In the face of increasing anti-Palestinian sentiment in the United States after the Hamas party’s victory in January’s elections, artists portraying the conflict to American audiences are finding themselves facing unprecedented censorship.
A play called "My Name Is Rachel Corrie," was supposed to be opening later this month in New York at the New York Theatre Workshop, following two sold-out runs in London and several awards, but was "postponed indefinitely", according to the Theatre’s director, due to the "current political climate".
Created from the journals and e-mails of American activist Rachel Corrie, telling of her journey from her adolescence in Olympia, Washington, to her death under an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza at the age of 23, the play has never yet been viewed in Rachel’s home country. She had made her journey to the Middle East in order "to meet the people who are on the receiving end of our [American] tax dollars," and she was killed by a U.S.-made bulldozer while protesting the demolition of Palestinian homes, but it appears that, due to pressure from Zionist groups in the US, the play will not be able to be seen by American audiences.
James Nicola, the theater’s artistic director, said Monday, "Listening in our communities in New York, what we heard was that after Ariel Sharon’s illness and the election of Hamas in the recent Palestinian elections, we had a very edgy situation." Three years after being silenced for good, Rachel’s story is now being censored for political reasons.
The director of the New York theater told the New York Times on Monday that it wasn’t the people who actually saw the play he was concerned about. "I don’t think we were worried about the audience," he said. "I think we were more worried that those who had never encountered her writing, never encountered the piece, would be using this as an opportunity to position their arguments."
Alan Rickman, who directed the show in London, called the move "censorship born out of fear, and the New York Theatre Workshop, the Royal Court, New York audiences — all of us are the losers."
And Katherine Viner, a co-editor of the play and writer for the Guardian paper in London, wrote Thursday, "Rachel’s words from Gaza are a bridge between two worlds — and now that bridge is being severed. After the Hamas victory, the need for understanding is surely greater than ever, and I refuse to believe that most Americans want to live in isolation. One night in London, an Israeli couple, members of the right-wing Likud party on holiday in Britain, came up after the show, impressed. ‘The play wasn’t against Israel; it was against violence,’ they told Cindy Corrie, Rachel’s mother.
"I was particularly touched", Viner continues, "by a young Jewish New Yorker from an Orthodox family who said he had been nervous about coming to see ‘My Name Is Rachel Corrie’ because he had been told that both she and the play were viciously anti-Israel. But he had been powerfully moved by Rachel’s words and realized that he had, to his alarm, been dangerously misled."
Another case of potential censorship came to the forefront this week when a group of Israelis, parents of the victims of Palestinian bomb attacks in Israel, travelled to Hollywood to lobby the Academy Awards Committee to revoke the nomination of a film called "Paradise Now", which examines the motivations behind so-called ‘suicide bombers’ from the Occupied Territories of Palestine. The film portrays two childhood friends, growing up in Occupied Palestine, who are recruited for a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. The film shows the conditions of occupation, and bills itself as a "bold new call for peace" as it portrays the difficult and complex nature of the conflict.
"Paradise Now" won the Golden Globe award, and has been nominated for an Oscar award. The Oscar ceremony is scheduled to take place on March 5.
Yossi Zur, one of the Israelis, said, "It is a mission of the free world not to give such movies a prize." Zionist-owned cinema chains in the US have shunned "Paradise Now",
with distribution experts noting that this could spell a low box-office turnout and even boycotts of the film.