Friday, March 17, 2006


It will come as no surprise that there's a lot I disagree with in this article by Philip Weiss in The Nation. It's not just that I disagree with what is essentially the knee-jerk left reaction to the Rachel Corrie/Rachel Corrie play that wasn't quite censored but didn't it feel like censorship? story, but that the way this article is written is just incredibly irritating all the way through, then straight-out racist if you plod along all the way to the end. Here goes:

Corrie's horrifying death was a landmark event: It linked Palestinian suffering to the American progressive movement. And it was immediately politicized. Pro-Israel voices sought to smear Corrie as a servant of terrorists. They said that the Israeli army was merely trying to block tunnels through which weapons were brought from Egypt into the occupied territories--thereby denying that Corrie had died as the result of indiscriminate destruction. Hateful e-mails were everywhere. "Rachel Corrie won't get 72 virgins but she got what she wanted," said one.

Was calling Corrie a servant of terrorists a "smear"? If one considers suicide bombers to be terrorists, then volunteering for an organization linked with suicide bombers counts as just that. ("Corrie's connection to the International Solidarity Movement was politically loaded. The ISM is committed to nonviolence, but it works with a broad range of organizations, from Israeli peace activists to Palestinian groups that have supported suicide bombings, which has been seized on by those who want it to get lost.") But this is a political argument. What does it mean that "Hateful emails were everywhere"? From which parties to which other parties? This is just incredibly vague. Where was "everywhere"? Since "pro-Israel voices" includes everyone from loyal Israeli citizens who are by definition pro-Israel to the sort of wacko people, represented in all political camps, who send hateful emails, it's unclear how mainstream this alleged "hate" ever was.

The real issue, though is the fuss over play itself. A theater company may choose not to show a controversial play, but if it's neither the government nor a threat of violence preventing it, but merely a sense that the play wouldn't do well, that's not about censorship, that's business. Yes, even pretentious theater companies in the Village want their plays to do well. If a play's artistic director believes the views of Jewish groups matter for whether a play about Israel will do well in NYC, that's up to him, but no one made him take these or any particular political views into consideration.

Just whom was the Workshop consulting in its deliberations? It has steadfastly refused to say. In the New York Observer, Nicola mentioned "Jewish friends." Dodgson says that in discussions with the Royal Court, Workshop staffers brought up the Anti-Defamation League and the mayor's office as entities they were concerned about. (Abe Foxman of the ADL visited London in 2005 and denounced the play in the New York Sun as offensive to Jewish "sensitivities.") By one account, the fatal blow was dealt when the global PR firm Ruder Finn (which has an office in Israel) said it couldn't represent the play.

Again, so? Let's say for whatever reason the ADL's opinion of a play discourages a company from showing it--since when does the ADL have the power to censor anything? Advocacy groups express opinions, but they don't prevent anyone from doing anything. Was the ADL going to send suicide bombers into the theater? I think not. If people choose to ask the opinion of unnamed Jewish leaders before deciding whether or not to put on a play, then that's up to them. Is it censorship every time an emaciated model is chosen for a fashion spread rather than the more curvy woman an editor might actually prefer to see in a magazine's pages? Basically, it doesn't even matter if these "Jewish leaders" were asked their opinion or if they voiced their opinions unprompted--"Jewish leaders" do not have the power to censor. It's that simple.

Here is where the article gets super-creepy:

Hunka [a theater blogger] doesn't use the J-word. Jen Marlowe does. A Jewish activist with (which is staging a reading of Corrie's words on March 22 with the Corrie parents present), she says, "I don't want to say the Jewish community is monolithic. It isn't. But among many American Jews who are very progressive and fight deeply for many social justice issues, there's a knee-jerk reflexive reaction that happens around issues related to Israel."

Questions about pressure from Jewish leaders morph quickly into questions about funding. Ellen Stewart, the legendary director of the theatrical group La MaMa E.T.C., which is across East 4th Street from the Workshop, speculates that the trouble began with its "very affluent" board. Rachel's father, Craig Corrie, echoes her. "Do an investigation, follow the money." I called six board members and got no response. (About a third appear to be Jewish, as am I.) This is of course a charged issue. The writer Alisa Solomon, who was appalled by the postponement, nonetheless warns, "There's something a little too familiar about the image of Jews pulling the puppet strings behind the scenes."

Perhaps. But Nicola's statement about a back channel to Jewish leaders suggests the presence of a cultural lobby that parallels the vaunted pro-Israel lobby in think tanks and Congress. I doubt we will find out whether the Workshop's decision was "internally generated," as Kushner contends, or more orchestrated, as I suspect. What the episode has demonstrated is a climate of fear. Not of physical harm, but of loss of opportunities. "The silence results from fear and intimidation," says Cindy Corrie. "I don't see what else. And it harms not only Palestinians. I believe, from the bottom of my heart, it harms Israelis and it harms us."

Yikes. This is quite nauseating. What does it mean that about a third of the board of this theater "appear [to the author] to be Jewish"--they've got killer schnozzes? Who gives a shit, frankly, that the author of this article, too, is Jewish--does that give him special Jewdar to sniff out those rich Jews clearly using their immense sums of money to promote evil, evil Israel? What does it mean that a decision made by a theater company "parallels the vaunted pro-Israel lobby in think tanks and Congress"? A parallel simply implies a shared opinion. Does Weiss really think a "pro-Israel lobby," not just individuals involved with or consulted by those organizing this play, is calling the shots? Apparently. Is there even the slightest bit of evidence pointing to this? Well, no. Did any actual censorship actually take place? No, seems not. But do those rich awful Jews control everything, especially the entertainment industry? Now we're getting somewhere.

Also charming--Weiss's response to a comment from a writer that, "There's something a little too familiar about the image of Jews pulling the puppet strings behind the scenes" is an open-minded, "Perhaps."


Why Palestinians Usually Get It Wrong said...

Palestinians Humiliate Themselves

In a March 16 editorial in the New York Times titled, As If That Fire Needed Fuel, the Times writes:

"Israeli Army officials ordered inmates to strip to their underwear [see photo below], which many did, marching out with clothing on their heads, an embarrassing and completely unnecessary provocation that trampled the dignity of any Palestinian watching that spectacle.

Given the humiliations that ordinary Palestinians suffer merely by trying to get through Israeli checkpoints every day, the prison raid just reinforced the already degrading reality of living under foreign occupation."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stated, “What happened without a doubt is an ugly crime which can not be forgiven and a humiliation for the Palestinian people.”

Palesinians should feel humiliated. A majority of Palestinians living in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem support suicide terrorism. A 2001 poll by Dr. Nabil Kukali and the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion (PCPO), found, "a substantial majority [of Palestinians] (76.1%) support suicidal attacks like that of Netanya [in May, 2001], whereas 12.5% oppose, and 11.4% express no opinion." A 2006 poll taken by the Jerusalem Media & Communication Center after the recent Hamas political victories found, “56.2% [of Palestinians] strongly or somewhat support suicide bombing operations against Israeli civilians whereas 40.7% oppose such operations.”

Considering that the majority of Palestinians support suicide terror, and considering that Israel prevents suicide killings on a daily basis, it should come as no surprise that captured Palestinians are asked to remove their clothes during the process of incarceration. Why should any Israeli take a chance of being blown up? Why should Israel present Palestinians with opportunities to commit suicide killings?

Palestinians should feel humiliated about their culture of death and they should be asked to strip naked during the process of incarceration as long as their population continues to support, condone, and commit suicide killings.

Tom said...