Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Bragg about it later.

Just to reiterate, my problem is not with the folks who criticize the New York Theatre Workshop's decision to cancel their production of "My Name is Rachel Corrie." I agree: it was cowardly. My problem is with the folks who extrapolate this into a wider idea that you somehow cannot hear anti-Israeli arguments in the United States, that only pro-Israeli voices are allowed.

To wit (t'wit?), Billy Bragg, who has just released a protest song called "The lonesome death of Rachel Corrie." Here's the final verse:
The artistic director of a New York theatre
Cancelled a play based on Rachel's writings
But she wasn't a bomber or a killer or fighter
But one who acted in the spirit of the Freedom Riders
Is there no place for a voice in America
That doesn't conform to the Fox News agenda?
Dude... Rachel Corrie was AMERICAN. She was a member of the International Solidarity Movement, which was founded in 2001 by an Israeli, a Palestinian, and two AMERICAN activists. The "censored" play will open in Seattle next year. That's in AMERICA.

And 1,200 Americans showed up at a church in New York last week to hear Rachel Corrie's words being read.

But if you want a list of all the American voices that don't "conform to the Fox News agenda", we'll be here all night. Heck, New York Theatre Workshop has frequently presented the work of Tony Kushner, whose brilliant Munich was nominated for Best Picture at the American Oscars...

Why does this hyperbole bother me so much when I agree with the general condemnation of the NY Theatre Workshop for its decision? Because it's one thing to criticize the theatre for not wanting to offend the sensibilities of local Jewish groups, for trying to proactively avoid the accusations of bias and lack of balance. It's another to muse that the cancellation of the show was "orchestrated" from the outside by "the presence of a cultural lobby that parallels the vaunted pro-Israel lobby in think tanks and Congress" as per The Nation, whose writer counts the number of Jewish-sounding names on the Theatre Workshop's board of director.

And it's a whole other thing to extrapolate one incident into proof that it is impossible to criticize Israel in an entire country because the pro-Israel neocons behind the scenes are too powerful, too controlling of the media. You see what I'm saying here? It's a slippery slope to the International Jewish Conspiracy working hard to shut down a little play that's trying to tell the truth about Israel's misdeeds...

Why not take the folks at the New York Theatre Workshop at their word?

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