In case you think that all U.S. citizens are unpopular in Europe these days, it turns out at least one American is getting the hero treatment.
Rachel Corrie, the 23-year-old woman from Olympia, Washington, who served as a volunteer for the anti-Israel International Solidarity Movement is the subject of a popular play that has earned rave reviews from London's notoriously hard-to-please critics.
Corrie was killed in March 2003 by an Israeli army bulldozer she'd attempted to stop from completing its mission of destroying a Palestinian building in Gaza that was believed to be sheltering terrorists.
Derived from the letters and e-mails sent home by Corrie before her death, the play by British journalist Katharine Viner and film star Alan Rickman has helped continue the process by which the young American is being transformed into a martyr for the Palestinian cause.
Virtually all of the British reviewers took it for granted that Corrie's idealized view of Palestinians and the terror groups that used the ISM as human shields was unassailable. No one was interested in the fact that the tunnels in the building Corrie defended were being used to bring in missiles and ammunition that were then turned on Israeli children.
A reading of Corrie's diaries, published in Harper's in June 2003, show that she expressed no interest in, let alone remorse for, the campaign of bloody terror carried out by her Palestinian friends terror that took hundreds of Jewish lives. For her, Israel was an "evil" abstraction whose purpose is "genocide," while all Palestinians, including the terrorists she helped shelter, proved heroic and kind.
None of this should make us regard her death as anything but tragic. For all of the invective thrown at Corrie by some supporters of Israel who are repulsed by those who deem her a secular saint much like many another left-wing pilgrim Corrie was the victim of her own side's lies.
All of which can only make us wonder how an American could have managed to acquire such a distorted view of this complicated conflict. But given the ability of the mainstream media to make a hash out of even the most straightforward of stories, it's hardly surprising that there are some here who accept Palestinian propaganda as fact.
As it so happens, a story published on the front page of The Philadelphia Inquirer last week gave us a perfect example of how the twisted lens of the media can operate.
In his May 19 dispatch titled "Raising a barrier and disputes," Michael Matza discussed the final resting place of another Rachel, the wife of the Patriarch Jacob, who, the Bible teaches us, died giving birth to a son, Benjamin.
The Tanach says she "was buried on the road to Efrat now Bethlehem. Over her grave, Jacob set up a pillar, it is the pillar at Rachel's grave to this day."
The Inquirer story focused on the building of Israel's security barrier in the vicinity of the tomb and the hardship it placed on local Arabs. In particular, author Matza was at pains to quote Palestinians who viewed the area around the tomb as a natural site for expansion of Arab housing and resented the fact that the barrier would prevent that.
But amid quotes about Palestinians being "imprisoned" and speculations about annexations, there were two crucial elements of the story that were missing.
One was the fact that while it's true that the "white-domed shrine" has been converted into a "heavily fortified mausoleum" by Israel in recent years, this was caused by a virtual hale of Palestinian bullets and bombs aimed at Jewish pilgrims to the tomb since the start of the intifada in the fall of 2000.
What was once a place open to visitors of all faiths was transformed into a battleground by terrorists who operated with impunity from adjacent Bethlehem, something Matza failed to mention in a story that included no quotes from Israelis except one from a political scientist critical of Israel's current government.
Also missing despite Matza's description of the place as part of a "historic" Arab town is the fact that the tomb has the distinction of being one of the few Jewish holy spots in the country that is not also claimed by Muslims.
So instead of a report that placed the building of a security fence in the context of a campaign of Arab terrorism aimed at preventing access to a Jewish holy site, all Inqy readers got was yet another tale of hard-hearted Israeli imperialism.
Matza's story is far from unique, but in its own small and undistinguished way, this piece of botched journalism is telling. It gives us an understanding of how people who don't already know the facts reporters leave out can get a totally incomplete and often erroneous idea about what's going on.
Inevitably, the stories that aren't told are the ones that cry out for the sort of coverage that's handed to false martyrs like Rachel Corrie. As The Jerusalem Post's Tom Gross eloquently wrote last month, Corrie wasn't the only Rachel whose recent death should be mourned.
SOME OTHER NOTABLE WOMEN
There was Rachel Thaler, age 16, who was born in London but killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber who exploded himself at an Israeli mall. And there was also 17-year-old Rachel Levy, blown up at a grocery store; 19-year-old Rachel Levi, shot while waiting for a bus; and Rachel Gavish, a mother murdered with the rest of her family while celebrating Passover.
But none of those Rachels interest most journalists or inspire actors like Alan Rickman to produce plays.
Juxtaposed against the growing cult of Rachel Corrie, it is also not out of place to think about the figure of the biblical Rachel, whose tomb became a target for terrorists. The Prophet Jeremiah writes that when the Jewish people were first exiled by the Babylonian conquest some 2,600 years ago, the matriarch saw her descendants being herded along by their conquerors and wept for her children.
But the prophet says that the Lord consoled her saying: "They shall return from the enemy's land. And there is hope for your future declares the Lord: Your children shall return to their country."
Rachel's children have indeed returned and, the malice of the Palestinians and their foreign sympathizers notwithstanding, they intend to stay.
Would it be too much to ask that those who write about their struggles depict them truthfully?