Just a few weeks ago I was asked, ever so inclusively, to represent our pro-Israel group at the University of Virginia in a panel held after the showing of the play My Name is Rachel Corrie. First off, I would like to thank the director of the play for choosing to include my voice in the discussion despite the starkly opposing view I brought to the dialogue. It would be easy to leave my voice out of the conversation and instead leave the audience feeling an unadulterated empathy for the Palestinian plight. Next, I would like to express my utter horror at the low-level of scholarship that has been promoted by the drama department of our University through the showing of this play. The conveniently manicured story of Rachel Corrie disregards fact and context while attempting to advocate for human justice. I feel for this woman who died too young, but I would be doing a disservice to the audience to not tell the twisted morality that Corrie embraced.
The play opens with a heart-warming montage of scenes of Corrie as a young co-ed. I immediately recognized the all-too-familiar prototype of a free-spirited college student who just wants to fix the world. We meet a young woman with an affinity for journaling and standing up defiantly to ex-lovers.
Rachel Corrie quickly becomes awakened to the suffering in the world, namely to the suffering of Gazans. My initial confusion began at her moment of revelation. This young woman grew up and matriculated in the same small town of Olympia, Washington. But what experiences with the world awarded her a Master’s in Human Suffering and Injustice?
Rachel Corrie’s evident lack of credibility is but a tiny footnote on the laundry list of reasons her role as a martyr is so flawed. Corrie stands for the idea of moral relativism. She represents the notion that there is no objective good or evil in the world. Her story shows that whatever an individual’s mind conceives as right deserves to be regarded as right.
Corrie could not look to Israel and see one bit of good. The checkpoints, the tanks, and the heckling Israeli teens (supposedly natural male pubescent jeering solely exists in enemy territory, Israel) blinded her. Rachel Corrie was a Said-ist who clung to the words “occupation” and “colonialism” because they were the most salient terms to use with her band of internationals. She understood little about the history of Israel, the destructive nature of Hamas, international law. Her fight was not valiant it was ignorant.
However much she asserted she was part of a nonviolent, “Gandhian” resistance movement, Corrie stood behind the evils of Hamas whether as a media pawn or as a physical human shield. In a journal entry she wrote, “Imagine the difficulties the Israeli army would face if they shot an unarmed U.S. citizen.” Her actions shouted loud and clear to the world that it doesn’t matter what freedoms Israel brings to the world, by nature of moral relativism Hamas and their innocent puppets in Gaza are also “right” because they are the underdogs in a fight against an occupier.
Moral relativism is a concept that will only bring more evil into the world. If we cannot confidently say that the practice of using human shields or the shooting of gays by Hamas is no more right or wrong than the gay rights or religious equality that Israelis enjoy, the world is on a dangerous path. If we cannot stand up and say that there is a difference between hiding weapons in schools, hospitals, and homes versus building a strong, uniformed army to protect oneself from ultimate destruction then we are cowards. If we cannot recognize Israel’s right to exist as a nation, naturally with flaws, and its right to protect itself then we have adopted this mindset of relativeness.
By advocating the way she did, Rachel Corrie added to the heavy load of human injustice in this world. She aided Hamas, the tumor of the Muslim and Palestinian world, and asserted that its fight is good. Rachel Corrie’s story has not illuminated the world but rather has brought a sliver more of darkness to it.
Jennifer Sachs is an undergraduate student at the University of Virginia.