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'My Name is Rachel Corrie'
Last uploaded : Friday 5th May 2006 at 19:52
Contributed by : Chas Newkey-Burden


They say a picture is worth a thousand words but sometimes a picture can be worth far more than that. There are more than a thousand words in the play My Name Is Rachel Corrie, about the US activist who accidentally died during an anti-Israel protest in Gaza in 2003. But none of them shed light on the now canonised Corrie as much as a photograph taken of her by the Associated Press a month before her death.

Corrie was snapped burning an American flag and whipping up the crowd at a pro-Hamas rally. This photograph – of which there is no mention in the play – doesn’t just contradict the image of Corrie being saintly and peace-loving, it also raises the question of why an educated, western girl would want to fall in line with an organisation that opposes every core value – freedom, fairness, women’s rights - she claims to hold dear?

Corrie is far from alone. The audience at a recent performance of the play in London’s West End was littered with white, English men and women wearing keffiyeh scarves. Moving and working as I do in liberal, literary circles, I know all about these keffiyeh-wearing types. They consider themselves left-wing or liberal minded. They hold impeccable views on social fairness, the environment and women’s rights. They believe in democracy. They wear Make Poverty History wristbands. They nod sagely at Guardian editorials about poverty in Africa while sipping fair trade lattes.

But raise, if you dare, the Middle East question in front of them and stand back in shock as their spiteful, hateful side comes rushing to the surface. These people who say they back the underdog, believe in democracy, multiculturalism and fairness will spit blood against Israel – the only country in the region that represents those values. They are what I call Palestinian groupies.

I believe these groupies, like the little boys who play army in playgrounds across England, don’t look the other way on the topic of Palestinian terrorism, they seem – sorry to say – almost turned on by it. You surely can’t, after all, overlook something as big as the blowing up of buses or pizza parlours. There is no ‘bigger picture’ regarding people who do that. And why would you appropriate the uniform of the man who backed all that terrorism unless you actively had a thing for him?

Even when the bloodshed is on their doorstep, they remain as blindly loyal as a battered wife who won’t give up on the man who hurts her. These groupies were the ones who on the day London’s transport system was bombed by Islamic terrorists stomped around shouting “I hate Tony Blair” and insisting “We brought it on ourselves”. They also believe, as they sit in their comfortable Western homes, that the whole conflict is about them. My name is Rachel Corrie. Not in my name. Thousands of people are dying but it’s all about me.

Of course, the love is unrequited. When Corrie died, Hamas openly welcomed her death. These poisonous people opposed every core value she held dear in life, then danced on her grave when she died. It is too late for Corrie to see the light, but we would do well to stop idolising her. And all the other Palestinian groupies really should stop lining up to get into bed with these men that hate them.

Chas Newkey-Burden writes for a range of magazines and newspapers including The Big Issue, Attitude and The Mail On Sunday. His next book, 'The Reduced History Of Britain,' is published in September 2006.
'My Name is Rachel Corrie' is running at the Playhouse Theatre, Charing Cross, London until May 21, 2006.

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