The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival did not become the pre-eminent forum for Jewish film by playing it safe. Throughout its 29-year history, the festival has courted controversy by including provocative films, especially when it comes to the subject of the Middle East.
So when festival programmers added “Rachel” to this year’s lineup, no one should have been surprised.
The documentary explores incidents surrounding the death of Rachel Corrie, a young American activist aligned with the International Solidarity Movement, a viciously anti-Israel organization that calls for the destruction of the Jewish state. Corrie was killed in Gaza in 2003 during an aggressive protest in which ISM members stood in front of Israeli bulldozers involved in home demolitions.
While director Simone Bitton, who was born in Morocco to a Jewish family and is both a French and Israeli citizen, claims to present a balanced view in “Rachel,” the film gives a sympathetic portrait of the late activist and her anti-Israel cause.
That, however, should not preclude the festival from showing “Rachel.”
What we disagree with is the festival organizers’ decision to invite Corrie’s mother, Cindy Corrie, to attend the July 25 screening and participate in a post-screening Q&A. It would have been better to have Bitton on hand to respond to viewers’ questions and ire, but she turned down an invitation, citing a schedule conflict, organizers said.
So were are left with Corrie’s participation, which, as our letters section last week and this week suggests, has sparked outrage among some of our readers. There is good reason.
Cindy Corrie is the founder of the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice, a pro-Palestinian organization that promotes the anti-Israel views of her daughter. Can there be any doubt that Corrie will use her festival appearance as a soapbox to present those same views?
It is one thing to present controversial films from across the political spectrum. And it is one thing for directors to attend and defend their work. But it is quite another to invite someone such as Cindy Corrie.
As a grieving mother, Cindy Corrie has our sympathies. No parent should ever have to bury a child. But as an echo chamber of her daughter’s repulsive opinions, this woman has no business attending and speaking at a Jewish event like the film festival.
We are all for free speech. We are all for scheduling controversial films. But Cindy Corrie’s appearance crosses a line. The Jewish Film Festival is under no obligation to offer a microphone to Israel-bashers.