Seven Jewish Children ~ theatre notes

Friday, February 20, 2009

Seven Jewish Children

Update: George Hunka on British playwrights, responding to David Cote's Time Out blog, is a must-read. And see Andrew Haydon in the Guardian on the banning of a play by Anthony Neilson in Malta. Godwot, it's been a busy week in Britannia...


Caryl Churchill's new play, Seven Jewish Children, is presently stirring up a huge brouhaha (or is it a furore? Anyway, one of those words that you never read outside articles like this one).

Billed as a "ten-minute history of Israel, ending with the bombing of Gaza", it is being staged as a free event at London's Royal Court, after performances of Marius von Mayenburg's play The Stone, which is about German attempts to deal with its Nazi past. Predictably, given its implied critique of the State of Israel, Churchill's play has been accused of being anti-Semitic, and even of bringing up the blood libel. This stems from a line that reads: "tell her I look at one of their children covered in blood and what do I feel? tell her all I feel is happy it’s not her." Which is a tough line, yes, but is also plainly a response to the kind of commentary which also sparked articles like this one from Gideon Levy in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

You can read Churchill's text for yourself here. The dingdong argument at the Guardian theatre blog continues here, Andrew Haydon has a review and discussion here and George Hunka has more here. George intriguingly reports that the New York Theatre Workshop - which caused another furore when it first booked, then cancelled, a NY production of My Name is Rachel Corrie (TN background here) - is putting out feelers about putting on Churchill's play.

The accusations of anti-Semitism made against Churchill are very depressing. They are part of a political strategy to undermine critique by conflating legitimate criticism of a state with the ugliest racism. What is worse is that the bombing of Gaza has prompted some of the vilest anti-Semitism I have seen recently, which seems - erroneously - to legitimise this stance. However, confusing Churchill's play with anti-Semitism helps nobody, and worst of all, trivialises what anti-Semitism actually is.

Coincidentally, an email from the distinguished US poet Adrienne Rich recently landed in my inbox, in which she explains, not without anguish, her reasons for joining an academic and cultural boycott against Israel. She also outlines this particular mechanism of repressing political critique as clearly as anyone I've seen:

As an American Jew, over almost 30 years, I’ve joined with other concerned Jews in various kinds of coalition-building and anti-Occupation work. I’ve seen the kinds of organized efforts to stifle — in the US and elsewhere -- critiques of Israel’s policies -- the Occupation’s denial of Palestinian humanity, destruction of Palestinian lives and livelihoods, the “settlements,” the state’s physical and psychological walls against dialogue—and the efforts to condemn any critiques as anti-Semitism. Along with other activists and writers I’ve been named on right-wing “shit-lists” as “Israel-hating” or “Jew-hating.” I have also seen attacks within American academia and media on Arab American, Muslim, Jewish scholars and teachers whose work critically explores the foundations and practices of Israeli state and society.

Me, I'll just point out that libelling artists of conscience as anti-Semites in order to stifle debate and criticism is as wrong as racism itself.


Andrew Haydon said...


I'm starting to worry that the knee-jerk reaction to criticisms of anti-Semitism is as widespread as you suggest the accusations in the first place to be.

The production certainly doesn't make the play feel discursive or fluid and, if you read the full discussion on my blog, it does seem to cross a line into what could legally be described as anti-Semitism.

Of course *some people* use accusations of anti-Semitism to shut down discussion, just as *some people* use accusations of Islamophobia.

However, sometimes those accusations are valid, even if the playwright is unaware of their prejudices.

Similarly, reading the play, in this instance, I think, is very different to seeing this particular production of it. Particularly in London. At this specific moment.

Alison Croggon said...

Hi Andrew - even after reading those arguments, and then going back and reading the play again, I am at a loss, really, to see what's anti-Semitic about the play.

As far as I can see, there are two major axes for the accusation of anti-Semitism: the idea of the "blood libel" and the use of the phrase "the chosen people". The blood libel just doesn't stick - the line is not about that at all; and the phrase "the chosen people" is so deeply embedded in Judaeism (and in Zionism, and even in our own Christian tradition) that to fillet it out as proof of anti-Semitism seems just as big a stretch to me. It's a phrase that is embedded in the rhetoric of the Occupation. To take one example among countless others: this Zionist article, written for the American Zionist Movement, discusses at some length the concept of the chosen people. Does that make this article anti-Semitic? Or is the presence of this phrase only anti-Semitic when it comes into critique?

Oddly, given that the performance is after one of Mayenburgs' plays (which surely contextualises the accusations of anti-Semitism still further, because THAT play is about Germany's Nazi past), its rhetorical strategies reminds me more than anything of Marius von Mayenburg's play Moving Target. Which I guess you won't see or read but which was a pretty brilliant exposition of contemporary anxiety. (At a further stretch, it also reminds me of Tim Etchells' That Night Follows Day.) The parental voices are very similar indeed in their theatrical pitch. Also like Brecht's Learning Plays in intent and even style, and given an immediate political context and history which is certainly controversial and asks for debate. And quite rightly: what's been happening in the Occupied Territories needs to be debated, and honestly. But is that inherently anti-Semitic? I'm absolutely unconvinced.

Point taken of course on the context and power of performance, which alas I won't see, and can't comment on. And yes, there are always ideological sheep. I just don't believe that Caryl Churchill is one of them. Nor do I believe she is, overtly or covertly, racist. And of course there are plenty of arguments to be had about this issue. I just find it depressing that the first thing to be said is an accusation of racism.

As for the rest: anti-Semitism is a real thing, and I wholly reject and condemn it. Just as real is the use of allegations of anti-Semitism to deflect criticism of Israel. Certainly it's worked very well in this case: who's been talking about the pros and cons of Israeli culpability in the bombing of Gazan citizens, the putative subject of the play? No, we've all been talking about whether Caryl Churchill is a racist.

Anonymous said...

I categorically reject your assertion that "[t]he accusations of anti-Semitism made against Churchill ... are part of a political strategy to undermine critique by conflating legitimate criticism of a state with the ugliest racism." That statement is as closed-minded and discussion-ending as this hate-filled play.

It is entirely possible to criticize Israel without being anti-Semitic. Jews do it all the time, as you rightly point out by referencing Ha'aretz and the Israeli press. But sometimes anti-Semitism is anti-Semitism and must be called-out as such. Political strategy has nothing to do with it. The truth, however, does.

You are naive if you think that Churchill does not have the medieval blood libel in mind when she writes the line you quote about Jews being "glad" of the blood of Palestinian children. You are naive if you think that Churchill does not know what she's doing when she wheels out every trope in the grab-bag of anti-Zionist rhetoric of the past 7 decades, subtly changes their focus from Zionists in particular to all Jews in general, and then provides herself flimsy cover with a few equivocating "don't tell her" phrases that seem--how magnanimous of her--to demonstrate Jewish pangs of conscience. You are naive if you choose not to recall Churchill's own recent "Drunk Enough to Say I Love You," with its gratuitous and out-of-context condemnations of Israel and her own public comments in recent months in which her naked contempt for Jews is manifestly evident. And you are naive in the extreme if you neglect to consider the context of both the rising rate of violent anti-Semitism in the UK and also the general and sloppy conflation of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism in the old guard British left.

The play is entitled "Seven Jewish Children," not "Seven Israeli Children." The play dramatizes a Jewish wizardry at transforming their own victimhood at the hands of the Nazis into a pretext for triumphalist militarism and land-grabbing. The play is the work of a towering writer whose rage is so potent that it has crippled her own artistic instincts, flattening metaphor into agit-prop.

But then, that's typical of the modern Jew-hater. Incontinent rage leads them to make outlandish, medieval-esque claims that make even their compelling points hard to take seriously. Wald and Mearshimer, meet Caryl Churchill. Ms. Churchill, meet President Ahmedinijad. You're made for each other.

--Tony Bellario

Alison Croggon said...

So...Caryl Churchill is a racist?

Tony, can you direct me to those hate-filled anti-Semitic comments that you say Churchill has made in recent months? I am unaware of them and if they are indeed that, then, yes, I am shocked.

But I have to say that I do not believe that Walt and Mearshimer are Jew-haters. I read that article when it came out in the LRB and I see no reason to regard them as anything as the respected academics that they pretend to be. Equating them (and indeed Churchill, unless you can come up with some facts as opposed to accusation) with Ahmedinijad is cheap indeed.

Anonymous said...

You'd be shocked? Okay, try this, a letter to the Guardian last month, when the BBC refused to air an appeal for aid to wounded Gaza civilians. (Found on Lexis/Nexis):

"The Guardian (London) - Final Edition
January 24, 2009 Saturday

Reply: Letters and emails: Question of balance over disaster appeals

BYLINE: Caryl Churchill
LENGTH: 91 words

I couldn't believe I'd heard right when Channel 4 news said the BBC had refused to broadcast the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal for Gaza. But here it is in the Guardian (BBC refuses airtime to Gaza aid appeal, 23 January). I don't think the BBC objected to the appeal for Darfur, wondering if they were being unfair to the Janjaweed. Perhaps their problem would be solved if a tiny proportion of the money were spent on the tiny proportion of Israeli wounded. The phone number for complaining to the BBC is 03700 100 222.

Caryl Churchill

Here we have the "disproportionate response" argument: the snarky dismissal of Israeli wounded, as though they don't count compared to Palestinian wounded; as if the murderous intent of Hamas rockets somehow doesn't matter because their aim is so bad. As for the casual conflation of the Israelis with the Janjaweed, I think your quickly flung accusation--"cheap"--might serve.

Walt and Mearsheimer (the "d" on Walt's name in my previous comment was a typo and I inadvertently omitted the second "e" in Mearsheimer) do indeed "pretend" to be respected academics, and, the vaunted LRB notwithstanding, I think you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone anymore who would join them in that pretense, at Harvard or elsewhere. See Jeffrey Goldberg's evisceration of their opus in TNR, December, 2007 (although I suspect Goldberg's not a writer you customarily read).

And to be clear: although I do find this particular play vile and odious, I don't think Caryl Churchill is a racist. I think precisely what I wrote: that an incontinent rage at Israel has warped her control over her own art, and that the pernicious and subtle anti-Semitism lately swirling powerfully through the rare air of NW3 and the other old guard lefty precincts of London has blown what remains of her once-great talent into a sad and bitter instrument of hate.

--Tony B

Alison Croggon said...

Is that the best you can do? I don't see anti-Semitic hatred in CC's letter there (nor in the letters which accompanied it, which included a former senior BBC news editor). Anger, certainly. A political anger against a state that is, in Churchill's view, responsible for humanitarian atrocity. In mentioning the Janjaweed she could just as easily have been making the point that Islamists are just as capable of atrocity as the IDF, subtly reminding us that Hamas are no angels either. Comparisons cut all ways, especially in the hands of writers like Churchill.

And there was plenty of support for Walt and Mearsheimer as well as criticism of the kind you describe (which, in an illustration of the kind of intellectual repression Adrienne Rich describes, meant that article had to be published in England, because no one in the US would initially touch it - not a good argument for free speech, I would have thought.)

Anonymous said...

The reasons hy it is antisemitic are set out here. One, 'chosen people' trope; two, reminiscent of blood libel; three' false stereotype of Israeli Jews.

Just ask yourself if they would show a play which was as Islamophobic as this one is antisemitic!

Jonathan Hoffman

Alison Croggon said...

...Sitting here in Melbourne, feeling tired and a little sad, I realise I don't want to get into a flame war or a protracted argument on this blog that only reflects in virtual reality the intractable violence already occuring in Palestine. Because right now I can't see the point. But anyway...

I've addressed those (rather specious, I think) arguments about the play's alleged anti-Semitism above (and it might be worth reading Gideon Levy - is he also calling up the Blood Libel by referring to Israeli callousness about dead Palestinian children?) The only really dubious question is, on reflection, the play's title.

Aside from the anti-Semitic accusations being, in my view, misreadings, even wilful misreadings, they sadden me because (as George Hunka also points out) they utterly deny and flatten out the slippages and ambiguities of the dialogue, and they refuse to akcnowledge that it is drama. It's not journalism or op-ed, but art, which demands inward reflection. This play is first and foremost about how adults create the realities of children - ALL adults, of every ethnicity. Do you think any parent can read that and not relate, however uncomfortably, with those statements? And perhaps can imagine saying similar things themselves? Perhaps have even said them? Doesn't that lead to a dissonance, a discomforting enactment, an understanding as well as a judgment of what fear does to the soul and pysche? Such a play is not just an agitprop poster condemning Israel as baby-killers. A play which as interestingly and with such ambiguities addressed similar kinds of doublethink in Arabic contexts would be equally interesting and no doubt would equally require defence.

Andrew Haydon said...

I think the analogy most useful here is the recent cartoon published by the New York Post - -

Of course on the face of it, it isn't offensive. It's a picture of two policemen and a dead monkey. It's only when we take into account the long, horrible history of calling African-Americans "monkeys" that it becomes racist.

I don't think we are as attuned to the language of anti-Semitism as we are to the language of other forms of racism. But isn't the effect likely to be the same?

Have you read the Howard Jacobson post?

Andrew Haydon said...

Sorry, not post, article.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Croggon, you're doing a valiant job of defending Ms. Churchill on free-speech and artistic grounds, and I salute you. However I can't help noticing that you've avoided really engaging with all that is not theoretical about this piece: its rage, its deliberate flirtation with the most horrid tropes of anti-Semitism, its clear context within the nasty Jew-loathing British left (of which, if we're aware here on the opposite side of the Atlantic, you must surely be in Australia with your much closer ties to British culture). You don't have to be Jewish to be sensitive to Ms. Churchill's sleight-of-hand anymore than you have to be Palestinian to be enraged by the IDF's excesses. But some honest, simple humanity might help.

To put it another way, if it's right to rail against those Zionists who would shut down debate with automatic cries of "anti-Semite!" directed against anyone who criticizes Israel, then surely it's right to rail against those critics of Israel who cannot seem to inoculate their rhetoric against the pernicious virus of Jew hatred.

Finally, the question is this: if your true concern is to have an open discussion of the suffering of the innocent Palestinians who are caught in the Hamas-IDF crossfire, then why hang your hat on a piece as bellicose as this one, which can only distract from the underlying issue? Churchill's fury is no more conducive to honest debate than is the ranting of Avigdor Lieberman. Let people of conscience call on both of them to quiet the hell down.

Thank you for providing this forum, and all good wishes.

-- Tony B.

Alison Croggon said...

Thanks all for the civility of your discourse. I've seen in other places how quickly this subject can degenerate to something wholly uncivil, and I am grateful.

Andrew, in comparing Obama to an murderous chimp, that cartoon was immediately and obviously racist. I just read the play again and am still wondering what is racist about it. (I don't know what the production was like, but it has clearly hit a few chords with you; I can only go by the words I read, which are Ms Chrchill's responsibility anyway).

Again, I can't see how it's racist. It is definitely anti-Zionist, but that seems to me a different question. I have a number of Jewish friends who are anti-Zionist and highly critical of Israel, and I'm assuming they are not considered anti-Semitic (though I am familiar with the epithet of the "self-hating Jew").

The play seems to me to be about a particular issue - the state of Israel. It's about the fear that led to its creation, the fear that sustains it and the fear that underlies its aggression. Is it racist to talk specifically Aand critically about Israel and its Zionist project? Is that what is being said here?

As I said earlier, it reminds of a couple of other pieces of contemporary theatre, such as As Night Follows Day. That was about middle class Europeans and there were statements said there that were equally confronting (and come to think of it, they too were about racism). Did that make that piece of theatre racist itself? I didn't think it of Etchell's piece, and I don't think it of this one.

Anonymous said...

The background text:

1300 people dead. Over 5000 injured. More than half of them civilians. Many of them children. Infrastructure destroyed and unlikely to recuperate any time soon. Hospitals unable to cope with the volume and nature of the people requiring attention. The use of white phosphorous confirmed. That’s the stuff that burns through muscle to the bone, took an hour to disintegrate the entire skeleton of one man. Schools and universities reduced to rubble. Starvation. Epidemics. Compromised governance. Lawlessness. Whole families annihilated. Five children from one family alone. Their homes destroyed. People held in ditches through the night, handcuffed and blindfolded. Women raped. Ritualised acts of humiliation that can’t be forgotten. Deliberate targeting of civilians and their means of life. The tunnels that were the only reliable source of food, gone. Before the slaughter it was estimated that 50% of Gaza’s children had no will to live….. and now?

But what Churchill said about “the chosen people”. That’s the real crime. Is it?

This play to me,on reading, is a rather savagely beautiful evocation of the particular pathology which is the state of Israel and the general pathology of a global hegemony in which “the war on terror” condemns us all to barbarism and perpetual delusion. It is also an affirmation of the universal notion that ,contrary to what we oft pretend ,children will listen to what we say. From its initial positioning of Jewish parents trying to protect their children from the Nazi holocaust to the final strident, terrifying monologue of contemporary Zionism it tracks the various stories that Israeli parents have told their children at significant times in the 60 yrs since the Intifada. These stories, calibrated variously from the fantasy of a homeland and a better future to glib ideological truisms, to convenient lies, pragmatic obfuscations and gestures of love, serve to protect their children from the awful truth. In doing so the parents perpetuate the repression of the real and all its horrors and seek to rationalise their complicity with terrible deeds. It’s an old story really and not only an Israeli one notwithstanding that the specifics of this version are what give it its immediacy and authority.

No doubt the authorial gaze is relentlessly upon those charged with the care of the young. But as with all good writing there are numerous ways to play it is possible toimagine it in various stagings and theatrical organisations. There are plenty of subtle shifts to discover in the thought process of each parental voice through the various events that define the nation. Ostensibly it’s a protest, which seems to be what’s causing the fuss, but search deeper and it’s not hard to find the particular theatrical dialectics which mark Churchill’s brilliance as a practitioner. It is certainly not naturalism nor psychological realism but nor is it agit-prop. The poetic economy of the language is terrible and piercing, the discourse is driven not by blind rage but by directed anger that seeks to hold those responsible for the atrocity accountable, at least “on the night”.
I wonder what’s to become of the child of the 7th chapter? I really hope she meets that Refusenik cousin sometime soon.

Alison Croggon said...

Thanks, Eileen. Andrew, I forgot to say that I have indeed read Jacobson's article. I think he is mistaken in targeting Churchill as anti-Semitic. I also have no doubt that he is correct that there has been a rise in anti-Semitism, because I've seen some of it myself. It's horrible and ought to be resisted as fiercely as any other injustice. Attacking the wrong targets isn't going to help anyone.

For more on how charges of anti-Semitism have been used to deflect and distort debate (including some links to Goldberg, a leading neocon commentator and dubious journalist who has led the charge on many of those allegations, and whom Tony Bellario mentions above) you should check out Glenn Greenwald in Slate - it's an interesting read.

Also some interesting letters responding for and against Jacobson in the Independent, including Caryl Churchill's own response, here.

Anonymous said...

As an Israeli, I'd like to comment (it will be erased no doubt):
The leftist argument of being "against the occupation" is an inherently flawed. All of Israel sits on disputed land. Being against occupation is being against Israel's existence, literally.
Well, there you have it. Now feel free to hit the "delete" button and feel like a great supporter of free speech...

Ben Ellis said...

To the anon above who says that "against the occupation" is a leftist anti-Israel trope - personally, I've always understood that phrase as relating to occupation and land seizure beyond the '67 borders. Perhaps it works differently, "literally", for other people, but your interpretation of that phrase I find oddly synchronic, an erasure of history and thus responsibility. But I could be wrong. In any case, may your post remain undeleted as a testament to the vagueness of your speech.

But back the Churchill piece. Having read it but not seen it, the accusations that it is anti-Jewish seem strange. I do find it politically imbalanced, and in a way that works against itself.

To be clear, it allows for a range of possibilities of existence for the Jewish parents in each section - as wide a possibility as it is to be human. Where it becomes imbalanced for me towards the end is that the major conflict of voices become funnelled into two positions - between a "don't tell her" kind of position regarding peace and a "tell her I'm happy to kill" position. I disagree with this black and white vision of the way Israelis consider their political situation (the "no citizenship without loyalty" nutcase party that spouts that kind of stuff is a minority after all); it's more an elucidation or a litany of the West's anxieties about what it thinks is going on in Israeli minds. Tip the imbalance further and the poetics of it could suggest that the current persecution of Palestinians is a reason for the Shoah. I don't think it goes quite that far, but the piece straddles a line between political analysis and poetry, trying to be both in an awkward fashion. I like its poetry but I find its analysis simplistic. The piece is infused with humanity, but its illumination of the politics of a real state is limited. I think that those who accuse Churchill of anti-Semitism are confusing their disagreement with something far darker.

By the way, I write this as someone who agrees with what Peter Tatchell recently blogged (sorry, can't find the url for the mo').

Alison Croggon said...

Thanks for that nuanced response, Ben, with which I broadly agree - 10 minutes is certainly not long enough for a complex political analysis, and that's certainly not what this play offers. Though I read that funnelling of possibility as a mimesis of the effects of the fear in the earlier scenes.

Do you mean Peter Tatchell's piece on Hamas here? Certainly it makes some important points.

For the record, I only take down comments that are personally abusive or trolling.

Alison Croggon said...

...and also for the record, have deleted none in this thread so far, for which I thank all.

Anonymous said...

This thread might have gone to sleep but there are some points in Ben’s post that got me thinking.

"I disagree with this black and white vision of the way Israelis consider their political situation (the "no citizenship without loyalty" nutcase party that spouts that kind of stuff is a minority after all."

If the minority youre talking about is Lieberman et al it is very possible that they will hold the balance of power in the new government, a powerful minority indeed. Then there’s Likud/Netanyahu- he says he’s a hawk turned “pragmatist” but theres no mistaking that at present he intends to keep pushing the boundaries of Israel into Palestinian land and that his sights are on the West Bank. And Kadima , well we’ve just witnessed their notion of peace talks. So at the level of “the state” as manifest in parliamentary representatives there are little differentiations that I can see. Why then is Churchills monologue of hardened Zionist resolve anything other than a reflection of the material social relations she sees? And material social relations are the mechanism of the enquiry and the poetics here. That and, significantly, approaching the situation through the prism of her own brand of psychoanalytic thought, with the Holocaust standing for the original trauma.

As for the Israeli people , of course there are differences, And dissidents. There are people who have suffered imprisonment rather than undertake the compulsive army service required by the state(“no citizenship without loyalty” isn’t a minority view it’s embedded within the constitution), there are soldiers returned from the Occupied Territories determined to tell what they know, there is a besieged peace movement and a vocal intellectual community who persistently speak the truth as they see it. This play is not concerned much with these subject positions any more than it seeks to voice the various subject positions of Palestinians.

"it's more an elucidation or a litany of the West's anxieties about what it thinks is going on in Israeli minds"

I’m not getting this Ben. Not sure what your concept of “the west” is but in geopolitical and self-defined terms Israel is “the west”, or an outpost of it.( If not someone better tell the US and they might stop arming the IDF ) .There are certainly differences of ethnicity within the country but in a cultural sense you’d be hard pressed to argue that Israeli s generally identify as Middle Eastern wouldn’t you? I thought the anxiety you identify more as the breakout of the pathology.

"I think that those who accuse Churchill of anti-Semitism are confusing their disagreement with something far darker."

I may be completely misunderstanding what you mean by this but are you suggesting that Churchill is implying she supports Hamas in the way she’s shaped the play? Surely not?

Regards the Peter Tatchall piece: he seems to want to be able to pick and choose the nature of other people’s resistance. There is never any guarantee that movements of resistance will take a form any one of us may agree with. His own example of the “noble” ANC is a case in point. The organisation he was happy to ally himself with has, for so many of their supporters, betrayed their aims since taking power and are now so corrupt they may have permanently self-combusted. Does this mean those of us who gave our support to the South African people in their struggle against apartheid shouldn’t have done so? Of course not.

I sense in the course of reading all the blogs around about the subject that Churchill has not only transgressed in the eyes of the dominant hegemony but also in the eyes of some aspects of the western theatre community who have objections to theatre designed, at least in part, as an act of solidarity. It is after all "A play for Gaza".Of all playwrights I can hardly imagine that she is not fully aware of her partisan position on this, and knows art cant change anything but is compelled to express her love anyway.

Perhaps if you could explain to me what a “balanced” theatrical response to the recent events might be I could understand better. But balance is a funny thing isnt it? In us, in our corporeal bodies, there are as many versions of it as a kinaesthetic experience as there are people. If walking in the world in the face of gravity is a tension between being upright and falling we’re always straddling a line and its nearly always awkward. Perhaps it’s a design flaw in the species.

Cheers, Eileen

Thoughtful Theatre said...

I will refrain from engaging in this debate here but would like to know if any of you whom are located in Melbourne would be interested in attending a prepared reading of said script followed by a discussion lead by a panel made up of one representative from both the Jewish and one Arab/Palestinian communities and a representative from the arts community (Maybe Ms TN would oblige?)

I'm considering organising this


Geoffrey said...

I think that's a great idea and I, for one, would be very interested. I would be even more interested if I knew who it was going to be moderated by ... because in my experience, these kinds of 'events' need to be moderated by someone who really knows what they're doing.

Alison Croggon said...

Hi Goldele - I'm pretty much booked out for March/April. But let me know how you go. I heavily recommend reading David Jays' perceptive and careful analysis of the script on Performance Monkey here. Like Geoffrey, I think any reading should be very carefully contextualised, given the heat around this issue.

Thoughtful Theatre said...

110% agree!! I will proceed with all due care and put much thought and research into how to present it.

If you give me a date you are free Alison, even if it is in May (assuming you are interested in being a panel member) I will see if we can organise an event for that night.

I will be contacting the Australian Centre Of Jewish Civilization at Monash university to find a panel member from the Jewish community and help hosting the event. I would be very open to suggestions of an appropriate Moderator....Geraldine Douge from the abc would be ideal, not sure if she is in Melbourne or would be willing and able....

People can email me at about this if they wish

Geoffrey said...

Ms TN would be perfect. So too would Stephen Crittenden (ex presenter of The Religion Report on ABC Radio National) who I have seen master some very tricky religious/political terrain. He has also moderated some fascinating events like this one. I can put you in touch with him if you like Goldele.

Alison Croggon said...

There are indeed great differences between the policies of Osama Bin Laden and the Royal Court. If you can't perceive those differences, I'm not surprised that the play seems racist to you.

Anonymous said...

Yes and Caryl Churchill can't perceive the difference between the policies of the IDF and the Arab Janjaweed.

Anonymous said...

Dear Alison - you are a fervent anti-Zionist living in Australia but are you an ABORIGINE?

Alison Croggon said...

Uh... I am a fervent theatre blogger, David. And in this case, I am defending Churchill against some nasty and unwarranted, insinuations. My personal beliefs - which I haven't actually articulated on this post - aren't actually the point. My arguing the play isn't anti-Semitic doesn't mean, btw, that I necessarily am all gung ho for the script. I have my own criticisms of it, on quite other grounds. I simply don't think that it is in any way the hate-speech it's accused of being.

And do you seriously think I'm not aware of the ways Indigenous people have been treated here? Are you suggesting that our poor treatment of Indigenous people excuses the poor treatment elsewhere of others?

Geoffrey said...

And another thing. Cursing commentators et al as "anit-Semitic" or "anti-Zionist" simply because their opinions differ from yours decreases and diminishes the clarity surrounding the justifiable use of the term(s). I know from my own experience as a poofta that accusations of homophobia rarely offer an honest and true appraisal of the circumstances. In my nearly 45 years I have never experienced homophobia until recently at a bar in Tennyson Street, Elwood. The attack on me was homophobic in the extreme ... to the point where it reduced me to tears in the comfort and company of my friends.

The points of engagement in this discussion are far more complex than you appear to have given them credit for Mr Weinberg.

Anonymous said...

Alison - As we write this blog about 7 Jewish Children the aborigine population in your country live in third world conditions and I believe the infant mortality rate is 100 times that of the rest of the Australian population.
In your experience as a fervent theatre blogger what is the proportion of "moral outrage" directed at your own government versus that of the only Jewish country in the world? What is the explanation for this disproportionate response and explicit double standard? How about a play about the genocide on which your country was founded?

Alison Croggon said...

David, there is no double standard. The double standard would be not to hold Israel to account in the same way one would hold one's own government to account (a special exemption for which you seem to be asking). And yes, there are plenty of plays about the history of Aboriginal dispossession. And other injustices.

Odd that you mention "disproportionate response" here. And you seem to be admitting that Israel is committing genocide, which is more than anything I've said. A Freudian admission of culpability, maybe?

True, Geoffrey. Real misogyny is also very rare , but I've occasionally encountered it. And it's horrible, as all such bigotries are.

Alison Croggon said...

PS David, maybe you could have a look at the Prime Minister's Apology to the Stolen Generations, as an example of what might be possible.

Thoughtful Theatre said...

I have read all the comments and until now refrained form commenting directly.

Howe ever I now wish to express my small opinion.

I am Jewish. I do not feel the piece is antisemitic. I do see a true and very real conflict of parents not knowing how to talk to their children about very complex and difficult things happening around them. Good and bad, appropriate and questionable.

I think the existence of Israel is important, I do however often question some of Israels actions in relation to Palestine.

Are you forgetting the line in the Script "Tell her if i had known I would not have come?" I feel this my self about the Gaza settlements.

And on braoder anti-semitic topic;

"Tell her there are still people who hate Jews
Tell her there are people who love Jews
Don’t tell her to think Jews or not Jews"

Is this not balanced? Is this not true? How can you point at this as antisemitic?

I feel the conflict personally; kill or be killed? our children or their children? The Jewish historical and biblical "right" to the land vs the right of generations of Arab habitation in recent centuries.

Some balance in response to this is needed by the Jewish community. Not just reactionary out rage fueled by fear

Anonymous said...

Wow! Freudian psychoanalysis via an internet blog... That is certainly a unique and impressive contribution on your part. Now I truly understand the mind responsible for such dramaturgical incites.

Anonymous said...

Actually Palestine is a ROMAN term which literally means 'Land of the Philistines'and Jews have been living in/occupying the West Bank of the Jordan River and the Gaza continuously since the time of the Exodus which most historians agree was 3,600 years ago. For reactionary outrage fueled by fear I would invite you to read the Hamas charter.

Of course the majority population in Jordan is Palestinian and I am in favor of another Palestinian state but to deny the Jewish connection with the land is wrong and based in ignorance. There is as much archeological evidence as well as historical and literary documentation as there could possibly be to verify this.

Thoughtful Theatre said...

Umm I did not deny our connection to the land. I cried with joy when I went to Israel....I know we came to live there from Egypt and were there for a very long time, but others were there too, living with is not us or them. We all belong there.

At some point people must learn to live together, if that is ever possible.

Anonymous said...

Amen - I agree with you however Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and the hard left do not agree. Furthermore there are ancient Jewish communities throughout the 57 Islamic countries which continue to face discrimination, persecution and dispossession but nobody seems to have much regard for their situation least of all Caryl Churchill and the Royal Court.

Alison Croggon said...

David, I don't see how that is relevant to this discussion. The connection of Palestinians is after all just as ancient - wasn't there some archeology which indicated that Palestinians and Jews stem from the same people - only Israel stopped it? Not the kind of knowledge Zionists would like to explore.

Whatever the connections, they don't justify kicking people out of houses in which they have lived for generations, demolishing their olive groves and houses, stealing their land, restricting their freedoms, starving them, treating them like criminals and killing their children.

One does not have to agree with Hamas or anyone else to agree that those things are wrong. And it's not rocket science to see that's why organisations like Hamas exist. And if the State of Israel really cared about Jews who live outside Israel, then it would enter into serious dialogue with its enemies, rather than undermining any prospect of peace, and would stop being the most frightening and aggressive country in the world at the moment. Yes, much scarier than Iran. After all, Israel has the bomb.

Alison Croggon said...

Was I preaching? I was just making an obvious point. The ways in which Israeli Governments have undermined the peace process and ignored numerous UN resolutions on Palestine are well documented, and if you are as up with current affairs as you claim you would be perfectly aware that the creation of Hamas was due to the policies of the Israeli Government, which in similar ways to how the US Government created Al Qaeda to fight the Russians in Afghanistan, encouraged division and conflict in the PLO to undermine their political power. Back in the day - probably in the '80s - Christopher Hitchens wrote a fascinating and depressing article on how mediators on either side, particularly on the Palestinian side, were the most likely to be murdered - by both Palestinians and Israelis (or have you forgotten Rabin's assassination?)

I think there are better ways of dealing with the problems of the Occupation than bombing Palestinian citizens with white phosphorous and drones, terrorising pregnant women at checkpoints, depriving an entire people of any grounds for hope and seeding the next traumatised generation of terrorists. I think that if a nation calls itself moral and righteous, it should behave in ways that justify those words. That generalisation includes my own nation, as well as other western countries, which are just as culpable in terms of the deaths of innocent civilians. I am perfectly aware of what happened in Chechyna, probably more than you would know. None of the crimes of other nations, which are legion, excuse the human rights violations in Gaza, nor the apartheid situation in Israel and the Occupied Territories. And that's about all I'm going to say on this.

Anonymous said...

This is a garbled load of rubbish in which you lie and contradict yourself in the service of scapegoating the Jews for all of the worlds problems. UN General Assembley resolutions are non-binding precisely because they are politically motivated. Out of 192 countries in the world 57 of them are Islamic. It is SECURITY COUNCIL resolutions which are binding and which Iran has ignored. It is the Arab countries which refused to accept the UN partition.

Alison Croggon said...

I am neither lying nor scapegoating nor garbled, David. Nor am I contradicting myself. But I do think this discussion is getting nowhere, since you are clearly not reading what I'm saying and are resorting to personal abuse. Thanks.

Thoughtful Theatre said...

Stop posting hate David. Stop calling Alison names.
And remember that when The Hebrews arrived from Egypt there were already people living there that our so called god told us to kill.

Alison Croggon said...

Thanks, Goldele. This thread is now closed.

Alison Croggon said...

And a note: David Weinberg writes to let me know that the last anonymous post was not from him, and he does not share the poster's views.