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What They Are Saying: Many More 'Rachels' Out There, Without Plays to Their Memories

November 3, 2005 By:
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Tom Gross

Excerpts from international writers with commentary on issues relating to the Middle East, Israel and world Jewry:

Many More 'Rachels' Out There, Without Plays to Their Memories

Journalist Tom Gross writes in the British magazine The Spectator (www.spectator.co.uk) on Oct. 22 about the invisibility of Jewish victims of terror in the media:

"Rachel Thaler, aged 16, was blown up at a pizzeria in an Israeli shopping mall. She died after an 11-day struggle for life following a suicide bomb attack on a crowd of teenagers on Feb. 16, 2002.

"Even though Thaler was a British citizen, born in London, where her grandparents still live, her death has never been mentioned in a British newspaper.

"Rachel Corrie, on the other hand, an American radical who died in 2003 while acting as a human shield during an Israeli anti-terror operation in Gaza, has been widely featured in the British press. According to the Guardian newspaper Web site, she has been written about or referred to on 57 separate occasions in the Guardian alone, including three articles the Saturday before last.

"The cult of Rachel Corrie doesn't stop there. Last week the play, 'My Name Is Rachel Corrie,' reopened at the larger downstairs auditorium at the Royal Court Theatre, a venue which the New York Times recently described as 'the most important theatre in Europe.' It previously played to sold-out audiences at the upstairs theatre when it opened in April. It is very rare to revive a play so quickly.

"On Nov. 1, the 'Cantata Concert for Rachel Corrie' - co-sponsored by the Arts Council - is scheduled to have its world premiere at the Hackney Empire.

"But Rachel Thaler, unlike Rachel Corrie, was Jewish. And unlike Corrie, Jewish victims of Middle East violence have not become a cause célèbre in Britain. This lack of response is all the more disturbing at a time when an increasing number of British Jews feel that there has been a sharp rise in anti-Semitism.

"Thaler is by no means the only Jewish Rachel whose violent death has been entirely ignored by the British media. Other victims of the intifada include Rachel Levy (aged 17, blown up in a grocery store), Rachel Levi (19, shot while waiting for the bus), Rachel Gavish (killed with her husband, son and father while at home celebrating a Passover meal), Rachel Charhi (blown up while sitting in a Tel Aviv cafe, leaving three young children), Rachel Shabo (murdered with her three sons aged 5, 13 and 16, while at home) and Rachel Kol, 53, who worked at a Jerusalem hospital and was killed with her husband in a Palestinian terrorist attack in July a few days after the London bombs.

"Corrie's death was undoubtedly tragic but, unlike the death of these other Rachels, it was almost certainly an accident. She was killed when she was hit by an Israeli army bulldozer she was trying to stop from demolishing a structure suspected of concealing tunnels used for smuggling weapons.

"The International Solidarity Movement, the group with which Corrie was affiliated, is routinely described as a 'peace group' in the media. Few make any mention of [its] sheltering in its office of Shadi Sukiya, a leading member of Islamic Jihad. According to the 'media co-ordinator' of the ISM, Flo Rosovski, 'Israel is an illegal entity that should not exist,' which at any rate clarifies the ISM's idea of peace.

"In many hundreds of articles on Corrie published in the last two years, most papers have been careful to omit such details. So have actor Alan Rickman and journalist Katharine Viner, co-creators of 'My Name Is Rachel Corrie.'

"But ultimately, the play, and many of the articles about Corrie that have appeared, are not really about the young American activist who died in such tragic circumstances. They are about promoting a hate-filled and glaringly one-sided view of Israel."

U.N. Agency Sees Its Job as Keeping the Palestinians Homeless

Journalist Arlene Kushner writes in the Fall issue of Azure (www.azure.org.il) that one U.N. agency has no reason to exist:

"As the United Nations celebrated its 60th anniversary this fall with a dramatic World Summit, supposedly sweeping reform proposals sought to remove the cloud of corruption and mismanagement surrounding the organization. Unfortunately, the proposed reforms do not really address the United Nation's most egregious fault: placing politics before humanitarian goals.

"Nowhere is this more visible than in the case of UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency), the U.N. agency dedicated solely to caring for Palestinian Arab refugees. All other refugee groups receive assistance from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

"Since 1951, UNHCR has worked within the regulations of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees to find long-term, 'durable' solutions to refugee crises. Through legal protection and emergency relief, UNHCR has successfully helped more than 25 million people restart their lives.

"For Palestinian refugees, however, no durable solution has been found in the 50-plus years since their problems began. Originally numbering between 500,000 and 750,000, Palestinian refugees now number more than 4 million, most of whom live in or near one of 59 camps in five countries.

"Their plight's implications extend far: The Palestinian refugee problem stands squarely in the way of achieving peace in the Middle East.

"While UNHCR seeks to prevent expansion of its definition [of refugees] in ways that would encourage its improper use for political ends, UNRWA has done just the opposite: Not only has it declined to remove the status of refugee from people who no longer fit the original description - such as the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians granted full citizenship by Jordan - but it indefinitely confers refugee status on refugees' descendants.

"By expanding its already problematic refugee definition, UNRWA guarantees that the problem will remain ever-growing, and thus ever-worsening. For some Arab leaders, this may be precisely the aim: So long as the Palestinian refugee problem is visible and acute, Israel remains a convenient scapegoat on which the region's ills can be blamed. A flagrant example of this policy is the manner in which UNRWA has thwarted offers to Palestinian refugees of permanent housing outside refugee camps.

"In 1985, for example, Israel attempted to move refugees into 1,300 permanent housing units near Nablus - without demanding that they relinquish the 'right of return.' Yet the United Nations intervened, asserting that 'measures to resettle Palestine refugees in the West Bank away from the homes and property from which they were displaced constitute a violation of their inalienable right of return.'

"But of all UNRWA's problems, the most serious is links to Palestinian terror. According to a 2003 report by the U.S. General Accounting Office, UNRWA employees were arrested and convicted by Israeli courts of throwing firebombs at a public bus, possessing bomb-making materials and transferring chemicals to assist in bomb-making.

"This should hardly have come as a surprise. As P.A. Minister of Labor Ghassan Khatib once remarked, every young man in UNRWA's Balata refugee camp had his own personal weapon because the local steering committee - an official UNRWA body - voted that charitable donations would be used for guns, rather than food or other relief."

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