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Saturday Art: Alice Walker Reads Rachel Corrie

12:29 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Rachel Corrie - February 2003

Next Saturday, March 16th, will mark the tenth anniversary of the death in Gaza, of Rachel Corrie.  Rachel, then a senior at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, had gone to Gaza at the beginning of 2003, to fulfill aspects of her senior thesis.  While there, she became active in efforts by the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), to protect Palestinians from outrages of the Israeli occupation forces.

She was killed by an Israeli Army D-9 armored bulldozer, with two people aboard in the cockpit, one there to drive, the other, to observe.  During the same time period, Israeli forces in Gaza shot and mortally wounded Tom Hurndall, a British photographer, also working with the ISM (April 11th), and mutilated Brian Avery (April 5th), another American ISM activist, in Jenin in the West Bank.  This time period coincided with the American invasion of Iraq – March 19th to May 1st.

A notable aspect of Rachel Corrie’s legacy is the sheer volume of art her life and sacrifice evoked.  Between March 19th 2003 and April 24th 2004, I collected over 160 poems written in the young woman’s honor, and posted on the web, in the English language.  I used two of them in my 2003-2004 cantata, The Skies Are Weeping.  California composer, Paul Crabtree composed another cantata about Corrie, American Persephone.

Corrie’s journals and emails from Gaza became the basis of the most widely viewed and highly regarded work of art about Corrie, My Name is Rachel Corrie.  Written by Katharine Viner and Alan Rickman, the play premiered in London on April 5, 2005, in a highly evocative solo performance by actress Megan Dodds.  Premiered in a very small theatre, it was revived in the 2005 fall London theatre season in a larger venue, and proceeded to win many awards.

The first attempt to produce My Name is Rachel Corrie in the USA, at the New York Theatre Workshop resulted in a cancellation, when the NYTW caved to threats from militant Zionist expansionists. (Incidentally – the article about the cancellation in The Nation, by writer Philip Weiss, and the pushback that writer got in the publishing world for having written so sympathetically about Corrie, and critically about the NYTW, was one of the epiphanies Weiss underwent that led him into new directions, now expressed most fully at his web site, Mondoweiss).

The play has gone on to be performed on every continent save Antarctica, in many languages.

The play was derived from Corrie’s written material with cooperation of the slain activist’s family.  Some of Corrie’s writings had been posted on the web soon after her death.  Some soon became the basis of poems or lyrics.  For instance, the concluding lyric in The Skies are Weeping is my editing (with the Corrie family’s approval) of one of her last emails home: Read the rest of this entry →

Saturday Art: The Skies Are Weeping for Rachel Corrie on the Ninth Anniversary of Her Death

8:44 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

I. On March 16, 2003, Near the southeast border of Gaza, Evergreen College senior Rachel Corrie was run over by an Israeli Army bulldozer, and killed.  Four days later the United States invaded Iraq.

Soon after the war started, I decided that I would write an anti-war musical composition, centered around Corrie.  After sharing my proposed lyrics with her family, I got their permission to go ahead.  Six months later, The Skies Are Weeping was complete, and we were beginning to rehearse the work for soprano, small chorus and percussion ensemble with the University of Alaska Anchorage’s percussion group.

In the lead-up up to a public meeting about the work’s perceived anti-Israeli content, I became the subject of an incredibly intense on-line attack, peaking on April 7th through 10th, 2004, at hundreds of hostile e-mails per hour.  By the time the meeting was held, co-hosted by an Anchorage rabbi, I had decided that I couldn’t expose the kids in the percussion group or choir to the same vituperation and beyond that I was experiencing and being threatened with.

I cancelled the Anchorage premiere.

As word got out, 24 groups or individuals worldwide asked for copies of the score (the music the conductor uses) and MP-3 MIDI audio.  I sent the material out, and got 17 responses.  I followed through on the few with promise.  First choice was a group in Brooklyn, who eventually decided to drop the project.  Funding from generous donors might suffer, it was thought.  A small group in Toronto was seriously interested, but I was leery of their agenda, and backed away.

Eventually, I became convinced by London-based soprano and peace activist, Deborah Fink, to go with a London production sponsored mostly by Jews for Justice for Palestinians, as a benefit for Israeli and Palestinian progressive groups.

We were able to present The Skies Are Weeping on November 1, 2005, as part of a concert featuring other works about the conflict in Palestine.

I flew from Alaska to the UK to help with rehearsals, and my wife came over and joined me a few days before the performance.  Our hosts were so outgoing, energetic and positive about the concert project.

Craig and Cindy Corrie, Rachel’s parents were there, along with Jocelyn Hurndall. She is the mother of Tom Hurndall, another peace activist killed by the IDF in Gaza that spring.  Jocelyn and I held hands as the group played the memorial dance I had written for her young son.

We wanted to create a professional recording of the concert, perhaps to make a fundraising CD.  But the singers’ union needed a lot of money if they were to allow us to do that.  We preferred to use that money on the charities the concert supported.

So I recorded The Skies Are Weeping with a portable digital recorder that I set on the concrete floor beneath my front row seat.  Right below the choir.

Wednesday and Thursday I created a Youtube of The Skies Are Weeping’s London audio recording.  It includes all the lyrics, and occasional photographic comments on the content of the music. Read the rest of this entry →

Rachel Corrie Civil Suit to Resume in Haifa Thursday October 7th

8:30 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

The concluding portion of the wrongful death civil suit brought against the Israeli Defense Forces and the Israeli Defense Ministry, by the family of Rachel Corrie, begins this Thursday, in Haifa. Sessions are scheduled for October 7th, 17th, 18th and 21st. The family of the young American activist, killed in March 2003, hopes for justice. So far, the trial has revealed neglect, ineptitude and probable criminal activity of IDF members, both in Corrie’s death, and in its coverup.

Among the horrific details to emerge, perhaps the most disturbing was the role of the notorious Dr. Yehuda Hiss in Rachel Corrie’s autopsy. Here’s Max Blumenthal’s description:

Corrie’s body was transported to the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute in Tel Aviv where the notorious Dr. Yehuda Hiss autopsied her.

Who is Dr. Hiss? The chief pathologist of Israel for a decade and a half, Hiss was implicated by a 2001 investigation by the Israeli Health Ministry of stealing body parts ranging from legs to testicles to ovaries from bodies without permission from family members then selling them to research institutes. Bodies plundered by Hiss included those of Palestinians and Israeli soldiers. He was finally removed from his post in 2004 when the body of a teenage boy killed in a traffic accident was discovered to have been thoroughly gnawed on by a rat in Hiss’s laboratory. In an interview with researcher Nancy Schepper-Hughes, Hiss admitted that he harvested organs if he was confident relatives would not discover that they were missing. He added that he often used glue to close eyelids to hide missing corneas.

When Craig and Cindy Corrie learned that Hiss would perform an autopsy on their daughter, they stipulated that they would only allow the doctor to go forward if an official from the American consulate was present throughout the entire procedure. An Israeli military police report stated that an American official did indeed witness the autopsy. However, when the Corries asked American diplomatic officials including former US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzner if the report was true, they were informed that no American was present at all. The Israelis had lied to them, and apparently fixed their own report to deceive the American government.

I’ll be compiling a list of items of interest that have come up so far in trial for Thursday. But now it might be important to take a quick glimpse of the progress of the most important work of art dedicated to Corrie to yet emerge, the one-woman play, My Name is Rachel Corrie. It opened on September 24th in Portland, Oregon, and will continue there at the Stark Street Theater through October 30th. The production is getting excellent reviews:

perhaps inevitably, and aptly, it is Corrie’s own way with words — at times witty, self-aware, sparkling with idiosyncratic metaphors; at others grave and righteous — that gives this portrait such vividness. It’s the voice of someone trying to find a path to doing the right thing. And whether or not Corrie got far enough down that path, that’s a voice we all could stand to hear.

As is always the case with productions of the play in the USA, there have been demonstrators and pamphleteers outside the theater before each performance. And like other US performances of the play, editorial space was offered soon after the production began, to a representative from the Zionist expansionist point of view. In this case, to Bob Horenstein, community relations director for the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, in Oregon

Corrie was killed after unlawfully entering an area where Israeli forces — seeking to protect Israeli civilians who had been terrorized by repeated rocket attacks — were destroying tunnels used by Palestinian terrorists to smuggle arms illegally from Egypt into Gaza. Corrie wasn’t shielding innocent civilians; rather, she was interfering with the Israeli army’s efforts to demolish an empty house used to conceal one of these tunnels. According to an autopsy report, Corrie wasn’t crushed by a bulldozer, as widely alleged; she was killed (no less tragically) by falling debris.

While Corrie’s death garners much of the attention, there are other fallen Rachels whose stories are also tragic. British journalist Tom Gross, a former Jerusalem correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph, has referred to these as the "Forgotten Rachels," victims of the so-called "armed resistance" supported by Corrie’s ISM. They belong in this discussion, too: Rachel Levy, 17, blown up in a Jerusalem grocery store; Rachel Thaler, 16, blown up in an Israeli pizzeria; Rachel Levi, 19, shot to death while waiting for a bus; Rachel Gavish, 50, killed at home celebrating a Passover meal; Rachel Charhi, 36, blown up in a Tel Aviv cafe, leaving three young children; Rachel Shabo, 40, murdered with her three young sons while at home; Rachel Ben Abu, 16, blown up outside the entrance of a Netanya shopping mall.

Rachel Corrie’s death was unfortunate, but she had to have known of the risks of entering a military zone off-limits to civilians. In other words, she chose to put her life in danger for a cause in which she believed. By contrast, the forgotten Rachels — and Sarahs and Rivkahs and Devorahs — didn’t choose to have their lives cut short by Palestinian terrorists.

When will we ever see a play to commemorate any of their lives?

Regarding Corrie, Mr. Horenstein’s op-ed is so full of lies and distortions, I’ll turn them over to a page titled Rachel Corrie: Myths and Facts.

Regarding the question, "When will we ever see a play to commemorate any of their lives?" I agree totally with Horenstein. This meme started in early 2004, when I first attempted to perform The Skies Are Weeping in Anchorage. The meme about the Rachels was created by an Israeli blogger. At the time, when I was asked, "Why not write music about the OTHER Rachels?" I decided to find out if any of these women’s families were interested in me writing music about their tragically killed loved one. None were.

So, since then, my reply to questions posed by people such as Bob Horenstein has been, "Write it, compose it, commission it! I’ll help you produce it."

Meanwhile, the play that militant Zionist expansionists tried to stop from being performed in the USA has now been produced almost countless times, even at colleges. It has been performed in English, Swedish, German, Arabic, Hebrew, Spanish and other languages.