“It’s not your problem. It’s my problem.”
These are the only words spoken by an Israeli soldier to peace activists in Rachel, a documentary about Rachel Corrie, the 23-year-old American activist crushed by a bulldozer operated by an Israeli soldier on the Gaza strip in 2003. These words ring throughout Simone Bitton’s film, running through Thursday at Anthology Film Archives. “It’s my problem,” says the state of Israel, represented by an Israeli Defense Force spokeswoman, the former head of military police investigation, an Israeli state medical examiner, and a representative former Israeli soldier who remains anonymous.
But the others—the peace activists who worked alongside Rachel with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and the Palestinian citizens of Rafah who knew Rachel, whose homes she protected from demolition at the hands of Israeli military—believe it is not just Israel’s problem.
Through extensive testimony including filmed interviews and read statements taken during the investigation of the “incident,” the world all Israeli military officials used to describe Rachel Corrie’s death, Bitton sculpts a tragedy from all angles, but doesn’t neglect to come to a stark conclusion herself. Bitton doesn’t seek sadness from her viewers, she seeks open-mouthed horror, evoking Kafka-esque sense of entrapment.with footage of the barren, half-destroyed Rafah landscape and home video footage she threads into the work—including profoundly disturbing images of a bulldozer antagonizing ISM protestors and several stills of Rachel’s body.
Rachel is not just about Israeli indifference to the death of Rachel Corrie. Despite its name, the film is about indifference to the plight of all innocents involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is about being crushed beneath the weight of a dispassionate bureaucracy whose only goal is to relentlessly promote an agenda. The film does not inspire: it incites, even if the viewer doesn’t want it to. As anarchist and Israeli Yonatan Polak says near the end of the film, “It’s possible to resist without hope, but also without despair.”