For Caryl Churchill – The Eighth Jewish Child

Robbie Gringras in Haaretz,

“In response to Seven Jewish Children, written by Caryl Churchill, and condemned by Howard Jacobson, supported by Jacqueline Rose, and labeled a ‘blood libel’ by Melanie Philipps.”

14 Responses to “For Caryl Churchill – The Eighth Jewish Child”

  1. Saul Says:

    “Tell her that those who don’t like us will always pretend to understand us.”


  2. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    The Gringras article is excellent. It’s just a pity that Melanie Phillips has to be her usual over-the-top right-winger. But then, I suppose that’s why she writes for The Daily Mail and Spectator rather than something more centrist. It makes it too easy for anti-Zionists to shoot back.

  3. Gil Says:

    Brian Goldfarb’s comment above got me thinking about Melanie Phillips, although this isn’t meant as an reply to Brian, as such.

    There is something that bothers me about the attacks on Melanie Phillips. I find her defence of some of Israel’s policies over-the-top too. I used to think she was shrill and annoying. I still think she is somethimes shrill. But the calls of ‘Mad Mel’ (not on this website) began to annoy me and I realised that she had a point about Israel’s detractors. Just as we are called ‘paranoid’ by elements who wish to deny that criticsm of Israel in many cases is Jew hatred (see Ryan/Ryan Stokes) in another thread those same people say the same about Melanie Phillips.

    Her postings on the Spectator website are well researched. Perhaps too polemical for some people?

    As I see the gradual but certain elision of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism I realise that Melanie is doing a sterling job of pointing out what so many here are pointing out. Yet. there seems to be a knee-jerk ‘right winger boo hiss ‘element to comments about her.

    Perhaps some people should wake up: Antisemites don’t distinguish between Left or Right. If they do, it is for tactical reasons.

    And yes, I do know what the political orientation of this website is.

  4. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Gil, to me (and I am in agreement, very much so, of the political orientation of this website), it’s that her defence of Israel opens up a space for certain forms of further attack on Israel. This is because the joins often show. Allow me an analogy: I once read a long article by Enoch Powell, reprinted in the Guardian, possibly a rewriting of a House of Commons speech. It might have been the editing by the paper, but the join showed, so that what had been a masterly and extremely logical (if right wing) argument suddenly became a polemic, easily dismissable. The logic was impeccable up to that point because, of course, Powell had been a Professor of Greek and Logic before becoming a politician. He would also acknowledge that people would start from different premises, and therefore finish in different places. Pity about his later “premises” concerning “immigration”.

    Tony Benn is a similar figure. He _must_ have known, given his very long political career, what the press would make of much of his views, yet he persisted in making eminently (and not just from my political perspective) reasonable points in a way almost designed to allow the press and other opponents to label him as a “mad lefty”. Which he may or may not have been and be.

    So it is with Melanie Phillips. She gets so irate and so polemical that what is (to us) a particularly clear, straightforward, even logical case becomes dismissible as the “ravings” of a right-wing uber-Zionist. The latter she is not: she, too, can see the faults with Israel, but “how dare you you speak to me like that” is her response.

    If only, like many others, she would take the “more in sorrow than in anger” route, like, eg, Jacobson, how much harder it would be to dismiss her, as it is with Jacobson.

  5. Noga Says:

    What Gil said.

    Phillips is aware that her average reader has a very general and even vague awareness of the intricacies of the I/P conflict, as well as a short attention span. If she were to start inserting all the nuances, caveats and fine-tuning that the readers of Engage are used to, very few more than the readers of Engage would read her. She needs to resort to broader brushstrokes in order to explain the components of the conflict and what is going on in Europe as far as antisemitism goes. If you like, she uses Newtonian laws of motion while Engage is dealing in quantum physics. Since Newton’s laws can be seen as consequences of fundamental quantum laws, it makes sense what Gil said:

    “As I see the gradual but certain elision of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism I realise that Melanie is doing a sterling job of pointing out what so many here are pointing out.”

    Most people understand Newton’s laws of motion by the time they reach their 8th or 9th grade.

  6. Gil Says:

    Brian, I take your point. I presume you are referring to Radio 4’s Moral Maze or other appearences/correspondence, as she doesn’t respond to comments on the Spectator website and I’ve never heard her speak in public.

    Noga, your analogy is along the lines of what I was thinking.

  7. David Hirsh Says:

    MP did some really weird homophobic stuff and some really weird “christian values” stuff at her Yale talk. This kind of bigotry tends to discredit all who fight against antisemitism.

    Notice that she uses the “Livingstone Formulation” against those who fight for “tolerance to marginalised groups” – she argues that in fact such opposition to bigotry is really an attempt “to transfer power to such groups”. People who allege homophobia are really only trying to de-legitimize legitimate criticism of homosexuality!!

    I do also agree that MP gets demonized – as Alan Dershowitz does. But even without the demonization the Daily Mail family values stuff is pretty nauseating, as is Dershowitz’s defence of torture. Melanie Philips said:

    “Enacting Gramsci’s precepts to the letter, morality and culture have indeed been turned upside down. The values of marginalised or transgressive groups have been substituted for the values of the majority and their historic culture. The authority of the Bible has been repudiated for a culture of rights, leading Britain’s intelligentsia to embrace post-modernism, anti-racism, feminism and gay rights. The crucial point is that these are all part of a victim culture which does not seek to extend tolerance to marginalised groups, but instead to transfer power to such groups to destroy the very idea of a normative majority culture rooted in the morality of Christianity and the Hebrew Bible.

    Christians are now targeted as bigots if they uphold Christian beliefs about sexuality. An elderly evangelical Christian who was attacked after he held up a poster calling for an end to homosexuality, lesbianism and immorality, was
    convicted in 2002 of a public order offence – while his attackers were not prosecuted on the grounds that they were the victims of the offence.xiii A Christian registrar was
    threatened with the sack after asking to be excused from conducting civil partnerships for same-sex couples because of her religious beliefs, although she later won the right to do so.xiv And the Catholic church was forced to cut its ties with three large adoption agencies because equality law forces such agencies to place children for adoption with gay couples.xv”

    Click to access melaniephillipspaper111308.pdf

  8. Lynne T Says:

    Perhaps some of Melanie’s stridency can be credited to having left a senior editor’s position at the Guardian with her Orwell award under her arm.

    In a way, Melanie is like a sober, female counterpart to Christopher Hitchens.

  9. Mira Vogel Says:

    She’s not so hot on environmental affairs either.

  10. Jacob Says:

    “I do also agree that MP gets demonized – as Alan Dershowitz does. But even without the demonization the Daily Mail family values stuff is pretty nauseating, as is Dershowitz’s defence of torture.”

    I am not as informed about MP as I am about Dersh so I will restrict my comments to the way he is being demonized.

    I have disagreed strenuously with Dershowitz’ attempt to legalize the use of torture in some very restricted cases and I have said so elsewhere.

    Still to be fair to him I should say that his proposal was meant to reign in a practice which goes in certain emergency cases: what he calls the ticking bomb. He feels that by restricting the use of torture to only a small number of cases it would regulate the practice and set limits on what they can and can’t do in such circumstances.

    Without going into detail I believe the opposite to be the case. Still, I accept that Dersh was arguing in good faith and that he wanted to make it harder and not easier for government officials to resort to torture.

    Those people who attack Dersh’ views on Israel, it seems to me would do so anyway no matter what his stance on torture is. They are just using his views on that subject as an excuse to dismiss his valid criticisms of those who demonize Israel.

    It’s hard to believe that some ultra right winger (and Dershowitz has been attacked by both the antisemitic right and left) who doesn’t care about the civil rights of minorities would otherwise care about the torture issue.

    As for his leftist antisemitic critics, their views would more weight if they didn’t also show support for organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

    There grounds for criticizing Dersh’s views on torture there are no grounds to use such criticism to discredit his views on other issues. Each issue should be argued on its own merits.

  11. Frank Adam Says:

    For information: I heard Melanie Phillips speak in public the year National LIMMUD was held in Manchester (1997?).

    She was calm and collected and could take advantage of her perfect pitch voice – probably upper contralto – and articulacy to do without a microphone in a medium amphi.

    Neither of us were as irritated by events as we have since become.

  12. Norm’s Seven Themes for Caryl Churchill « Engage - the anti-racist campaign against antisemitism Says:

    […] also: The Eighth Jewish Child; Why Jacqueline Rose Is Not Right. Posted in Jews as proxy Israelis, art. Tags: Caryl Churchill, […]

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