Anti-semitism disguised as anti-semitism

Over 25 years ago, I attended a play at the Royal Court Theatre in London. Titled “Not Quite Jerusalem”, it revolved around the lives of foreign students working on a kibbutz. It was humourous while poignant, but had little to do with Israel per se.

In those days, the Royal Court was a fun place to visit. You were guaranteed an evening of entertainment, which made you think. It was an important part of the world of expressive fringe theatre.

Jump forward to 2009 and the theatre is hosting a 10 minute short play by Caryl Churchill, called Seven Jewish Children. Churchill is an established author, who unashamedly tests accepted norms. Provoked by recent events in Gaza, she has taken 7 historical themes important to Jews and questioned them.

Anything wrong in that? Not, in theory. Anything wrong in criticising Israel? Not, in theory.

Michael Billington is a respected critic. He notes that by using conversation with children as a backdrop, Churchill accuses Israel of using security to justify massacres. Anything wrong in that? Yes, plenty, lots of plenty.

There were no massacres in Gaza. And as a parent of three children attending Israeli schools, I can testify that Israel does not officially or unofficially teach or preach massacres. To claim or imply otherwise is a libel.

And neither are children taught about the “otherness” of Palestinians, as Billington has observed.

My children study Arabic. They learn about Muslim culture. Their geography books contain references to the pre 1967 borders. And they are taught about Christianity, the Crusades and European history.

I cannot find similar curricula in Palestinian schools. In fact, many have argued that the new Palestinian textbooks published since 2000 would fail any critical analysis by UNESCO.

But I digress. Churchill has denied that her play is anti-semitic. Yet she writes about Jews. She uses Jewish themes. She inserts them in a deliberately provacative way. She causes wide spread revulsion amongst most  British Jews.

Is her play about Israel? Well, sort of, but Jews are the central theme., and thus makes people question if Jews possess acceptable values and ethics.

To my way of thinking, the play is a libel. It is anti-semitic.

Amazingly, in this woeful episode of British culture, there is still something yet more pathetic; the feeble actions of the Royal Court management. Its spokesman has urged people to see the play before they judge it. “It is possible to criticise the actions of Israel without being anti-Semitic,” he says.

In other words, they will show what the hell they want in the name of free speech. But apparently Ramin Gray, the theatre’s associate director, has admitted that the Royal Court would be hesitant to stage a play critical of Islam.

This is hypocrisy, out right hypocrisy. Double standards exposed mega time. It is this abuse of free speech, which allows the Churchills of this world a stage and platform for their hatred.

Remember the Protestant priest, Rev Martin Niemoller? In 1945, he recalled how nobody had protested that Jews, Communists and Catholics had been rounded up. So when they arrested him, there was nobody left to object.

Similarly, it is time for the UK to wake up. Most criticism of Israel has often bordered on the anti-semitic. In Churchill’s case, she has crossed the boundaries of the acceptable with a Bob Beamen leap. Her work is disgusting, aimed at sowing hatred and mistrust, that and nothing else.

Protectors of free speech should see her words for what they are, and then replace them vociferously…….before the thought-police put them next to Niemoller.

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