Almost 2000 people will have the chance to see a play in London that incites hatred against Israel and its supporters.

London’s Young Vic theatre is reviving ‘My Name is Rachel Corrie’. There will be 25 performances, starting with previews on Yom Kippur’s Kol Nidre night (29 September); press night is 4 October.  The theatre holds 70, so 1750 people will have the chance to see this play which incites hatred against Israel and therefore against its supporters.

The Facts:

Rachel Corrie was a young American (age 23; the play is extracts from her emails and diaries). She was idealistic but very naïve. She volunteered for the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a group that opposes Israel’s existence and whose members seek to prevent Israel from acting against terrorists who kill Israelis. Israel’s ability to operate effectively against terrorists has been systematically and intentionally obstructed by groups of foreign volunteers for the ISM, used by the Palestinian Authority as “human shields”. By interfering with counter-terrorism operations, the ISM directly endangers the lives of Israeli civilians. Shortly after Corrie’s death, the ISM met the British suicide bombers Omar Khan Sharif and Asif Muhammad Hanif who a few days later blew up a Tel Aviv pub, killing three and injuring dozens (see this piece by Tom Gross).  In its mission statement, the ISM says that ‘armed struggle’ is a Palestinian ‘right’. The ISM ‘media co-ordinator’, Flo Rosovski, has said that “Israel is an illegal entity that should not exist!”

In April 2003, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported: “ISM members take an active part in illegal and violent actions against IDF soldiers. At times, their activity in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip is under the auspices of Palestinian terrorist organisations.” In the past, ISM members have been arrested vandalizing and destroying Israeli security fences and equipment. In March 2003, fugitive Islamic Jihad terrorist, Shadi Sukiya, was arrested in a house in Jenin rented by the ISM.

Corrie was one of the “internationals” planted in Rafah, a town on the Egypt/Gaza border, in March 2003. There the IDF was demolishing tunnels used by the Palestinians to bring arms and explosives into Gaza to use against targets in Israel. The area of the IDF’s operation was clearly a military area and Corrie should not have entered it.  But she did and in the course of one such Israeli attempt to knock down a structure shielding one of the tunnels (16 March 2003), Corrie stood in front of an Israeli bulldozer. She slipped on a mound of dirt and was tragically killed. It was the ISM leaders who responsible for Corrie’s death – not the Israeli bulldozer driver.

The Omissions, Lies and Demonization

The play is full of unsubstantiated, context-free allegations about supposed Israeli brutality. Thus the IDF is alleged to have stopped the ISM retrieving a corpse; the IDF destroys wells and is engaged in a ‘constant attempt to remove you from your home’; IDF tank drivers are ‘many just aggressive, anonymously shooting into the houses as we wander away’. In an entry in her diary for 9 March 2003 headed ‘Today’s demo’ Corrie says ‘at least ten greenhouses destroyed .. Quiet area …300 people dependent on farms to live ….. 150-200 men arrested … Shot around them. Beat them. Six people in hospital.’

On March 13th Corrie wrote ‘intensive care unit – 12 year old girl shot from tower in school near Nasser Hospital’. Then ‘Shooting behind West Camp. Came from settlement into main market – two or three Apaches. Evacuated from apartment building – eight families. Shot inside hospital. Three injured – nurses. 6am – houses demolished. 41 injured.

The play fails to mention the second intifada – a period of heightened militancy against Israel which began in 2000 and lasted through to 2005. Just weeks before Corrie’s March 2003 diary entries, 23 Israeli civilians were killed by a suicide bomber in Tel Aviv’s central bus station and on 5 March 37 were killed in a suicide bombing in Haifa. So of course Israel was engaged in operations in Gaza to stop explosives being used against its citizens.

Rachel Corrie did not think that the ‘terrorist’ word was appropriate for Palestinians. In the play, she suggests to her mother that she should update the local paper with her news and says ‘I think it’s smart that you’re wary of using the word ‘terrorism’ … you could be perpetuating the idea that the Israel-Palestinian conflict is a balanced conflict.Try telling that to the widow and children of Elad Salomon, murdered in Halamish in July 2017 while having Shabbat dinner, along with his father and sister.

As for Corrie herself, inconveniently for those who have sought to portray her as a peaceful protester, photos of her burning a mock American flag and stirring up crowds in Gaza at a pro-Hamas rally were published by the Associated Press and on Yahoo News on 15 February 2003, a month before she died. Yet just three weeks earlier (on 25 January – the day she arrived in Israel) she wrote “I’m really new to talking about Israel-Palestine, so I don’t always know the political implications of my words.

Rachel Corrie’s Death

The worst aspect of the demonization in the play is the libelous allegation that the Israeli bulldozer driver murdered Corrie.

The IDF’s own investigation concluded that the driver of the bulldozer could not see her and that her death was an unfortunate accident to someone who had trespassed in a forbidden military area:

“The driver at no point saw or heard Corrie. She was standing behind debris which obstructed the view of the driver and the driver had a very limited field of vision due to the protective cage he was working in.”

An autopsy revealed that the bulldozer never drove over Corrie. She was killed when debris dislodged by the bulldozer struck her head. And she was not protecting a ‘home’. She was protecting a structure shielding one of the tunnels. The IDF video of her being struck by the D9 bulldozer also shows she was not protecting a house, and that the ISM “witnesses” – who claimed they were running alongside the bulldozer screaming for it to stop – were not there.

In Conclusion…

My Name Is Rachel Corrie is a sad play about a naïve young woman who is irresponsibly exploited by the ISM and tragically dies a painful and premature death.  But it fails to show the terrorism which was killing hundreds in Israel at that time and which Israel was combatting by its operations in Gaza; it whitewashes the ISM; and worst of all, the play falsely accuses the Israeli bulldozer driver of murdering Corrie. Under oath, he insisted that he had not seen her.

At a time of heightened antisemitism, this season will foment hatred of Israel and thus of Jews in the UK who support Israel (which is the vast majority). That the Young Vic should stage it, is thoroughly irresponsible.  Presumably its decision-makers would not stage a play which demonises Muslims or blacks to the extent that this play demonises Israeli Jews – how, then, do they defend their decision to show the Corrie play?

Article by Jonathan Hoffman

Jonathan Hoffman is a UK-based blogger. His is also published on Jewish News/Times of Israel and has also written for CiFWatch (now UK Media Watch), Harry's Place and Z-Word. He was formerly Vice Chair of the Zionist Federation and an elected member of the Defence Division of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. By profession he is an economist.