At the United Nations, the Bush administration announced Monday it would oppose a proposal for the creation of a new UN Human Rights council. Supporters including UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former U.S. president Jimmy Carter and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu have touted the proposal as a compromise for the replacement of the UN’s Human Rights Commission. The US has criticized the commission for the human rights records of some of its members. Under the proposed compromise, the commission would be replaced by a smaller council elected by a majority of the General Assembly. But US ambassador John Bolton said the proposal was inadequate, and called for a re-drafting of the text of the resolution. Several diplomats and human rights groups said Bolton’s demands would lead to the weakening of the proposed council.
THE FLIGHTS for cast and crew had been booked; the production schedule delivered; there were tickets advertised on the Internet. The Royal Court Theatre production of “My Name Is Rachel Corrie,” the play I co-edited with Alan Rickman, was transferring later this month to the New York Theatre Workshop, home of the musical “Rent,” following two sold-out runs in London and several awards.
We always felt passionately that it was a piece of work that needed to be seen in the United States. Created from the journals and e-mails of American activist Rachel Corrie, telling of her journey from her adolescence in Olympia, Wash., to her death under an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza at the age of 23, we considered it a unique American story that would have a particular relevance for audiences in Rachel’s home country. After all, she had made her journey to the Middle East in order “to meet the people who are on the receiving end of our [American] tax dollars,” and she was killed by a U.S.-made bulldozer while protesting the demolition of Palestinian homes.
But last week the New York Theatre Workshop canceled the production — or, in its words, “postponed it indefinitely.” The political climate, we were told, had changed dramatically since the play was booked. As James Nicola, the theater’s ‘s artistic director, said Monday, “Listening in our communities in New York, what we heard was that after Ariel Sharon’s illness and the election of Hamas in the recent Palestinian elections, we had a very edgy situation.” Three years after being silenced for good, Rachel was to be censored for political reasons.
London Mayor Ken Livingstone on Tuesday accused Britain’s main Jewish group of filing the complaint that led to his suspension from office because of its unhappiness about his criticism of Israel.
“If the issue hadn’t been this, it would have been something else,” the embattled mayor said at a news conference. “This was the general displeasure of the Board of Deputies (of British Jews) about my views on the Middle East. I think they saw this as an opportunity to use that incident to try to hush me on it.”
Israel’s policy – described by a spokesman as putting “the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger” – has left London feeling squeamish. Tony Blair and Jack Straw will today undoubtedly show solidarity with Israel, saying Britain is not in the business of funding terrorists. But in private there is anguish that the policy will bring malnutrition to innocent Palestinians and punish them for taking part in a democratic election. The Palestinians are completely dependent on foreign aid for their survival and Israel’s campaign to put 3.6 million people on starvation rations is foreboding.