Suppressing Truth in the Theatre —
Anne Frank’s Diary good,
Rachel Corrie’s bad!
This e-mail to my list is posted here temporarily, until the blog is working better, along with reader’s comments and more letters. This e-mail led to a second one two days later, and more comments and letters. I'll post that separately as soon as I can. For now, this is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/2006-03-05B4.htm.
Subject: An immediate effort to prevent supression of truth
From: George Salzman
Date: Sun, 05 Mar 2006 23:24:14 -0600
To: undisclosed-recipients

Oaxaca, Sunday, February 5, 2006
Friends,
      Just learned something I want to alert you about. A play, "My Name is Rachel Corrie" was supposed to open in New York on March 22. It's been canceled for political reasons. March 16 is the third anniversary of Rachel's death under an Israeli military bulldozer in Rafah, Gaza.

      An effort not to allow her words to be silenced is underway, spearheaded by
Ann Petter and Jen Marlowe
Rachel’s Words
rachels_words@yahoo.com
www.RachelsWords.org
They sent me the following:

SUMMARY:
The “Rachel’s Words” initiative has several components; world-wide actions on March 16th and a New York performance event on March 22nd. We have been invited to host a reading of Rachel’sWords at the Made in Palestine Art Exhibition in New York, date to be determined.There are more components in the works—this is continuing to snowball!
  • This action will, hopefully, happen in cities and communities all over the world; from New York to Los Angeles to Amsterdam to Rafah to Tel Aviv.
    Rachel’s words and her message, on March 16th, will be everywhere.
  • If this was forwarded to you and you want to be added to our mailing list, please contact us and put MAILING LIST in the subject.
      I've been working on an article about the role of culture in determining our behavior, and had just written (in a first draft) a section,
_________________________________________
A current example of media control

      One of the people exterminated by Hitler’s Third Reich was a young German Jewish girl, Anne Frank.[6] It is unimaginable, anywhere in America or Israel, that a play about her short, tragic life, less than 16 years long, could not be presented, and that is as it ought to be. It is a true and painful bit of history that the world ought to know.

      Rachel Corrie, an American woman of 23, was exterminated on March 16, 2003 by an Israeli military bulldozer in Rafah, Gaza while standing in front of a doctor’s house that the Israeli Army was about to demolish.[7] A play, “My Name is Rachel Corrie”, “had been tentatively scheduled to start performances at the New York Theater Workshop in the East Village on March 22. But yesterday [February 27, 2006], James C. Nicola, the artistic director of the workshop, said he had decided to postpone the show after polling local Jewish religious and community leaders as to their feelings about the work.” [8] The Guardian, UK reported him saying, in announcing his suggested “postponement until next year”, “what we heard was that after Ariel Sharon's illness and the election of Hamas, we had a very edgy situation. We found that our plan to present a work of art would be seen as us taking a stand in a political conflict, that we didn't want to take.” What would be the reaction of the New York Jewish community if a production of “The Diary of Anne Frank” were similarly “postponed” with some flimsy excuse? Imagine the great creator of Guernica refraining from having his masterpiece displayed lest this work of art be seen as his taking a stand in a political conflict.

      The role and importance of the media in shaping consciousness is really beyond dispute. That was as true in Vienna in Hitler’s time there as it is in all areas of the world where developed media exist, which means just about everywhere.

NOTES

[6] Anne Frank was born June 12, 1929. She died in the Nazi concentration camp Bergen-Belsen in March 1945, officially from typhus. I consider her to have been exterminated by the Nazis. Information from http://www.annefrank.com/1_life.htm.

[7] Rachel Corrie was born April 10, 1979. Her death March 16, 2003, although labelled an accident by the Israeli military, was no such thing. I consider her to have been exterminated by the Israelis.

[8] My Name is Rachel Corrie. The initial quote is from a New York Times article of Feb 28, 2006 at http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/28/theater/newsandfeatures/28thea.html. Other accounts are in an article in The Guardian, UK of February 28 at http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,,1719691,00.html, a Los Angeles Times article of March 1 at http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/opinion/la-oe-viner1mar01,1,2229722.story?coll=la-news-comment [http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/opinion/la-oe-viner1mar01,1,2229722.st
ory?coll=la-news-comment
] and an Electric Intifada article of March 2 at http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article4521.shtml.


      The article in the Los Angeles Times is excellent. Ann Petter and Jen Marlowe's article in The Electronic Intifada, also quite provocative, gives more information about the global campaign they are spearheading.


All comments and criticisms are welcome.    <george.salzman@umb.edu>

If you want me to add or remove your name from my e-mail
distribution list, please let me know.


Reader’s comments and more letters

Subject: Re: An immediate effort to prevent supression of truth
From: Ian Williams <iangw@bellatlantic.net>
Date: Mon, 06 Mar 2006 00:44:40 -0500
To: George Salzman <george.salzman@umb.edu>

Quick
Anne Frank was Dutch
Ian

Ian Williams
uswarreport@igc.org
+1 212 686 8884
www.ianwilliams.info
www.RumSpiritof1776.com
http://deadlinepundit.blogspot.com/


Date: Mon, 06 Mar 2006 15:42:07 -0600
Hi Ian,
      I believe you are mistaken. In http://www.remember.org/anne/, an advertisement for the book, Anne Frank: The Biography, by Melissa Müller, it says she “traces Frank’s life from an idyllic childhood in an assimilated family well established in Frankfurt banking circles to her passionate adolescence in German-occupied Amsterdam ...” The family had fled from Frankfurt to Amsterdam.
George
Date: Mon, 06 Mar 2006 16:59:18 -0500
      I stand corrected, and mildly amazed. Never heard her described as German before.
Date: Mon, 06 Mar 2006 22:35:13 -0600
      Ian, I had also thought Anne Frank was Dutch, and so labelled her in the very first draft of my essay, until I looked up info on the web about her and discovered I was wrong.
Subject: Re: An immediate effort to prevent supression of truth
From: Laurie White <lonawhite@sbcglobal.net>
Date: Mon, 6 Mar 2006 03:35:17 -0500
gracias por enviarme, george,
i already received the information about the campaign over e-mail, but appreciated your personal remarks, and so am forwarding this e-mail on to some folks from my list.
cuidate a ti mismo,
laurie
From: Karen Spence <kpjs@comcast.net>
Date: Mon, 6 Mar 2006 07:47:56 -0500
I believe this person is wrong, Rachel Corrie was not Jewish. Second, why would anyone poll Jewish people to ask whether it would be OK to show this play? That would be like polling Republicans to ask if it’s OK to protest the war, or to ask whites if it was OK to show a play about the suffering of blacks in South Africa during Apartheid, or in the Jim Crow South, or to poll those in the diamond district in the Netherlands, Israel and NY if it would be ok show a play about conflict diamonds in colonial Africa. I just don’t understand people’s motives. Jews and Israelis have enjoyed far too much sympathy for supporting supremacy and racism, it must stop. Talk about sabotaging your own efforts, one has to wonder what his real motives are, or he’s clearly ignorant.
Subject: Information sought
From: George Salzman <george.salzman@umb.edu>
Date: Tue, 07 Mar 2006 10:19:59 -0600
To: Cindy Corrie <<cindy@the-corries.com>, Craig Corrie <craig@the-corries.com>
BCC: Karen Spence <kpjs@comcast.net>

Dear Craig and Cindy Corrie,

      In a mailing to my e-mail distribution list, I believe I made a mistake in writing “Rachel Corrie, an American Jewish woman of 23, was exterminated on March 16, 2003 by ...” Several years ago I had read that she was Jewish, and simply never questioned it until yesterday when someone wrote me I was wrong. Although it is not significant in the argument against the cancellation of the play, I do want what I write to be factually accurate, and will correct it if I was mistaken. I would appreciate it if you confirm that I was in error. Thank you for your help and for all your important work.

Best wishes,
George


Date: Tue, 07 Mar 2006 10:41:41 -0600
Dear Karen Spence,

      I believe you are most likely correct about Rachel not being Jewish, and will make a correction as soon as I can confirm this. I agree with your view that “Jews and Israelis have enjoyed far too much sympathy for supporting supremacy and racism” and am doing what I am able to change that. Further, I agree with the logic of your argument on the absurdity of asking for a “Jewish OK” to show the play. Nevertheless, that is exactly what the several newspapers I cited, as well as the Electronic Intifada website, reported, and I think it is a fact that that happened. The motives, I believe, were to avoid interfering with funding for the New York Theatre Workshop. Your final sentence, apparently referring to me, I do not understand. You seem to be saying that I was sabotaging my own efforts, and question my motives, allowing for the possibility that I’m simply ignorant. As far as I can see, I was mistaken in one fact, that I thought Rachel Corrie was Jewish. That of course has no bearing on her having been killed by the Israelis, though it might be taken as an indication of my ignorance.

Sincerely,
George


From: kpjs@comcast.net (Karen Spence)
Date: Tue, 07 Mar 2006 17:34:39 +0000
To: George Salzman <george.salzman@umb.edu>
      No, you misunderstood and it’s probably my fault. I was saying the guy who polled the local Jewish community sabotaged his own efforts and my only assumption was he must be ignorant or naive or brainwashed or something. Otherwise, it just doesn’t make sense. Why go through all the trouble to produce such a play then go out and ask the very people who support the atrocity the play exposes, if they have a problem with it? Seems odd, doesn’t it?

      Well, I didn’t think you supported him, I was just sharing my dismay.
--
Karen Spence


Subject: Re: Information sought
From: Craig Corrie <craig@the-corries.com>
Date: Tue, 7 Mar 2006 09:23:50 -0500
CC: Cindy Corrie <cindy@the-corries.com>

George,
      I am on your distribution list, but failed to notice the error.
      Rachel was not Jewish. We consider ourselves spiritual, but not religious, and while Rachel's family includes members of Christian, Jewish, Sikh, and Hindi faiths, she, her siblings, and her parents are culturally Christian.
      Thanks for asking and keep up the good work.
Craig


Date: Tue, 07 Mar 2006 13:03:54 -0600
      Thanks Karen [Spence] for the explanation. My guess is that the polling the Theatre Workshop did among Jewish groups was because of their concern that Jewish donors might withdraw support from the theatre. A note I just got from Craig Corrie confirms that you were right, that Corrie was not Jewish. Thank you for that correction.
All best wishes,
George
Subject: Re: Information sought
From: Cindy Corrie <Cindy@the-corries.com>
Date: Tue, 7 Mar 2006 11:59:07 -0800

      George, thanks so much for writing. I did see the error yesterday, but knew someone else would catch it. Rachel was not Jewish. Our family’s religious background is primarily Christian. Rachel fell into the part of the family that considers itself more spiritual than religious. She did explore some of this in her writing. I do like to sometimes share with people that Rachel hails from a family with diverse religious links—has one uncle who is Jewish, one who is Hindi, and a sister-in-law whose family is Sikh. I know without a doubt that her connections to these different perspectives within her family impacted her view of the world and religion. I feel confident saying that she believed that each of these religions—and others—had much to offer all of us. And she was learning more. One of her young friends in Rafah mentioned that they had conversations about the Quran.

Thank you for checking.
Cindy


From: Adam Sacks <adam_artist@yahoo.com>
Date: Mon, 6 Mar 2006 04:58:38 -0800 (PST)

Hi George --
In case you haven’t seen it, here’s an article in today’s NY Times somewhat critical of the theatre.
Cheers,
Adam
==========
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/06/theater/newsandfeatures/06conn.html?th=&emc=th&pagewanted=print
[http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/06/theater/newsandfeatures/06conn.html?th=&em
c=th&pagewanted=print
]

March 6, 2006 New York Times
Connections Too Hot to Handle, Too Hot to Not Handle
By EDWARD ROTHSTEIN

      The polemics and outrage in the theatrical community last week after the New York Theater Workshop postponed its production of “My Name Is Rachel Corrie” might have been as intense as the uproar the company feared had it actually presented the play. The postponement of this one-woman drama about a 23-year-old pro-Palestinian American activist killed by an Israeli bulldozer in the Gaza Strip in 2003 has been attacked as an act of censorship. One of the play’s creators compared the decision to backing down in the face of a McCarthyite “witch hunt.” Hundreds have sent e-mail messages accusing the theater’s directors of everything from cowardice to being “Zionist pigs.”

      Think of what might have happened had the theater actually presented the play later this month, fresh from its sold-out success at the Royal Court Theater in London. Then the controversy might have been over other forms of political blindness. There might have been assertions that the company was glorifying the mock-heroics of a naif who tried to block efforts to cut off terrorist weapon smuggling. Donors might have pulled away. And the New York Theater Workshop might have been accused of feeding the propagandistic maw of Hamas, just as it came into power in the Palestinian territories. Is it any wonder the company got jittery?

      The surprise, though, is that there was so much surprise on the theater’s part: surprise, first, that the play might cause controversy, then surprise that the postponement actually did.

      That much should have been clear from other conflicts over artworks and images ranging from Andres Serrano’s photograph of a crucifix submerged in urine to the Danish cartoons portraying the Prophet Muhammad. First, there is outrage, followed by either defense or retreat. Then there is much discussion of censorship and freedom of speech (which in many cases — the cartoons aside — is really more about public financing). And throughout, intermittent fear of giving offense mixes with frequent eagerness to give it; there is name calling and, occasionally, nervous back-pedaling.

      Of course, there are some important distinctions in this case: the postponement was not in response to riots but to worry over what might happen to the theater’s reputation or to donors’ enthusiasm. The theater also suggested that the postponement was just that — not a cancellation — and that it was in response to sensitivities expressed by Jewish leaders and to the rawness of these issues given the electoral victory of Hamas; more planning, the theater said, would be needed to present the play in a broader context.

      But what made it a more volatile act was that by declining for now to offend with the play, the theater violated the most sacred principles of our artistic temples.

      Those principles are: Thou shalt offend, thou shalt test limits, thou shalt cause controversy. If there is an artistic orthodoxy in the West, it is that good art is iconoclastic and provocative, and that any pull back from this orthodoxy is cowardly and craven. In this distended context, the New York Theater Workshop’s act was heretical.

      How could this happen? How could a theater take on a play like “Corrie” and not know what it was getting into? How could it then postpone the production and not know that the outrage of its colleagues-at-arms would be as fervent as the imagined reaction of patrons and protestors?

      To understand this a little better, consider the play itself. At first, it must have seemed a safe choice: safe with its aura of leftist frisson, and safe too in that its championing of a pro-Palestinian activist had become so mainstream that the London press hardly recognized anything was at issue. The play’s political stance was treated as invisible, something its creators — the actor Alan Rickman and Katherine Viner, an editor of the newspaper The Guardian — seemed to desire. “The play is not agitprop,” Ms. Viner wrote last week in The Los Angeles Times. “It’s a complicated look at a woman who was neither a saint nor a traitor.”

      And indeed, judging from the script — edited from Corrie’s e-mail, letters and journals — Corrie’s is an unusual voice, engrossing in its imaginative power, hinting at adolescent transformations and radicalization. “My mother would never admit it,” she says in the play, “but she wanted me exactly how I turned out — scattered and deviant and too loud.”

      She names the people she would like “to hang out with in eternity”: Rilke, Jesus, E. E. Cummings, Gertrude Stein, Zelda Fitzgerald and Charlie Chaplin. She announces to her accomplished older brother that instead of high salaries, she is “steadfastly pursuing a track that guarantees I'll never get paid more than three Triscuits and some spinach.” Midplay, she is a budding literary bohemian who suddenly finds herself on Gaza's front lines.

      What could be less controversial than this heroine, with her Utopian yearning to end human suffering and her empathy for Palestinians living in a hellish war zone, their homes and lives at stake? Her death becomes a tragic consequence of her compassion and, apparently, in performance, has the power to spur tears.

      But there is something disingenuous here. In an apparent effort to camouflage Corrie’s radicalism and broaden the play’s appeal, its creators elided phrases that suggested her more contentious view of things — cutting, for example, her reference to the “chronic, insidious genocide” she says she is witnessing, or her justification of the “somewhat violent means” used by Palestinians.

      As a dramatization of a young woman’s political education, the play also never has to hold itself accountable for what seems naïve. “I’m really new to talking about Israel-Palestine,” Corrie says soon after arriving in Israel, “so I don’t always know the political implications of my words.” She is also earnest. Children “love to get me to practice my limited Arabic,” she says. “Today I tried to learn to say, ‘Bush is a tool,’ but I don’t think it translated quite right.”

      But while she fails to see things fully, the play wants us to think she ultimately does. We are not meant to doubt the thoroughness of her account or to think too much about what she notices but does not explain. Though Corrie went to Gaza with the Palestinian-led organization the International Solidarity Movement to act as a human shield and to prevent Israel from destroying Palestinian homes, and though she died while trying to stop a bulldozer, there is no hint about why such demolitions were taking place.

      But dozens of tunnels leading from Egypt under the border into homes in Gaza were being used to smuggle guns, rocket launchers and explosives to wield against Israel. These demolitions often caused controversy, even in Israel, but the play’s omissions make them seem acts of systematic evil, rather than acts that were, at the very least, part of a more complicated and contested series of confrontations.

      That is where the disingenuousness comes in: not in the stand the play takes, but in how it cloaks it as not really being a stand at all, but only high moral sentiment. Ms. Viner, asked what she wanted audiences to come away with, said: “To feel inspired to go and do something about the world’s inequalities themselves.”

      It would have been more interesting to imagine an activist's growing awareness of nuance, particularly given what is at stake. Is it possible that a growing awareness might also have been behind the postponement? When the directors of the New York Theater Workshop began to hear from staff members and outsiders that the play invoked issues it did not explain, and when the election of Hamas provided proof that all was not simple, perhaps that was when the play became more clearly understood. The company discussed staging other plays about the conflict alongside this one; attempts were made to arrange post-performance discussions, too. But that required time. So, awkwardly, the company betrayed aesthetic orthodoxy — declining, for now, to give offense, and in the process doing just that.

Connections, a critic's perspective on arts and ideas, appears every other Monday.


From: Eldad Benary <eldad@hvc.rr.com>
Date: Mon, 6 Mar 2006 08:21:43 -0500

Dear George, it is appalling.
I’ll forward to friends.
Eldad


From: Bageant, Joseph <joseph_bageant@primediamags.com>
Date: Mon, 6 Mar 2006 07:19:30 -0600
CC: Barbara Dickinson <bdickinson5@juno.com>

Perfect example of media control. First we saw the very successful US/-Israeli campaign to keep the news of her death from getting too much coverage, then painting her as a nutjob who got in front of a dozer....

Now we see how they manipulate the knee-jerk Jews in NY as easily as they do we redneck Christians down here. They simply use the clergy, who are all too happy to cooperate, since they themselves have to bow to the blind American support for Israel they have helped create over the years...

Since when the fucking hell do we ask “the clergy,” whether it be apocalyptic redneck Baptist preacher, Zionist fake liberal Rabbi, or oppressive worldwide religious corporation called the Catholic church, for permission to make art? What’s the difference between that and letting the mullahs govern artistic practice? Then you add their happy cooperation with our emerging corpo-military religious state, and....well.... the time to set up barricades in the streets was long ago, was it not?

In which case the citizenry would gleefully watch the Homeland Security forces “suppress” the “troublemakers” and “extremists” on television.

Meanwhile, no big-time media celebrities are going to go against the source of their wealth by reading Rachel Corrie aloud to the public. It would be the kiss of death to their careers. (I hope the hell I am wrong in this prediction.)

How are things in Oaxaca?
In brotherhood and solidarity,
Joe Bageant


From: Mark Bruzonsky <mark@bruzonsky.com>
Date: Mon, 06 Mar 2006 13:45:52 -0500

As usual George you’ve mentioned an important political injustice, about which something should be done. Also as usual it seems you don’t really have anything serious to advocate and we all together have no real organization organized in a way to do anything real about such things. Being right is not a substitute for having an impact, and identifying an injustice is not a substitute for actually being able to do something serious about it.
                  Mark

Mark Bruzonsky
Office: 202 362-5266
Private: 202 Number2 (202 686-2372)
Cellphone if not at above: 202 320-6275


From: EHK <ehk@indra.com>
Date: Sun, 5 Mar 2006 22:58:46 -0700

      Thanks so much for this. I knew about it because of Amy Goodman. That is the only place I heard any media coverage. If people had any doubts about the Zionist lobby, formally and informally organized, this should put doubts to rest. As someone born Jewish I am so disgusted by this kind of behavior. I only wish more Jewish people would denounce and work against this kind of Stalinist intolerance. Thanks for helping spread the story to folks who may not have heard it on DM [Democracy Now is the excellent Pacifica Network program hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, available at: http://www.democracynow.org/]. -EHK


Date: Mon, 06 Mar 2006 06:38:35 -0600

      Thanks EHK for writing. I wrote a vitriolic letter to one of those Jewish lobby officials, and some correspondance followed. It’s in the most recent entry on my blog, at georgesalzman.org if you care to see it.
Sincerely in the struggle,
George


From: EHK
Date: Wed, 8 Mar 2006 23:25:10 -0700

      Thanks for the info, but I would feel better not having my remarks broadcast. I have had enough reaction from fanatic Zionists and don’t really want any more. I don’t care if they call me a self-hating Jew because I know I am an injustice-hating human being, but they really can be loony and I just don’t want to expose myself any more than I already do. It’s not that I am scared although some of them do scare me and I think they are quite capable of hurting people, but I just feel better having control of my words. I hope you understand. Thanks, EHK


Subject: Your privacy
Date: Thu, 09 Mar 2006 09:42:37 -0600
To: EHK <ehk@indra.com>
CC: Benjamin Melancon <ben@melanconent.com>

      In response to your last note, I think that your messages may have value for other folks to see and would like to post them without identifying you. I “doctored” the correspondence a bit, to help disguise your identity, and it would look like the following. Would you feel OK about this? If not, I’ll simply leave out our exchange. I’m CCing Benjamin Melancon, who’s initially doing the blog, to alert him not to include your items until we hear from you. Thanks,
George


Date: Thu, 9 Mar 2006 21:23:33 -0700

      How about using my initials or something, so the message gets through but the identity doesn’t. Again, I do write differently when I am firing off a note to someone where I don’t expect it to get reprinted and when I want to take time to think about exactly how to say something. So I really would prefer initials unless it is a piece I have really sat down to write and publish. I do write fast when it is a reply to someone or a response to something that is email, not expected to be shared. So if that’s OK with you,. please do that with my writing unless I specifically indicate otherwise.

      On another note, are you in Oaxaca city? I can’t remember if we actually met or if you work with Jonathan Treat or what the connection is. I have a dear friend there (besides Jonathan) who is a priest, and I just found out that a long lost friend from Guatemala does teaching there through an institute he set up called the Nahual Institute. They do university level classes in Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala. His name is Ignacio Ochoa. I wonder of you and Joanthan know him (if you know Jonathan, which I can’t remember either!). Thanks, E


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