The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of great moral crises maintain their neutrality.An uproar has ensued over the cancelling of the play My Name Is Rachel Corrie by the New York Theatre Workshop. It seems that discussion and examination of controvertial issues in the world of theater has been put on hold while McCarthyism raises its ugly head once again.
- Dante, 14th Century
Rachel, dressed in dayglo orange with megaphone in hand, saying NO to a Caterpillar bulldozer in Rafah, a town in Gaza.
As has happened so many times in our country's history, ugly wars lead to increasing protests which, in turn, lead to ugly repression from a government that cannot tolerate opposition to its inhumane policies: a terrible war justified with lies, warrantless wiretaps, unprovoked arrests and detentions of Arab residents and citizens, the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo infernos, loathsome smear attacks on Senators who demand accountability -- and now it seems, once-brave theater companies pitifully back-pedaling and caving in to the atmosphere of intimidation that is being fostered in our country today.
Rachel Corrie - a beautiful young woman who stood up for justice and solidarity with her fellow human beings.
This past Wednesday night at Manhattan's Riverside Church thousands of New Yorkers rejected the repression and said NO to the silence. The came together to reaffirm democracy and to hear the eloquent words of a beautiful, brave young woman, Rachel Corrie. Her 23-year old life was cut short by the treads and tonnage of an American-made Caterpillar bulldozer. These machines have been used by Israel to immorally demolish 8,000 Palestinain homes in Gaza and the West Bank and to uproot over 200,000 olive trees belonging to Palestinian farmers. Rachel was trying to stop one such house demolition when she was mercilessly run over by a bulldozer operated by an Israeli soldier. A solitary young woman, armed only with her belief in justice, standing up to an enormous and powerful machine - the image sears the imagination and the conscience. What is more beautiful and more noble than a young girl, filled with feelings of solidarity and sympathy for her fellow human beings, saying no to the violence used to enforce Israel's brutal occupation?
Examined from that perspective, the cowardly and obsequious accommodation of the New York Theatre Workshop to the new McCarthyism is all the more shameful. The dark forces that are running our country do not want Americans to hear Rachel's words for if they were allowed to be spoken openly and clearly they would ring forth with truth and justice and would rally indignation in millions to oppose the war in Iraq and its exemplar - the Israeli occupation in Palestine.
The evening at Riverside Church was a magnificent and uplifting event that kept the audience spellbound despite the three hour length of the program. Interspersed with music and poetry, actors, writers, artists and activists offered their thoughts and read from Rachel's letters and writings. Those who couldn't attend offered testimony via video - there were statements by poet Maya Angelou, singer Patti Smith, actor Kathleen Chalfant and playwright Eve Ensler, among many others.
The evening ended with a poignant video of Rachel as a 10-year old delivering a speech at school against pervasive hunger among the world's peoples. Here was the future young woman with her fervent commitment to justice seen in the earnest pronouncements of a sweet, little girl. Rachel may have been murdered by a bulldozer. But her life, her beauty, and her commitment to high moral principle and decency will live on and inspire others for years and years to come.
A sampling of my photos follows.
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To see a slide show of my photos click here
The church was overflowing with New Yorkers who rejected the notion of keeping silent when decency demands that you speak up.
Anne Petter, Tom Wallace and Jen Marlowe organized the amazing event in a very short time.
James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institue and Amy Goodman, anchor of Democracy Now!, the award-winning and uncensored news program.
Huwaida Arraf, co-founder of the International Solidary Movement (ISM). Rachel was working with ISM when she was killed by the Israeli bulldozer.
Betty Shamieh, Palestinian playwright and author of the Off-Broadway hit "Roar", reads from Rachel's emails home.
Suheir Hammad, a gifted young poet, reads a poem dedicated to Rachel which brought people to their feet.
Craig and Cindy Corrie, Rachel's mom and dad, listen to her words read aloud.
To see all my photos just click here.
To see a slide show of my photos click here .