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Ghost of Rachel Corrie haunts the SF Jewish Film Festival

Rachel Corrie burns a mock U.S. flag during a rally in the southern Gaza town of Rafah in February 2003. photo/ap/khalil hamra

Rachel Corrie burns a mock U.S. flag during a rally in the southern Gaza town of Rafah in February 2003. photo/ap/khalil hamra

The Jewish Film Festival has for years been a source of pride for my mom. She enjoys the great films they screen, buying a pass most of the last 20 years. My mom saves each program guide for me to review, often marking down films that she thinks I would have enjoyed and the films that she enjoyed. I have a pile of those program guides somewhere.

So on account of my mom, I am pretty familiar with the SFJFF. The Festival has screened an incredible selection of Jewish films from around the world, some of them controversial. And they have screened their share of anti-Israel films.

However, now even long-time supporters of the Festival are asking questions about the goals of the Festival, and its board of directors, after it was revealed that the Festival is screening Rachel and seems to have been hijacked for use as a political platform.

Rachel, a film about the dead American activist Rachel Corrie, and her activist mother, are headlining the SF Jewish Film Festival this year. The Israeli Consulate is furious, as are many local and national Jewish groups.

Peter Stein, the film festival’s executive director said in J Weekly:

“I know there are many members of the community who would prefer if the festival stayed away from programming films on difficult topics or topics of passionate division of opinion

“That being said, if we, as an arts organization, are going to remain relevant in our time, it really is part of our role to catalyze conversation, however uncomfortable it may be.”

Stein argues that he has brought lots of other controversial stuff. However, Mr. Stein, Rachel Corrie is different.

Corrie is a martyred saint to those who chant Death to Israel and Zionism is Racism. Corrie is a icon of the Palestinian Resistance whose photo hangs along side those of suicide bombers. Corrie is a hero to those who want Israel gone and replaced by a bi-national state without a Jewish character.

Including the film and her mom Cindy, who have appeared at Israel Hate Weeks nationwide, and at UC Irvine’s week-long program, “Never Again? The Palestinian Holocaust,” is asking for, is planning for, enormous controversy, disunity, and acrimony.

Some might argue that Stein is good at his job. He is keeping the world focused on his film festival. Amid budget cuts, recession, and global troubles, he has gotten the Jewish community up in arms both in support and in disgust. I wonder how the Festival funders feel about the Festival becoming a platform for political turmoil?

Critics are pointing out that this screening is also creating huge publicity for a marginal group Jewish Voice for Peace, whose acting national director Rachell Pfeffer, now sits on the board of the SFJFF. J Weekly writes that, Local chapters of Jewish Voice for Peace… and the American Friends Service Committee… and others who have taken up the cause of the people of Gaza, signed on to help the festival promote “Rachel” to their constituencies.

Meanwhile, the Festival board and all of their sponsors have been barraged by emails and criticism. They realize now that they hit THE MOTHER OF ALL FLASH POINTS for the pro-Israel camp – St. Rachel. They are trying to include one of the detractors to deflect some of the criticism and dont understand why they are being singled out for such scrutiny. After all, in Israel people debate all kinds of things, why not here in America, you can here supporters of the Festival say. It is true, in Israel, they have all kinds of detractors, and critics. However, the stated goal of those that promote Rachel Corrie and her mother are not benign nor constructive. They seek the dismantling of the Jewish state of Israel. Even Cindy Corrie herself is a pawn in a much larger game of destroying support for Israel among average Americans, liberal Christians, and on college campuses.

This whole episode coincides with the Three Weeks, a time that Jews have been divided by our enemies, and have historically treated each other with scorn and hate. This hatred led to the destruction of the Holy Temple. This hatred tears at the fabric of the Jewish community, and helps alienate already alienated young Jews who dont know what to think or feel about being Jewish. Israels detractors scored a major victory this week.

30 Comments

  1. Kari

    7/22/2009 at 7:56 am

    Meh. The true circumstances of Rachel’s tragic death may never be known. Anti-Israel propaganda has mired the handful of eyewitness accounts, and getting a straight answer out of the IDF is like getting water to flow from a rock by talking to it.

  2. LB

    7/22/2009 at 9:03 am

    Yet another Jewish organization presenting hate-filled anti-Israel bile in the name of “art.” First, the DC JCC with “Seven Jewish Children” and now this.

  3. Tom Morrissey

    7/22/2009 at 10:05 am

    It’s hard to know who to root for here, as we’re asked to oppose a politically-correct film on grounds of political correctness. One threshold question is: what is the festival supposed to present? Affirming and positive images of Jewish/Israeli life? Sounds like a pretty boring festival to me.

    If a film about American life presented one of Michael Moore’s screeds, I wouldn’t like it but wouldn’t begrudge the organizers acknowledging a prominent voice in contemporary discourse. Similarly, Rachel speaks to Israel’s current condition, albeit in ways the filmmakers may not have intended.

    What will prove more enervating to “already alienated young Jews”: the film itself or the “enormous controversy” the rabbi predicts and promotes?

  4. Ephraim

    7/22/2009 at 10:56 am

    Idiots.

    Let somebody else screen the film. There’s no need for Jews to participate in our own vilification and degradation by giving anti-Semites a forum to spread lies about us.

    Unfortunately, there are always those Jews who think if we do just that the goyim will see how fair and even-handed we are and stop hating us.

    It doesn’t work that way, you fools. This kind of weakness just makes people despise us even more.

    Rachel Corrie was an enemy of Israel and the Jewish people who died aiding and abetting terrorists. Her death is her own fault, and I am not in the least upset about it. Jews should waste no time on her.

  5. Larry

    7/22/2009 at 3:51 pm

    As I posted a week or so ago, when Peter was interviewed in the J Weekly, I support the SFJFF programming of this film. The SFJFF is among the best and most independent of JFF’s in North America. It is a unifying force in the Bay Area. I also support the DCJCC production of “Seven Jewish Children.”

    Why let others program these productions. It is better to program them within the community and control the venue. The DC JCC will have panels after Seven Jewish Children. And the SFJFF will also have a panel with the Rachel film. NI that way they can show the film and then manage the discussion and the participants. To me, this is the enlightened way to handle the film.

    It is naive to think that by ignoring this film (or the play), it will go away. The Jewish community and even Israel is strong enough to watch films that criticize Israel without having to crumble into dust. The film festival does not exist to just show “Yoo Hoo Mrs. Goldberg.” It is there to bring films and panels of various opeinions to the city so that they can be seen, digested, evaluated and debated.

  6. Tori

    7/22/2009 at 7:20 pm

    A Jewish Film Festival showing a film that canonizes an anti-Semite, who wrote disparaging things about Jews in her diary. Why would any Jew have a problem with that?

  7. Kung Fu Jew 18

    7/22/2009 at 8:01 pm

    I would love to hear an intelligent, not knee jerk critique of this film that touches not only on its messages, but its moral, production values, and directorship. Commentors here have spent a lot of energy on uncreative namecalling, but I’ve yet to hear anyone who’s actually seen this film or read Rachel Corrie’s diary say anything substantive about the message coming out of this film.

    I for one, know the Corrie family. The anti-Semite charges are uncalled for. What’s been done with her legacy by the Palestinian solidarity movement is another thing, but she and her family should be off limits.

    CK and Yonah, I would recommend deleting comments that have no substance but name calling.

  8. Tom Morrissey

    7/22/2009 at 8:38 pm

    Larry makes a good point- give the film a proper context, one that accommodates criticism.

    Write this off if you want as a gentile’s perspective, but what is it with you guys and circular firing squads?

  9. themiddle

    7/22/2009 at 8:40 pm

    Well, those other guys are really stupid. 😉

  10. Ephraim

    7/23/2009 at 12:10 am

    Her family may be one thing, but why, may I ask, should “Saint Rachel” be off limits? She was an active member of a radically anti-Israel organization that openly aids and abets the terrorist war against Israel, and she was killed in a war zone while she was actively trying to prevent Israel from exercising its right of self-defense. I feel sorry for her parents, but I just cannot work up any sympathy for her.

    I don’t believe that she should be excused because she was an “idealist” who “believed passionately in what she was doing”, as if that’s some sort of blanket exoneration. I don’t think she was any kind of dupe; I think she knew what she was doing, even if she probably had that idea that most young people have that nothing could possibly happen to them.

    It’s too bad she was killed, but the only reason anybody is paying any attention to this is because she was a young, white, American woman. You know, “one of us”, someone for whom other white Americans can feel sorry for. She’s a perfect vehicle for anti-Israel zealots: “See? The Jews even kill us. Does their treachery know no bounds?”

    Which “circular firing squads” are you talking about, Tom? The decision by a Jewish group to show this film or the ensuing argument? But, I guess you need both sides for it to be a circular firing squad.

  11. AlexK

    7/23/2009 at 12:30 am

    Stupidity killed Rachel Corrie. Why someone wants to turn her story into art of any sort is beyond me. A play? A movie? Come on. A listing in a Darwin Awards volume is enough.

  12. Tom Morrissey

    7/23/2009 at 12:20 pm

    Whether the film festival is an appropriate venue for it or not, the rising tide of anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish sentiment on the left– in Europe and, increasingly, in the US– shouldn’t be ignored. The trend has to be addressed in some way. Ignoring it, and beating up on Jewish organizers as bad guys for putting the film on, strikes me as a dangerously unserious response in an era in which support for the Jewish state is in rapid decline (see the last paragraph of the piece cited in the the J Street post).

  13. Tom Morrissey

    7/23/2009 at 12:27 pm

    (….off-topic, can someone check and see if Skip Gates is Jewish? We could have some serious fun with that.)

  14. Jack

    7/23/2009 at 6:33 pm

    I for one, know the Corrie family. The anti-Semite charges are uncalled for. What’s been done with her legacy by the Palestinian solidarity movement is another thing, but she and her family should be off limits.

    That is not going to happen. Their daughter died tragically. She was used as a political tool and died. It is a horrible thing.

    But that doesn’t change that she intentionally placed herself in danger and that she did so as an adult. I am a father and I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child.

    But the reality here is that we cannot pretend that she bears no responsibility for her death. We cannot pretend that it hasn’t been used for political purposes by absolutely vile people. And we cannot pretend that her family is not also being used by some of those same people.

    And those vile people are in the business of trying to kill us. That is not hyperbole but reality.

  15. Ephraim

    7/24/2009 at 1:25 pm

    Sorry, Corrie wasn’t “used” by anyone when she was alive, snad she isn’t being “used” by anyone now. She was just as much of an anti-Israel fanatic as the organization she willingly belonged to. If she is watching from wherever she is now (if she is anywhere other than 6 feet under), my guess is she approves completely of the way she is being “used”.

    Same goes for her parents.

    I once was driving along a when, about 50 yards ahead of me I saw a number of young women dart across the street. There was no traffic light, and they were at least 20 yards away from a crosswalk. One of the women was hit by a car. She ricocheted off the hood up into the air, and, amazingly, seemed not to be seriously injured, as, after hitting the ground, she got up and ran to the other side of the street. I stopped the car an went over to see what was going on, and the girl was conscious and lucid, although she was obviously in some pain. So far as I know, her injuries were not severe.

    Later, as a witness, I was contacted by the lawyer of the driver of the car who had struck her. Amazingly, the driver of the car was being sued by the girl’s parents, as though the accident had been the driver’s fault!

    The situation with Corrie and her parents is the same. As parents, they want to defend their child, even though what happened to her was her own fault and the result of her own stupidity and hubris.

    As Super Chicken used to say “You knew the job was dangerous when you took it, Fred”.

  16. Richard

    7/24/2009 at 5:43 pm

    So as of now, two anti-Israel films will be shown at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, the virulently anti-Israel Cindy Corrie will be speaking, and no pro-Israeli films will be shown. Meanwhile, vicious anti-Semitic, pro-terrorist organizations (the ISM, the Jewish Voice for Peace, and the American Friends Service Committee) are being presented in a positive light. Hopefully, this whole charade will be called off. At very least, the totally insensitive Peter Stein should be shown the door and asked not to slam it on his way out.

  17. Ephraim

    7/24/2009 at 8:09 pm

    I’ve thought a bit more about what Tom said, and I think he has a point.

    If the “Jewish community” feels that this issue needs to be debated, they should set up an event just for that. They can invite people of various different views on the subject, show the film, and have a real debate.

    However, they should not show it at a Jewish film festival.

  18. themiddle

    7/24/2009 at 9:47 pm

    This isn’t a complex situation. People in SF who know what they’re talking about should attend these screenings and make sure they ask challening question that inform the audience about facts that may not be or may be skewed in the films.

    One place to begin your research is on Jewlicious. Use the search box to find Rachel Corrie and you will come across some of the arguments we’ve had here. I believe both sides are effectively represented.

  19. themiddle

    7/24/2009 at 9:49 pm

    Oh, and make sure you bring a print of the photo above to show around.

  20. Kung Fu Jew 18

    7/24/2009 at 11:37 pm

    Does it ever occur to some folks that the pro-Palestinian movement is such an insignificant threat to the overwhelmingly positive image Israel maintains in America? It ranks among the top 5 such countries, and the Palestinians rank around 98 last I checked. Also consider that any pro-Palestinian orgs have little to zero influence in Congress. All the vitriol here is rather masturbatory.

    Furthermore, do you know that the kind of rhetoric used here to demonize and vilify the Palestinians are precisely the language that offends and distances the American public? The Israel Project’s message guide shows what happens to Israel advocacy messages when you bother to read the marketing research about what sticks and what offends.

    Back earlier to circular firing squads, the things said here just drive amendable people further and further from interest in supporting Israel.

    Do you guys know this and chose not to care, or are you unaware?

  21. xisnotx

    7/25/2009 at 2:55 am

    Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to then Sec. of State Colin Powell, wrote in a June 11, 2004 letter to the Corrie family:

    http://www.internationalrelations.house.gov/archives/109/20060.PDF
    ‘‘Your ultimate question, however, is a valid one: Whether or
    not we review the report that was done by the Israeli military
    advocate general’s office to have reflected an investigation that
    was ‘thorough, credible, and transparent.’ I can answer your
    question without equivocation. No, we do not consider it so.’’

  22. themiddle

    7/25/2009 at 9:47 am

    Does it ever occur to some folks that the pro-Palestinian movement is such an insignificant threat to the overwhelmingly positive image Israel maintains in America? It ranks among the top 5 such countries, and the Palestinians rank around 98 last I checked. Also consider that any pro-Palestinian orgs have little to zero influence in Congress. All the vitriol here is rather masturbatory.

    Israel used to be very popular in Europe as well. Now look at it. Or do you think that all these pro-Palestinians and anti-Israel organizations believe they are wasting their time? Besides, why shouldn’t we criticize falsehoods and propaganda?

    Furthermore, do you know that the kind of rhetoric used here to demonize and vilify the Palestinians are precisely the language that offends and distances the American public? The Israel Project’s message guide shows what happens to Israel advocacy messages when you bother to read the marketing research about what sticks and what offends.

    This refutes your first paragraph. So public opinion can be swayed and turned against Israel? All it takes is a little rhetoric they dislike?

    Anyway, we allow most of the comments on Jewlicious through both on the right and on the left. And in the middle. You have the same ability to express your views as Ephraim or Ben David.

    Back earlier to circular firing squads, the things said here just drive amendable people further and further from interest in supporting Israel.

    Possibly, but I suspect that advocacy such as yours that incessantly and often unfairly attacks Israel causes far more damage to Israel’s support among amenable people. Most of them don’t have the knowledge to dispute claims that are made by the anti-Israelis.

  23. xisnotx

    7/26/2009 at 4:25 pm

    ‘Rachel’ draws passionate crowd to S.F. Jewish film fest
    http://jta.org/news/article/2009/07/26/1006802/rachel-draws-passionate-crowd-to-sf-jewish-film-fest

  24. Ephraim

    7/27/2009 at 12:58 am

    Jews are just such pathetic freyers. So now our film festival is just another venue for Nazis and anti-Semites to boo us when we stick up for Israel? Of course, it was the pro-Israel views that were booed. At the Jewish Film Festival! They should have cleared the fucking room the minute the first speaker was interrupted. Throw the fuckers out. Can”t people stick up for themselves?

    And these people brought it on themselves by agreeing to show this film. Stupid, weak, and pathetic.

    It should have been shown at an entirely different event.

  25. Dusty

    7/27/2009 at 3:09 pm

    Its very important to listen to the words of Dr. Mike Harris, who was asked to speak before the film. He is articulate, patient, compassionate.

    His words are printed here:

    http://www.bluetruth.net/2009/07/sf-jewish-film-festival-audience-jeers.html

    However- its more powerful to hear the youtube- the vicious interuptions, taunts, hissing- simply because Dr. Harris dare inject needed context into the film.

    As you watch this youtube it becomes so clearly apparent who the enemies of free speech and open dialog are in our community. This is truly shocking and its important to see.

  26. Mashukaafir

    7/28/2009 at 6:42 am

    Amongst the many Paliwood incidents , the Suicide martydom, of Rachel Corrie ranks right up there, to view the incident footage .. an photo montage(why was there someone there snapping photo after photo at the very moment) a person brainwashed by an anti israeli advocacy group aligned with palestinian terrorist organizations has become an poster child for the leftest anti israel crowd, why an young foolish woman that threw herself under an contruction shovel, bocomes fodder for movies speaking tours and aligator tears.. ask yourself.

  27. Cady

    7/28/2009 at 4:44 pm

    I’ve yet to hear anyone who’s actually seen this film or read Rachel Corrie’s diary say anything substantive about the message coming out of this film.

    Well, I saw the film ads frankly , it was boring and way to long. And it ended in a Rachel Corrie rap that was laughable. They read Rachels own words and she comes across as almost simple- there is no critical anaylysis in her words, just slogans. She writes like a child. Rachelwas a self described Marxist and an anarchist- thats not mentioned in this film, becuase its goal is to cannonize her.

    No context. No background. Ism’ers saying things like “gunfire every night” – implying Israeli gunfire- not mentioning that it was in response to Palestinian gunfire. lots of sins of ommission.

    I wonder if Peter Stein showed this movie because controversy sells tickets- he certainly didn’t show it because it was a quality production

  28. Sarah

    7/31/2009 at 1:19 am

    Just rename it the “Pro-Zionist Jewish Film Festival”.

    There. Very clear-cut and no more uncomfortable entries.

    • froylein

      7/31/2009 at 1:57 am

      Sarah, read above, she didn’t just not disagree with Zionism, but meddled with terrorist organisations, had herself be pulled into the conflict by an organisation that was delighted to see a foreign student dead for their cause, and foremostly resisted Israel’s right to take precautionary steps against terrorist attacks by destroying those tunnels used for smuggling weapons and explosives into Gaza.

      The film festival need not be pro-Zionist to reflect Jewish identity, but it should not glorify those that apparently thought that killing Jews was a legitimate means of making political changes.

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