Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner had no business going to Mississippi to support the movement for justice there. Or like others said that Ita Ford, Maura Clarke, Dorothy Kazel and Jean Donovan had no business in El Salvador.
It is our business to share in the struggle for human rights and peace.
Rachel will be shown on Saturday, July 25th, 1:30 pm at the beautiful Castro Theater in San Francisco. Cindy Corrie Will be there.
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Lincoln Z. Shlensky
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