When the CST say “Seven Jewish Children” is antisemitic, it is time to take the charge seriously

The Community Security Trust (CST) is a serious organisation.  It organises security for the Jewish community.  When you see security people standing outside synagogues or outside other Jewish events, they are CST volunteers.  They are well trained and they do a good job.  Only the most convinced antisemitism-denying antizionists would claim that there is no need for security outside Jewish communal events.   The CST keeps an eye on antisemitic behaviour and discourse in Britain and it collates information on antisemitic incidents.  The CST works closely with the police and it trains law-enforcement and communal agencies around the world in best practice.

The CST is an official, sober, experienced and serious organization, with roots in all parts of the Jewish community in Britain.  It is not a politically motivated organization – it is at the forefront of British Jews’ collective response to antisemitism.

When Dave Rich and Mark Gardner of the CST say that Caryl Churchill’s play “Seven Jewish Children” is antisemitic, and when they carefully explain why, people should take them seriously.   They don’t have to agree.  But to dismiss such criticism as dishonest pro-Israeli propaganda will not do.  Such a response exacerbates the antisemitism of which they are accused, it does not address it.

This piece, by Dave Rich and Mark Gardner, is from Comment is Free.

The Jewish festival of Passover celebrates the Jewish exodus from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the land of Israel. The festival begins with the seder, when Jewish families gather around the dining table and the story is retold by the adults to the children, who are encouraged to ask questions throughout.

There is a moment in the seder when the whole family recount the names of the ten plagues visited upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians. As each plague is named, all present dip their finger into red wine – unmistakably reminiscent of blood – and spill a drop onto their plate. The Guardian chose a photograph of this scene to illustrate its online production of Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children.

The association of blood with Jews is a well-established antisemitic tradition. It is embodied in the blood libel charge, which first appeared in 12th-century England and quickly spread. The accusation was that Jews murder non-Jewish children to use their blood in religious rituals, especially at Passover. Ironically, when Jews spill their wine at the seder, it is to remember with sadness the pain of the Egyptians, not to celebrate their loss. Nevertheless, so many Jews died in blood libel massacres at Passover, that a rabbi in 17th-century Poland ruled that Jews could use white wine, not red, during the seder, lest antisemites mistake the red wine for Christian blood.

Seven Jewish Children is not a play about Israel. It was written by Churchill as a “response to the situation in Gaza in January 2009″, but it is a play explicitly about Jews. Her response to Gaza is to accuse Jews of having undergone a pathological transformation from victims to oppressors. The play comprises seven brief scenes, of which the first two are generally taken to represent the Holocaust, or perhaps pogroms during an earlier period of antisemitic agitation; in other words, they take place in Europe, before Israel even existed. It is Jewish thought and behaviour that links the play together, not Israel. The words Israel, Israelis, Zionism and Zionist are not mentioned once in the play, while Jews are mentioned in the title and in the text itself. We are often told that when people talk about Israel or Zionists, it is mischievous to accuse them of meaning Jews. Now, we are expected to imagine that a play that talks only of Jews, in fact, means Israelis.

In the first two scenes, it is Jewish “uncles” and “grandmother” who are killed, despite approximately one and a half million Jewish children having perished in the Holocaust. Whereas it is elderly Jews who are killed, the Jews’ victims are overwhelmingly depicted as children: there are two mentions of dead adults, namely “Hamas fighters” and “policemen”, but seven of dead children: “the boy”, “the family of dead girls”, “babies” and “their children covered in blood”. The play lands its blows in the final two scenes, culminating in a monologue of genocidal racist hatred: “they’re animals … I wouldn’t care if we wiped them out … we’re chosen people.”

A spokesman for the Royal Court Theatre, where the play was first performed, defended it with the formulaic argument that:

“While Seven Jewish Children is undoubtedly critical of the policies of the state of Israel, there is no suggestion that this should be read as a criticism of Jewish people. It is possible to criticise the actions of Israel without being antisemitic.”

The anti-Zionist conceit that, as long as you are talking about Israel, you can say whatever you want about Jews, is laid bare here. It is not even possible to discuss whether or where this play crosses a line from criticism of Israel into antisemitism, because the play does not present us with a specific criticism of an Israeli policy or action. The Guardian’s illustration of a Jewish family seder table is far more appropriate than a photograph of the Israeli cabinet table would ever have been.

The dishonesty and amorality of the adult voices in Seven Jewish Children is striking. Nowhere are right and wrong considered, when deciding how to answer their children’s questions. Never does an adult in the play consider whether their suggested answer is true or not, nor whether this should have any bearing on which answer is given. Their only thought is which answers will best shield Jewish children from difficult moral questions. It is as if Jewish children are brought up in a moral vacuum, with Jewish power and vulnerability the only things that matter.

Michael Billington, the Guardian’s theatre critic, noted that the play “shows us how Jewish children are bred to believe in the ‘otherness’ of Palestinians”. Howard Jacobson described this as an example of “how easily language can sleepwalk us into bigotry.”

Billington’s use of the word “bred” should have shaken Guardian readers and editors from their slumber. After all, if used in connection with black or Muslim children, then the racism alarms would sound loud and clear. In fact, wittingly or not, Billington used exactly the right language to describe the message of Seven Jewish Children.

The original text of the play (pdf) does not specify the actual number of actors, nor who speaks which lines. There are no distinct characters: any Jew can speak any of the lines, in combination with any of the other lines, without distorting the narrative. This homogenising is bad enough, but the Guardian’s production goes a step further. By presenting the play with just a single performer, speaking every Jewish voice in each time and place, the Guardian distils the play into an internal conversation inside the head of every Jew – the increasingly manic neuroses of a screwed-up people.

Howard Jacobson identified this as “a fine piece of fashionable psychobabble that understands Zionism as the collective nervous breakdown of the Jewish people”. All the “tell her/don’t tell her” answers in the play are really attempts to answer one simple question: what do those Jews learn as children that they behave like this as adults? The end result of this “psychobabble” is to slander Jews as being psychologically compelled to become the new Nazis. Not so much a blood libel perhaps, but certainly a deadly new libel for a new millennium.

In the play’s concluding monologue, presumably set during the Gaza conflict, the Jewish speaker declares: “… 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.” What are we to make of the “all” in that sentence? This nameless Jew, seemingly representing any and every Jew, who cannot escape the pain of the Holocaust and the shame of Gaza, can now feel nothing for the other, dead, non-Jewish child, covered in its own blood.

Jews, children, blood and, for the Guardian at least, the Passover seder: this mixture has a murderous antisemitic past. The virus of antisemitism is easily transmitted by those who are not aware they are carrying it. Churchill almost certainly does not intend it, but her play culminates in powerful antisemitic resonances. The Guardian’s online production further amplifies them. People sometimes ask when does anti-Zionism become antisemitism. Here is a rule of thumb: when people describe Israel with the same language and imagery that antisemites use to talk about Jews, the difference between the two disappears.

Dave Rich and Mark Gardner work for Community Security Trust, a charity that monitors antisemitism and provides security for the UK Jewish community

This piece, by Dave Rich and Mark Gardner, is from Comment is Free.

59 Responses to “When the CST say “Seven Jewish Children” is antisemitic, it is time to take the charge seriously”

  1. Mark Gardner Says:

    I should point out that the title given to our article was not chosen by us; and I would rather it had not been as it over states what we are saying.

    Nevertheless, CiF are to be credited for agreeing to put it up, and their sub heading is spot on, as its all about antisemitic resonance, amplified by this particular production of the play.

  2. Angela Wine Says:

    Israelis are sitting ducks and have been ever since the creation of the State of Israel and even before. Sitting ducks because the surrounding Arab countries and the Arabs who lived in the then Palestine before the State of Israel was born were constantly hostile to the Jews also living in Palestine, killing them both individually and collectively (Hebron was ethnically cleansed of Jewish presence in 1929)
    Palestine was not a sovereign state and Arabs came in from the Arab neigbouring countries into Palestine while Jews also came in as this was a land that once belonged to the Israelites ( one can see this by looking at all the archaeological sites from the time of the Bible).
    Then in 1948 the U.N voted to give a piece of Palestine to the Jews while giving the local Arabs another piece, a bigger piece.
    But this wasn’t enough for those Arabs or their surrounding friends. AND SO THEY DECLARED WAR ON THE NEW STATE OF ISRAEL. For 61 years this war has been going on.
    What does the world expect of Israel? Obviously expectations far beyond those for any other country in the world. So Israelis are sitting ducks and the O.K. for them to be attacked comes from those that think the Arabs, the Palestinians are the ones done in for. the victims. This is simply ass about face.
    And then when Israel defends itself they are called Nazis, inhuman you name it.
    This is the bottom line and all those that don’t see it are themselves the really immoral ones with twisted perception of reality.

  3. Sabato Says:

    “Billington’s use of the word “bred” should have shaken Guardian readers and editors from their slumber. After all, if used in connection with black or Muslim children, then the racism alarms would sound loud and clear. In fact, wittingly or not, Billington used exactly the right language to describe the message of Seven Jewish Children.”

    True, but the Guardian doesn’t care. That’s the real lesson here.

    Their reaction to the play and to Ahmadinejad’s speech shows that they see Zionism as being far worse than antisemitism. They don’t care about being seen as antisemitic.

    This is the only conclusion one can reach. No matter their denials.

  4. Bill Says:

    What’s (not) surprising from the Guardian is the comment section. So much bending backward to say that it’s not amtisemtic and Gardner & Rich haven’t done their homework, are not describing the play accurately. Swap out Jewish for any other “other” and we’d would never have seen the uproar over 7xC — because no one would have been dumb enough to put it on.

    Tell me, when there’s a bona fide antisemtic incident that goes beyond “street” theatre that cites the play, what then? No doubt Churchill will scream in pretend outrage and claim that she didn’t mean for that to happen — when that’s pretty much what she’s commissioning. And she still won’t get it… but deep down, she’ll know that she got her point across.

  5. Gwunderi Says:

    In a more direct way the play says: The Jews (not only the Israelis) are brainwashed from their childhood and are even not aware of it, of their distorted view of reality. They are told they are right and so they believe they are right. A very perfidious sort of antisemitism indeed.
    It’s normal not to tell (little) children the whole truth because it is often too complex for them or they can’t understand it for other reasons, so this “(don’t) tell her …” is “normal” in Christian families too, I’m sure my parents did so too.
    It becomes antisemitic when it is suggested that so the children are told lies to manipulate them (their moral feeling, to make them have a good conscience): “Don’t tell her she doesn’t belong here” is represented as a lie, or “Tell her they want to drive us into the sea”, etc. – as if it wasn’t the truth (or do the Jews only hallucinate the Hamas Charter?)
    Adding the very worth reading critique of Melanie Philipps (to the above): the play is clearly antisemitic, in its intention and in what it suggests.

  6. Lynne T Says:

    Yesterday, May 3, CBC Radio One’s national public affairs program Sunday Morning aired the play as they felt it necessary to the discussion of whether the play was anti-semetic or “brilliant”.

    I turned it off, and have no regrets about doing so. Had a playwrite produced a play about Seven Muslim Children, or Seven Han Chinese Children, that drew the hideous caricatures of Churchill’s play, it’s highly unlikely they would have been brought to the stage, let alone celebrated.

  7. Lynne T Says:

    Apparently, Howard Jacobson was interviewed and given 18 minutes to speak vs the representative from (Canadian) Independent Jewish Voices who are “hosting” performances:

    http://www.cbc.ca/thesundayedition/latestshow.html

    No audio files appear to have been posted as yet, but may be subsequently.

  8. zkharya Says:

    Lynne, here it is:

    http://www.cbc.ca/thesundayedition/index.html

    it’s about 20 minutes in.

  9. Dr.Dawg Says:

    What isn’t “anti-Semitic” these days?

    The play is a profoundly humane exploration. To the knee-jerkers, I simply ask: what would you tell your own children about the events in question?

    Try, for once, to get beyond the reflexive, banal, two-dimensional political realm, into the complexly human. It would do you good.

  10. Hal Says:

    Dr.Dawg,

    Would that Ms. Churchill’s screed were merely “reflexive, banal, two-dimensional”. It is far more insidious than that.

    See David T’s thought experiment in the other thread here:

    http://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/05/07/seven-other-children-john-nathans-review/#comments

    Or try Brian Henry:

    “Jew-haters delight in Jews admitting to their crimes, and with confessions in short supply, antisemites invent them. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is one such invention. Supposedly written by Jews, though actually concocted by the Czarist secret police in about 1895, the Protocols outlines a Jewish plot for world domination. It’s the stuff of comic books but was Hitler’s guiding text. “Seven Jewish Children,” a ten-minute play by Caryl Churchill, follows in the tradition of the Protocols. The play pretends to show Jews discussing what to tell their children at seven points in modern Jewish history, beginning with the Holocaust and ending with the recent conflict in Gaza…”

    http://www.hurryupharry.org/2009/05/07/%e2%80%9cseven-jewish-children%e2%80%9d-an-incitement-to-hatred/

    Or:

    “Seven Jewish Children is not a play about Israel. It was written by Churchill as a “response to the situation in Gaza in January 2009″, but it is a play explicitly about Jews. Her response to Gaza is to accuse Jews of having undergone a pathological transformation from victims to oppressors. The play comprises seven brief scenes, of which the first two are generally taken to represent the Holocaust, or perhaps pogroms during an earlier period of antisemitic agitation; in other words, they take place in Europe, before Israel even existed. It is Jewish thought and behaviour that links the play together, not Israel. The words Israel, Israelis, Zionism and Zionist are not mentioned once in the play, while Jews are mentioned in the title and in the text itself. We are often told that when people talk about Israel or Zionists, it is mischievous to accuse them of meaning Jews. Now, we are expected to imagine that a play that talks only of Jews, in fact, means Israelis.”

    http://www.hurryupharry.org/2009/05/01/the-blood-libel-brought-up-to-date/

    As for your own, Canadian-based, blog, isn’t it about time you wondered why, with the recent exception of a couple of recent posts on Afghanistan, the only country outside of North America that seems to merit regular reprobation (nearly every second week as far as I can tell at quick review, often with lurid illustrations by Carlos Latuff) is Israel?

  11. Hal Says:

    Would that Ms. Churchill’s screed were merely “reflexive, banal, two-dimensional”. It is far more insidious than that.
    See David T’s thought experiment in the other thread here:

    http://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/05/07/seven-other-children-john-nathans-review/#comments

    Or try Brian Henry:
    “Jew-haters delight in Jews admitting to their crimes, and with confessions in short supply, antisemites invent them. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is one such invention. Supposedly written by Jews, though actually concocted by the Czarist secret police in about 1895, the Protocols outlines a Jewish plot for world domination. It’s the stuff of comic books but was Hitler’s guiding text. “Seven Jewish Children,” a ten-minute play by Caryl Churchill, follows in the tradition of the Protocols. The play pretends to show Jews discussing what to tell their children at seven points in modern Jewish history, beginning with the Holocaust and ending with the recent conflict in Gaza…”

    http://www.hurryupharry.org/2009/05/07/%e2%80%9cseven-jewish-children%e2%80%9d-an-incitement-to-hatred/

    As for your own, Canadian-based, blog, isn’t it about time you wondered why, with the recent exception of a couple of recent posts on Afghanistan, the only country outside of North America that seems to merit regular reprobation (nearly every second week as far as I can tell at quick review, often with lurid illustrations by Carlos Latuff) is Israel?

  12. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Actually, Hal, Dr Dawg means us, of course, when he goes on about “reflexive, banal, two-dimensional” whatevers it is he’s blathering about. I know you know that, but he’ll use it as stick to beat those of us who refuse just to take things at face value (especially those they desperately want us to) and insist on (where necessary) deconstructing texts. Zkharya does this superbly elsewhere on these threads and demonstrates just what Churchill is on about.

    The likes of Dr Dawg won’t, of course, even begin to think of carrying out a similar task to disprove his analysis. Too difficult and it would upset their cosy little world of conspiracy theories with only ever one villain.

    • Bill Says:

      Hi Brian,

      Just so you know, Dr Dawg, while I disagree with him here and on past issues like the Canadian Human Rights Commissions (and I’m no fan of Ezra Levant by any means), isn’t in the same spectrum of the Deborah’s and others….

  13. Bill Says:

    Dawg,

    There’s plenty of criticuism of Israel that isn’t antisemetic. Plenty of it goes on here.

    7JC, however, has a lot of trouble passing the Reasonable Person Test when you start asking if it’s really fair comment, why they’re seven “Jewish” children and not seven “Zionist” or “Israeli” children and why the people who are hosting 7JC won’t accept discussion of hosting Seven Other Children (so much for having a debate they falsely claim to want to start with 7JC). There’s a lot of water in the bucket they’re asking its apologists to carry once you start asking if the “verses” in the play really represent a what “Jewish” mommies are telling “Jewish” kids in Israel. It’s no different than saying that all Muslims are al-Queda or Hezbollah (and such plays would only be presented to smash such nasty stereotypes, if they were to be presented at all).

    Plus, given your past tepid & grudging acceptance of the Canadian HRC (in fairness you aren’t their biggest fan either and have called for reform, but not repeal, as I recall), arguably 7JC fits under the same rules that got the Western Standard “sued” via the HRC. It meets their checklist and, more so, pushes itself beyond a fair comment defense that reporting on the Danish cartoons could hide behind. Meanwhile, 7JC doesn’t so much engage in fair comment, any more than saying that “colored people want to steal our white women” is 21rst century fair comment. Instead it leverages malicious propaganda and stereotypes and paints Jews with a very broad brush to hold the whole up to criticism. We ain’t talkin’ about Merchant of Venice here. These are the cartoons — but maybe with better PR from the highbrow set.

    Plus, can you reasonably envision, and support, a play that would provide similar prejudicial and historical libel against any other group? Would you expect a play bashing Mugabe’s ZanuPF being called “Seven ‘African’ Children”? Good luck with that!

  14. Dr.Dawg Says:

    Bill:

    The play isn’t about Israel. It’s about children, illustrated with episodes that begin with the Holocaust. And it’s about parents, and how they talk to their children in the midst of violent events. It’s about human beings who happen to be Jewish–not “Zionist,” not “Israeli.” (What incredible misreadings! Israel didn’t exist at the time of the Holocaust, and there is no way that the statements in the play can be narrowly construed as “Zionist.”) It’s about human beings captured in the flow of events attempting to articulate their place in them, their feelings and their thoughts.

    Hal and others expect me to be impressed by over-the-top comparisons that exploit the most egregiously hateful anti-Black propaganda that I’ve seen for some time. I see nothing in the play that accuses “Jews” (in the generic sense) of atrocities equivalent to the racial fantasy of the thought-experimenter referenced.

    I see humanity in the play, in all of its conflict and complexity. Others see anti-Semitism, which apparently means just about anything. Indeed, two commenters here have hinted rather broadly that I am an anti-Semite myself, which helps in a small way to hasten that overused term’s journey to the land of the floating signifiers.

  15. Bill Says:

    D,

    I think you have to stretch to get to your conclusions, especially if you’ve been hit in the face with antisemitism (as many of us have here). I suspect that if you were involved with discussions where people who insisted that any criticism of Israel isn’t antisemetic and then see them link to DavidDuke.Com and holocaust deniers and insist that that’s not racist/antisemetic either (as happened on these pages), you too would look at the play and see that there was something seriously off about it.

    As for these new interpretations of the play, I strongly have the inkling that Churchill herself is doing some serious retconing of the play’s intent to get away from some of the serious and sober criticism leveled against it. That’s not what I heard when it first came out… Much of the “pro-play” discussion was target at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And it reinforced to some, the Jews-as-psychologically-damaged meme that goes about (discussed in detail elsewhere on these pages as well).

    Similarly I have very serious doubts that a play, as I said, going on about “just children, any children” being told to hate whites (and to be more accurate, the MDC) by their elders in the ZanuPF, called Seven Black Children, would get away with the same positive buzz — Or that the thought of doing a play like that would even get into her head. Indeed, the offer to co-present Seven Jewish Children with Seven Other Children isn’t getting traction from the 7JC backers — so much so that they aren’t even letting the 7OC folk read their response that they sent back to them. It just doesn’t pass my shoe-on-the-other-foot-and-erase-the-name-at-the-top-of-the-test-paper test.

    That’s unortunate since the one thing this episode shows is the need for a serious, maybe provocative, but above all honest and sober discussion of what is Antisemitism/Racism/Etc. 7JC+7OC “double feature” would provide a good “teachable moment” on it — in fact I’d argue that the 7JC underwriters have already given us their take on it by not wanting to go near the question with a 10-foot pole. As Lawrence Lowell might say, “you’re changing the subject – we’re not talking about ANY children… just the Jewish ones.”

  16. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Dr Dawg says that “[Seven Jewish Children] isn’t about Israel. It’s about children, illustrated with episodes that begin with the Holocaust. And it’s about parents, and how they talk to their children in the midst of violent events. It’s about human beings who happen to be Jewish–not “Zionist,” not “Israeli.” (What incredible misreadings!”

    Who’s misreading what here? Churchill claims, quite openly and without any obfuscation that the play was “inspired” by Operation Cast Lead. One would presume that, therefore, if she was being intellectually honest, the children and their parents would be Israeli. If they’re not (and they aren’t, as Churchill makes clear and Dawg and lots of other critics note), then the play becomes something else.

    To come back to the point of “happening” to be Jewish – there’s no happenstance there at all. Churchill claims to be responding to _Israeli_ action, then carries out a neat elision to _Jewish_ children. In case Dawg hadn’t noticed, there is actually a difference: it’s an old trick – refer to A but then slide to B, hoping people won’t notice that A and B aren’t actually the same thing. There’s artistic licence and then there’s propoganda – which is what Churchill’s piece is. And, Dawg, as I noted on another thread here, whether I support Israel or not (and I am a critical Zionist), I’m not responsible for Israel’s actions and I’m not going to take the blame for what Israel does, any more than, as a UK citizen, I would expect to be blamed for what the US government does.

    I’ve read the script, and it’s clear to me that Churchill loads the whole thing in a particular direction. Her parents are wondering what to tell “her” – and what they’re telling the children is, mostly, anything but the truth. I have no idea whether Dawg has children, but I do – they’re very grown up now, with children of their own – but I know that we never even considered anything close to the twists away from the truth that Churchill has her parents tell their children.

  17. Hal Says:

    Dr.Dawg,

    When someone writes a “play” featuring, say, a black apologist for black-on-white rape and calls it “A Black Woman”, the protagonist is not just a particular mother talking to her children; plainly (and Caryl Churchill demonstrated that this kind of job could be done efficiently in just 10 minutes!) it is black mothers in general who are being depicted as apologists for racism and rape. We used to expect this sort of libel from the right. Now it is being “kosherized” by the left. One does not need to be Jewish (I’m not) to recognize, and be revolted, by all the antisemitic tropes Ms. Churchill has crammed into 165 lines.

  18. Sarah Says:

    I haven’t made a close study of 7JS but I have read it and watched it via the Guardian – and read discussions about it. It seems to me to be a very slippery play and I’m not surprised it divides people. The fact that is isn’t clear who is speaking at any time means that it is very difficult to gauge the tone of many of the lines – the line about driving people into the sea (quoted by Gwunderi above) is a good example as is the line (I’m quoting from memory here) ‘tell her we didn’t mean to kill the babies’ – is it a lie or a reassurance? I’m not Jewish and only started visiting this website (a year or go or so) because of my opposition to the UCU’s boycott of Israel. I’d never taken any special interest in Israel before that time and I find it interesting that the aspects of the play which I now consider most dodgy are ones I wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t read some of the exchanges on Engage and similar sites. One of these aspects is the way 7JS starts with the (implied) death of a child in the Holocaust and ends with the deaths of the children in Gaza. In such a short play this arc suggests a special kind of (‘Zionazi’) parity between the two events. Another aspect is the occlusion of the voices of Israeli Jews from the Middle East. (That’s the kind of detail I need people like Zkharya to point out to me!) But – though maybe I’d rethink my position if I reread the play more carefully – I don’t agree with some other comments I’ve read which claim that Churchill doesn’t give more liberal Israeli Jews a voice. But for me this is part of the play’s insidiousness – it’s by apparently being vaguely even-handed and inclusive that it makes perfectly reasonable people think there’s nothing wrong with it. If it were really obviously and crudely anti-Semitic people like DrDawg wouldn’t be praising it.

  19. Dr.Dawg Says:

    Brian:

    Don’t misread me. Obviously the first event in the play pre-dated Israel. But just as obviously, subsequent events are clearly expressed through the minds/voices of Israeli Jews, who carry a specific history in their heads. Or perhaps all of the conflicting statements are in the head of only one person. (“One Jew, two opinions.”)

    Nor is there any elision in the play that I can see. Of course it is set in the hearts and minds of Israeli Jews. That’s the “site” of the drama/internal monologue. I don’t see agitprop here, but an attempt to go well beyond any such thing. The problem is, anyone taking on this task is immediately confronted by a chorus of latter-day Zhdanovs.

    Finally, if my kids were little and the Nazis were showing up to truck us all away to our deaths, I think I might refrain from telling them the truth. As I might under other onerous and violent circumstances as well.

    Hal:

    “Anti-Semitic tropes,” my eye. I’ve searched in vain through the text for any such thing. It’s all about real people talking to real kids in the midst of seven situations of horrific violence. The lines are contradictory–either an internal argument is being depicted, or a discussion among parents. (It doesn’t really matter, does it?)

    The human dimension always alarms the ideologues. The paintball gun (if not something worse) is inevitably deployed–“anti-Semite! Blood libel!” Not to mention in this case a red herring about Blacks raping white women, a trope that says more about the person attempting to give it currency than it does about Churchill’s play. No one in the play, as I said, suggests that Jews as a group are doing anything similar. In fact the strength of the play is that “Jews as a group” is replaced by conflicted parents agonizing over what to tell their kids, and disagreeing among themselves.

    Sarah:

    What “occlusion?” ME Jewish voices are precisely what you are hearing once the play takes off.

    In any case, what you consider “slippery” and “insidious” I consider merely complex. But for those for whom Israel can do no substantial wrong, I can see that anything other than flag-waving might be seen as a kind of capitulation.

    Somehow I feel in this thread like a person defending a poem in front of the Союз писателей СССР, trying to explain why there is no mention of Comrade Stalin to be found in it.

  20. Toby Esterhase Says:

    Dr Dawg you have this the wrong way round.

    It was the Stalinists who invented antizionist antisemitism.

    http://www.workersliberty.org/node/1748

  21. Dr.Dawg Says:

    I was referring only to a crude mode of criticism, and offering a dark example. Apologies if anyone thought I was calling him or her a Stalinist.

  22. Sarah Says:

    @Dr Dawg – what I meant was that there is an impression given I think (apologies if I’m misremebering or misinterpreting) that the voices are descendents of Holocaust survivors rather than Israelis from, say, Iraq originally. This contributes to the ‘morality play’ trajectory of the play – from victim to oppressor.

  23. zkharya Says:

    Dr Dawg,

    I do not think my critique at all crude. It is hard to spare time for this at the moment. I am in my final PhD year, as well as disabled and in a great deal of pain.

    In an admittedly disjointed fashion I first wrote a line by line commentary on Acts 3-7, then a more prosaic essay on Acts 1-half way through 3.

    I shall post them in their correct dramatic order, apologising for their messy presentation. First the critique of Acts 1-3:

    If people wish it (and possibly if they don’t) I shall then re-post the commentary on the rest of the play.

    Here goes.

    A Critique of Seven Jewish Children.

    Rather that say whether Seven Jewish Children is antisemitic or not, at least at the outset, I think it more important to say what one thinks is specifically wrong with it, or, at least, what one thinks worthy of note.

    First, Churchill is a patroness of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, an organization which has, arguably, been anti-Zionist, that is, anti-Jewish nationalist, but pro-Palestinian Christian and Muslim nationalist (I will happy argue this point elsewhere, but, for brevity’s sake, will refrain here), from its inception. There is no evidence that Churchill has ever had pro-Zionist, pro-Jewish state of Israel, or pro-Israel sympathies. For her then to stage (or compose) a piece which professes, or is professed, to be the best possible Defence of Zionism, the Jewish state of Israel, Israel, Israeli Jews in general, is to stretch credulity.

    In a court of law the Defendant is never required to have his or her Defence staged by the Prosecution –except in totalitarian, police states. But this is exactly what Churchill and her work’s proponents maintain. For the Prosecution to stage the Defendant’s Defence on their behalf is both to assume and assert that neither the Defendant, nor their Defence, has any case to make. It is intended to shut down all debate before it can begin. It recalls the quotation of Karl Mark beloved of Edward W. Said:

    “They cannot represent themselves, they must be represented.”

    The work is Hypocrisy, in its literal meaning, that is, the wearing of a Mask: the Mask of the Defence for Israel, Zionism, the Jewish state, or whatever, worn by its Prosecutor.

    That is drama, of a sort, I suppose, though usually it is called a Show Trial.

    The work, its authoress, proponents, profess it to be a 10 minute history of Israel, Zionism, Israeli Jews, or whatever, that do them historical justice.

    Let us review that claim. First, Acts 2-3 inclusive cover the years 1945-49 and no more. The work begins during the Holocaust, which is Act 1. Interestingly, no one dies in Act 1, Jewish child or adult –quite unlike the situation regarding Palestinian militia, policemen and children in Act 7. The construct of Act 1, is that it is a game, albeit a game played in response to some outer, unspecified threat. While the effectively single situation it portrays, that of a child told to hide, with promise of reward such as “cake”, it hardly sounds like the existential situation endured by most Jewish children in the camps. How different to the graphic portrayal of blood, deliberate infanticide, and exultation in it, of Cast Lead in Act 7.

    A word on the The Guardian presentation of this play. Act 1, in the video, is heralded by a photograph of Jewish bodies, representing the Holocaust, surely. Act 2 is introduced by a scene of mittel-Europan middle class Jewish dinner party.

    When is this? Act 2 is reminiscence of what occured, and those lost, during the Holocaust. The dinner party photo dates to the time before either the Holocaust, or Nazi European rule. It is an anachronism. It is all very well saying this represents the reminiscence of the play. But this play or its author purports to be historical. Surely these things should have been addressed chronologically: if one wishes to represent the situation of Jews before the Holocaust, one should stage it before one’s representation of the Holocaust.

    Act 2 consists in the child’s being told, inter alia, of her dead grandmother and uncle. These are, incidentally, the only dead of the Holocaust mentioned. In fact any Jewish dead, Israeli or otherwise, anywhere in the play. While I do not impute to The Guardian deliberate intention to mislead, the photo of a dinner party wholly misrepresents the situation of most Jews who, immediately post-Holocaust, came to Palestine or what became Israel. These were often in Displaced Persons camps. Hundreds of thousands had sought to return to their form European homes, but had been terrorized, by pogrom, murder or threats, into renewing their statelessness. There is no intimation of this bar Churchill’s rather ambivalent “Tell her there are still people who hate Jews/Tell her there are people who love Jews”, an equivocation which suggests that there was at least a 50% chance of Holocaust survivors’ being able to regain their former homes; and “Tell her it was before she was born and she’s not in danger/Don’t tell her there’s any question of danger” which likewise had an ambiguous affect: the first stanza asserts, the part standing for the whole, that post-Holocaust Jewry are in no danger. The second stanza may intend to convey to the audience the speaker believes that there is, but that the girl should be deceived in that regard.

    This leads to another odd part of the piece. Characters sometimes say contradictory things. Fine. But this is odd. The parent says the Holocaust is over, there is no danger. Then she reaffirms the injunction not to frighten the child. What does this mean? That some people say there is danger? They do not appear in the play. Which is odd, given that it concerns only those Jews who went to Palestine.

    Not only is Churchill omitting to at least hint of the actual immediate post-Holocaust situation of European Jews, she is intimating that any threat or danger is non-existent, I think. Which, again, would be odd, from the view of most Jews’ becoming Palestinian.

    To call this uncontested “history” is, I think, highly contestable. To claim that it is history is best erroneous, at worst a lie. Churchill, a partisan to an anti-Israeli, anti-Zionist, anti-Jewish nationalist, pro-Palestinian Christian and Muslim political organization, claims that is history. She could be simply mistaken. For my part, I think she is deceitful, to herself, if no one else. As an aside, for Jacqueline Rose, a professor and academic, in English literature, if not history, to defend Churchill’s claim to historicity, is also a serious deficiency. Rose took great offence at Howard Jacobson’s alluding to her other work on Israel and Zionism as “an anthology of quotations wrenched out of context purporting to be history”. But he was quite right and, in this, she can have no non-spurious grounds for complaint.

    In fact most Holocaust survivors, if they did not wish to go to Palestine, did not wish to remain in Europe. And there is no evidence whatsoever that it was necessary to deceive, generally speaking, in the way the play suggests, children into wishing to leave those DP camps, or their unsettled situation in general. There was no need, in other words, to persuade children to depart from their exile. Churchill wholly misrepresents the situation of immediate post-Holocaust Jewish candidates for Palestine in this matter.

    And another thing. The Seven Children are Jewish. But they are not Jewish in a universal sense: they are Palestinian or Israeli Jewish, for they all become Palestinian or Israeli. They do not become American, British or Australian, for instance. The play’s thesis, that Holocaust survivors evolve, through their descendants, into Holocaust perpetrators, is not sustained, by it, for other than Israeli Jewries. It is not maintained that, say, American or other Jewish descendants from survivors would wreak genocide on their fellow American, British cultural Christian or other compatriots.

    Why not?

    As David Hirsh has observed, the play’s thesis, which is also Jacqueline Rose’s, is not attribute to the perpetrators of genocide, or their descendants. Apparently enduring genocide makes one more likely to commit in future than those who have executed it formally.

    Churchill could have, more accurately, entitled hers an attempt to represent The History of Seven Israeli Jewish Children. But that would have been insufficiently universal for her, it seems. Odd. Her need to blur the distinction between Israeli and other Jews. Odd. Worthy of note.

    Act 3.

    My objection to “Tell her she can write to her friends, tell her her friends can maybe
    come and visit/Tell her it’s sunny there” is that it rather suggests, in the absence of any other information, that European Jews’ migrating Palestine was a choice that left homes whence friends could visit. No other reason is given for the decision other than “it’s sunny there”.

    No other reason. Jewish migration to Palestine, if not Zionism in general, is portrayed as an exercise in sun-bathing. A middle class luxury. Afterall, according to The Guardian, such Jews left behind comfortable bourgeois dinner parties. For those who would dispute my assertion, I compile further evidence below.

    ““Tell her we’re going home
    Tell her it’s the land God gave us
    Don’t tell her religion
    Tell her her great great great great lots of greats grandad lived
    there”

    This is spoken by one voice all at once. It is critical for the play and its critic, I think, for, in a nutshell, it conveys in what Caryl Churchill thinks Zionism consists, at least for its alleged constituents.

    The last line, clearly, is mocking. It raised a chuckle, according to Jacobson, and there is no evidence that this was not Churchill’s attempt at mirth. How she can then claim to disinterestedly represent the Defendant as they would wish escapes me. I think such an assertion would be a bare-face lie. A lie to which her defenders, including Jacqueline Rose, turn a blind eye, through ignorance or choice, that is, I think, malice.

    Suddenly, for the first time in the play, a Jewish connection with the land of Israel appears. Strange, in a play purporting to be history, since the modern Jewish nationalist movement is born more than fifty years before the play’s implied beginning. Strange, given that, in 1939, 10% or of European Jews were subscribing members of Zionist organizations –the largest single grouping of Jewish political affiliation in 2000 years. Strange, given that, for nearly 2000 years, orthodox Jews have prayed thrice daily for the restoration of the people of Israel to the land of Israel.

    For Churchill, the first and foremost Zionist, or Jewish national or nationalist claim for the land’s of Israel/Palestine’s being “home” lies in Genesis, or Exodus, or both: “the land God gave us”. This rather betrays whence Churchill is “coming”: for European, cultural Christian Churchill, Jews are a construct, specifically “Old Testament People”. As though in g-d’s promise to Abraham is primarily where the Zionist claim rests.

    Clearly she, Churchill, feels this proof of entitlement rather inadequate so she has her cypher Jewish parent enjoin “Don’t tell her religion”.

    Hmm. Churchill doesn’t know much about Judaism, the Jewish religion, does she? She thinks she knows enough, certainly, for Art, but that is not uncommon in those of European cultural Christian provenance: that Christians know in what Judaism essentially consists is a Christian assumption from Christianity’s birth.

    That the Jews are a people in exile, dispossessed of temple, city and land, is not only a rabbinic, Talmudic assumption from rabbinic times, it also a Christian and Islamic assumption, including a Palestinian Christian and Islamic assumption, for most of Christian and Islamic history, from the beginning of Christian and Islamic history.

    One would never know this from Churchill’s play which, again, purports to be historical. That Jews were a national group, meriting an autonomous territorial national existence, albeit in eastern Europe, not Palestine, was assumed by the largest Jewish eastern European political party, the socialist Bund. In the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, most European, Arab and Asian Jews were either killed, or effectively driven out, before 1914, mostly to America; after 1914, mostly to Palestine or what becamse Israel.

    The reason is not because most of the European or Arab Christians or Muslim regarded Jews as essentially, nationally European or Arab. It because they saw them as rather more nationally (or, if you prefer “ethnically”, or “tribally”) Jewish. And this could not have been the case, arguably, but for “religion”: regarding Jews as a people dispossessed of temple, city and land as a punishment for their rejection of Jesus and the prophets.

    That Jews had been so dispossessed from the land of Israel (and, arguably, most places subsequently) was a cultural given in Christendom and Islam, the respective civilizations in which most Jews had lived for most of Christian and Islamic history.

    That original dispossession was 2000 years ago, as Churchill mockingly intimates with “Tell her her great great great great lots of greats grandad lived there”. But a chain of discrimination, persecution and dispossession links that event to the effective mass killing or purging of the Jews of Europe and Araby in the last mere 100 years or so. It is not an unbroken chain, I hasten to add. It is not a chain or unremitting suffering or misery. But it is a chain that leads to the former 80%+ of the world’s Jews who live in European and Arab lands in 1900 and to Israels being the second or largest Jewish community in the world today.

    “Don’t tell her he was driven out”: this sounds odd in the mouth of Churchill’s Jewish parent cypher. Let us review her chain of reasoning:
    1) Jewish national claims reside primarily in g-d’s promise of the land of Israel to Abraham. However this is, in Churchill’s view, inadequate, so the parent resorts to telling her or another’s child
    2) “her great great great great lots of greats grandad lived there”.
    But this too, in Churchill’s view, is inadequate, hence her imputing the third argument, albeit indirectly,“Don’t tell her he was driven out”. But this is odd. Why wouldn’t a parent explain to her child that Israel had been driven from the land? Surely it would bolster Jewish nationalist claims, not the reverse?

    I think this is a Freudian slip on Churchill’s part, that reveals several things about her. Why is her first reaction to portray this claim, as it were, in the negative? Doubtless, I am sure, she would argue that the parent is anxious not to frighten the child. This being a child who has lost pretty everything: house, home, family, friends. For the child home is precisely whence she was driven out. I am a Jew, and I have lived among Jews most of my life. I have read extensively on Jewish, ancient, medieval and modern, about the history of modern political Zionism and Israel. Not once, not once have I encountered the phenomenon, in fact or recorded, of which Churchill speaks. That Israel was driven from the land is rabbinic tradition from the beginning of rabbinic tradition. It is Judaism. It is the Jewish “religion”.

    Or is Churchill’s reason other? Because the former driving out threatens or implies a future one? If so, this Churchill, not an Israeli Jewish parent to be.

    Note the singular “he was driven out” i.e. that only one of her ancestors was driven out. Churchill is deliberately minimizing a Jewish ancestral connection to the land. This is important for the next line.

    “Tell her, of course tell her, tell her everyone was driven out”. Suddenly the “he” has become “everyone”. The Israeli Jewish parent to be has concocted a distortion or lie. First, for some reason that looks more Churchillian than anything else, the parent suppresses the the grandfather’s being driven out. Now Churchill has her expanded that to “everyone” i.e. to exaggerate, distort or lie.

    And note the signal for the lie: the repetition of “tell her, of course tell her, tell her”. Churchill is, of course, implying, or asserting, that the historical tradition or narrative of original Jewish dispossession from the land is a pretext, that is to say, a kind of lie.

    Again, this is a fairly clear implicit polemical assertion on Churchill’s part in fairly explicit pursuit of her political agenda, pro-Palestinian Christian and Muslim, anti-Jewish nationalist. How she could claim anything else expect to evade criticism again escapes me.

    If Churchill has wished to faithfully rehearse a Zionist argument, she would have written something like

    “Tell her we were driven from there first. Now we return, to be driven over the world no more.”

    But that would have been to represent the Zionist case, the Defence for the Defendant too faithfully, something the Prosecution would not wish to do.

    “Don’t tell her she doesn’t belong here”: another oddity. Why would a prospective emigré to Palestine tell a child she does belong in Europe? Or is this parent not the parent of a child who does go to Palestine? Is Churchill implying that Zionist Jews misrepresented to European Jewish survivors that they did not belong in Europe when, in fact, they did?

    But, again, this completely misrepresents the situation of most immediate post-war candidates for immigration to Palestine: most most assuredly did not feel as though they belonged in Europe. They may have preferred to go to America, or elsewhere. But they did not feel as though they belonged “here”.

    See how distorted a picture of European, Palestinian and Israeli Jewish history Churchill’s cumulatively compiling of many, tiny little misrepresentions paints.

  24. Dr.Dawg Says:

    I’ll wait for your next bit. I’m not promising as exhaustive a counter-exegesis, but I will respond.

  25. William Says:

    Thanks you Zkharya. This explains much.

  26. zkharya Says:

    3

    In The Guardian reading, http://uk.truveo.com/Seven-Jewish-Children/id/761126539K, the setting is represented by a photo of olim boarding a boat: no concentration camps, no DP camps, no progroms.

    “Don’t tell her we’re going for ever
    Tell her she can write to her friends, tell her her friends can maybe
    come and visit
    Tell her it’s sunny there”

    Serious misrepresentation of the circumstances of most Jews’ going to Palestine/Israel. Most went as refugees or displaced persons. Those who chose to go still, for the most part, left circumstance discriminatory, persecutory or dangerous. Churchill represents the choice as though it were a middle class luxury.

    (Act 2 is represented by a photograph of a mittel-europan middle class Jewish dinner party. Obviously pre-Holocaust but inserted, anachronistically, as though it represented the circumstances of most post-war Jews who chose to come to Palestine)

    If this is 1930s Germany, things are getting pretty bad: most Jews want to leave.

    Those who say I am confusing Churchill’s timeline should blame the historical timeline and realities she herself is polemically confusing, not me.

    It’s no good saying that this is merely what one would say to a child: Churchill’s drama is elliptical and allusive. The part stands for, refers to or implies the whole.

    “Tell her we’re going home
    Tell her it’s the land God gave us
    Don’t tell her religion
    Tell her her great great great great lots of greats grandad lived
    there”

    The last line is obviously mocking, as Howard Jacobson observed. It both trivializes and omits to mention the most important fact in all this: that, for most of Christian and Islamic history, that is, the time Jews have dwelt in Christendom and Islam, Jews have been defined as a people dispossessed of temple, city and land, if not most places since, as a punishment for their rejection of Jesus and the prophets.

    It omits to mention that orthodox Jews have, for instance, prayed thrice daily for g-d to restore the people of Israel to the land of Israel. It omits to mention that as a people in exile is the rabbinic definition of Jewry as a whole.

    “Don’t tell her he was driven out”

    This is bizarre. Why would they not tell her that Jews had originally been driven from the land? Jews learn this from childhood.

    I think this is Churchill, not her alleged Israeli Jewish parents. This is Churchill telling herself, telling her audience not to tell themselves or anyone else that Israel was originally driven from the land. This is a Freudian slip.

    Note the singular “he was driven out” i.e. that only one of her ancestors was driven out. Churchill is deliberately minimizing a Jewish ancestral connection to the land. This is important for the next line.

    “Tell her, of course tell her, tell her everyone was driven out”

    “Everyone was driven out”. Suddenly the “he” has become “everyone”. The Israeli Jewish parent has concocted a distortion or lie. First, for some reason that looks more Churchillian than anything else, the parent suppresses the the grandfather’s being driven out. Now Churchill has her expand that to “everyone” i.e. to exagerate, distort or lie.

    “and
    the country is waiting for us to come home
    Don’t tell her she doesn’t belong here”

    Churchill has a Jewish parent telling a child that Palestine awaits while simultaneously instructing not to tell her she does not belong in Europe, presumably because it is too egregious a lie to be believed.

    But even those European Jews who had survived the holocaust in 1945 and who did not want to go to Palestine did not, for the most part, believe they belonged in Europe. Most still wished to leave, if not for Palestine, then for America or elsewhere.

    “Tell her of course she likes it here but she’ll like it there even
    more.”

    Again, a misrepresentation of the circumstances of the leaving of most olim. It is no good saying that this is merely what a parent might say to a child. Churchill’s work is elliptical and allusive: the part implies or refers to the whole. The circumstances of most olim were not to “like”: if not persecutory, they were certainly discriminatory. This is certainly true of the olim at the time Churchill describes.

    It looks suspiciously like Churchill is describing origins in comfortable bourgeousia –again a standard antisemitic trope.

    “Tell her it’s an adventure”

    i.e. a game, trivial, not serious. The part implies the whole, referring to aliyah, as a whole, for adults too.

    “Tell her no one will tease her”

    i.e. that they i.e. Palestinian Christians or Muslims will “tease” her i.e. the Jewish parent is lying, again. This is the consistent theme that Howard Jacobson noted.

    “Tell her she’ll have new friends”

    Because that is what aliyah, Zionism and the state of Israel is all about: Jews’ making new friends, when they could have stuck with the old ones, like the rest of humanity. Instead, these Jews indulge the luxury of making new ones, because that is what Zionism is: a middle class luxury.

    Tell her she can take her toys”

    Toys, middle class comfortable bourgeoisie. To those who would dispute this, see my further justification, below. Toys, game. Toys, trivial.

    “Don’t tell her she can take all her toys”
    This is Churchill attempting to inject a dose of historical realism. It is a common propaganda technique in aiding an audience swallow the polemic’s central message.

    “Tell her she’s a special girl”

    Ah. Special girl, special people. Little Jewish princess, at the heart of a bourgeois Jewish family. “Special” is the reason she can go to Jerusalem. Little Jewish princess, spoilt Jewish child. That is Zionism.

    “Tell her about Jerusalem.”

    Special girl, special people. Which, in Churchill’s mind leads straight to the Jewish connection with Jerusalem. Special girl, special people. Spoilt child, spoilt people. Who think they are so special they are entitled to that which does not belong to them. Arrogant, egocentric, egotist, greedy, thieving.

    4

    “Don’t tell her who they are”

    OK. Now we’re in Palestine. “they” implies those who the girl can see, or whom she knows of.

    “Tell her something”

    i.e. tell her anything i.e. LIE.

    “Tell her they’re Bedouin,”

    The little girl is standing on the dock in Haifa and Tel Aviv and is surrounded by Palestinian Arab Christians and Muslims. Wherever she goes in the land, they are there.

    Churchill is implying, is asserting, really, that, in order for anyone to persuade any child to move, live or stay in Palestine, the parents must lie. The part implies the whole, that Zionism is, in some sense, a lie, or founded on a lie, which is the same thing.

    But this is historically inaccurate, one could not describe the 1 000 000 Arab Muslims and Christians as bedouin. Churchill is not even trying to be historically realist here. She is asserting, in the incarnation of a fictionally, polemically created Jewish parent who stands for all Jewish parent olim, that Zionist, Palestinian or Israeli Jews essentialize Palestinian Muslims and Christians as bedouin.

    “they travel about”

    i.e. they do not truly live in the land.

    “Tell her about camels in the desert and dates
    Tell her they live in tents”

    i.e. lie that the 1 000 000 Arab Muslims and Christians resident in Palestine live in tents. Again, here, Churchill makes no attempt at historical realism. It is a dramatized polemic.

    “Tell her this wasn’t their home”

    i.e. prepare the little girl psychologically for their ethnic cleansing or transfer.

    “Don’t tell her home, not home, tell her they’re going away”

    i.e. the Jewish parent is so in denial about their true intentions they cannot even bear to say that Palestine is the home of Palestinian Christians and Muslims. And this is what, to all intents and purposes, all Zionist, Palestinian or Israeli Jewish parents say to their children,it is implied.

    “tell her they’re going away” i.e. prepare her psychologically for their ethnic cleansing or transfer.

    Note also, no mention from Churchill about, say, “The English to the Sea; the Jews to the Grave”, the rallying cry of the 1936 Arab revolt. For Churchill, there is only the inner landscape of the Zionist, Oleh, Palestinian or Israeli Jewish parent’s mind. There is no context, except for what Churchill chooses to represent or let slip. But how much she suppresses.

    “Don’t tell her they don’t like her”

    i.e. lie to her. In the context of Hebron massacres one and two? The Mufi? The Palestinian national movement? The 1936 revolt?

    “Tell her to be careful.”

    Another injection of historical realism. But Churchill lets slip nothing as to why the girl should be careful. She has implied that they merely “don’t like her”. Nothing more serious than that.

    “Don’t tell her who used to live in this house”

    OK. Now we’re in 1948-49.

    It is insufficient to say that this represents an earlier stage for, before 1948-9, most Jews lived in houses built by Jews. Most Jews lived in houses built by Jews afterwards, but the percentage of Jews’ living in Arab houses post independence was much higher.

    If Churchill intends an earlier period, she is again forsaking historical realism to make her own polemical point: that the “house” is Palestine, the owners are Arab, and the Zionist, Oleh, Palestinian or Israeli Jewish parents have driven out them out and stolen their property.

    In 1948-8, there has been a huge war. But the Zionist, Oleh, Palestinian or Israeli Jewish parent has been hiding the fact that Palestinian and other Arab Christians or Muslims “don’t like her”.

    Right….

    “No but don’t tell her her great great grandfather used to live in
    this house”

    “great great grandfather” is mocking, a Jacobson observed. Which is why it raised a knowing chuckle among the biens pensants in the audience. Jews have been held to be dispossessed and in exile for most of Christian and Islamic history, a view which in no small part leads to their murder or expulsion from most of European and Arab Christendom and Islam, and the intellectual heirs and descendants of these European or other cultural Christians and Muslims smirk knowingly.

    “don’t tell her her great great grandfather used to live in
    this house” because that would be too obvious a lie. But it is, in some sense, for Churchill, a necessary lie. For merely telling the little girl that her “great great grandfather” was driven out from the land is, for Churchill, insufficiently equivalent for the little girl’s living in a house whence Palestian Arab Christians or Muslims have been driven out.

    “No but don’t tell her Arabs used to sleep in her bedroom.”

    Again, the earlier before 1948-9, the less historical this is. Again, the “house” is Palestine. Or, perhaps, Churchill refers to land or property bought from absentee landowners? Paid for through the nose? Amounting to less than 7% of Palestine west of Jordan by 1947?

    Again, this is symbolism for Churchill’s polemic. It is not history, and it is not an historical drama.

    “Tell her not to be rude to them”

    An injection of historical realism. Churchill grants these Jewish parents a smidgeon of civilised behaviour, that she may load them with the rest of her polemical burden.

    “Tell her not to be frightened”

    i.e. because she should be. Again, as Jacobson wrote, a lie is implied.

    “Don’t tell her she can’t play with the children”

    Because, for the most part, Zionist, Oleh, Palestinian or Israeli Jewish parents are or were racist because they do not want their children playing with Arab children.

    Nothing about the historical reality of there being a Palestinian Christian and Muslim nationalist boycott of all exchange, business, relations or intercourse with Palestinian Jews, of course. That would inject too much historical realism.

    “Don’t tell her she can have them in the house.”

    Because, for the most part, Zionist, Oleh, Palestinian or Israeli Jewish parents are or were racist because they would not want Arab children in their houses. Again, no context, no conflict between two national movements, nothing.

    “Tell her they have plenty of friends and family
    Tell her for miles and miles all round they have lands of their own”

    i.e. prepare psychologically for ethnic cleansing or transfer. Again, no context of conflict. If this is before 1948, if these are Jews from Germany in the 1930s, no mention of the revolt, the Mufti, the White Paper effectively cancelling the Balfour Declaration.

    Again, that would inject too much historical realism for Churchill’s polemical purpose.

    “Tell her again this is our promised land.”

    i.e. reaffirm the lie. And, again, for Churchill, the Jewish claim for return and restoration to the land can be encapsulated merely by “promised land”. Nothing about Jews’ being defined by themselves and most of the societies and cultures in which they lived as a people in exile, cursed with dispossession for their sins, and being treated as such.

    For European cultural Protestant or Catholic Christian Churchill, Jews are an Old Testament people. Their claim to the land resides solely within the pages of Genesis.

    “Don’t tell her they said it was a land without people”

    This to a little girl in Palestine with 1 000 000 Arabs. “Don’t tell her they said it was a land without people”, because Churchill cannot say that the parents told the little girl “it was a land without people”: it is too historically implausible.

    But that choice quote from some Zionist speculators of the late 19th-early 20th century is too good for Churchill’s polemical purpose: she has to get it in somehow. So “Don’t tell her they said it was a land without people”, because “We didn’t tell her it was a land without a people, but Churchill wants us to mention it to her in some fashion, even if it was said by someone decades ago”.

    “Don’t tell her I wouldn’t have come if I’d known.”

    i.e. known that it is not a land without a people i.e. the parents were lied to. For Zionism is built on a lie i.e. it is a lie.

    But, if the parents had been told that, why wouldn’t they have told the little girl?

    The answer is simple: inserting anachronisms for polemical purposes does not aid historical consistency in drama or anything else.

    “Tell her maybe we can share.”
    Another sop of civilization cast by Churchill to the Jewish parents, so the audience may swallow their greater barbarity. Another injection of historical realism, to ease assimilation of Churchill’s wider agenda.

    “Don’t tell her that.”

    Ah. The project of Palestinian Jewish, Christian and Muslim symbiosis was sabotaged by Zionists Jewish parents, who lied to their children about its possibility.

    5

    A photo of 1948-49 (or 1956?) Israeli Sherman tanks

    “Tell her we won”

    OK, now we’re in 1949. This is confusing since it is not clear what these seven children are meant to represent. Seven generations, seven epochs of equal length or significance. Child one appears to represent the holocaust, although it should also serve to represent 2000 years of Christian and Islamic Jewish history, or which the holocaust is the nadir. And it does, if not in a good way, rather a wholly inadequate way.

    “Tell her her brother’s a hero
    Tell her how big their armies are”

    I.e. lie to them about the true size of the Arab armies i.e. their armies were not big at all. Which is arguably a misrepresentation, or lie, on Churchill’s part.

    “Tell her we turned them back”

    i.e. lie to her that Palestinian, now Israeli Jews thwarted an existential threat.

    “Tell her we’re fighters
    Tell her we’ve got new land.”

    This is Churchill intimating that Israel’s territory exceeds the UN partition quota. But note there is nothing, absolutely NOTHING, about any existential threat to the Yishuv or the nascent Israel, dispossessive, genocidal or otherwise. Churchill alludes to it by the “Tell her” formula which, from “Tell her how big their armies are”, is intended to portend a lie.

    As Jacobson has observed, it is a bit like recounting the history of the second world war by only mentioning the Allied victory and German military and civilian casualties. This is a deficiency which afflicts Churchill’s work generally.

    6

    OK, another jump.

    “Don’t tell her”

    A hesitation is implied here. A stumbling in the parent’s ability to lie or distort? Is he or she suddenly wanting for a misrepresentation?

    “Don’t tell her the trouble about the swimming pool”

    A racist incident at a municipal pool (most of which, I believe, were built by Jews, the British before, the Turks before that)? The exclusion of Arabs?

    “Tell her it’s our water, we have the right”

    The right to what? The interlocutor’s voice is silent. Suppressed. A clever propaganda technique: the effect is to increase for the audience, the sense that the Israeli Jewish parent is suppressing, distorting, lying.

    “Tell her it’s not the water for their fields”

    Ah. Apparently Israeli water is, in general, a theft of water from Palestinian Christians and Muslims. The part again stands for the whole.

    Note the conjunction of opposites: swimming pool for field; middle class, bourgeois, urban western capitalist colonialist luxury, a swimming pool to life giving, essential, agricultural, plain honest volkisch living, rural food producing field.

    Luxury for one at the expense of life for another.

    Zionism is a middle class bourgeois luxury built upon Palestinian Christian and Muslim starvation.

    “Don’t tell her anything about water.”

    i.e. suppress or lie that the water is really Palestinian Christian or Muslim. Suppress, equivalent to lying, really, that Israeli Jewish water is theft, or Israeli Jewish luxury at the expense of Palestinian Christian and Muslim life. The part stands for the whole.

    “Don’t tell her about the bulldozer”

    Now, when is this? More evidence of Churchill’s Eisensteinian Montage: for most in the audience, “bulldozer” means the Caterpillar D9s and D10s so prominent in the suppression of the 2nd Intifada.

    “Don’t tell her not to look at the bulldozer”

    As if! But, once again, the Israeli parent’s injunction not to suppress or lie implies the wider suppression or lie in general.

    “Don’t tell her it was knocking the house down”

    Which houses are these? In 1948-67? Former Arab houses knocked down to be replaced my more modern apartments which can house more Jews? It isn’t illegally built housing in the Arab parts of east Jerusalem, since that is post-1967. Or is Churchill muddling up the timeline again?

    But why would a parent have a problem explaining an abandoned house’s being knocked down? Houses are knocked down all over the world.

    But Churchill means by “house” Arab Palestine, “knocked down” by Jewish Israel, the part standing for the whole.

    “Tell her it’s a building site”

    An attempted injection of historical realism? New appartments are being built? Another lie? Surely the tenor of the work so far would lead the audience to conclude another lie is in progress?

    “Don’t tell her anything about bulldozers.”

    Which bulldozers? The D9s and D10s of the 2nd or 1st Intifadas? The bulldozer’s demolishing illegally built houses in Gaza or the West Bank i.e. after 1967?

    “Don’t tell her about the queues at the checkpoint”

    Checkpoint: OK, this places us. This is after 1967. But the war of 1947-49 has only just finished. The timeline had been “creatively” confused, again.

    Suddenly we jump from 1949 to 1967. No Nasser, no Syrian shelling of the Golan Heights, no ongoing threats and promises never to recognise, rather destroy Israel, no Three Nos of Cairo.

    Only relentless, groundless Israeli Jewish oppression others and acquisition of their property.

    “Tell her we’ll be there in no time”

    A Freudian Slip? We are indeed “in no time”. No time that ever was.

    This is surely someone driving along an alleged “Jew only road” through the West Bank, or Jericho. Now we are in the 1980s or so, no?

    “Don’t tell her anything she doesn’t ask”

    i.e. deliberately suppress as a matter of course: lying is no conscious or second nature.

    “Don’t tell her the boy was shot”

    OK, this is some incident in the West Bank or Gaza. In the Intifadas, perhaps. Now we are in 1988+.

    Yes, surely there is some shielding of children of the realities of brutality of Israeli rule in the West Bank and Gaza. But the soldiers here are very young, teenagers. Teenagers who speak with, make love to, younger teenagers, from their school, and others. Churchill attempts to portray the younger and older generations in Israel as hermetically sealed from each other in some way. The reality is very different.

    But Churchill is not interested in reality, or only the reality that suits her pro-Palestinian Christian and Muslim, anti-Jewish nationalist agenda.

    “Don’t tell her anything.”

    I.e. suppress everything, equivalent to lie about everything.

    “Tell her we’re making new farms in the desert”

    So, when are we now? Back in 1948? In the 1930s?

    Is Churchill alluding to settlements built in the alleged “desert” of the West Bank? Or the Khan Yunis?

    “Don’t tell her about the olive trees”

    Here “olive tree” is another symbol for the Palestinian nation. A common Palestinian, anti-Zionist myth, is that Israeli Jews uproot authentically volkisch Palestinian olive trees to replace them with European conifers. While it is true that Israeli Jews uprooted some Palestinian olive trees in some situations, such as a ruined or abandoned villages, sometimes with the intention of discouraging retournees, Israel’s large and thriving olive and olive oil industry is testimony to the olive’s widespread cultivation in Israel.

    The piece is surely also referring to uprooted olive trees in the West Bank, a significant portion of which Israelis’ replant elsewhere.

    This is bad, sure. But it is a bad among much bad also inflicted or threatened against Israeli Jews, and Churchill has composed a score sheet of bad in the form of drama that intends to end in a Palestinian victory.

    “Tell her we’re building new towns in the wilderness.”

    So, where are we now? Post 1967, again? Or back in the ‘30s?

    “Don’t tell her they throw stones”

    Ah. Now we’ve jumped to the first Intifada, again.

    “Tell her they’re not much good against tanks”

    Now we’ve jumped to the second Intifada, and the iconic picture of a Palestinian boy’s throwing a stone at a tank.

    Here it’s a case of Churchill’s “Don’t tell them, the audience, about the suicide bombers, the gunmen, Hamas etc”.

    “Don’t tell her that.
    Don’t tell her they set off bombs in cafés”

    Ah, another injection of historical realism. Why would a parent not tell children about bomb’s in cafés? So as not to allegedly frighten the child.

    Here Churchill is attempting to portray the realistic, or realismistic, concern of a parent to protect a child to confirm with the “Tell/Don’t tell” formula.

    But what we have hear is a score sheet, portending to be an historical drama. The score sheet records historical wrongs, and, in this matter, the Palestinians are winning, the Israelis are losing.

    In such a score sheet, why would an Israeli parent suppress the wrongs suffered by Israel? The answer is simple: because it suits Churchill’s agenda. It is not the parent who is saying “Don’t tell the child about bombs in cafés”, it is Churchill telling herself or the audience. It is another Freudian Slip.

    “Tell her, tell her they set off bombs in cafés”

    “Tell her, tell her”: the duplication implies urgency. Why? Why change the formula? Why the urgency? Ostensibly because of a more direct threat to Israeli Jewish children in the street, perhaps. But Churchill’s drama is elliptical and allusive, the part stands for much more than itself. Churchill’s “historical drama” is a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli score sheet, and why would the Israeli Jewish parent hesitate to tell of wrongs suffered by Israeli Jews to improve their score sheet?

    See how subtly a propaganda’s audience can be manipulated.

    “Tell her to be careful”

    Another injection of Eisensteinian realism, to maintain the fiction of a historicity that does justice to Israeli Jews.

    “Don’t frighten her.
    Tell her we need the wall to keep us safe”

    OK, now we’ve jumped to 2002 or so. No need to comment on the use of “wall”: “wall” is a PSC activist’s term. Israelis generally use hafrada, separation.

    “Tell her they want to drive us into the sea”

    OK. When are we now? Back in the 1930s? 1948? 1967?

    Who is “they”? The PLO? PA? Hamas? The Arabs in general?

    Arab discourse, including that of the PLO, has, at various times, been dispossessive or eliminationist with regard to the Jews of Palestine or Israel. It may in general be more complicated and varied than that. One should perhaps distinguish been popular, official intra-state, inter-Arab state, inter-Arab, Jewish and othe state discourse. But such a strain has undoubtedly been there.

    In Hamas’ promise to “persecute the Zionists to eternity”, in Iran’s implicit nuclear threats to see the Jewish state “wiped from the pages of history”, inter alia, the discourse still exists.

    But Churchill’s “Tell her” formula has, by and large, portended what has been intended to portray a lie or distortion, and this is surely the effect intended in the audience now.

    “Tell her they don’t”

    Intended to demonstrated Churchill’s impartiality or fairness by alluding to a cypher of an Israeli peace faction? Israeli society is apparently sharply divided into paranoiac hawks and doves so realist as to be almost pacificist.

    No dramatically real suggestion that most Israeli Jews, in fact, are somewhere in between.

    “Tell her they want to drive us into the sea.”

    Repetition. This time to represent the re-enforcement of the lie. Duplication is duplicity. This time affirmation is Denial.

    “Tell her we kill far more of them”

    OK. Now we’ve jumped to very strange territory.

    Israel has tended to kill more of its enemies that vice versa. Most successful armies, most states that successfully defend themselves in war do.

    The western Allies, if not the Soviets, killed far mor Germans than vice versa. The Russians kill 100 000 Chechnyans for approximately 10 000 Russians. The Allies in the First Gulf War kill perhaps 100 000 Iraqis, military and civilian, for a few hundren military dead.

    Hithertoo, Churchill’s recounting of the Arab-Israeli conflict has been like speaking only of Allied casualties inflicted on Axis forces in World War Two.

    Churchill presumably means that, because Israel has inflicted more casualties on her enemies that vice versa, any notion of an existential threat to her is unreal.

    The duplication of “Tell her they want to drive us into the sea” is juxtaposed with “Tell her we kill far more of them” because Churchill wishes to make a polemical point that there is no existential threat to Israel’s existence and, perhaps, given her constant muddling of the timeline, past and present, that there never has been.

    It is not entirely clear whether “Tell her we kill far more of them” is said to contradict or mitigate “Tell her they want to drive us into the sea”. Hithertoo has signalled “lie” versus “truth” by the “tell/don’t tell formula”. Hence it looks like “Tell her we kill far more of them” is said in the same spirit, as it were, as “Tell her they want to drive us into the sea” i.e. exultingly.

    This will lead into issues of Israeli Jews’ exulting in Palestinian Muslims’ deaths below.

    “Don’t tell her that”

    Because, presumably, it is too exulting, to ugly. Confirming the above hypothesis.

    “Tell her that
    Tell her we’re stronger”

    I.e. use a euphemism for killing i.e. lie.

    “Tell her we’re entitled”

    i.e. entitled to “kill far more of them”. “Entitled” alludes to “special” above, and anticipates “chosen” below. This, as Jacobson wrote, concerns the alleged sense of Israeli, Zionist Jewish election, that entitles Israeli Jews to perpetrate any barbarity they please.

    But “kill far more of them” has opened new territory: the killing for killing’s sake. Israel’s “entitlement”, that is her justification, her raison d’etre, is to “kill far more of them”. This is an open ended assertion, that inevitably points back to the genocide in which the piece began.

    “Tell her they don’t understand anything except violence
    Tell her we want peace”

    i.e. lie to her. Or use the euphemism of peace for violence. We want peace, but they don’t understand anything but violence. Israeli Jewish peace is expressed in the language of violence against Palestinian Christians and Muslims.

    “Tell her we’re going swimming.”

    i.e. distract her from reality with the western, colonial, middle class luxury built on the deprivation of Palestinan Christians and Muslims of their life-giving water.

    7

    Another jump.

    “Tell her she can’t watch the news
    Tell her she can watch cartoons”

    i.e. distract, or lie, to her. Again.

    “Tell her she can stay up late and watch Friends.”

    Why Friends? Because it’s western, European, non-Palestinian, non-Arab, non-middle eastern, non-authentically volikisch.

    “Tell her they’re attacking with rockets”

    OK. Now we’re presumably post Second Intifada, post-2005, Hamastan.

    The casting of a sop of historical realism.

    “Don’t frighten her”

    Frighten who? The kids in Sderot?

    “Tell her only a few of us have been killed”

    i.e. don’t lie to her, this time. Tell her the truth, that Hamas’ or Gazans’ missiles constitute nothing to worry up. To whom is this truth told? The kids of Sderot?

    “Tell her the army has come to our defence”

    Whose “our defence”? The kids of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv or Sderot?

    How quaint is the expression “come to our defence”. As though a kid cannot distinguish between a child in Tel Aviv or Sderot.

    “Don’t tell her her cousin refused to serve in the army.”

    OK, a refusenik, refusing to serve in the West Bank. When? During the Second Intifada? Have we jumped back in time and place, again? We’ve jumped again, this time Gaza to the West Bank, Hamastan to the P.A.

    “Don’t tell her how many of them have been killed”

    i.e. suppress or lie because 6000 Palestinian Christian and Muslim dead to 1500 Israeli Jewish dead in the conflict post 2000 is a terribly disproportionate ratio, compared with other if any conflicts.

    “Tell her the Hamas fighters have been killed”

    OK. Are we during Cast Lead now? So, now the parent is lying that Hamas or other militants have been killed, or suppressing that Gazan civilians have been killed.

    “Tell her they’re terrorists”

    i.e. that Gazan militants have been launching rockets, Hamas is dedicated to Israel’s destruction, inter alia.

    But what does Churchill mean here? That Hamas fighters aren’t terrorists? OK, it’s a point of view. But is Churchill implying they are not a threat to Israel, any kind of threat? And that claiming so is another distortion or lie?

    “Tell her they’re filth”

    OK. We’re on to PSC territory here. Israeli, Zionist Jews regard Palestinian Christians and Muslims as filth. Moreover they inculcate (Billington would say “breed”) in their children that this is so. Or as That is to say, as dirt of which to be cleansed. Churchill is pointing back to the Nazi genocide of the the Jews, here.

    “Don’t
    Don’t tell her about the family of dead girls”

    The repetition of “don’t” implying another suppression, the duplication a denial. For Churchill, the suppression is a denial as to the essential nature of Cast Lead, an inculcation in the next generation of Israeli Jews of an insensitivity that points to a future atrocity.

    This refers to an incident in Cast Lead. Awful. But, in the west, or anywhere, is it customary to graphically portray or relate the deaths of civilians of enemy states to children?

    The Arab Islamic world is still grappling with portraying the Jewish dead in the holocaust, never mind Israeli Jewish dead.

    “Tell her you can’t believe what you see on television”

    To what does this refer? Israeli television? Or does Churchill allude to what some Israeli, British and other Jews called impartial and unbalanced reporting of the conflict in the British and other media?

    One wonders how much this play is intended to be a sermon to British Jews.

    “Tell her we killed the babies by mistake”

    i.e. lie, because we really did it deliberately.

    “Don’t tell her anything about the army”

    Because the army is in reality do awful no excuse can be made for it? Because no lie or distortion can cover it up? Whichever is true, Churchill has an Israeli Jewish parent suppressing or lying again.

    “Tell her, tell her about the army, tell her to be proud of the army.”

    Repetition of “tell her” again, signalling duplication as denial. “Proud of the army”: because there is no emotion other than revulsion at or pride in something, is there? One cannot, for instance, be aware of the necessity of something, without taking pride or offence in it.

    “Tell her about the family of dead girls, tell her their names why
    not, tell her the whole world knows why shouldn’t she know?”

    Suppression fails. So, rather than acknowledge or confess its being wrong, now, exult in it. This does imply exultation, exultation as symptomatic of a kind of denial. Jacobson is quite right.

    Note: Churchill has already had a parent say it was a mistake, implying, by her formula that that is a lie.

    But, apparently, now the “whole world knows”, that fiction can no longer be maintained. The lie is exposed.

    “tell
    her there’s dead babies, did she see babies?”

    Why “did she see babies”? Because the parent is backtracking? Is she revoking the necessity of telling the child because, perhaps, the truth is not known? Is “tell her there’s dead babies” merely an expedient, given “the whole world knows”?

    “tell her she’s got
    nothing to be ashamed of.”

    Because, in fact, she has. Another lie.

    “Tell her they did it to themselves.”

    Who did what to themselves? The babies killed themselves? Only the babies have been mentioned for the past few lies. The babies and girls are the only Palestinians who have had “names” apart from Hamas.

    Why would an Israeli Jewish parent say a Gazan baby did this to themselves? Why would they say Gazan civilians did this to themselves? All they would have to say is that Hamas invited retribution by perpetrating or allowing missile fire, inter alia.

    But, wait, do US, UK or American parents say Afghani or Iraqi civilian dead did this to themselves? No. It is not necessary. All one needs say is this was an unfortunate, if inevitable, corollary of war against Gazan militants.

    Note how Churchill manufactures that Israeli Jewish parents would say Gazan babies killed themselves in order to magnify Israeli Jewish insensitivity and brutality. She implies the killing of Gazan babies was a deliberate act about which, even more monstrously, Israeli Jews go into denial.

    Further, Churchill has her Israeli Jewish parent tells her Israeli Jewish child that Gazan babies killed themselves.

    Jacobson was right: this is blood libel territory.

    “Tell
    her they want their children killed to make people sorry for them,”

    OK, now we’ve jumped, oddly, from Gazan babies’ doing it to themselves to Gazan parents’ wanting their children killed.

    Note, not simply that Hamas is careless about the consequences of its policies for its civilian citizens but that Gazan civilian parents actually want their children to be killed for the cosmetic purpose of winning the world’s sympathy.

    And this an Israeli Jewish parent is saying to her Israeli Jewish child.

    One wonders whence Churchill got this information. From Haaretz, the Jerusalem Post? An official Israeli government source? A friend’s Anecdote?

    “tell her I’m not sorry for them,”

    i.e. I am really, but I am in denial about it. Which is worse. Suppression and lying again.

    And not sorry for them, how? For their unfortunate government?

    OK. This is Churchill, not Israeli Jews. Which Israeli Jewish parent was under the impression that things were nice for Gazans?

    Which nation or state at war with another, especially one whose government is officially dedicated to one’s extinction is primarilly motivated by sympathy for the enemy.

    What Churchill means is that Israeli Jewish parents lack, uniquely among other parents, a quality of empathy. That is to say, the quality of humanity.

    This is an old Christian canard about Jews: Christian mercy versus Jewish ruthlessness.

    “tell her not to be sorry for them,”

    This is a parental child conversation that never was.

    “tell her we’re the ones to be sorry for, tell her they can’t talk
    suffering to us.”

    i.e. Israeli Jews make too much of their sufferings, past or present.

    But this is Churchill in denial. For her there is no pertinent Jewish suffering for most of Christian and Islamic history, and Israel has not been threatened since before her birth.

    She makes Israeli Jews exaggerate a “suffering” Churchil has herself suppressed.

    “ell her we’re the iron fist now”

    OK. Churchill’s been reading Avi Shlaim. Another juicy quote to insert now, that of Jabotinsky.

    “, tell her it’s the fog
    of war,”

    A common Englishism for a Anglo-centric setting. Here another lie, that is, the lie that the killing of Gazan babies was a mistake when, in fact, it was deliberate.

    “tell her we won’t stop killing them till we’re safe,”

    Now we pick up the “we killed more of them” from Act 6. Implied is that Israeli existence, preservation and survival is predicated on killing. But not just any killing: open ended, that is, unlimited killing. This anticipates the “wiped them out” below, returning, again, to the genocide in which the piece begins.

    The juxtaposition of “won’t stop killing” with “safe” implies a psychopathology: the existence of Gazans, that is, Palestinian Christians and Muslims, = unsafe for Israeli Jews.

    Churchill is plugging her PSC line of Israeli Jews as inevitable, and therefore existential, genocides.

    “tell her I
    laughed when I saw the dead policemen,”

    OK. This is exultation. “Policemen” means “non-threat to Israel” and it tantamount to “civilian”. This is exultation in dead Gazan civilians, pure and simple. This is an Israeli Jewish parent boasting in such exultation to her child.

    “tell her they’re animals”

    OK. Again plugging the PSC line, that Israeli Jews see Palestinian Christians and Muslims as beasts to be slaughtered.

    “living in rubble now,”

    This is Churchill now, again, defining Gazans as living in rubble. But, note, “living in rubble” is not the same as “dead”.

    But Churchill means the Israeli Jewish parent is guilty of disassociation: the Gazans are animals because they live in rubble. Rubble which Israel has created i.e. Israel has made Gazans animals.

    “ tell her I wouldn’t care if we wiped them out,”

    Denial at the disassociation above? Denial at having made Gazans animals through reducing their homes to rubble driving a genocidal impulse?

    Because there are only two possibilities, it seems. Genocide or confessing the inherently genocidal, that is illegitimate, essence of the Zionist enterprise.

    But what else would one expect from a patroness of PSC?

    “the world would hate us is the only thing,

    This is the first time “the world” has made an appearance. No other context: pan-Arab or even Arab nationalist hostility. Refusal to grant European Jews refuge before and after the war. Post-war persecution of Jews, Arab or European.

    No historical context of European or Arab Christian or Islamic discrimination or persecution.

    Not even the United Nations recommending of partition, with Palestinian Jewish acceptance, Palestinian and other Arab Christian and Muslim rejection.

    The wider, non-Jewish world is not even mentioned in the context of the holocaust, merely “Tell her there are still people who hate Jews/Tell her there are people who love Jews”.

    This is the first time the wider, non-Jewish world makes an appearance.

    And it is in contra-distinction to Israeli Jewish genocide, or putative genocide.

    What does this tell us about Caryl Churchill.

    “tell her I don’t care if
    the world hates us, tell her we’re better haters,”

    i.e. Israeli, Zionist Jews are the best haters in the world. Because we have suffered so much. Because Jews have suffered so much. And the world is to blame.

    And we hate the world. The world which has not put in appearance until now.

    Is this not the charge Paul and Tacitus lay against the Jews in the first century?

    “tell her we’re
    chosen people,”

    Ohoho. Here we go. Israeli Jews hate the world because they are chosen. Special. Entitled.

    “tell her I look at one of their children covered in
    blood and what do I feel? tell her all I feel is happy”

    A, if not The (but “chosen” means “the”), chosen people who hate the world contemplate dead, bloody children and feel only happiness.

    This is indeed, as Jacobson wrote, old stuff.

    “it’s not her.”

    A, if not The (but “chosen” means “the”), chosen people who hate the world contemplate dead, bloody children and feel only happiness at a sacrificial substitue.

    Palestinian Christian or Muslim children have been sacrificed as a substitue for Israeli Jewish children.

    What is going on here in European cultural Christian Caryl Churchill’s mind?

    A poetic genius indeed.

    “Don’t tell her that.”

    i.e. don’t tell her of Caryl Churchill’s economy of substitution.

    “Tell her we love her.”

    Love redeems, but not Israeli Jewish parents. This is to redeem Caryl Churchill from the charge of writing a partial and partisan polemic that serves her pro-Palestinian Christian and Muslim anti-Jewish nationalist agenda rather than, as she claims, doing Israeli Jews justice.

    “Don’t frighten her.”

    Because it is historically realistic to portray Israeli Jews as protecting their children, even if it entails sacrificing Palestinian Christian and Muslims children instead.

  27. Ralph Marks Says:

    “Love redeems, but not Israeli Jewish parents. This is to redeem Caryl Churchill from the charge of writing a partial and partisan polemic that serves her pro-Palestinian Christian and Muslim anti-Jewish nationalist agenda rather than, as she claims, doing Israeli Jews justice.”

    Good analysis, Zkharya.

    Caryl is the 21st century Portia of the Merchant of Venice who sees Israelis as Shylocks. Her veiw of Jewish actions and reactions is deeply antisemitic.

  28. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    If Dr Dawg merely responds to pieces which attempt to be thoughtful, rational and actually related to the topic under discussion (7 Jewish Children) with mere repititions of earlier assertions that such pieces are wrong…then dialogue is impossible. Either respond in kind or vacate the field.

    As for the claim that Churchill’s piece is “clearly” about Israelis, why is it titled “Seven _Jewish_ Children” and why do so many of the 7 scenes relate to a clearly pre-state of Israel time? And why is there a barely concealed reference to the notorious medieval blood libel? Even one of the actors and their partner (both Jewish, actor a survivor, both spent time in Israel) felt extremely uncomfortable at this part of the play. Or is Churchill (and by implication Dawg) saying that this is far from a libel and that Israelis deliberately target children, even if it isn’t to _use_ their blood for some mythical and arcane quasi-religious purpose?

    Might we have some answers instead of a repitition of earlier assertions?

  29. zkharya Says:

    Brian, might I iterate?

    The Seven Children are Jewish. But they are not Jewish in a universal sense: they are Palestinian or Israeli Jewish, for they all become Palestinian or Israeli. They do not become American, British or Australian, for instance. The play’s thesis, that Holocaust survivors evolve, through their descendants, into Holocaust perpetrators, is not sustained, by it, for other than Israeli Jewries. It is not maintained that, say, American or other Jewish descendants from survivors would wreak genocide on their fellow American, British cultural Christian or other compatriots.

    Why not?

    As David Hirsh has observed, the play’s thesis, which is also Jacqueline Rose’s, is not attribute to the perpetrators of genocide, or their descendants. Apparently enduring genocide makes one more likely to commit it in future than those who have executed it formally.

    Churchill could have, more accurately, entitled hers an attempt to represent The History of Seven Israeli Jewish Children. But that would have been insufficiently universal for her, it seems. Odd. Her need to blur the distinction between Israeli and other Jews. Odd. Worthy of note.

  30. Lynne T Says:

    Brian: the full title is: Seven Jewish Children: a play for Gaza, and given the dialogue, it’s about both Jews and Israel.

    Isn’t Churchill’s whole point that Gazans live in misery because comfortable Ashkenazic Zionist Jews living in the west are stealing their homes and keeping the rightful owners in a “open air prison”, and if young Ashkenzim continue to wish to make aliyah, it’s because they’ve been raised on lies about Israel and brainwashed to think they are unwanted in the west.

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      To both Lynne & zkharaya: my reasoning is that it it isn’t an accident that Churchill called the play what she did. It might be unfortunate, given her claims as to its genesis, but that _is_ its title. And all the pre-state of Israel segments are clearly played out between Ashkenazi and European based Jews (and partly in the pre-Holocaust period, too). Those located in Palestine/Israel are still between Ashkenazi-origin Jews.

      It takes a particular mind-set to presume (because there isn’t any evidence that would pass scientific muster) that the survivors of genocide will, given the chance, go on, themselves, to become perpetrators of genocide. For a start, there is no evidence, only assumption, that genocide is being carried out on the West Bank and Gaza; there is only assumption and hyperbole, not evidence, that anyone with access to the information can seriously equate Gaza with the Warsaw Ghetto. Yet Churchill does, more than merely in effect, do this.

      Need I go on?

  31. Dr.Dawg Says:

    Now I’ve been given my instructions by Brian Goldfarb, who somehow knew that I was just in the process of reassembling my hatful of assertions in order to bore you all with a “repitition,” I shall take a little time over this. zkharya’s pieces are not short, and not contentless.

  32. Bill Says:

    It’s amazing how many people who aren’t antisemetic (and really not antisemetic, not the people with “issues”) go to such lengths to ignore high-brow antisemitism’s existence… Effectively putting what is a politically correct prejudice on a pedestal. And when they do that no matter what it always seems still be right at their fingertips.

    No it’s not antisemetic. Antisemetic is whatever LePen or Pat Buchanan says. It’s the Protocals, yeah, that’s antisemetic. And then orgasmic (as opposed to sober) critics of Israel get all surprised when someone in their midsts really jumps the shark, cites something from a holocaust denial site, or better still link the site of the guy who was hired by the KKK to make it more “mainstream” (and it worked, didn’t it, boycotters!). And at that point once they see that their frog’s been boiled, they insist that it’s chicken — not a drop of amphibian flesh in that morsel, and how dare you question the chef.

    It’s either that or come to the nasty realization that antisemites and racists aren’t just “those people” form whom who can insulate themselves. There’s one working two doors down the hall, who sits on committees with you, who you have to go to parties with and “like” — and evaluates your students. No, it’s better to think that linking to that site was just an terrible mistake. That their statement about Israel non-demonizer Ryan O’Connor being a Jew was because she knew something about him you didn’t. And that she now looks at you funny when you didn’t join in her invite to go to the
    “We are all Hezbollah” rally.

    How many It’s-Not-Amtisemitism water carriers liver in such a self-shielded environment (such a good colleague, such a nice colleague). I know I did for some time until I got a nasty reality check.

  33. zkharya Says:

    I should have corrected one assertion:

    Acts 1 through 5 (not 4, as I may have said) all occur between 1939 and 1949.

  34. Dr.Dawg Says:

    Critique of zkharya’s Critique: Art vs. Polemic

    Let me make one general observation to begin with, followed by an impudent question. It seems to me that zkharya, throughout his critique of Caryl Churchill’s play, is falling into that most elementary or reviewer’s traps: attacking the author for not having written a different piece. She has not written an historical treatise, but a play; her interest is not in exhaustively covering seven decades or so of European/Middle Eastern Jewish history, and hence joining the historical controversies in which historians are involved. Rather, she is imaginatively attempting to probe how people manage the history in their own heads, the wisps and prominences of what each of us calls “the past”–and how we deploy those constructions when we engage in the present. So to argue at once that this is “history” in the historian’s sense of the term, and then to debunk it as such, is simply a straw-man argument–one repeated, unfortunately, throughout zkharya’s critique.

    And my question: does zkharya have kids of his own?

    My late partner and I had differing views about exposing our younger one to merely cinematic violence. The case in point was Once Were Warriors (she was Maori), in which truly sickening brutality is ever-present in a Maori urban community in Auckland, likely Otara. She had no difficulty letting the young’un watch the film. I, on the other hand, blanched at the prospect. I suspect that other parents might find positions in between.

    How do we talk to our children when the Nazis are on the point of carting families away to the camps? How do we talk to our children when they see images of Gazan bloodshed on TV, or hear the anguish in Dr. Ezz-El-Din Abu El-Aish’s voice as he reports the death of his three daughters? What do we say?

    Churchill’s point is that we may indeed say a number of contradictory things, none of which is particularly satisfactory: words are simply words, used in the seven vignettes to obfuscate (in the case of children about to be sent to death camps) or to explain (not well), or to justify, or to convey simple understandings that a child might grasp. Churchill asks us to imagine what it must be like to be forced to utter under extreme circumstances. The parents do not have the comfort of retreating into silence.

    What Churchill offers us is, to be sure, an argument, and one can engage her play on that level if desired. But the existence of that argument does not make it mere agitprop, any more than Paradise Lost can be reduced to mere theology. Somehow we miss the essence of the play when we reduce it thus.

    But that’s precisely what zkharya does.

    In what follows I shall confine myself to the text and zkharya’s exegesis. As someone with a litcrit background, I’m not interested in who or what Churchill is, or what people say about her, or how the Guardian staged the play, or even what herself says about the work.

    In Act 1, says zkharya, no one dies, in contrast to Act 7. He goes on to make much of this, but he omits to mention that the play is composed of pre-conversations, as anguished parents struggle to find words that will shield, explain, etc. Act 1 is about the Holocaust: surely we can take the nature of the Holocaust as read. We know what is to happen to the doomed children and their parents. I’m not certain how one would construct an after-the-fact conversation in this instance, but in any case Churchill, in just a few lines, conjures up the agony of inadequate utterance in the face of literally unspeakable horror. (Silence, as noted, is not an option.)

    Act 7, on the other hand, is a response to what children are seeing and hearing on TV. Different responses to vastly different situations do not imply hypocrisy or imbalance.

    zkharya finds the conflicting voices “odd,” even though s/he concedes early on that characters “sometimes say contradictory things.” The ambivalence with respect to danger–the Holocaust is over, but European Jews are not out of the woods yet, and how does one convey that to a kid?–is surely typical of what any Jewish parent would feel under post-war circumstances. The aim is to strike a balance between relief at the defeat of the Nazis and continuing uncertainty, for both parents and children.

    Indeed, this is precisely the “hint of the actual immediate post-Holocaust situation of European Jews” that zkharya claims is absent. It’s presented quite clearly in the lines quoted, but s/he misses the entire point: the history in question is to be, once again, taken as read.

    It would also be welcome, if one is to critique the play, to avoid slander. The play in no way argues that “Holocaust survivors evolve, through their descendants, into Holocaust perpetrators.” If there is a message, it is this: suffering does not enoble. Indeed, it may brutalize. The children of abusers may become abusers themselves, or less sensitive to abuse–or, of course, have no such effect. But neither the author nor her defenders is calling the Gazan carnage a “Holocaust.” The equivalence there is in zkharya’s mind–and in the inflamed rhetoric of a few street protesters who insult our intelligence.

    Nor is it “worthy of note,” at least in the sense that zkharya uses the term as s/he attempts to build the case for Churchill’s “anti-Semitism,” that the distinction between Israeli Jews and Jews qua Jews is “blurred.” The imaginative exercise is to sift the events through Jewish sensibilities, and note the plural–there is no one Jewish sensibility, of course, but there are common strands of history, and an “imagined community.”

    zkharya insists, sometimes at least, upon the grossest of distortions to make his/her case. A parent explaining why they are leaving all that they know to go to a new land (Israel), and encouraging the kids by telling them that it’s sunny where they are going, is transmogrified thus:

    “Jewish migration to Palestine, if not Zionism in general (!), is portrayed as an exercise in sun-bathing.”

    Good grief. And the lines that follow are subject to what is swiftly becoming an Zhadanovian exercise in distortion:

    Tell her we’re going home
    Tell her it’s the land God gave us

    That last line immediately contradicted by

    Don’t tell her religion

    and then

    Tell her her great great great great lots of greats grandad lived there

    is a contrast between a secular and a religious rationale for going to Palestine, a debate of a kind. But zkharya claims the last line is “mocking.” S/he offers no evidence for this, because there is none. It is tied to the first line quoted, about “home,” a way of explaining to children that there is indeed a connection already in place between them and the strange new place to which they are going. The “chuckle,” if there is one, is a response to the phrase “lots of greats,” a means of trying to convey millennia to a child.

    zkharya’s subsequent discussion of the claims of Zionism is frankly irrelevant, as well are being rather incomprehensible–he doesn’t like Churchill’s assumption, but he offers no counter-assumptions to the ones s/he claims to have uncovered. In any case, the lines above are what parents are saying to their kids, not a disquisition on the last 2000 years of Jewish history.

    “Don’t tell her he was driven out,” is expanded by zkharya into pure fantasy–rather than (as s/he at once articulates and dismisses) not wanting to frighten an already-traumatized children with more tales of violence and exile becomes, in his/her hands, a sly suggestion that Israeli Jews are going to be driven out again.

    And then, reaching for the moon, s/he notes the clash of “he” was driven out vs. “everyone” was driven out–an argument, once again, between parents wondering what they can say to their kids, or an internal contradictory impulse–and claims that Churchill is concocting a deliberate falsehood. At this point I begin to wonder if we are reading the same play. This isn’t critique, but, once again, pure fantasy.

    Again and again, every measure to shield a child, to find explanations and rationales that a child might grasp, is dismissed as tendentious, with so much reading-in by the indeed tendentious zkharya that the play nearly disappears. There are too many instances to count.

    But to point out the obvious is dismissed out of hand: the play is “elliptical and allusive,” something upon which we can both agree, but zkharya wants to fill in the gaps in his/her own way, putting anti-Semitism into the silent mouth of Churchill while offering his own counter-arguments to arguments that are never made, even elliptically or allusively.

    It’s not the parents wrestling with the age-old problem of explaining things to a child, in the cases before us under extreme circumstances: no, it’s Churchill herself, telling her audience what to think, telling them (for example) that the voice that says “Don’t tell her he was driven out” is Churchill telling us to forget the dispossession of the Jews from Israel. Thank goodness for the wise zkharya, or I might have blanked that dispossession entirely from my mind–if only the wily Churchill had not planted it there in the first place!

    Well, there’s a lot more of the same, and I don’t want to write pages and pages that show the same dubious technique at work. To hear zkharya tell it, every phrase in the play is simply pregnant with anti-Semitic import. “Tell her it’s an adventure” is held to mean that aliyah is just a game. “Tell her that no one will tease her” is pure, unadulterated anti-Semitism, because the parent is lying—of course, once in Israel, they will find themselves under constant threat. “Tell her she’ll have new friends,” why, that reads like something out of Der Stuermer, doesn’t it? “Tell her she can take her toys” means that aliyah is trivial. “Tell her she’s a special girl” is an invocation of the Jewish princess stereotype. Etc. Etc.

    Incidentally, section 5 is about the Six Day War, not 1949. That latter is a simply bizarre misreading on zkharya’s part. “Tell her we’ve got new land” refers to the West Bank and Gaza, and this moves smoothly on to part 6, which is about the subsequent settlements. The water reference is to the undisputed fact that 80% of the water on the West Bank is consumed by the settlers. Water is a huge issue there: perhaps this reference is in order, if I’m not falling into the same trap as zkharya: http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasen/spages/1000601.html.

    Disingenuously, I believe, the mention of bulldozers is queried because zkharya has decided to re-set that section of the play before the Six Day War rather than after it.

    I’ll skip over the rest—the continual wringing of floods of anti-Semitic meaning from a damp cloth, the obligatory reference to the Blood Libel, etc., etc. zkharya ought to write plays of his/her own—obviously the febrile imagination is there.

    But, in the meantime, zkharya doesn’t offer us critique, but hallucination.

  35. zkharya Says:

    ok, Dawg, well, obviously, it took a while to write my original critique, and getting round to critiquing your critique of my critique will take a little longer.

  36. Sarah Says:

    “As someone with a litcrit background, I’m not interested in who or what Churchill is, or what people say about her, or how the Guardian staged the play, or even what herself says about the work.”
    I think Dr Dawg makes some interesting points which point to a possible (if not the only) reading of the play. Like him I also have a litcrit background and normally I’m more concerned with the words on the page than with the circumstances of a text’s production/dissemination. But it seems very difficult (at least for now) to separate this complex/slippery play from the circumstances in which it was written and performed. Even if, as Dr Dawg suggests, the play doesn’t explicitly suggest parity between the Holocaust and events in Gaza, there is surely a subtle, structural parallel which gains resonance, I think, from external pressures – including perhaps the “!inflamed rhetoric of a few street protesters who insult our intelligence” .
    I was reading an account recently of Derek Walcott’s play ‘Dream on Monkey Mountain’ which represents the dangers of an oppressed people becoming in their turn violent and oppressive. I started comparing this with accounts of 7JC – some people have noted that you couldn’t write a similar play about black experiences but it seemed DW was doing just that. But it does seem important that DW was writing as a West Indian for a West Indian audience whereas Caryl Churchill doesn’t have that connection with the experiences she depicts.

  37. Dr.Dawg Says:

    I’m sure zkharya will forgive me for this as he constructs his counter-counter-critique:

    If Caryl Churchill had written Twinkle Twinkle Little Star: a zkharyan fantasia

    Twinkle, twinkle, little star,

    And so the symbol of the entire Jewish people, the Mogen David, is mocked and trivialized.

    How I wonder what you are!

    The anti-Semite declaiming this poem wonders not at all. Israel is here to stay. Deal with it!

    Up above the world so high,

    A combination of wishful thinking, a reference to Israel’s claim to be more moral than other nations, and a sly reference to “wiping Israel off the map.”

    Like a diamond in the sky!

    Note the clear reference here to Jews and their ancient trade. This is combined with the evident wish by the speaker that the Jews might follow that diamond into the sky and hence leave our planet.

    When the blazing sun is gone,
    When he nothing shines upon,

    Could this be a threat, picking up on Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children line, “Tell her it’s sunny there?” Or is it, as is most likely, Churchill warning that Christianity and its revelatory light are is in danger of being extinguished?

    Then you show your little light,
    Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.

    Note the clever play on words—“little light.” Not merely “a” little light, but little light in general—whereas, as already indicated, Churchill is suggesting that the light of Revelation is like the sun. All the Mogen David can do is “twinkle, twinkle,” a clear instance of mockery.

    Then the traveller in the dark,

    Note Churchill’s introduction of the stereotype of the Wandering Jew, and a less-than-subtle suggestion of being unenlightened.

    Thanks you for your tiny spark,

    Indeed—the Law of Return beckons all Jews, sneers Churchill.

    He could not see which way to go,
    If you did not twinkle so.

    This is more complex than it first appears. The surface meaning, of course, is that Israel, symbolized by the Star of David, will put an end to the traveller’s perpetual exile. But suddenly the word “twinkling” takes on an aura of danger. Churchill is suggesting that even the “twinkling” that he has been mocking constitutes a threat—even the trivial, according to her, is dangerous in the hands of Jews.

    In the dark blue sky you keep,

    Oh, here we go—the State of Israel owns the entire sky. An obvious riff on the International Jewish Conspiracy theme.

    And often through my curtains peep,

    Once again, the existential Jewish threat: the evil, controlling Joooos are keeping their eyes on everything and everyone.

    For you never shut your eye,
    Till the sun is in the sky.

    Told you. And of course, according to Churchill, Christianity (the sun) is the only means of overcoming this threat to humanity.

    As your bright and tiny spark,
    Lights the traveller in the dark,—
    Though I know not what you are,
    Twinkle, twinkle, little star.

    Just about every anti-Semitic trope may be found in Churchill’s wretched poem except the Blood Libel. The “travellers” here are gathered from exile to displace the “Palestinians.” The reference to “bright” is a recapitulation of the stereotype of Jewish cunning and malign intelligence. The star is “tiny” but, we are to assume, deadly. The speaker, repeating “I know not what you are” is telling us that Jews are alien, evil and beyond comprehension. And, in a brilliant conflation, the speaker mocks the star for merely “twinkling,” challenges it, and also conveys fear that it will always “twinkle”—the Eternal Jew, posing his eternal threat.

    A vile piece of trash, to put it mildly. But hardly unique. As I read the pages of Mother Churchill’s Goose, I am frankly aghast. Humpty Dumpty—who pushed him off that wall, the body politic so thoroughly shattered that the forces of the sovereign cannot put things right? Who tripped up Jack and Jill, once again attacking the sovereign (“broke his crown”)? Who then advises the already weakened Jack to jump over a candlestick?

    And don’t even get me started on her magnum opus, Caryl the Pooh.

  38. Marky Mark Says:

    Thanks to “A List’ Canadian blogger Dr. Dawg for linking to this site.

    There was a piece in our press today concerning this play:

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20090516.BKREAD16ART1445/TPStory/?query=rex+murphy

    “…There is, of course, nothing, nothing at all here, about the Arab armies massing for attack, or Israel’s desperate gamble of a pre-emptive strike. Nothing at all about what it would have meant for the existence of Israel, if her enemies had been triumphant. Nothing about the whole freight of modern Israel’s history, which has been a continuous struggle for existence, a continuous fretful gasping for air since the very day of its modern founding.

    Nothing at all, either, about the sea of hatred that surrounds Israel today, with Holocaust-denying conferences featuring David Duke as keynote speaker, or Iran’s president and his repeated assertions that Israel will be “wiped off the map.” And as for suicide bombings and rocket attacks, in this progressive imagining nothing at all about them, for, after all, what are rocket attacks but mosquito bites in the eternal summer holiday that is day-to-day life in modern Israel? The “Zionist entity” is implacable, adamantine, impervious, racist, supremacist and vilely superior to … well, everything and everyone. And, mostly, Jews live there. Such is the background image of Churchill’s playlet.

  39. Marky Mark Says:

    I don’t think the play is anti-Semitic and certainly don’t think it should be banned. It represents one point of view. In fact, in light of this thread that I haven’t yet fully abosrbed, I’d actually like to see it for myself.

    It’s up to those who support the basic right of Israel to exist in security to present in the marketplace of ideas the facts that support that position. Arguments of anti-Semitism in most cases are misguided and weaken the overall argument.

  40. Sarah Says:

    @Dr Dawg – you said “But neither the author nor her defenders is calling the Gazan carnage a “Holocaust.” The equivalence there is in zkharya’s mind–and in the inflamed rhetoric of a few street protesters who insult our intelligence.”
    I just came across the following on a comment on Harry’s Place. It is taken from publicity material for a performance of the play. (The comment was posted at 12.05 pm on 16/5 on the thread about 7 Other Children)
    “Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza by acclaimed playwright Caryl Churchill. What do you tell a child when her government is trying to kill her? What do you tell a child when her government is killing other children?”
    Here the more implicit and potential link between the Holocaust and Gaza in 7JC has been intensified by the fact the two sentences beginning ‘What do’ are nearly identical. (The rhetoric seems to suggest, it might be argued, that today’s Israeli child is like a (non-Jewish) child in Nazi Germany.) OK, it’s not precisely saying Gaza is a ‘Holocaust’ but it does show how the play is open (I think) to such a reading – and that there are readers who are receptive to that kind of interpretation.

  41. zkharya Says:

    “Critique of zkharya’s Critique: Art vs. Polemic”

    You never do say which or what is art and which is polemic

    “Let me make one general observation to begin with, followed by an impudent question. It seems to me that zkharya, throughout his critique of Caryl Churchill’s play, is falling into that most elementary or reviewer’s traps: attacking the author for not having written a different piece. She has not written an historical treatise, but a play”

    But she herself proferred it as a ten minute history of Israel.

    “her interest is not in exhaustively covering seven decades or so of European/Middle Eastern Jewish history,”

    She touted it as a ten minute history of Israel. I read it as though it were, or purported to be, historical.

    “and hence joining the historical controversies in which historians are involved. Rather, she is imaginatively attempting to probe how people manage the history in their own heads,”

    How is that separate from establishing a) what that history is and b) what the alleged history inside her characters’ heads is?

    “the wisps and prominences of what each of us calls “the past”–and how we deploy those constructions when we engage in the present.”

    Or the process of constructing or writing history, or historiography, as it is often called.

    “So to argue at once that this is “history” in the historian’s sense of the term, and then to debunk it as such, is simply a straw-man argument–one repeated, unfortunately, throughout zkharya’s critique.”

    Rubbish: if you say you’re writing history, your history may be criticized as such.

    “And my question: does zkharya have kids of his own?”

    Zkharya does not. Does that bar me from critiquing this particular play?

    And if you are so allegedly uninterested in the matters external to the play, such as who or what Churchill is, and what she says her play is, why are you so concerned to adduce my childlessness as pertinent to the discussion?

    “My late partner and I had differing views about exposing our younger one to merely cinematic violence.”

    Well, that’s an interesting point you make. The Palestinian “television” victims of Act 7 are represented quite graphically. The Holocaust Jewish victims (and no Palestinian/Israeli Jewish victims, I repeat, no Palestinian/Israeli Jewish victims), who, presumably the child “encountered” quite graphically, are alluded to by the reference to the (sole) uncle and grandmother.

    I’m sure what the contrast between your hesitating to expose your child to dramatic violence and Israeli Jewish parents’ exulting at or rejoicing in the sight of Palestinian Muslim corpses, or victims, in front of, if not specifically for, Israeli Jewish children, is intended to convey.

    “The case in point was Once Were Warriors (she was Maori), in which truly sickening brutality is ever-present in a Maori urban community in Auckland, likely Otara. She had no difficulty letting the young’un watch the film. I, on the other hand, blanched at the prospect. I suspect that other parents might find positions in between. How do we talk to our children when the Nazis are on the point of carting families away to the camps?”

    OK. But. Whereas Palestinian victims, including child victims, are not only adduced, they are represented, verbally, in quite a graphic way, the only, I repeat only, Jewish victims, in the Holocaust, Palestinian-Israeli conflict or anywhere, are a child’s uncle and grandmother.

    That is it.

    “How do we talk to our children when they see images of Gazan bloodshed on TV, or hear the anguish in Dr. Ezz-El-Din Abu El-Aish’s voice as he reports the death of his three daughters? What do we say?”

    According to Caryl Churchill, for the sake of their children, Israeli Jewish parents rejoice, exult or laugh at it.

    I am not sure that constitutes the discussion about parenting that you suggest or imply that it is.

    “Churchill’s point is that we may indeed say a number of contradictory things, none of which is particularly satisfactory: words are simply words, used in the seven vignettes to obfuscate (in the case of children about to be sent to death camps)”

    Well, you say “obfuscate”. I say simply scarcely represent at all, in the case of the Holocaust, or any Jewish victim. Graphically portray and exult at in the case of Palestinian Muslim victims.

    That is indeed “contradictory”, in a sense.

    “or to explain (not well), or to justify, or to convey simple understandings that a child might grasp.”

    Well, bloodily, graphically, joyfully or exultingly when it comes to Palestinian Muslim victims by Israeli Jewish parents for the sake of their children.

    “Churchill asks us to imagine what it must be like to be forced to utter under extreme circumstances.”

    She imagines it for the Holocaust, a little. But, whereas Israeli Jewish parents describe, for Churchill’s audience Palestinian Muslim children’s corpses quite graphically, if not joyfully, her Jewish parents describe nothing of Holocaust victims for Churchill’s audience referring merely to a dead uncle and grandmother.

    She blatently asserts Israeli Jewish parents rejoicing in the sacrifice of Palestinian Muslim children for their own children.

    “The parents do not have the comfort of retreating into silence.”

    “What Churchill offers us is, to be sure, an argument,”

    i.e. a polemic, sure.

    “and one can engage her play on that level if desired.”

    You mean address, confront or refute it as a polemic, sure. Thank you. For your graciousness.

    “But the existence of that argument does not make it mere agitprop, any more than Paradise Lost can be reduced to mere theology.”

    Hmm. You mean Churchill has a “theology” i.e. an ideology, which motivates, or is expressed in, her play? I agree. Very much so.

    But who would dispute that Paradise Lost is an Epic that dramatizes a theological system? Are you saying Seven Jewish Children is the same? I am not sure I disagree.

    “Somehow we miss the essence of the play when we reduce it thus.”

    The problem with this, I think, is that, when it comes to matters of historicity, failure to accurately portray history, by omission or commission, is not offset by literary quality.

    You cannot compensate for writing poor, bad or inaccurate history, or misrepresenting the Defendant in a Trial, while claiming to do him Justice, by appealing to the quality of your Fiction.

    Or, at least, you cannot do so and expect the Advocates for the Defence not to contest your representation.

    You may think, They must be represented, they cannot represent themselves. “They” or Their Advocates are unlikely to agree.

    So you acknowledge, if only implicitly, that Churchill’s play is agit-prop? Good. On that we agree, at least.

    “But that’s precisely what zkharya does.”

    But you admit the play is agit-prop.

    Why then to do you object to its being critiqued as such?

    “In what follows I shall confine myself to the text and zkharya’s exegesis. As someone with a litcrit background,”

    Ohoho. A formidable adversary indeed. Nor can I adduce a Litcrit Union Card.

    “I’m not interested in who or what Churchill is, or what people say about her, or how the Guardian staged the play, or even what herself says about the work.”

    And yet you were interested in whether I had children. And if you aren’t interested in her saying she was writing an historical work, you aren’t interested in her saying what she was writing.

    And how The Guardian “staged” the play indicates how the play should be interpreted where the meaning is ambiguous.

    E.g. it is not all clear, to me, whether Act 5 follows the 1949 or 1967, based on evidence internal to the play up to and including that Act.

    It turns out I misread The Guardian’s photo heralding Act 5. It was of Israeli tanks in the Old City.

    But given that Act 4 consists in Jewish families’ arriving in Haifa or Tel Aviv, apparently immediately post-war, seeing Palestinian women on the dockside, I assumed Act 5 was the aftermath of Israel’s first war, no other’s having been mentioned.

    In the absence of other evidence, I think my assumption was entirely reasonable. Only external evidence i.e. some kind of scenery could indicate otherwise. Hence The Guardian photograph.

    “In Act 1, says zkharya, no one dies, in contrast to Act 7. He goes on to make much of this, but he omits to mention that the play is composed of pre-conversations,”

    I like that expression, “pre-conversations”. You describe the device very well. The play attempts to tell Jewish/Israeli Jewish history from 1939 in the way parents decide what to tell their children.

    That is how Churchill chooses to represent history. Presumably as an alternative to simple narrative. But that itself begs the question, Why? Why does she choose this over narrative?

    And why does she choose this device to dramatize her version of Israeli Jewish history for the past 70 years or so?

    Oddly, this is not simply an account of abused becoming abuser. Why? Because, simply, in Churchill’s represention of history, no European or Arab Christian or Muslim abuses any Jew after the year 1945.

    The only way for Churchill to mutate or evolve a Holocaust Jewish survivor of Nazi genocide into a future or potential genocide of Palestinian Muslim children is by means of a tradition conveyed over (the biblically significant number) seven Jewish generations.

    These are, of course, not literally seven Jewish generations. But they are figuratively seven Jewish generations. They are memetic, rather than genetic, (Israeli yet also universal) Jewish generations. They represent the mutation/evolution of a tradition of identity, first as passive victim, then as active victimizer.

    It is intended to convey the evolution of a psychosis, that ends in psychopathy.

    But, whereas one can take it as “read” that the Holocaust constitutes an actual abuse, perhaps, Churchill’s representing or, perhaps more accurately, rendering it through the mirror of what one might call White Lies begins a interpretative-methodological process that renders whatever Israeli Jewish parents say about their existential situation problematic if not mendacious.

    Act 5, I accept, may well be intended to represent 1967. But what happened to the UN recommending of partition, Palestinian Jewish accepting, Muslim and Christian rejecting of it? The civil war of 1947-48, the inter-state war of 1948-1949? Suez, the Fedayeen, the Syrian shelling of the Golan? The threats of Nasser?

    If Act 5 is post-’67, there is a twenty gap. Where nothing, it seems of significance happens.

    Okay, “tell her we turned back their armies” suggests something against which Israeli Jews could act defensively i.e. which could somehow impress on them something to re-inforce the identity of genocide-victim/perpetrator (I am sorry if my language or reasoning is confused, but that is because, unfortunately, I think Churchill is confused and confusing –I am, as it were, her victim and creation).

    But, because of the system, and it is a kind of system, of misrepresentation/White Lie represented/initiated by Churchill in Acts 1 and 2, and mutated into Grey Lie in Acts 3 and 4, what is the audience suppose to make of the assertion “turned their armies back” i.e. the thwarting of an existential threat?

    To take the assertion at face value? How? Churchill has undermined “face value”. The point has been reached where nothing any of her Israeli Jewish characters can be taken at face value. Except of course what Caryl Churchill patroness of PSC would have her audience take at face value. White Lie has been mutated into Grey, then, by the play’s end, Black Lie.

    I am beginning to suspect that the play is a kind of linguistic, rhetorical trick, among other things.

    “The world” only makes an appearance in Act 7. And then only in contradistinction to putative Israeli Jewish genocide.

    “as anguished parents”

    But, following the Holocaust in Act 1, nothing is represented, directly or indirectly, as being an existential source of anguish for Jewish parents, bar memory in Act 2.

    “struggle to find words that will shield, explain, etc. Act 1 is about the Holocaust: surely we can take the nature of the Holocaust as read.”

    How can you take as read what is not written?

    What is written is that the experience of the Holocaust is a game. Bar one uncle and grandmother, there are no Jewish victims represented in the entire play from beginning to end. Just as the migration of Jews from Europe to Palestine concerns sun, teasing, friends and toys.

    How different is the entirely non allusive, non-eliptical description of Palestinian victimhood.

    “We know what is to happen to the doomed children and their parents.”

    Can you? The children are children who survive the Holocaust, who go on to become, in the play, Palestinians or Israelis.

    That is the narrative of the play: how Jewish parents have reared their children over successive generations to become Israeli Jews. From victims of genocide to future, potential or mental genocides.

    “I’m not certain how one would construct an after-the-fact conversation in this instance, but in any case Churchill, in just a few lines, conjures up the agony of inadequate utterance in the face of literally unspeakable horror. (Silence, as noted, is not an option.)”

    Well, with silence there would be no play. Silence was an option. Parents who faced death with their children did all kinds of things. But chiefly comforting or soothing distraction, I should imagine, based on what I know, yes.

    But, if Palestinian Muslim and Christian victimhood did not arise ex nihilo, and this is the actual trajectory the play concerns –the Palestinian Muslim and Christian, not the Israeli Jew, the Palestinian Muslim or Christian victim, not the Israeli Jewish victimizer, so neither did the Holocaust.

    But Churchill’s Holocaust occurs in uacuo. No context. Simply the allusion of games, of hiding, and the memory of a lost uncle or grandmother. Nothing more traumatic, arguably, than that. Nothing.

    But the Holocaust, like Zionism, has a context: centuries of European Christian (and in another context, arguably, Arab Islamic) anti-Judaism and antisemitism.

    The only allusion to this context, to this history is, again, in that mocking “great, great, lots of great grandfather”. That is the only depth to the Jewish experience the play offers.

    It is very odd. It is almost as though the Holocaust was only experienced, or even perceived, by Jews. That is to say, it has only passive victims, no active agents.

    How different is the Palestinian experience of victimhood, which is only portrayed, in the play, through its active agents. Nor do Palestinian nor any other Arab Muslims or Christians play an active role bar “tell her we turned back their armies” and, at the end, in Act 7, “tell her they want to drive us into the sea”, both of which assertions occur within the context of White Lie evolving from Grey to Black.

    “Act 7, on the other hand, is a response to what children are seeing and hearing on TV.”

    No. Not merely “what children are seeing and hearing on TV”. What Caryl Churchill is graphically verbally representing to her audience.

    “Different responses to vastly different situations do not imply hypocrisy or imbalance.”

    Perhaps not. But the same cannot be excluded with regard to differences in representation, vast or otherwise, of violent death, of uncle and grandmother on the one hand, of a family of little girls and others on the other.

    But, as I said, what disturbs me most is the lingering nature of Churchill’s sympathetic study of the context of Palestinian Muslim and Christian victimhood, and its non-existence with regard to Jewish, European, Israeli or otherwise.

    “zkharya finds the conflicting voices “odd,” even though s/he concedes early on that characters “sometimes say contradictory things.” The ambivalence with respect to danger–the Holocaust is over, but European Jews are not out of the woods yet, and how does one convey that to a kid?–is surely typical of what any Jewish parent would feel under post-war circumstances.”

    But, “Tell her it’s over now/Tell her there are still people who hate Jews/Tell her there are people who love Jews” does not convey the situation of stateless and displaced Jews. “Tell her there are still people who hate Jews/Tell her there are people who love Jews” raises or lowers the issue to a matter of abstraction. Jews have tried to return to their homes, but have been driven away by the thousand. The chances are the child will have experience hatred or rejection post-war. It is not a matter of abstract possibility either way, which is what Churchill reduces it to.

    “Tell her it was before she was born”: this is staggering. How old is this child, if she was born in 1945, and Act 2 is set before 1948?

    “and she’s not in danger”: OK, it is of course perfectly plausible adults would tell this to children. But Churchill’s purpose is not merely to portray, historically, what post-war European Jewry may have said about what something.

    You yourself, remember, have said this is not history.

    Churchill’s purpose is to portray the evolution of the pyschosis whereby Jewish victims of genocide evolve toward being its perpetrators.

    “Tell her it was before she was born and she’s not in danger/Don’t tell her there’s any question of danger” is not intended to represent the danger in which European Jews post-war, especially those who went to Palestine, were. It is intended to represent quite the opposite. And what it serves to do is misrepresent, by omission, or implied exageration, the actual situation of post-war European Jewry, which, while it may not have been one of active danger (though it some situations it clearly was) was one of crisis.

    To say that it is intended “merely” to represent anxious parental comforting of a child is, to put it politely, balderdash.

    Churchill is attempting to portray the situation as one where European post-Holocaust survivors could or should have remained in Europe and not gone to Palestine.

    That is her agenda. That is what she is trying to convey.

    And don’t tell me I can’t guess or deduce her “assumptions” i.e. what is not written, but which underlies what is written, because you yourself acknowledge, imply and assert the existence of such “assumptions” below.

    “The aim is to strike a balance between relief at the defeat of the Nazis and continuing uncertainty, for both parents and children.”

    But it does not represent the existential situation of Jews post-Holocaust.

    “Indeed, this is precisely the “hint of the actual immediate post-Holocaust situation of European Jews” that zkharya claims is absent.”

    You can only hint at something that is known. By and large the knowledge of the situation of post-Holocaust European Jewry among members of PSC, of which Churchill is a patroness, and for whose cause she wrote this play, is straitened by the polemic that there was no need for Jews to go to Palestine, which polemic Churchill affirms by failure to portray the situation of European Jews post-Holocaust.

    “It’s presented quite clearly in the lines quoted”

    You mean Churchill presents clearly what she presents? Sure. But what does that mean other than what it means?

    “, but s/he misses the entire point: the history in question is to be, once again, taken as read.”

    How can one read what is not written. Churchill purports this to be history, not some Beckettian emotional abstraction.

    She raises, or lowers, the issue of the situation of post-war European Jews to an abstraction.

    She could have written:

    “Tell her we can’t go home because they don’t want us”. “Tell her others have moved into our house”. “Tell her they said they’d kill us if we came back”.

    “Tell her there are still people who hate Jews/Tell her there are people who love Jews” reduces the issues to a theoretical abstraction, as I have said. And that is exactly opposite to the way she represents Palestinian Christian and Muslim victimhood, which is rendered through representing concrete, historical examples, not abstractions.

    I think, this actually, is part of a or the discourse of alleged subjective Jewish/Zionist paranoia. It is the implied allegation of Jewish/Zionist psychosis, the paranoid assumption that “They all hate us”.

    “Don’t tell her to think Jews or not Jews”: this is interesting too. A way of addressing the situation of post-war European Jewry through escape into universalism: the breaking down/dropping of the barriers of identity. A bit like a pre-war assimilationist or Marxian argument.

    “It would also be welcome, if one is to critique the play, to avoid slander. The play in no way argues that “Holocaust survivors evolve, through their descendants, into Holocaust perpetrators.””

    I did not write that the play “argues that “Holocaust survivors evolve, through their descendants, into Holocaust perpetrators.”””

    I said it portrays it. Which it does.

    As for “slander”, you’re quite happy to when it suits you, hence you accuse me of “sly suggestion”.

    “If there is a message”

    Ah. So you acknowledge there may indeed be a “message”, which one may deduce, litcrit background or no litcrit background.

    “it is this: suffering does not enoble. Indeed, it may brutalize.”

    Or turns victims of genocide into genocides themselves. Yes. Thank you.

    “The children of abusers may become abusers themselves, or less sensitive to abuse–or, of course, have no such effect.”

    Except they do according to Churchill. Indeed they are reared to become, over seven figurative generations or so, new Nazis.

    “But neither the author nor her defenders is calling the Gazan carnage a “Holocaust.””

    But she is pretty jolly clearly using it to point towards a new Holocaust. The “wipe them out” speech is intended to point the way to a potential genocide.

    “The equivalence there is in zkharya’s mind”

    Which “equivalence” whence my mind effused is that?

    I wrote that the trajectory of the play intends to point to Israeli Jews’ becoming future genocides. Genocides now in mind, if not in deed.

    Which is standard PSC polemic.
    “–and in the inflamed rhetoric of a few street protesters who insult our intelligence.”

    I don’t know whether you insult ‘our’ intelligence. You certainly insult mine.

    “Nor is it “worthy of note,” at least in the sense that zkharya uses the term”

    You mean it is worthy of note in some sense? Which sense? And why is it in not “my” sense?

    “as s/he attempts to build the case for Churchill’s “anti-Semitism, “that the distinction between Israeli Jews and Jews qua Jews is “blurred.””

    I didn’t say or write that it was antisemitic. I said it was “odd”, and “worthy of note”.

    As also imply you.

    But how do we know that your “sense” is not my “sense” unless you tell in what your “sense” consists?

    You show me your “sense” and I’ll show you mine.

    “The imaginative exercise is to sift the events through Jewish sensibilities”

    Hmm. “Jewish sensibilities”, eh? I.e. universal, not Palestinian or Israeli Jewish, but universal Jewish sensibilities.

    You mean Churchill’s is looking at alleged represented events through the eyes of Everyjew?

    But Everyjew is not portrayed. Only Seven Jewish human beings (actually figurative generations) complete in their own right, who are or become Israeli, and who all evolve towards genocide.

    Does Everyjew evolve towards genocide? If not, then what is it in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that facilitates this evolution, specifically?

    “, and note the plural–there is no one Jewish sensibility,”

    You mean there are seven Jewish children, not one Jewish child? Sure. And they are all Palestinian or Israeli, or become so within ten years of the play’s earliest action.

    They are seven in time, not contemporaneous population. And they all evolve, from genocide victim, to genocide perpetrator. In seven figurative generations, or so.

    The Seven is in time, not space. It does represent variation of a kind. But it is the variation of one generation from other, albeit in the continuity of evolution, of the kind I have already described.

    Or, by “plurality”, do you mean these seven Palestinian or Israeli Jewish children are, in some sense, all Jewish children?

    I’m sorry.

    Were you to portray, say, the colonial oppression of black south Africans by Afrikaners, beginning with, say, Hugenots’ fleeing persecution, you wouldn’t compose a drama called, say “Seven Hugenot Children”.

    You’d call it “Seven Afrikaner Children” or, perhaps, “Seven Voortreker Children”.

    You wouldn’t even call it “Seven Dutch Children”.

    Unless you wanted to make a polemical point i.e. criticize or even attack, some aspect of universal Hugenot or Dutch identity, discourse, or whatever.

    You would only use a universal term like “Dutch” or “Hugenot” if you wanted to address, in some way or fashion, “Dutch” or “Hugenot” generally, or universally.

    But this play is about how Palestinian or Israeli Jewish children evolve into genocides by the plays end. It is not about American, Australian or British Jewish children.

    Except for that odd fact that Churchill does not entitle her play Seven Palestinian or Israeli Children, rather Seven Jewish Children.

    If you want to argue Churchill does this to critique the ethical Jewish character of the Jewish state of Israel, ok.

    But that runs into a problem. Nowhere does the issue of Jewish ethics arise. Except in the practise of lies, first white, then not. And of course the issue of “chosen people”. And one cannot discuss Jewish ethics, least of all if one is not a Jews, in the context of Christians and Muslims without also discussing Christian and Muslim ethics. Which is why I think cultural Christian Churchill steers clear of it.

    “ of course, but there are common strands of history”

    Well, all her children become Israeli, sure. But, then, they are or become Israeli Jewish children. Who evolve from, towards genocide.

    But why not say Seven Israeli Jewish Children? Why the need for non-specifity? Why the need to universalise these children as Jews in general rather than Israeli Jews in particular?

    “, and an “imagined community.””

    You mean Churchill imagines Israeli Jews as Jews in general? I think you may be right.

    “zkharya insists, sometimes at least, upon the grossest of distortions to make his/her case.”

    Well, Dawg, you’re clearly not Jewish, or you’d know Zkharya is a masculine name.

    “A parent explaining why they are leaving all that they know to go to a new land (Israel), and encouraging the kids by telling them that it’s sunny where they are going, is transmogrified thus: “Jewish migration to Palestine, if not Zionism in general (!), is portrayed as an exercise in sun-bathing.” Good grief.”

    But the fact of Palestine’s being sunny is the only reason Churchill adduces for going there. Nothing else. You cannot take as read what isn’t written, asides from common universal experience. But Jewish history is not common universal experience, at least not in the sense that you can deduce it without doing some research.

    “And the lines that follow are subject to what is swiftly becoming an Zhadanovian exercise in distortion: Tell her we’re going home
    Tell her it’s the land God gave us That last line immediately contradicted by Don’t tell her religion and then Tell her her great great great great lots of greats grandad lived there is a contrast between a secular and a religious rationale for going to Palestine, a debate of a kind.”

    But this simply betrays Churchill’s, and perhaps your, ignorance as to what in which Jewish “religion” consists. Churchill’s distinction is between what in which she thinks Zionism truly consists i.e. g-d’s promise to Abraham i.e. religious prejudice and/or tribal chauvinism and what she thinks is modern nationalist mythical pretext i.e. the assertion of some kind of genetic (to use a slightly anachronistic metaphor) connection between modern Jews and ancient Judeans.
    In actual fact, in Jewish tradition, there is no such distinction. The descent of modern Jews from those of antiquity, including those from the land, is assumed. Hence the ubitiquous reference to “our fathers”.

    As it was in Christendom and Islam.

    There was no such “debate”. Only in the mind of Churchill, since the issue of genetic connection of modern with ancient Jews, its “purity” or otherwise, is a commonplace in pro-Palestinian anti-Zionist discourse, from the unsavoury to the merely less savoury. Or again the assertion that Judaism and Zionism are too wholly distinct entities.

    This is Churchill’s PSC discourse.

    “But zkharya claims the last line is “mocking.” S/he offers no evidence for this, because there is none.”

    It is mocking because it is a mockery of the Zionist claim. If that is all that is adduced to represent the Zionist claim, in a play that purports or is purported to be historical, as well to do justice to the Zionist or Israeli Jewish case, it is a mockery. Hence it is mocking.

    It raised laughter because Churchill intended to mock Zionism. But most Israeli Jews don’t find it funny, at least, not in that sense, so, clearly, Churchill is not intending to be historical here, rather polemical.

    “It is tied to the first line quoted, about “home,” a way of explaining to children that there is indeed a connection already in place between them and the strange new place to which they are going”

    But “home” is not directly associated with “grandfathers”. It is directly associated g-d’s promise to Abraham.

    “The “chuckle,” if there is one, is a response to the phrase “lots of greats,” a means of trying to convey millennia to a child.””

    Yes. Because Churchill wishes to represent the Zionist Jewish claim to the land as ridiculous. That is her intention. Which she achieved. Admittedly by almost surely preaching to the converted but achieved nonetheless.

    But why would you wish to only portray Zionist Jewish claims in a childish, rather than an adult fashion? Unless you regard those whose case you would rehearse as essentially children? Again

    “They cannot represent themselves; they must be represented.”

    springs to mind.

    But the play is not just about children. It is eliptical and allusive. The part stands for the whole. The Jewish connection to the land is reduced to childishness. Because that is what Churchill wishes to convey.

    “zkharya’s subsequent discussion of the claims of Zionism is frankly irrelevant, as well are being rather incomprehensible”

    Why or how incomprehensible? And why is a discussion of Zionist claims irrelevant to a play that purports to be in no small part about them?

    “–he doesn’t like Churchill’s assumption,”

    What assumption?

    I thought you wrote you weren’t interested in what Churchill thinks or writes or says outside the play. So why do you write in defence of which assumption of Churchill’s?

    “but he offers no counter-assumptions to the ones s/he claims to have uncovered.”

    Actually, I do.

    Churchill wholly misrepresents the formation of Jewish national, never mind nationalist, consciousness.

    That Jews were a national or ethno-national group was an everyday reality of millions of Jews in the heartland where most Jews lived in eastern Europe. It was an everyday experience formed by centuries of self- and externally imposed definition. That Jews had originated in the land of Israel, in Jerusalem was assumed. No generic Jewish child, as Churchill portrays, would have had to be lectured on it in that fashion.

    Churchill’s intention is to represent it as artificial and pre-textual, in line with her pro-Palestinian Christian and Muslim, anti-Jewish national agenda.

    The idea that it was necessary to construct a synthetic Jewish national consciousness, in the way Churchill portrays, especially in the aftermath of the Holocaust is counter-historical.

    Many Jews may not have wanted to go to Palestine. Most, given the chance, may have wanted to go to the US. But most did not want to remain in Europe. They did feel like Europeans, not in that sense.

    A child in a DP camp, does not, by and large, wish to stay there. But, even if they did, why portray the beginning of Israeli Jewish history that way?

    Churchill is trying to represent the artificiality of Jews’ migrating to Palestine. She is trying to portray Jews’ leaving Europe as either unnecessary, unnatural, artificial or some combination of these.

    It’s no good justifying her portrayal on the grounds that one might say such things to children? Why would you want to portray history, any history, but especially this history, solely in this way?

    Would you portray the founding of the US, or Australia or any nation state this way? And, if so, why? Especially if you had an especial animus against those states?

    “In any case, the lines above are what parents are saying to their kids, not a disquisition on the last 2000 years of Jewish history.”

    But
    a) Churchill purports this to be history and
    b) draws in the last 2000 years, and disquires into it as she sees fit and as she would like her audience to hear it i.e. reduce to childishness.

    “Don’t tell her he was driven out,” is expanded by zkharya into pure fantasy–rather than (as s/he at once articulates and dismisses) not wanting to frighten an already-traumatized children with more tales of violence and exile”

    OK. You don’t seem very Jewish. That the Jews are in the Galut, the Exile, is a Jewish religious and cultural datum from antiquity.

    “becomes, in his/her hands, a sly suggestion that Israeli Jews are going to be driven out again.”

    OK. You’ve just acknowledged what I said. Churcihll has her parent say “Don’t tell her he was driven out” because, as you implicitly admit, this implies the possibility of a repetition, a further being driven out.

    But as I wrote, home for the child is already “having been driven out”. Home for the child is a state of statelessness or exile.

    Israel’s having been driven from the land is a Jewish religious and cultural datum. As “Don’t tell her he was driven out”, in a sense, implies. The negative injunction implies a tendency to indeed “Tell her he was driven out”, which is why it is odd that Churchill chooses to imply rather than represent it. Why does she do it?

    I am sure, as I already wrote, her justification would be to represent a parent’s protection. But why here, at this most crucial part of the Zionist argument: Jewish right of return lies in forcible Jewish exile or dispossession.

    I may read you wrong, but you seem to imply that is mere coincidence. I don’t think so.

    In any case. The child is not in Palestine. If it is its home noneless, the former facts needs be explained. The explanation is exactly the same as for the child’s not being in the family home currently: expulsion. It is the easiest explanation since it is the one with which the child is most likely to be familiar, on two levels.

    The child may not be able to return to the latter family home, but she may at least return to the former. Therein lies the consolation.

    That is why I think her rendition says more about Caryl Churchill than any existential historial Jewish parent considering taking their family to Palestine.

    And for someone anxious to avoid slander, your “sly” does just that.

    “And then, reaching for the moon, s/he notes the clash of “he” was driven out vs. “everyone” was driven out–an argument, once again, between parents wondering what they can say to their kids, or an internal contradictory impulse –and claims that Churchill is concocting a deliberate falsehood.”

    Well, I think there is a difference between “he” and “everyone was driven out”. “He” is not “everyone”. It is an expansion, from an individual to the opposite of an individual i.e. “everyone”.

    The parent is enjoined to make that expansion. I think Churchill is representing an exageration, that is to say, a distortion, that is to say, a kind of lie.

    “At this point I begin to wonder if we are reading the same play. This isn’t critique, but, once again, pure fantasy.”

    I beg to differ. And I am not sure that you background in literary criticism has equipt you to do it better than I without it.

    “Again and again, every measure to shield a child, to find explanations and rationales”

    But these children are not real. According to you, they are not even intended to be historical. Why then do you maintain these measures, explanations and rationales (and not for all are rationales synonymous with truth) are?

    For my part, I think Churchill represents history as politically conducive to her. And I think she shields, explains to and rationalizes for his audience that which is politically conducive for her in the manner that is politically conducive for er.

    “that a child might grasp”

    Children can grasp polemics, sure. That is why some polemics are so insidious. And, in some ways, I think the Child here is none other than Caryl Churchill’s audience. Whom she shields, to whom she explains and rationalizes as she finds conducive.

    “, is dismissed as tendentious, with so much reading-in by the indeed tendentious zkharya that the play nearly disappears.”

    Not to me.

    And I fail to understand why you object to my finding historically tendentious that which you admit to be unhistorical.

    The play purports or is purported to be history. That is how it was advertised. To me it is also, manifestly a pro-Palestinian Christian and Muslim anti-Jewish nationalist polemic. And may be criticised as such.

    “There are too many instances to count.”

    OK. But I am quite happy to critique you.

    “But to point out the obvious is dismissed out of hand: the play is “elliptical and allusive,” something upon which we can both agree, but zkharya wants to fill in the gaps in his/her own way, putting anti-Semitism into the silent mouth of Churchill while offering his own counter-arguments to arguments that are never made, even elliptically or allusively.”

    Well, that is a rather general accusation, on your part, and meaningless without the adducing of specific instances. But if I may generalise from what I have read of the play, Churchill has reduced Jewish and Zionist claims to the land of Israel to, at best, childishness, at worst, deceit. And while she is keen to describe or allude to Zionist, Palestinian or Israeli Jewish crimes and misdemenors, she refrains wholly from offering any context which could explain or justify them.

    Palestinian or Israeli Jews are condemned from their own mouths. It is Defence staged by the Prosecution. It is a Show Trial.

    “ It’s not the parents wrestling with the age-old problem of explaining things to a child”

    But that is not Churchill’s chief concern, if it is her concern at all. Her concern is to portray Israeli Jews as psychotic as she can without appearing to be writing a polemic. Which is difficult given that she is writing a polemic.

    “, in the cases before us under extreme circumstances: no, it’s Churchill herself, telling her audience what to think”

    Pretty much. Perhaps more subtly than your average agit-prop. But pretty much, yes.

    “, telling them (for example) that the voice that says “Don’t tell her he was driven out” is Churchill telling us to forget the dispossession of the Jews from Israel.”

    I didn’t write that. It’s true that I originally wrote that that instruction is to her audience, since it chimes with Churchill’s agenda. I don’t think it’s a case of the audience’s being told to forgot anything. I think it’s a case of the audience’s being told never to have known it in the first place.

    But perhaps I shouldn’t have written that without qualification. I think it is better to say that it is problematized by Churchill’s then signalling an exageration or lie in
    “Tell her, of course tell her, tell her everyone was driven out and
    the country is waiting for us to come home”

    But I think the negative injunction is artificial and politically motivated, probably, yes.

    “Thank goodness for the wise zkharya, or I might have blanked that dispossession entirely from my mind–if only the wily Churchill had not planted it there in the first place!”

    Then you would be blanking a blank.

    “.Well, there’s a lot more of the same, and I don’t want to write pages and pages that show the same dubious technique at work.”

    Well, I am happy to go to work on you, dubious or otherwise.

    “To hear zkharya tell it, every phrase in the play is simply pregnant with anti-Semitic import.”

    If you say so. I don’t. Actually, the closest I wrote to that is that there is a cumulative effect of many little distortions and misrepresentations.

    ““Tell her it’s an adventure” is held to mean that aliyah is just a game.”

    Well, that’s all we are told it is.

    ““Tell her that no one will tease her” is pure, unadulterated anti-Semitism, because the parent is lying—of course, once in Israel, they will find themselves under constant threat.”

    Where did I say it was antisemitism? Actually, my mistake there was to read it as said in Palestine, rather than Europe.

    ““Tell her she’ll have new friends,” why, that reads like something out of Der Stuermer, doesn’t it?”

    If you say so. I don’t.

    ““Tell her she can take her toys” means that aliyah is trivial.”

    It is if that is all you say about it.

    ““Tell her she’s a special girl” is an invocation of the Jewish princess stereotype.”

    Well, I think it is. And pretty viciously so, too, actually.

    “Etc. Etc.”

    Incidentally, section 5 is about the Six Day War, not 1949.”

    Is it? How do you know? How did you figure that out?

    OK. I admit I may have been wrong about that: I misread the photo of Israeli Sherman tanks, which I thought the IDF had in the War of Independence but which, in fact, they didn’t. I also missed the Old City in the background, which was myopic of me.

    But otherwise, my criticism is valid.

    Act 1 is the Holocaust. Act 2 addresses loss in the Holocaust. Act 3 consists in parents’ deciding to migrate to Palestine. Act 4 consists in their arriving in Palestine. Act 5 is the aftermath of a victorious war, in which Jews have “turned back” armies and acquired new land.

    Given that the play is purported to be a history, I think my assuming it to be the aftermath of the War of Independence is perfectly reasonable. It is the first war that is mentioned in Churchill’s timeline and the War of Independence is the first war in most Israeli histories.

    The fact that Churchill has chosen to amalgamate every war of Israel’s up to and including 1967 does not actually reflect badly on my assumption. I simply assumed the play was more historical than it actually is.
    “That latter is a simply bizarre misreading on zkharya’s part. “Tell her we’ve got new land” refers to the West Bank and Gaza,”

    I do not see how you could possibly distinguish that from land also acquired in 1948-49, which war, you imply, makes no appearance in the play at all.

    Jews turned back Egyptian and other armies invading the area allotted to the Jews, and broke the Jordanian seige of Jerusalem. They penetrated much further into UN territory allotted to the Jews than in 1967. The enemy armies were also big then too.

    Moreover, the device “Tell her her brother’s a hero” I assumed, not unreasonably I think, addressed the child who had disembarked from the boat at Haifa just a few years earlier, at most, in Act 4.

    It’s not my fault if Churchill’s timeline is so muddled or compressed, nor does it improve her historicity.

    “and this moves smoothly on to part 6, which is about the subsequent settlements.”

    Well, some literary critic you are: you have implied, but failed to spot the significance of the fact, that if Act 5 refers to the ’67 war, you couldn’t know for sure until you came to Act 6.

    Which is pretty poor in a play whose author has said it is a history.

    “The water reference is to the undisputed fact that 80% of the water on the West Bank is consumed by the settlers.”

    I don’t think that is true. It is certainly not maintained by the article you cite. Further, the aquifer to which you refer Israel tapped before 1967:

    “The mountain aquifer is also the most politically contentious. Prior to 1967, Israel used 95 percent of this water, the Arabs only 5 percent. Since then, the Arab share has more than tripled, but the Palestinians are still demanding that these proportions be reversed. They argue that since the aquifer lies under the West Bank, it should come under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA). The Palestinians maintain that Israel is “stealing” their water, but Israel wants to retain control over the lion’s share of the water. The water issue clearly affects Israel’s economy and security. One danger, for example, is that pumping of water in Judea and Samaria by Palestinians could increase to a degree that would completely eliminate pumping in Israel. The Palestinians have also demanded the right to expand their agricultural sector, using the same limited water resources that Israel’s State Comptroller said were inadequate to expand Israel’s agricultural production. Meanwhile, Palestinian water authorities have said as much as 50 percent of domestic water is lost because of old, inefficient supply systems. The PA’s dilemma is even worse in Gaza, where the sole aquifer is already virtually unusable because of contamination and salinity.”

    http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/myths/mf22.html

    “Water is a huge issue there”

    Sure. As everywhere in the middleast, before and after 1967.

    “: perhaps this reference is in order, if I’m not falling into the same trap as zkharya: http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasen/spages/1000601.html.”

    Well, this is what the article says, inter alia:

    “Israel also restricts the drilling of new Palestinian wells, arguing it needs to protect shared resources from over-pumping.

    “We can’t just allow drilling wherever they want,” said Israeli Water Authority spokesman Uri Shore. He said Israel had kept its obligations under the Oslo agreement while Palestinians had failed to meet their own requirements to recycle water and were not distributing water efficiently.”

    Actually, I wrote that the water could well be intended to refer to post-’67. But that just means that Act 5 compresses all Israel’s wars up to then. And the descriptions of Israel’s enemies are still intended to be distortions or lies, I think.

    “Disingenuously, I believe, the mention of bulldozers is queried because zkharya has decided to re-set that section of the play before the Six Day War rather than after it.”

    No. What I actually write is that “bulldozers” suggests the “iconic” D9s and D10s of the Second Intifadah and its aftermath.

    “I’ll skip over the rest—the continual wringing of floods of anti-Semitic meaning from a damp cloth, the obligatory reference to the Blood Libel, etc., etc. zkharya ought to write plays of his/her own—obviously the febrile imagination is there.”

    Well, what does that imply about Caryl Churchill.

    “But, in the meantime, zkharya doesn’t offer us critique, but hallucination.”

    I beg to differ. And I think me critique no worse than yours.

  42. Dr.Dawg Says:

    Sarah:

    I simply don’t interpret the claim as an equivalence.

    zkharya:

    First things first. My reference to my litcrit background was only intended to explain why I wanted to stick to the actual text of the play—not move into how it has been staged, other people’s interpretations, what the author claims about it, and so on. It was a question of my preferred focus, not an expression of arrogance.

    In any case, just a few points in response.

    1. Speaking to children. By asking you if you were a parent, I was asking, admittedly obliquely, if you were familiar with child-parent discourse,. That’s reasonable, I think. Because that’s precisely what Churchill has put in front of us.

    You go on to say that Churchill herself is reducing historical events to childish games and untruths. The audience itself, you assert, is treated like a bunch of children. You state: “The Jewish connection to the land is reduced to childishness.”

    Well, yes, in a way. The play is about talking to kids. It’s just silly, in that context, to be critical of Churchill for having her characters talk about just that. Talking to kids, especially about traumatic events, is always an exercise in reduction.

    You go on to claim that Jewish tradition should be assumed, so that the kids wouldn’t have to be told about sunny Israel and the great-great-lots-of-greats-grandad and such. But I’m not as certain as you that children, particularly traumatized and displaced ones, would be sufficiently steeped in Judaic tradition that they could serve as their own comforters. That’s what parents are for.

    2. Is the play history? I have no idea what the author said about this, nor do I think it’s relevant. It’s one history, if by “history” we mean an account of “the past.” But it’s not historiography. It’s a play, in which violent events as either experienced or learned about are brought into juxtaposition in one mind or several, evoking contradictory utterances, some emotive, some rational.

    Incidentally, “elliptical and allusive” doesn’t work for me as a pejorative. Of course the play is both. But there are limits, I suggest, in how one “fills in the gaps.”

    Holocaust depiction vs. Gaza depiction. The difficulties here are many. First, it is difficult for dead characters to speak—hence we must confine ourselves to the “just-before.” I agree that children were among the Holocaust survivors, but none of us has to guess what is the likely fate of the families about to be taken away. Their fate is simply not in contention, except among certain disingenuous brutes who need not concern us here.

    Gaza, on the other hand, is very much in contention. You know this. The images on the news are given multiple and conflicting interpretations. They are immediate, still unprocessed in the official “historical” sense. I can’t find either an equivalence between the two, as some have claimed, or, worse, what you are suggesting: an occultation of the Holocaust in favour of the deaths of Palestinians during the recent incursion.

    Parents faced with the unspeakable horror of the Holocaust nevertheless tried to speak, during and after. Parents in Israel these days have a wide range of opinion, I suspect, about the Gaza events. I didn’t see the parents all “rejoice, exult or laugh” about civilian deaths. One spoke hatefully; another shushed the first one. Can you seriously not imagine a slice of dialogue like that? Is it calumny to suggest that some parents might, throwing caution to the winds, tell their kids that the Palestinians are animals, filth, etc.? I know non-Jews who would say precisely that! Must all Israeli parents be portrayed as humane and civilized? Are you not confusing the author with her characters, suggesting that they are her ideological ambassadors, in a sense?

    In any case, to remind you that not all of the voices are “exulting”:

    Don’t frighten her
    Tell her only a few of us have been killed
    Tell her the army has come to our defence
    Don’t tell her her cousin refused to serve in the army.
    Don’t tell her how many of them have been killed
    Tell her the Hamas fighters have been killed
    Tell her they’re terrorists
    Tell her they’re filth
    Don’t
    Dont tell her about the family of dead girls
    Tell her you cant believe what you see on television
    Tell her we killed the babies by mistake

    Here I see conflict—you, unaccountably, see monolithic inhumanity.

    3. Art, polemic. I see, with respect, a certain lack of coherence in your comments in this respect. The play is far less polemical even than Brecht. I state specifically that the play is not agitptrop: you claim that I say it is.

    If agitprop, it isn’t very good agitprop, because no clear political message emerges out of the welter of conflicting voices. I do think we can discern a moral theme, but that theme transcends which side is “right” or “wrong”: we are human, we make of the past and the present what we can, and when we talk to our kids we want to say the right thing, or hide the truth, or put things in a manner that the child will understand, or all three. Under the pressure of major violent events, we are driven to a desperate search for the right thing to say. We will argue with ourselves just as the characters in the play argue.

    The crash killed her./ Tell her her mother’s in heaven. /Don’t bring religion into it./ Just tell her she has gone away./Tell her she won’t be coming back./Tell her she died./Tell her we are all sad. /Tell her it wasn’t her fault.

    That sort of thing.

    Incidentally, if Paradise Lost were simply an exercise in theology—the agitprop of the day—Milton could have confined his points to a short pamphlet.

    4. Act 5; and what Churchill should have written. I read this Act as the Six Day War from the start. Then the mention of bulldozers just afterwards makes sense. I’m not sure it’s an intelligible reading to set this act just after 1948.

    More generally, you want her to write a tome. But she is writing something to engage the empathetic imagination. She leaves out so much history, you state—and you aren’t wrong. How could you be? She writes 160 lines or so. I sense that her attempt to awaken empathy by universalizing it—first, empathy with the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, then, empathy with frightened, displaced kids off to a new land, then calls to empathy through other stages, and finally to empathy with the victims of the Gazan incursion—finds no favour with you. And yet, paradoxically, her portrayal of some characters/impulses as non-empathetic is found to be, if not anti-Semitism, then at least an exercise in false equivalences. But empathy has no dimensions, does it?

    A digression:

    The Fox

    Because the snow is deep
    Without spot that white falling through white air

    Because she limps a little – bleeds
    Where they shot her

    Because hunters have guns
    And dogs have hangman’s legs

    Because I’d like to take her in my arms
    And tend her wound

    Because she can’t afford to die
    Killing the young in her belly

    I don’t know what to say of a soldier’s dying
    Because there are no proportions in death.
    –Kenneth Patchen

    5. Reading what is unwritten: false claims. I’m afraid that I can’t varnish what you are attempting to do. Nowhere does Churchill suggest that Israelis are or will become genocidal. She suggests that violence can beget violence, but that doesn’t make all violence equal. But you insist on saddling her with a false equivalence between the Holocaust and Gaza. That won’t do.

    You suggest that I shouldn’t read into the gaps, but we are invited to do so by an “elliptical and allusive” play. That, however, does not mean that we can fill those gaps with anything we choose. I am suggesting that we take the Holocaust as read; you are suggesting that the author “intends” this or that—but with no evidence that you have so far produced. You insist that the line that establishes, for a child, a living connection to the past and to Israel, is mocking—but again with no evidence. You claim, again without evidence of any kind, that Churchill is really saying that European Jews should have stayed in Europe. Pure hallucination. Not there to be found.

    And you privilege the voices that confirm you in your assumptions. You ignore the other, contrary, voices. Nothing in this play suggests, or offers any clues, with respect to a hierarchy of voices. I see no such thing.

    It seems to me, in short, that you are essentially re-writing the play to suit your own purposes, which are, by the way, clearly polemical, rather than dealing with what the author puts before you. And in order to do so, you misrepresent what Churchill writes, but also what I myself have said.

    I make a point, for example, of denying the monolith of a “Jewish sensibility,” pointing to my use of the plural: but you spend time mocking the notion of an Everyjew—and I would join you, except that you are accusing me of something I plainly and unequivocally didn’t do.

    And it’s simply disingenuous to make dark suggestions about the author’s “Jewish” rather than “Israeli Jewish” children. You compare South Africa, and suggest that I wouldn’t call a similar play, “Seven Dutch Children.” I certainly would if, in a parallel universe, the notion of “Dutchness” pervaded South Africa, that the essence of “Dutchness” was invoked in the war against the British and then the oppression of Blacks. In this universe, that is simply not the case. The relationship of “Jewishness” to Israel, I suggest, is central; I could see a play called “Seven Muslim Children: A Play for Gaza,” and I wouldn’t blink an eye about the title, even if the Muslims were only Gazans.

    But no doubt, given her need to provide conflicting voices in that multilogue would lead to claims of “Islamophobia” on her part. And I’d be in there swinging on that one, too. J

  43. Dr.Dawg Says:

    Sarah–apologies, that was cryptic. What I was trying to say was that I don’t believe that What do you tell a child when her government is trying to kill her? What do you tell a child when her government is killing other children?” implies equivalence.

    To a kid, scale is an abstract; it’s the immediate that counts. The Holocaust shrinks to a kid and her family; the Gazan shelling shrinks to another kid and her family. I really don’t think there’s more to it than that. Within these huge statistics, and lesser ones, there are countless micro-dramas where the human is played out. It’s that element that we sometimes miss, but which is the focus of Churchill’s play.

  44. zkharya Says:

    “zkharya:
    First things first. My reference to my litcrit background was only intended to explain why I wanted to stick to the actual text of the play”

    Yeah, whatever.

    “—not move into how it has been staged, other people’s interpretations, what the author claims about it, and so on. It was a question of my preferred focus, not an expression of arrogance.”

    Whatever.

    “In any case, just a few points in response.
    1. Speaking to children. By asking you if you were a parent, I was asking, admittedly obliquely, if you were familiar with child-parent discourse,. That’s reasonable, I think. Because that’s precisely what Churchill has put in front of us.”

    Well, it still is external to the play.

    “You go on to say that Churchill herself is reducing historical events to childish games and untruths.”

    In some part, in quite a lot, yes.

    “The audience itself, you assert, is treated like a bunch of children.”

    No. I didn’t.

    “You state: “The Jewish connection to the land is reduced to childishness.” “

    Yes.

    “Well, yes, in a way.”

    Yes. Thank you.

    “The play is about talking to kids.”

    But why? And the kids become adults. And only adults speak. Only adults act.

    “It’s just silly, in that context, to be critical of Churchill for having her characters talk about just that.”

    Why? And why not ask, Why?

    “Talking to kids, especially about traumatic events, is always an exercise in reduction.”

    So, you are agreeing with me?

    “You go on to claim that Jewish tradition should be assumed”

    Did I?

    “, so that the kids wouldn’t have to be told about sunny Israel and the great-great-lots-of-greats-grandad and such.”

    No. But, that alone, is reducing and minimizing Jewish-Zionist claims to infantility. As, I think, is Churchill’s intention.

    “But I’m not as certain as you that children, particularly traumatized and displaced ones, would be sufficiently steeped in Judaic tradition that they could serve as their own comforters.”

    But that is not alone in which their Jewishness, sense of Jewish ethnicity, or connection to the land of Israel consists. And children are part of, and belong to, and, imply, an adult world and discourse.

    “That’s what parents are for.”

    But not even Jewish parents are the sole or even principal agents in this matter.

    “2. Is the play history? I have no idea what the author said about this, nor do I think it’s relevant.”

    I do.

    “It’s one history, if by “history” we mean an account of “the past.” But it’s not historiography.”

    Yes it is. If only bad historiography.

    “It’s a play, in which violent events as either experienced”
    Not by Jews, curiously. Not much, anyway. Nor are there any agents of violence upon them.

    “or learned”

    Not learned about much at all, actually.

    “about are brought into juxtaposition in one mind or several, evoking contradictory utterances, some emotive, some rational.”

    No, but they aren’t. Not really.

    “Incidentally, “elliptical and allusive” doesn’t work for me as a pejorative.”

    Nor for me. It was purely factual.

    “Of course the play is both. But there are limits, I suggest, in how one “fills in the gaps.””

    And, of course, it is you who set those limits.

    “Holocaust depiction vs. Gaza depiction. The difficulties here are many. First, it is difficult for dead characters to speak—hence we must confine ourselves to the “just-before.””

    Why? Does Churchill confine herself to the “just-before” of Palestinian Christian and Muslim victimhood?

    “I agree that children were among the Holocaust survivors, but none of us has to guess what is the likely fate of the families about to be taken away.”
    None are taken away.

    “Their fate is simply not in contention, except among certain disingenuous brutes who need not concern us here.”

    They have no fate. They don’t exist. Bar for a grandmother and some uncles.

    “Gaza, on the other hand, is very much in contention.”

    You mean Churchill is pro-Palestinian Christian and Muslim anti-Jewish nationalist? Yes. As I said.

    “You know this. The images on the news are given multiple and conflicting interpretations.”

    Not by Churchill.

    “They are immediate, still unprocessed in the official “historical” sense.”

    Churchill has processed them. That’s why she wrote the play.

    “I can’t find either an equivalence between the two, as some have claimed, or, worse, what you are suggesting: an occultation of the Holocaust in favour of the deaths of Palestinians during the recent incursion.”

    Where did I ever say “equivalence”?

    “Parents faced with the unspeakable horror of the Holocaust nevertheless tried to speak, during and after.”
    To some degree, in Churchill’s play, yes. But there are no agents of the Holocaust in Churchill’s play, before, during or after.

    For Palestinian Christian and Muslim victimhood, there are only agents, Israeli Jewish agents.

    “Parents in Israel these days have a wide range of opinion, I suspect, about the Gaza events. I didn’t see the parents all “rejoice, exult or laugh” about civilian deaths.”

    They do in the play.

    “One spoke hatefully; another shushed the first one. Can you seriously not imagine a slice of dialogue like that?”

    One can imagine almost anything. The question is why, especially in a polemical polemic that professes to be historical yet you yet defend as ahistorical on the one hand, “imaginatively” fictionally historical on the other.

    “Is it calumny to suggest that some parents might, throwing caution to the winds, tell their kids that the Palestinians are animals, filth, etc.?”

    If you characterise a Israeli Jewish parents as rejoicing in the sacrificial substitute of Palestinian Muslim children for theirs, one is entitled to ask questions, yes.
    “I know non-Jews who would say precisely that!”

    You’re a lucky fellow. You imagine something, you experience something, and it’s exactly the same as another thing of which you have no experience. You can also imagine history, and yet claim it is not history, yet history on the grounds it is imaginatively dramatic.
    You’re a lucky fellow.

    “Must all Israeli parents be portrayed as humane and civilized?”

    Must they not? And why end with them rejoicing in the sacrificial substitute of Palestinian Muslim children for theirs?

    “Are you not confusing the author with her characters, suggesting that they are her ideological ambassadors, in a sense?”

    They are, in a sense. Even you have implicitly admitted to their being fruit of her imagination.

    “In any case, to remind you that not all of the voices are “exulting”:
    Don’t frighten her
    Tell her only a few of us have been killed
    Tell her the army has come to our defence
    Don’t tell her her cousin refused to serve in the army.
    Don’t tell her how many of them have been killed
    Tell her the Hamas fighters have been killed
    Tell her they’re terrorists
    Tell her they’re filth
    Don’t
    Dont tell her about the family of dead girls
    Tell her you cant believe what you see on television
    Tell her we killed the babies by mistake
    Here I see conflict—you, unaccountably, see monolithic inhumanity.”

    Actually, this is what I wrote:

    “Don’t frighten her”
    Frighten who? The kids in Sderot?
    “Tell her only a few of us have been killed”
    i.e. don’t lie to her, this time. Tell her the truth, that Hamas’ or Gazans’ missiles constitute nothing to worry up. To whom is this truth told? The kids of Sderot?
    “Tell her the army has come to our defence”
    Whose “our defence”? The kids of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv or Sderot?
    How quaint is the expression “come to our defence”. As though a kid cannot distinguish between a child in Tel Aviv or Sderot.
    “Don’t tell her her cousin refused to serve in the army.”
    OK, a refusenik, refusing to serve in the West Bank. When? During the Second Intifada? Have we jumped back in time and place, again? We’ve jumped again, this time Gaza to the West Bank, Hamastan to the P.A.
    “Don’t tell her how many of them have been killed”
    i.e. suppress or lie because 6000 Palestinian Christian and Muslim dead to 1500 Israeli Jewish dead in the conflict post 2000 is a terribly disproportionate ratio, compared with other if any conflicts.
    “Tell her the Hamas fighters have been killed”
    OK. Are we during Cast Lead now? So, now the parent is lying that Hamas or other militants have been killed, or suppressing that Gazan civilians have been killed.
    “Tell her they’re terrorists”
    i.e. that Gazan militants have been launching rockets, Hamas is dedicated to Israel’s destruction, inter alia.
    But what does Churchill mean here? That Hamas fighters aren’t terrorists? OK, it’s a point of view. But is Churchill implying they are not a threat to Israel, any kind of threat? And that claiming so is another distortion or lie?
    “Tell her they’re filth”
    OK. We’re on to PSC territory here. Israeli, Zionist Jews regard Palestinian Christians and Muslims as filth. Moreover they inculcate (Billington would say “breed”) in their children that this is so. Or as That is to say, as dirt of which to be cleansed. Churchill is pointing back to the Nazi genocide of the the Jews, here.
    “Don’t
    Don’t tell her about the family of dead girls”
    The repetition of “don’t” implying another suppression, the duplication a denial. For Churchill, the suppression is a denial as to the essential nature of Cast Lead, an inculcation in the next generation of Israeli Jews of an insensitivity that points to a future atrocity.
    This refers to an incident in Cast Lead. Awful. But, in the west, or anywhere, is it customary to graphically portray or relate the deaths of civilians of enemy states to children?
    The Arab Islamic world is still grappling with portraying the Jewish dead in the holocaust, never mind Israeli Jewish dead.
    “Tell her you can’t believe what you see on television”
    To what does this refer? Israeli television? Or does Churchill allude to what some Israeli, British and other Jews called impartial and unbalanced reporting of the conflict in the British and other media?
    One wonders how much this play is intended to be a sermon to British Jews.
    “Tell her we killed the babies by mistake”
    i.e. lie, because we really did it deliberately.

    “3. Art, polemic. I see, with respect, a certain lack of coherence in your comments in this respect.”

    As if I care for your respect.

    My comments follow yours, and the “comment” that is Churchill’s play. That is all the coherence I need.

    “The play is far less polemical even than Brecht. I state specifically that the play is not agitptrop: you claim that I say it is.”

    Yes. Because you admit is political.

    “If agitprop, it isn’t very good agitprop, because no clear political message emerges out of the welter of conflicting voices.”

    So you admit to a unclear political message? Except I don’t think it’s unclear at all.

    “I do think we can discern a moral theme”
    But a completely unpolitical one?

    “, but that theme transcends which side is “right” or “wrong””

    I disagree.

    “: we are human, we make of the past and the present what we can, and when we talk to our kids we want to say the right thing, or hide the truth, or put things in a manner that the child will understand, or all three.”

    This is absolutely fascinating. Do go on.

    “Under the pressure of major violent events, we are driven to a desperate search for the right thing to say.”

    Uh huh?

    “We will argue with ourselves just as the characters in the play argue.
    The crash killed her./ Tell her her mother’s in heaven. /Don’t bring religion into it./ Just tell her she has gone away./Tell her she won’t be coming back./Tell her she died./Tell her we are all sad. /Tell her it wasn’t her fault.
    That sort of thing.”

    Really? Well, what can I say? You have completely devastated the validity of anything and everything I say.

    “Incidentally, if Paradise Lost were simply an exercise in theology—the agitprop of the day—Milton could have confined his points to a short pamphlet.”

    Uh huh? Really? That is such an interesting, and pertinent, thing to say.

    “4. Act 5; and what Churchill should have written. I read this Act as the Six Day War from the start.”

    OK. Well, I didn’t. Completely reasonably, in my view.

    “Then the mention of bulldozers just afterwards makes sense.”

    You mean Act 6? Which isn’t Act 5.

    “I’m not sure it’s an intelligible reading to set this act just after 1948.”

    I actually wrote it could be post-67. I said it was confused. I said the bulldozers suggest the second Intifadah.

    “More generally, you want her to write a tome.”

    I do?

    “But she is writing something to engage the empathetic imagination.”

    You mean agit-prop? I agree.

    “She leaves out so much history, you state—and you aren’t wrong.”

    Leaves out. Distorts. Amends. As suits her polemical, political purpose. Yes.

    “How could you be? She writes 160 lines or so. I sense that her attempt to awaken empathy by universalizing it”

    You mean Jewish instead of Palestinian or Israeli Jewish? Yes.

    “—first, empathy with the Jewish victims of the Holocaust”

    Well, presenting them as suits her polemical, political purpose, yes.

    “ then, empathy with frightened, displaced kids off to a new land”

    Well, presenting them as suits her polemical, political purpose, yes.

    “, then calls to empathy through other stages, and finally to empathy with the victims of the Gazan incursion”

    Well, graphic portrayal of the victims, as well as thoughts, words and child rearing of the victimizers, yes.

    “—finds no favour with you.”
    You mean I contest her agit-prop? Yes.
    “And yet, paradoxically, her portrayal of some characters/impulses as non-empathetic is found to be, if not anti-Semitism, then at least an exercise in false equivalences.”
    That’s a little abstract. Specify?

    “But empathy has no dimensions, does it?”

    I don’t know. I’ve never tried to measure it.

    “A digression:
    The Fox
    Because the snow is deep
    Without spot that white falling through white air
    Because she limps a little – bleeds
    Where they shot her
    Because hunters have guns
    And dogs have hangman’s legs
    Because I’d like to take her in my arms
    And tend her wound
    Because she can’t afford to die
    Killing the young in her belly
    I don’t know what to say of a soldier’s dying
    Because there are no proportions in death.
    –Kenneth Patchen”

    The Thought-Fox
    I imagine this midnight moment’s forest:
    Something else is alive
    Beside the clock’s loneliness
    And this blank page where my fingers move.

    Through the window I see no star:
    Something more near
    Though deeper within darkness
    Is entering the loneliness:

    Cold, delicately as the dark snow
    A fox’s nose touches twig, leaf;
    Two eyes serve a movement, that now
    And again now, and now, and now

    Sets neat prints into the snow
    Between trees, and warily a lame
    Shadow lags by stump and in hollow
    Of a body that is bold to come

    Across clearings, an eye,
    A widening deepening greenness,
    Brilliantly, concentratedly,
    Coming about its own business

    Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox
    It enters the dark hole of the head.
    The window is starless still; the clock ticks,
    The page is printed.
    Ted Hughes

    “5. Reading what is unwritten: false claims. I’m afraid that I can’t varnish what you are attempting to do.”

    Oh. I am disappointed.

    “Nowhere does Churchill suggest that Israelis are or will become genocidal.”

    I disagree.

    “She suggests that violence can beget violence, but that doesn’t make all violence equal.”

    Uh huh?

    “But you insist on saddling her with a false equivalence between the Holocaust and Gaza.”

    You insist on saddling me with the word “equivalence”.

    “That won’t do.”

    No?

    “You suggest that I shouldn’t read into the gaps,”

    Where?

    “but we are invited to do so by an “elliptical and allusive” play.”

    That is what “elliptical” , to which “allusive” alludes.

    “That, however, does not mean that we can fill those gaps with anything we choose.”

    Uh huh?

    “I am suggesting that we take the Holocaust as read”

    In a sense, yes. But it is in uacuo, and entirely passive, very much elliptical, very much allusive. How different the depiction of Palestinian Christian and Muslim victimhood.

    “; you are suggesting that the author “intends” this or that—but with no evidence that you have so far produced.”

    She said she wrote a 10 minute history in reponse to Cast Lead/Gaza. She is a patroness of PSC. She wants the play performed as often as possible, entirely for free.

    Sounds like agit-prop to me.

    “You insist that the line that establishes, for a child, a living connection to the past and to Israel, is mocking—but again with no evidence.”

    It is a mockery of Zionist, Jewish claims and their historical context, because it is a reduction to a childish description, again, without context, which is intended to raise a chuckle or ridicule.

    “You claim, again without evidence of any kind, that Churchill is really saying that European Jews should have stayed in Europe”

    Well, she doesn’t depict their true situation (arguably before the holocaust, as well as after. And arguably during), nor their reasons for aliyah. Except for sunbathing, perhaps.

    “Pure hallucination. Not there to be found.”

    I disagree.

    “And you privilege the voices that confirm you in your assumptions.”

    You mean Churchill does confirm my assumptions somewhere? I agree.

    “You ignore the other, contrary, voices.”

    Which are either not the main voices, or, as often as not, are entirely non-existent voices.

    “Nothing in this play suggests, or offers any clues, with respect to a hierarchy of voices.”

    I disagree.

    “I see no such thing.”

    Then you are blind.

    “It seems to me, in short, that you are essentially re-writing the play to suit your own purposes”

    Uh huh? Really?

    “, which are, by the way, clearly polemical”

    Well, anti-polemical is usually polemic of a sort.

    “, rather than dealing with what the author puts before you.”

    I disagree.

    “And in order to do so, you misrepresent what Churchill writes, but also what I myself have said.”

    I disagree.

    “I make a point, for example, of denying the monolith of a “Jewish sensibility,””

    By adducing its existence? But, in any case, since when were you Churchill?

    “pointing to my use of the plural”

    You mean the seven Israeli Jewish generations in time, not space?

    “: but you spend time mocking the notion of an Everyjew”

    Well, it is Churchill who has chosen not to specify her children as Palestinian or Israeli Jewish children, when they are.

    “—and I would join you, except that you are accusing me of something I plainly and unequivocally didn’t do.”

    Accusing you of what, exactly?

    “And it’s simply disingenuous to make dark suggestions about the author’s “Jewish” rather than “Israeli Jewish” children.”

    Which “dark suggestions” are those?

    “You compare South Africa, and suggest that I wouldn’t call a similar play, “Seven Dutch Children.” I certainly would if, in a parallel universe, the notion of “Dutchness” pervaded South Africa”

    You mean Churchill is, in fact, critiquing or addressing the “Jewishness” of the Jewish state?

    Really? How?

    “, that the essence of “Dutchness” was invoked in the war against the British and then the oppression of Blacks.”

    You mean Churchill is, in fact, critiquing or addressing the “Jewishness” of the Jewish state?

    Really? How?

    “In this universe, that is simply not the case. The relationship of “Jewishness” to Israel, I suggest, is central”

    And how does Churchill critique the Jewishness of the Jewish state?

    “; I could see a play called “Seven Muslim Children: A Play for Gaza,” and I wouldn’t blink an eye about the title, even if the Muslims were only Gazans.”

    Well, if you wanted to specifically critique their Islamic nature, yes, you would.

    “But no doubt, given her need to provide conflicting voices in that multilogue would lead to claims of “Islamophobia” on her part.”

    Ah. So that’s the reason.

    “And I’d be in there swinging on that one, too. J”

    Ain’t she lucky. To have you.

  45. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Marky Mark says: “It’s up to those who support the basic right of Israel to exist in security to present in the marketplace of ideas the facts that support that position.”

    Actually, no it’s not. As a matter of fact, the United Nations passed a resolution establishing the State of Israel in November 1947. Whether it should have done is another matter, and is not for debate, given the above quote. This resolution gave and gives Israel the right, under international law, to exist in security. Bear in mind also that it was not the nascent Israeli government (the Jewish Agency) that rejected the tripartite division of the British Palestine Mandate territory, but the Palestinians and their Arab nation backers. They fought and they lost the 1947-48 War, which resulted in the initially de facto borders, known as the Green Line, now, in most cases, accepted as de jure borders. This, quite legitimately, leaves as a matter of debate and negotiation where the eventual borders should lie.

    Now, if Marky Mark wishes to question these facts, that’s up to him, but it actually puts the onus of presenting facts in the market place of ideas on him, not us. To question the tactics that the Israeli government uses to ensure that security is, obviously, legitimate and far from being antisemitic. To question the very right of Israel to exist is another matter, especially when other post-World War 2 states right of existence is not similarly questioned, and this threatens to topple over (wittingly or otherwise on the part of the questioners) into anti-Semitism.

    MM goes on to assert that “Arguments of anti-Semitism in most cases are misguided and weaken the overall argument.” Well, up to a point Lord Copper. When no other state’s record of human rights is questioned (and there is a _very_ long list of states whose record is clearly far worse than Israel’s, and if MM isn’t aware of this list, then he’s not been paying attention to these columns), when only Israel is targeted for boycott, and when only Israel is the subject of Caryl Churchill’s concerns about human rights abuses in the world and how these are or are not transmitted to the next generation (how they are or are not _told_ to that next generation), then our concern about possible anti-Semitism, however unwitting, is very germane to this debate.

  46. Dr.Dawg Says:

    I think, in more ways than one, we have a serious language barrier here.

  47. zkharya Says:

    “You compare South Africa, and suggest that I wouldn’t call a similar play, “Seven Dutch Children.” I certainly would if, in a parallel universe, the notion of “Dutchness” pervaded South Africa”

    Well, it did, to a degree. It was an amalgm of European identities and cultural memes. But Dutch Afrikaner was the chiefest.

  48. zkharya Says:

    Speaking of language.

  49. zkharya Says:

    And Afrikaner South Africa was, arguably, far more a European intrusion than Israel. Israeli Jews are more middle eastern for all kinds of reasons. Even the European Jews are Jews. And half Israeli Jews descend from Arabic, Persian or Asian Jews.

    Even genetically Israeli Jews have far more in common with Palestinian Christians and Muslims than Afrikaners with Black South Africans.

    No plays about South Africa called Seven European, Dutch, Dutch-Hugenot or whatever Christian Children.

  50. zkharya Says:

    Also,

    in 7JC, even the Holocaust occurs in uacuo. No context, no background, no history. There is no “just-before” of which you speak elsewhere.

    The child Holocaust survivor of Act 1 has just been treated, persecuted almost to death for being nothing but a Jew. Not French, Russian or German. Not even for being any kind of human.

    Yet, in 7JC, it seems, there is no common experience or identity of Jewishness or Jewish nationality. Never mind this pre-dates the Holocaust by centuries.

    Its only depiction is in a child’s being told, of indeterminate age, presumably in a DP camp, between 1945 and 47 (and, if not, why not? The Guardian’s scene is a photo of a boat lile the Exodus), of promised land, and great-great-great-grandfathers, special little girl and chosen people.

    (these, incidentally, are Churchill’s only critiques of “Jewishness”)

    Why does Churchill choose a child so young? Are there not other children? Did not any of them have a Jewish upbringing? Did not some of them commemorate Tish B’Av?

    Were not some of them abused, as Jews. Told, if not leave this world altogether, then at least leave here, or even go back to Palestine?

    But in 7JC, any sense of Jewish ‘Palestinian’ identity is an entirely Jewishly concocted thing, biblically bookish (Genesis and g-d’s promise to Abraham), or childish, laughable tale of great grandfathers. Nothing else. No context. No experience, No agents of that experience other than Jewish parents’ concocting it for children.

    That’s it.

    Why does Churchill reduce it to almost literally infantility?

  51. zkharya Says:

    I think one reason is that Churchill does not trust herself to know enough about Jews, Israel, Zionism or Judaism to write about anything other than children who can barely speak.

    She is after all a dramatist who is not known as an historical playwright. Rather a non-naturalist, surrealist and post-modernist.

    That may be fine for spontaneous, extemporising dance theatre. It is no excuse if you profess to write history.

    The Israel-Palestine conflict is drenched in history. To reduce it to infantile semantics, for a partisan, political, polemical purpose, is pathetic, to say the least. It’s arguably other things too. But that will do for now.

  52. zkharya Says:

    It’s almost as though the Holocaust is the womb in which Israeli Jews are conceived, thence born. All Jews, in a sense, since Churchill does not specify “Palestinian” or “Israeli”. It’s were Zionism is born. It’s were Jewish claims to or associations with the land of Israel are born.

    Palestinian Christians and Muslims are born from Act 4, and, arguably, Act 3, where Churchill raises a chuckle about Jewish connections to the land.

    This play really is about Palestinian Christians and Muslims, of course. They appear in the play. The Jewish children don’t, except as the adults they become, of course. The children ony exist in so far as the parents discuss what to tell them. They are not portrayed. As either agents or victims.

  53. zkharya Says:

    ““, that the essence of “Dutchness” was invoked in the war against the British and then the oppression of Blacks.””

    Well, Afrikaners surely felt some sense of superiority over black Africans. It is often associated with an alleged sense of superior European Protestant Calvinist (culturally Dutch) Christian civilization.

    And in what sense did Jews invoke their Jewishness against the British that Afrikaners did not invoke their Dutch Calvinist Christianity against the British?

  54. maximreider Says:

    I saw the play being Israeli premiered in Tel Aviv June 11 at Rabin Square (the city’s central). It was performed twice in Hebrew by professional (and mostly well known) Israeli actors http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1092058.html nd then in English.

    I find it difficult to judge if Churchill’s piece is anti-Semitic. Despite what Rich/Gardner’s analysis of the text says, in this particular case, I prefer to take the words for their face value, probably because I live here in Israel and I know what these words mean.

    The Hebrew rendition was powerful: for Israeli actors, this is a question of life and death, an existential question of what we shall say about our country to our children. Churchill’s text is as brilliant, as it is one-sided and anti-Israeli. Because this all is only a half true – in this story, there are no totally bad or totally good guys.

    Then the text was read rather monotonously by members of a visiting group of American peace tourists. After a passionate outcry of the locals who are ready to accept the responsibility for what happened in this part of the world, this act of listless solidarity was a bit out of place. One of them kept chewing his gum while reading aloud the lines. But this is great they care and have came here.

  55. Brendon Lee O’Connell, Anti-Zionist Or Plain Racist? « ModernityBlog Says:

    [...] That’s after the event, and Friends of Palestine in West Australia have an unforgivable taste for that nasty racist play, Seven Jewish Children. [...]

  56. Quote of the day | The Warped Mirror Says:

    [...] by the Guardian’s theatre critic, who, unsurprisingly, happens to be an enthusiastic admirer of Caryl Churchill’s antisemitic play “Seven Jewish Children.” It’s only natural then that the Guardian’s theatre critic can’t [...]


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