David Rovics a long time supporter of Palestine, performs in Nablus
Play his song 'Jenin'
Dedicated to Ending the Occupation
Report on play and the panel discussion that followed – By Sonja Karkar
The stars were definitely aligned yesterday evening when play, acting and panel discussion all came together in one powerful surge that marked yet another turning point for Palestine in the usual hostile climate we’ve all grown used to in Melbourne. Not only did Hannah Norris step into the persona of Rachel Corrie conveying all her passion and idealism as though she was truly amongst us in Daniel Clarke’s dramatic yet sensitive production, but the panel discussion that followed took the audience to realms that no one thought possible. After the last tear was wiped away when the lights dimmed on 10-year-old Rachel’s rallying words to end poverty, a panel discussion was in danger of being a cliched afterthought. Not so. It was without doubt the most riveting discussion seen in many years heightened by the unexpected participation of Julian Burnside QC who said he was there to provide “balance”. No one knew what to expect. There had been talk that the panel did not represent a balanced view, despite a Palestinian voice, a Jewish voice and our former public advocate Michael Shaik speaking. Julian Burnside coming in defence of Israel’s policies seemed just too much of a stretch. After all, someone known for his fearless defence of human rights for refugees could not have failed to to see the injustices suffered by the Palestinians through Rachel Corrie’s words. And he didn’t fail. He rose to the occasion marked earlier by Rachel’s plea to the audience to drop everything and champion the Palestinian struggle for freedom and human rights. There was no other side, he said. As much as the Jews had suffered and as much as he could understand the desire for a state of their own and the pull of the biblical connection, nothing could justify what happened to the Palestinians from 1948 onwards. Visibly moved by the power of the play, he said some things simply cannot be balanced.
There was a mesmerising synchronicity between all the panellists as they moved from the desperate circumstances facing the Palestinians in Gaza and the rest of the occupied territories to the outside political influences dictating their fate, to the media that controls the narrative. Michael spoke about the shift in public consciousness, despite the anti-war movement focusing on Iraq often leaving Palestine out on a limb. Samah raised boycotts as the most effective nonviolent tactics that anyone can employ to put pressure on Israel to stop apartheid, occupation and ethnic cleansing. Jeff spoke about the current court case brought by Rachel’s parents against Israel in order to find out just what happened on that fateful day asking for nothing more than $1 in compensation and certain that a decent, law-abiding, humane society would want to have some answers. Much else was discussed and then both Daniel and Hannah joined the panel to explain how they had immersed themselves in Rachel’s story only to emerge shaken by the revelations of a narrative they hardly knew and determined to stand for the very principles that Rachel espoused. None of this could have happened with such fluidity if it had not been for Bryan Dawe who skilfully managed the ebb and flow of question and answer and each time opened up new avenues for the panellists to pursue.
The tide is turning: we felt it last night. A whole new audience experienced it too. Tears released the welling emotions as people questioned their long-held beliefs and shared them with us. There is no doubt that this play has taken on a life of its own and shown everyone just how effective even one person’s voice can be against the strong and mighty. Please help drive the momentum by telling everyone you know to see this play over the next week and come yourself if you have not already seen it. This is theatre at its best because it is real. The next performance is at 8.15pm on Tuesday 9 November. Booking details are on the attached flyer.
Australians for Palestine wishes to thank everyone involved for giving their utmost in pursuit of truth and justice. The reward is to know that we stand on the right side of history and that in the not too distant future there will be a free Palestine.
Australians for Palestine