Plays on Reality

Tony Kushner

From C. S. Soong’s excellent Against the Grain: a discussion on art, psychology, politics and activism with Pulitzer Prize winning playwright (and noted critic of Israel) Tony Kushner.

Download program audio (mp3, 47.37 Mbytes)

In a new set of five one-act plays, Tony Kushner offers a number of ruminations on the value of psychotherapy, the relationship of ideas to suffering, and the uses of Dostoevsky. And playwright/performer Charlie Varon has a new passion: audio collages. Also, Mark Kurlansky shares some thoughts about student activism in 1968.


Bay Area Premier of “My Name is Rachel Corrie”

by Charlotte Silver

On November 19, 2009, My Name is Rachel Corrie made its Bay Area premier at Stanford University.  Amanda Gelender, senior at Stanford University, produced a staged reading of the play as a part of her senior thesis at Stanford University. Amanda is my friend. She was also my college classmate and we worked together in several campus political organizations, including the student-led Israel divestment campaign.

I attended opening night and along with a sold-out audience was struck by the poignancy of the play and Amanda’s subtle and deeply moving performance. Rachel Corrie was a 23 year-old American woman who traveled to Gaza in 2003 during the Second Intifada. She was killed by a Caterpillar bulldozer driven by Israeli Defense Forces as she attempted to prevent the IDF from demolishing the home of a Palestinian family. My Name is Rachel Corrie consists entirely of words written by Corrie herself, recorded in diary entries and emails from Rachel’s early childhood until a few days before her death. Gelender breathes vivid life into Rachel’s words, which themselves reveal the keen sensitivity and eloquence of a poetic nature.

Amanda Gelender, the lead and visionary behind this production, had been waiting to obtain the rights for the play for nearly two years. But obtaining rights is not always the only hurdle to securing a production of Rachel. Since its London premier in 2005, several professional American and Canadian theaters have seen their efforts to mount a production of this one-woman show quashed by vigorous opposition from powerful forces.  The charge is always the same: the play is anti-Semitic. Gelender’s successful production reflects the changing tide that is occurring within the American public’s relationship to Israel and anti-Semitism.

Continue reading “Bay Area Premier of “My Name is Rachel Corrie””

Divide and Conquer – Undermining the BDS Movement from Within

Last week, my local BDS group was put on alert, when the following headline emerged:

“Palestinian Unions Say Israel Boycott Would Harm Them”

The Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) is a signatory of the PACBI (Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel) call for BDS (#5), and has an estimate of 290,000 members. Naturally, if- all of a sudden- they’re not on board with the BDS movement, it’s cause for concern. That said, the whole scheme of things didn’t seem to make sense, so off I went on another journey through the Zionist Jungle.

Continue reading “Divide and Conquer – Undermining the BDS Movement from Within”

The Pervert’s Guide To Cinema

You’ve got to hand it to Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek. Who else could conceivably get away with saying something like “My gott, I’m tinking like Melahnie. You know what I’m tinking, now? I want to fack Mitch! No, shorry, shorry…I got dish … shpontaneoush confushion of direcshins”?!  Here’s a clip from his psychoanalytical and film criticism foray  into the cinematic canon entitled The Pervert’s Guide To Cinema.


Continue reading “The Pervert’s Guide To Cinema”

Blackwater’s Secret War in Pakistan

Jeremy Scahill

From The Nation’s press release (You can watch Democracy Now’s interview with Jeremy Scahill here):

In a stunning investigation just posted at, Jeremy Scahill reveals a covert military operation being run almost entirely by Blackwater, USA, a military contractor embroiled in controversy for their actions in Iraq and the Middle East. Key points from the piece:

  • An elite division of Blackwater, USA is running a covert, US Military operation that includes planning targeted assassinations, “snatch and grabs” and other sensitive actions inside and outside Pakistan. This is a program that not even some Senior Level Obama Administration and Pentagon officials are aware of.
  • Blackwater operatives are assisting in gathering intelligence to help run a secret, second and heretofore unreported, US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes.
  • Sources for The Nation report that some non-military Blackwater employees, outside of the US Military chain of command, have obtained rolling security clearances above their approved clearances, and higher than even members of the US Congress.
  • Continue reading “Blackwater’s Secret War in Pakistan”

Shimon the Brazilian (and Mahmoud the Conqueror)

I am not sure how to explain this strange report from Al Jazeera’s Lucia Newman: the headline reads:  ‘Brazilians protest Ahmadinejad tour‘, yet the only person in the report shown protesting is Shimon Peres. On the other hand, the single Brazilian who is interviewed speaks about the benefits of relations with Iran, and the president is reported to be welcoming Ahmadinejad with ‘open arms’.

Peres, I hate to tell Al Jazeera, is not a Brazilian; even if he were, he would need to persuade at least one other before he can stage a ‘Brazilians protest’.

Also, the report goes on to tells us in ominous Cold War cliches that Ahmadinejad is challenging ‘Washington in its own back yard’. What’s with this ‘back yard’ nonsense; does being a journalist mean never having to say a thing that’s original?

Defending Dispatches

Last week Channel 4 aired the excellent documentary Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby in which Peter Oborne investigated the distorting influence of Zionist interests on British politics. Predictably, the attacks were not long in coming and they took the usual vituperative form. Prominently, they included one by Israel’s leading lobbyist in the UK parliament Denis McShane. Here the film makers Oborne and James Jones respond to McShane’s smears. (Also, don’t miss John Pilger’s account of his own encounter with the Lobby after he produced Palestine is Still the Issue, another critical film about Israel).

Antisemitism is the most notorious form of racism. Its long and hideous history culminated in the Nazi Holocaust and its still exists as a powerful and very dangerous force in the 21st century. The lesson of the past is that it must be fought wherever it manifests itself.

For this very reason, it is essential that the term should not be abused. Sadly, the Labour MP Denis MacShane has done so in his attack on our Channel 4 Dispatches programme, ‘Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby’, broadcast on Monday evening.

Continue reading “Defending Dispatches”