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Saturday, July 02, 2005

St Rachel - A Vacationer in Others' Despair

Rachel Corrie was a naïve 24 year old woman. She was a member of a group known as the International Solidarity Movement, whose specialty is supposedly “non-violent” attempts to interfere with the actions of the Israeli Defence Forces in the disputed territories of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Of course, people sometimes get hurt as a result of ISM "non-violence", but that's non-violence for you. In March 2003, Ms Corrie was crushed by a bulldozer while trying to prevent the IDF from shutting down a tunnel being used by terrorists to smuggle weapons and explosives from Egypt into Gaza. Doubtless the Gaza chaps had a peaceful, non-violent use for the said weapons and explosives.

She has now been accorded a species of secular sainthood by the international anti-Israel far left. Which means her grieving parents got to have their photographs taken with Yasser Arafat. I, for one, wonder whether they roam their house at night, like a latter-day Lady Macbeth, trying to cleanse themselves of the smell of blood and cordite.

Readers may also be aware that she is also the subject of a musical.

Mark Steyn’s review of “My Name is Rachel Corrie”, first published in the June 2005 edition of The New Criterion,” is here. Needless to say, it is well worth reading.

Steyn makes two very telling points.

First, there is virtually no support for Israel among the European political elites:

Just so: in Britain as (for different reasons) in the rest of Europe, there is no case for Israel. Even those who are pro-Bush and pro-war incline – like Tony Blair – to the Palestinian side when the question of “the Middle East peace process” rears its ugly head. As for the patrician right, they’ve never cared for the Jew, especially the Zionist Jew: too pushy and self-reliant, they make hopeless colonial subjects. “All British officials tend to become pro-Arab, or, perhaps, more accurately anti-Jew,” wrote Sir John Hope-Simpson in the Twenties wrapping up a tour of duty in mandatory Palestine. “Personally, I can quite well understand this trait. The helplessness of the fellah appeals to the British official. The offensive assertion of the Jewish immigrant is, on the other hand, repellent.”

Secondly, in the European, and “western progressive” narrative of the Arab / Israel conflict, the Arabs are falsely portrayed as the helpless spectators of their own destinies:

Progressive transnational humanitarianism, as much as old-school colonialism,prefers its clientele “helpless”, and, despite Iranian weaponry and Saudi money,the support of a 300 million-strong Arab Muslim bloc and the depraved human sacrifice of their own schoolchildren, the Palestinians have been masters at selling their “helplessness” to the west. When Rachel Corrie talks about “a largely unarmed people against the fourth most powerful military in the world”, she’s peddling the standard line: the Palestinians have no tanks, so they have to improvise with what they can lay their hands on – plastic explosives, schoolgirl delivery systems. In fact, not too long ago the Gaza and West Bank Arabs had plenty of tanks: the only reason they’re living under “Israeli occupation” is because in 1967 their then governments in Jordan and Egypt sent their heavy machinery into action against the Zionist entity once too often. Indeed, the first 25 years of Israel’s existence were spent fending off Arabtanks. Alas, ever since King Hussein fired his British general, Sir John Glubb, the Arabs have been total flops at conventional warfare. Fortunately for them, they discovered that, when it comes to undermining Israel, playing helpless and recruiting western patsies like Rachel Corrie is actually far more effective.

This is seen as anti-Semitic in its effect, if not its intent:

Sixty years ago, Europeans thought Jews shouldn’t be in Europe. Now they think they shouldn’t be in Palestine. It seems reasonable to conclude that on the whole they’d rather Jews weren’t anywhere. That’s why it’s so important to keep everything soft-focus and child-like and innocent. But the beatification of Rachel Corrie is only possible if you ignore anything above Fifth Grade level. “The vast majority of Palestinians right now, as far as I can tell, are engaging in Gandhian non-violent resistance,” says Rachel. That’s not the impression I’ve ever got from my brief visits to the “occupied territories” where, “as far as I can tell”, every aspect of daily life – from the glorification of “martyrs” on the walls of the grocery store to the “I Want To Be A Martyr When I Grow Up” competitions at the schoolhouse – exists within a culture of death. It’s not about “independence” or “resistance” but something more basic.

To my mind, Mark Steyn makes a persuasive case. What he does not say (although from my knowledge of his opinions, I respectfully venture that he believes), is that all this soft-focus romanticisation of the “helpless”, “stateless”, “palestinians” is the product of a gentle racist condescension that does the Arab cause no good at all.

Indeed, the likes of Ms Corrie, who so enthusiastically spruik this narrative of Arab helplessness treat the Arabs of the Levant as something less than mature adult human beings.

To refuse to hold terrorist groups and their supporters fully accountable for their depraved conduct, to insist that they are “helpless”, or have “no choice” but to publicly self-detonate, taking as many Jews as possible with them, or that they are not responsible for their (almost inevitable) injuries occasioned when they hurl projectiles at fully armed soldiers in a war zone, is to say that Arabs are not moral, adult human beings as are you and I. It is to fall into the trap of the British colonialists who saw Arabs as “irrational” and therefore in need of appeasement when they committed atrocities.

And that is my point. Refusing to treat Arabs as adults, as morally responsible human beings, does no favours for the Arabs themselves nor does it assist the cause of peace.

It is anti-Semitic, but it is also, in my view, evidence of anti-Arab prejudice. Such prejudice may be well intentioned and supposedly benevolent, but it is prejudice nonetheless, and moreover, we all know, proverbially, what the road to hell is paved with.

It is always an occasion for mourning when human life is needlessly thrown away. But, with thanks to Tom Gross and Robin Stamler, I will save my tears for the subjects of the following plays that will doubtless never be written:

    1. My Name Is Rachel Levy (Israeli girl age 17, blown up in a grocery store)
    2. My Name Is Rachel Thaler (Israeli girl aged 16, blown up in a pizzeria)
    3. My Name Is Rachel Levi (Israeli girl aged 19, murdered while waiting for the bus)
    4. My Name Is Rachel Gavish (killed with her husband and son while at home)
    5. My Name Is Rachel Charhi (blown up while sitting in a cafe)
    6. My Name Is Rachel Shabo (murdered with her three sons aged 5, 13 and 6 while sitting at home).

May they rest in peace.


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