Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

September 28, 2010


Filed under: Film,middle east — louisproyect @ 9:59 pm

From October 8-14, the Anthology Film Archives in New York will be screening “Rachel“, a documentary about the martyrdom of Rachel Corrie. This is a perfect time to be honoring her memory since it finally appears that the tide is turning in her favor. Her sacrifice, along with those made by the Mavi Marmara martyrs, has finally begun to persuade powerful forces worldwide, including the trade union movement, to take a stand against Israel.

Simone Bitton, who was born in Morocco in 1955 and considers herself an Arab Jew, directed the film. She interviews both the International Solidarity Activists who worked alongside Rachel as well as the IDF soldiers responsible for her death. Bitton’s last film was “Wall“, a powerful indictment of one of the primary institutions of the Israeli version of apartheid.

Serving as a narrative thread that holds this powerful movie together, we hear young women reading from her letters. These are the very same letters that formed the basis of Alan Rickman’s “My Name is Rachel Corrie” that was staged originally in London’s Royal Court Theater in 2005. When an attempt was made to present it at the New York Theatre Workshop in March 2006, the theater’s director took it upon himself to poll Jewish groups whether this might offend them. Whether he did this because he got phone calls from people threatening to cut off his funding is impossible to say. But I have a feeling that there would be much more openness to it today, especially in light of the decision by Hollywood’s elite, including many Jews, to support a boycott of performances at a theater in a West Bank settlement.

Throughout the movie, I could not help but think of Ben Linder, an American engineer who was murdered by Nicaraguan contras in 1987. Like him, Rachel Corrie came from a comfortable and privileged family in Olympia, Washington just as Ben came from in Oregon. No matter how many times the mainstream media tells young well-educated people such as these that the Nicaraguans or Palestinians are threats to American interests, they will find a way to make a connection with them, even at the risk of death.

Bitton takes the audience to Rafah, where eyewitnesses from the ISM recreate the day’s events of March 13, 2003 when an armored Caterpillar D9 bulldozer pushed hundreds of pounds of dirt over her, leading to her death by suffocation. The IDF maintained that the driver could not see her despite the fact that it admitted that the activists were driving them to distraction in the Gaza Strip. Speaking to these cynical terrorists in their native Hebrew, Bitton challenges their official version of what happened every step of the way. Since Israel controlled the autopsy, against the express wishes or her parents, it assumed that they could spin things the way it wanted, just as was the case with the Mavi Marmara. Unfortunately for the Zionists, these lies no longer have the effect they once did.

The documentary has moving interviews with Ghassan Andoni, a Palestinian physicist and one of the three co-founders of the ISM, and Jonathan Pollak, an Israeli activist with the group whose emails I have been receiving for well over five years. Pollak is a totally engaging personality who says that his activism was inherited from his Communist grandparents and other members of his family. Ideologically, he describes himself as an anarchist and as such puts the best foot forward for the latest manifestation of this 150-year-old movement. The wiki on Pollak states:

Pollak was injured numerous times, including a head injury on April 3, 2005. An Israeli soldier shot Pollak in the head with a teargas canister from an M-16, from a distance of approximately thirty meters at a protest against the Wall in the West Bank village of Bil’in. This left him with two internal brain hemorrhages and a wound requiring 23 stitches.[1]  Jonathan was arrested dozens of times and convicted together with 10 others for blocking a road in front of the Israeli Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv on the day the International Court of Justice in The Hague  began its proceeding on the legality of the wall. He was also acquitted of a rioting charge together with another AAW activist, Kobi Snitz. They were both arrested at a demonstration against the wall in the village of Budrus.[2]

When the time comes for Israeli apartheid to be buried in the ashcan of history, just as the Afrikaner system that preceded it, people like Rachel Corrie and countless Palestinians will be seen as the Stephen Biko’s who paved the way for its demise through their example. In that sense, their memory will last forever since they have entered the realm of the immortals of peace and social justice.

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