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.

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Thoughts on the Death of Rachel Corrie

David Bromwich is a noble human being with a brilliant mind. He was unsparing in his condemnation of Israel during its recent massacre in Gaza. Here he pays tribute to the martyr Rachel Corrie.

Today is the sixth anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie. On March 16, 2003, in Rafah, in the Gaza Strip, she was run over by an armor-plated Caterpillar bulldozer, a machine sold by the U.S. to Israel, the armor put in place for the purpose of knocking down homes without damage to the machine. Rachel Corrie was 23 years old, from Olympia; a sane, articulate, and dedicated American who had studied with care the methods of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. At the time that she was run over, and then backed over again, she was wearing a luminous orange jacket and holding a megaphone. There is a photograph of her talking to the soldier of the Israel Defense Forces, in the cabin of his bulldozer, not long before he did it. None of the eyewitnesses believed that the killing was accidental. Perhaps the soldier was tired of the peace workers; it was that kind of day. Perhaps, in some part of himself, he guessed that he was living at the beginning of a period of impunity.

The Israeli government never produced the investigation it promised into the death of Rachel Corrie (as her parents indicate in a statement published today). The inquiry urged by her congressional representative, Adam Smith, brought no result from the American state department under Condoleezza Rice. Her story was lost for a while in the grand narrative of the American launching of the war against Iraq. Thoroughly lost, and for a reason. The  rules of engagement America employed in Iraq were taught to our soldiers, as Dexter Filkins revealed, by officers of the IDF; the U.S. owed a debt to Israel for knowledge of the methods of destruction; and we were using the same Caterpillar machines against Iraqi homes. An inquiry into the killing of Rachel Corrie was hardly likely, given the burden of that debt and that association.

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Statement from the family of Rachel Corrie

‘On this anniversary, Rachel would want us all to hold Tristan Anderson and his family and these Palestinians and their families in our thoughts and prayers, and we ask everyone to do so,’ write Cindy and Craig Corrie. (thanks WRMEA).

We thank all who continue to remember Rachel and those who, on this sixth anniversary of her stand in Gaza, renew their own commitments to human rights, justice and peace in the Middle East. The tributes and actions in her memory are a source of inspiration to us and to others.

Friday, March 13th, we learned of the tragic injury to American activist Tristan Anderson. Tristan was shot in the head with a tear-gas canister in Ni’lin Village in the West Bank when Israeli forces attacked a demonstration opposing the construction of the annexation wall through the village’s land. On the same day, a Ni’lin resident was, also, shot in the leg with live ammunition. Four residents of Ni’lin have been killed in the past eight months as villagers and their supporters have courageously demonstrated against the Apartheid Wall deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice—a wall that will ultimately absorb one-quarter of the village’s remaining land. Those who have died are a ten-year-old child Ahmed Mousa, shot in the forehead with live ammunition on July 29, 2008; Yousef Amira (17) shot with rubber-coated steel bullets on July 30, 2008; Arafat Rateb Khawaje (22) and Mohammed Khawaje (20), both shot and killed with live ammunition on December 28, 2008. On this anniversary, Rachel would want us all to hold Tristan Anderson and his family and these Palestinians and their families in our thoughts and prayers, and we ask everyone to do so.

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Rachel Corrie through her own eyes

On March 16, 2003, I was a graduate student at the School for International Training in Brattleboro, VT, USA. That morning I recall hearing on Democracy Now! that an Evergreen State College student was run over by an Israeli bulldozer. The girl’s name was Rachel Corrie.

Corrie was defending property belonging to Samir Nasrallah, a local pharmacist. Eyewitness accounts say the bulldozer ran over Corrie twice. The driver claims he didn’t know Corrie was there… That’s pure rubbish. We all know it was deliberate.

I remember going to my Assessment & Evaluation class that day knowing the news. Yet what I remember most were the reactions of two friends and classmates of mine, both of whom went to Evergreen State College with Rachel. Neither of them came to class that day.

One wrote an impassioned e-mail to all my classmates about Rachel and the wonderful life she lived. The other was in our on-campus coffee shop. I will never forget her not crying but “wailing” upon hearing the news that Corrie was killed. That memory will forever haunt me. 

The following interview was conducted on March 14, 2003… two days before Rachel Corrie was killed. As today marks the sixth memorial of Rachel’s death, I want to play back this YouTube so you can hear Rachel’s words and understand the oppression Palestinians experience on a day-to-day basis. It prides me that there are Americans out there who believe the Israeli occupation is an occupation of violence. We will never forget you Rachel!