Speaking freely in San Francisco
ONE of the favourite tricks of oppressive regimes and persecutors is to make out they're the ones being persecuted. Unfortunately with the help of compliant media it sometimes seems to work. We remember when the Skies Are Weeping concert, premiering that oratorio in honour of American peace worker Rachel Corrie, was put on at London's Hackney Empire, most people coming to the concert ignored the bunch of protesting Zionists outside. But not so the BBC. Having given no previous publicity to the event, it reported the following night thtt it happened, but gave last word to the Zionists.
Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer as she tried to halt the demolition of a Palestinian family's home. The bulldozer driver said he would do it again. Rachel's mother, Cindy Corrie, flew to London to be guest of honour at the requiem premiere, which had not been held in United States concert halls or theatres because of Zionist pressure and threats. To hear them you'd think Rachel was some kind of terrorist who had savagely attacked the army bulldozer, and that her mother was waging an unreasonable campaign against the Zionists.
Indeed the man from the Zionist Federation pretended the handful of odd characters he had assembled to oppose the concert were representing Jewish people in London, and the BBC played along with this. In fact the woman who organised the concert, and sang the oratorio, Debbie Fink, told the BBC that she was Jewish, as were many of the partipants, sponsors, and on the night, members of the audience. The BBC cut Debbie and and her comments completely from their broadcast.
The dogs bark, but the caravan marches on, and the reason I have recalled the Hackney event is some good new from California. It comes courtesy of an excellent blog called Muzzlewatch, an offshoot of Jewish Voices for Peace, specialising in news of how the Israel Lobby attempts to silence critics, and how they resist being silenced. Here is the report:
Amanda Pazornik of J. Weekly reports on the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival’s controversial decision to go forward and present Rachel, a documentary made by Jewish-Israeli filmaker Simone Bitton about the death of Rachel Corrie by an IDF bulldozer while she was protesting home demolitions in Gaza. Both Rabbi Doug Kahn, the head of the San Francisco Community Relations Council, and Israel Consul General Akiva Tor were particularly incensed about the decision to invite Corrie’s mother, Cindy Corrie, to speak at the July 25 screening.
(Interestingly, Cindy Corrie, who has been a tireless crusader for peace and reconciliation since her daughter’s death, was recently vigorously defended against attack by a colleague in this remarkable piece by Rabbi Brian Walt, the former head of Rabbis for Human Rights, North America.)
The festival’s executive director, Peter Stein, tells J:
“I know there are many members of the community who would prefer if the festival stayed away from programming films on difficult topics or topics of passionate division of opinion. That being said, if we, as an arts organization, are going to remain relevant in our time, it really is part of our role to catalyze conversation, however uncomfortable it may be.”
One Israel activist complained:
“Corrie has become a hero of anti-Israel extremists. Her story is not really about a young American activist who died of complex circumstances. It’s about promoting a hate-filled and glaringly one-sided anti-Israel agenda.”
Cecilie Surasky of Jewish Voice, one of the sponsors of the film, added, “Cindy Corrie is a rare person who can speak clearly about the injustices of what her daughter saw and worked to address, without fueling one ounce of hatred. She sees this is a basic, human justice issue, not a Jewish versus Palestinian issue. Jews are among the Corries’ greatest supporters, and I find it sad to think that some believe the Jewish community is so weak that we cannot even have these important conversations. “
Simone Bitton’s previous documentaries have focused on the separation wall in the West Bank and the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.