Radio 4 and Seven Jewish Children – David Hirsh

Howard Jacobson describes Seven Jewish Children as an antisemitic work:

“Caryl Churchill will argue that her play is about Israelis not Jews, but once you venture on to “chosen people” territory – feeding all the ancient prejudice against that miscomprehended phrase – once you repeat in another form the medieval blood-libel of Jews rejoicing in the murder of little children, you have crossed over. This is the old stuff. Jew-hating pure and simple – Jew-hating which the haters don’t even recognise in themselves, so acculturated is it – the Jew-hating which many of us have always suspected was the only explanation for the disgust that contorts and disfigures faces when the mere word Israel crops up in conversation. So for that we are grateful. At last that mystery is solved and that lie finally nailed. No, you don’t have to be an anti-Semite to criticise Israel. It just so happens that you are.”

He re-states this view when Jacqueline Rose and Churchill herself defend the play. If Jacobson is right then it follows that the play has no artistic or political value.

BBC Radio 4 has decided not to stage the play. Radio 4′s drama commissioning editor Jeremy Howe, rejected the play, writing in an email:

“It is a no, I am afraid. Both Mark [Damazer, Radio 4 controller] and I think it is a brilliant piece, but after discussing it with editorial policy we have decided we cannot run with it on the grounds of impartiality – I think it would be nearly impossible to run a drama that counters Caryl Churchill’s view. Having debated long and hard we have decided we can’t do Seven Jewish Children.”

They have made the wrong decision. If it is a “brilliant piece” of course it should be broadcast. If it is a “brilliant piece” how could it be “countered”? Brilliant theatre does not require something else to be broadcast another night in order to balance it.

Why would Radio 4 not broadcast a “brilliant piece”? The official BBC statement says that “we felt it would not work for our audience.” Why not?

The implication, of course, is that The Jews will not allow the BBC to broadcast this “brilliant piece”.

Tell them its antisemitic. Tell them its unbalanced. Tell them the BBC is biased.

If the piece is antisemitic then its crap. And it shouldn’t be broadcast.

If the piece is “brilliant” then it should be broadcast, and the BBC should stand up to the full wrath of “Israel Lobby” – or as the Independent would say, the “Jewish Lobby“.

David Hirsh

72 Responses to “Radio 4 and Seven Jewish Children – David Hirsh”

  1. Jonathan Hoffman Says:

    I agree the wording was maladroit but the decision was obviously correct. The worrying thing is that teachers in schools are getting the schoolchildren to perform it. The fact that it is short, cheap to perform and controversial all adds to the attraction for the average NUT member who is anyway not likely to be a strong supporter of Israel’s action in Gaza.

  2. Deborah Maccoby Says:

    “If the piece is antisemitic, it’s crap”. A very questionable statement. “The Merchant of Venice” is antisemitic. But is it crap? The poetry of T. S. Eliot is antisemitic. But is it crap? Chaucer’s “The Prioress’s Tale” is antisemitic. But is it crap? There are many other examples from world literature – these are just a few.

    Deborah

  3. Deborah Maccoby Says:

    PS In case of misunderstanding, I don’t think “Seven Jewish Children” is antisemitic. But I was just questioning the whole idea that if it were it would have no literary value.

    Deborah

  4. AndrewM Says:

    Letter in Irish Times yesterday (the play is showing at a number of theatres there including The Abbey in Dublin):

    Madam, – I’m going to write a short play, and the title will be “Seven Muslim Children”. It’s going to be a “10-minute history of Islam” and will consist of a series of short dialogues in which Muslim parents, teachers and clerics teach their children to hate. They teach them to hate the West, to hate Jews, to hate globalisation, to hate democracy, to hate everything except Islam. No entrance fee will be charged, but viewers should make a donation to a charity for children orphaned by 9/11.

    I wonder if the Abbey would be interested in staging it. – Yours, etc,

    JONATHAN BAUM,
    Blackrock,
    Co Dublin.

  5. Jonathan Hoffman Says:

    Deborah Maccoby

    Please explain why you think the play is not antisemitic. It is antisemitic to use the phrase “chosen people” to imply that Jews believe they are superior to non-Jews (the phrase involves responsibilities as well as blessings).

    To reinforce false stereotypes and demonise Israelis is also antisemitic.

    The JC (after my review) said it was antisemitic

    So why do you suggest it is not?

  6. Lit 101 Says:

    So, Churchill is up there with Chaucer, Shakespeare and Eliot (not to mention Reifenstahl)

    Unlike the latter 3,

    The play, unlike say, the Merchant of Venice, is not a play about antisemitism (and to call it antisemitic is a nonsense); the play, unlike the Wastelands, is not a mediation on modernity and it is in that context that the Jews appear (unpleasant though it is); nor does the play offer any of the aesthetic qualities that Eliot offered.

    Churchill’s play is none of these things. Churchill’s play contains only “Jewish” characters; it is offered in the name of a faux psychology about “damaged” Jews; it is not about antisemitism although it is antisemitic; it is not about Jews relations with other active agents but is a “meditiation” [sic) on what it sees as a Zonist pathology; it offers no aesthetic novelty.

    It is for this reason, that in the case of Churchill’s play, its antisemitism is its literary value. Take away the one and the other crumbles into dust.

  7. Jonathan Romer Says:

    You were right first time, Deborah — it is antisemitic.

    It’s also crap. It is a polemic that builds itself entirely around a set of lies and distortions; it’s only purpose is achieved through dishonesty. Why would an honest political position need to do that?

    The Merchant of Venice manages to be high art even though it is antisemitic. The same goes for Eliot. But an anti-racist director doesn’t put on the Merchant at times or in places virtually guaranteed to incite attacks on Jews. If the Royal Shakespeare Company has scheduled it a year in advance, and it happens to run during Israel’s assault on Hamas, that’s one thing. If the Royal Court rushes out a performance on two weeks’ notice at that time, it’s something else.

  8. MattG Says:

    Im just reeling from the idea that the Beeboids think its a brilliant piece.

    The idea (which you will see in all its splendour on The Guardian Comments thread) that not having the play in Radio 4 is giving in to Zionist pressure/manipulation is quite astonishing.

    Truly, sadly, horrifying.

    MattG

  9. David Hirsh Says:

    I don’t think the Merchant of Venice is an antisemitic play. I think it is a fine play about antisemitism.

    I think that antisemitism, like all racism, is just false – there is nothing good to be said for it. It is mistaken. Its assumptions are not true. It is corrupt and corrupting. It is ugly. It is unjust. It does not permit any inner truth to shine through. It is the radicalism of the moron. It is the anti-establishment whine of the person who knows nothing about history and nothing about the culture in which they operate.

    I think that to play with the idea that Jewish children are brought up be insensitive to the killing of other children is dangerous. It is false. It is antisemitic.

    And it is an idea that hits a resonant frequency – from the past, towards the present and, perhaps, into the future.

    There are some people who are unable to hear the note no matter how loudly it resonates. Those people have their fingers very firmly thrust into their ears.

    If they can’t hear it they should just shut up. They should stop shouting, “AsAJew” that there is no sound.

  10. Jonathan Hoffman Says:

    How cynical and crass is this: The Royal Court gave all nine parts to actors with names such as “Caplan”, “Horovitch”, “Posner”, Roukin”, “Stoller” and “Zegerman” – presumably in the belief that this might somehow immunise the play against the charge of antisemitism…..

  11. Deborah Maccoby Says:

    I think it is necessary to point out that David Hirsh’s piece on this begs the question: did the BBC actually refuse to broadcast the piece on the grounds that it is antisemitic? In fact, they didn’t. They refused to broadcast it on the grounds that it is politically biased against Israel’s Gaza offensive and so would impair BBC impartiality. One can agree or not with this decision, but the play certainly is politically biased – and again being politically biased doesn’t stop a work of literature from having literary value – look at Shakespeare’s history plays or Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”, for instance.

    To answer the question of why I wouldn’t call “Seven Jewish Children” antisemitic – I think the term “chosen people” is being used in the distorted sense in which the settlers use it – as people who are intrinsically superior. Of course, this isn’t the true meaning of the term in Judaism, but it has been distorted and perverted, and the play reflects this distortion and perversion by Jews themselves, rather than being distorted and perverted itself. The play is really a reflection on the question of how a people which has undergone such persecution and dehumanisation itself can end up in the morally rock bottom point of the appalling Gaza offensive, which was supported by the majority of the Israeli Jewish public, who have also voted in the Netanyahu government,with Avigdor Lieberman poised to be Foreign Minister. This is all done in the name of the Jewish people, by the Jewish State, so it does reflect on the whole Jewish people. I don’t think it’s antisemitic to point this out.

    On the question of whether “The Merchant of Venice” is antisemitic or not, David and I will have to agree to differ. I see that Jonathan Romer agrees with me that it is both high art and antisemitic. I certainly don’t think “Seven Jewish Children” is comparable in terms of literary value, buit this doesn’t mean it is not without literary value. It think it’s an interesting, thoughtful play, well worth staging and broadcasting, though I respect the BBC’s decision that it is too politically biased for them.

    best wishes to all,

    Deborah

  12. Mike Says:

    Deborah “I think it is necessary to point out that David Hirsh’s piece on this begs the question: did the BBC actually refuse to broadcast the piece on the grounds that it is antisemitic? In fact, they didn’t.”

    I think that’s pretty obvious from what David Hirsh wrote.

  13. David Hirsh Says:

    No, I did not suggest that the Howe and Damazer decided against broadcasting the play because they thought it was antisemitic.

    On the contrary, they thought it was “a brilliant piece”.

    There is no suggestion that they thought that it was both “a brilliant piece” and antisemitic.

    My point is that if they believe that the play is a brilliant piece then they should fight for it and they should risk opposition and criticism and they should broadcast it.

    So they are wrong twice. Firstly they mis-recognize an antisemitic piece as a brilliant piece. And secondly, in a lazy and cowardly way, they refuse to broadcast it.

  14. Bill Says:

    “It is antisemitic to use the phrase “chosen people” to imply that Jews believe they are superior to non-Jews (the phrase involves responsibilities as well as blessings).”

    Indeed!. How is it not antisemtic to always bring up the Jews, and only the Jews, sneeringly as The Chosen People when most-to-all religions list themselves as Gods Best Friends on Earth, even the ones where the big resort in the sky has “many mansions” when their long dead representative on earth is the “way,” “light” and “door” (just one example). I’ve never heard of a religion (I don’t even think it applies to Satanists) whose bragging rights include, “boy does God really hate our guts!”

    But then, we already know that it’s not about being the Chosen People, or any give set of Chosen People. The old canard is about bashing Jews.

    As for the play not being Antisemetic, see the satirical proposal cited by David Hirsh on “Seven Muslim Children.” Won’t fly with that? Then you oughtn’t fly with Seven (Chosen) Jewish Children.

  15. Deborah Maccoby Says:

    PS Sorry, I should have said towards the end: “this doesn’t mean it is without literary value”, not the double negative of “this doesn’t mean it is not without literary value”!

    Deborah

  16. Jonathan Hoffman Says:

    Where is your evidence that settlers use the ‘chosen people’ phrase in the way you suggest? And where is your evidence that Churchill was merely transmitting that, rather than using the phrase in an antisemitic way? And where is your evidence that Israeli parents teach their children to hate in the way portrayed in the play?

  17. zkharya Says:

    “The problem with Seven Jewish Children is that it isn’t drama. Jacqueline Rose praises it for being “precised and focused in its criticisms of Israeli policy”. I agree. And that’s what makes it not art. Art would be imprecise and free-flowing, open to the corrections of what will not stay still, attentive to voices that unsettle certainty. The difference between art and propaganda is that the latter closes its mind to the appeals and surprises of otherness. Seven Jewish Children is imaginatively starved; no orchestration of voices vexes or otherwise complicates its depiction of a Jewish people fulfilling the logic of its own intolerant theology, boastful and separatist, deaf to reason and humanity, knee-high in blood and revelling in it. A theatrical as well as a racial crudity, which any number of critics, by no means all Jewish, have remarked on.”

  18. Deborah Maccoby Says:

    I still think David was mixing up “antisemitic” and “politically biased”. He was saying basically “the BBC think it’s brilliant, so they should have broadcast it, but it’s antisemitic, so it can’t be brilliant or indeed of any literary value at all”. In arguing about whether an antisemitic play can have literary value or not, I felt the question of political bias and brilliance was being forgotten, as we had all started assuming that the play was indeed antisemitic – ie begging the question, assuming something that, in my view at least, hasn’t been in any way proved. I was raising the question, which I felt had been forgotten: “If the BBC think it is brilliant but politically biased, should they broadcast it?”

    Deborah

  19. David Hirsh Says:

    But what is the political bias? What are the politics of the play?

    It is a play which explains and opposes Israel’s attacks on targets in Gaza in terms of the alleged neurotic Jewish propensity to murder children.

    Jews cause this particular kind of bloodshed, it argues, because Jews bring up their children in a particular kind of neurotic way.

    Of course a play which was “biased” and brilliant – which perhaps showed one part of a whole, or was perhaps based on one point of view should be shown, alongside other programmes which showed other parts of the whole and other points of view.

    But how do you “balance” a play which says that Jews are mad and that is why they kill?

    By broadcasting a play which says that Tamils are mad and that is why they kill?

    Or that Hutu are mad and thats why they kill?

    Antisemitism can’t be balanced, can it?

    Or perhaps for every antisemitic programme Radio 4 broadcasts it should broadcast an antiracist one to “balance”?

  20. Absolute Observer Says:

    J. Rose’s book is a deeper libel than merely Israel is muderos because of antisemitism and the Holocaust.

    The first section grounds it all in a spurious and shallow account of “Jewish messianism”. Apparently, for here, the Jews were fucked up from the middle of the 17th century.

    Apparently, what makes the Jews unique among the people’s fo the world is their religion. Love the implicit reference to Kant!

  21. Absolute Observer Says:

    David Hirsh,
    You “balance” the play by showing Jews to be moral paragons; perfect human beings; i.e. another fantasy and myth, but one, apparently, people still believe in (see Suissa and Maccoby)

  22. Mira Says:

    “Why would Radio 4 not broadcast a “brilliant piece”?” or to put it Deborah’s way, “If the BBC think it is brilliant but politically biased, should they broadcast it?”

    In The Guardian the commissioning editor reasoned “I think it would be nearly impossible to run a drama that counters Caryl Churchill’s view.”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/mar/16/bbc-rejects-caryl-churchill-israel

    When the subject of a drama is controversial, and when the drama is a didactic political statement disguised as a duff play, this makes sense. The BBC’s statement of purpose obliges it to refuse to participate in things like the propagandistic creation of a pariah. My hunch (based on eliminating other reasons) about calling the play “brilliant” is that the BBC was being insincere. Seriously – have you read it? It’s a play you’d really only want to produce for political or reactionary reasons. It’s a Palestine Solidarity Campaign type of play. http://www.royalcourttheatre.com/files/downloads/SevenJewishChildren.pdf

    So the BBC didn’t reckon they could find a play which balances the propaganda, so they couldn’t air it. Blame or thank the Lobby for that.

    The Guardian piece also refers to the play as “seven short scenes in which Israeli adults discuss how they will explain to children”. But it wasn’t “seven Israeli adults” – it was seven Jewish parents. We know who they are because Caryl Churchill tells us in the stage notes. It’s what David says – and she’s written about a million plays and she’s in the PSC – don’t tell me she doesn’t know the ropes by now.

  23. Absolute observer Says:

    Should read,

    “Apparently, what makes the Jews unique among the people’s fo the world is their religion………………and their inability to govern their own state according to civilised lines”

  24. Lynne T Says:

    Zkraya and :

    To borrow from Pablo Picasso, art is a lie whose purpose is to make you see the truth. As you point out, Caryl Churchill’s play is propaganda that demonizes Jews and absolves Islamists and ostensible Palestinian nationalists for resorting to violent means to pursue an unjust and unreasonable end.

  25. Ariel H Says:

    I’ve little to add about what’s been said about this play already. But I do have something to say about one of Caryl Churchill’s earlier works which I’ve also read. This is:

    Light Shining in Buckinghamshire (1976)

    The title is taken from a work by a group associated with the Diggers (often and correctly described as England’s first practicing communists). What Churchill does in this play is distort English history to create the impression that there was a continuous English radical tradition (which was sometimes specifically communist).

    In Churchill’s words the play shows ‘the amazed excitement of people taking hold of their own lives, and their gradual betrayal as those who led them realised that freedom could not be had without property being destroyed’.

    Now I haven’t read any other works by Churchill, but taken together with Seven Jewish Children, that’s two instances when she uses drama to promote an overt political agenda. The former is part of what has been called a sentimental lef-wing view of the English past (and it fits in very nicely with other contemporary pieces); the latter is part of the trend we are witnessing that effaces the distinction between anti-Zionism and antisemitism (again, very much a phenomenon on the left-wing of politics).

  26. Brian Robinson Says:

    Many years ago I attended a dramatised reading of Arnold Wesker’s “The Merchant” (with Wesker himself in the cast). I don’t think it was a success – he changed the Shylock character and in the scene where “the bond” is made, Shylock is only playing a joke with his old friend, teasing in the way of their old bantering manner because, so “The Merchant” tries to show, Shylock never for a moment thought that the bond would have to be honoured. The joke, as we all know, went horribly wrong.

    But The M. of V. isn’t the only Shakespeare play problematic for our times. Cf Taming of the Shrew?

    I liked the Irish Times letter. 10-minute histories, eh? At the moment, I’m deep in Andrew G Bostom’s 759-page doorstopper, “The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims” and hope to start his “The Legacy of Islamic Anti-Semitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History” soon (another vast tome). I suppose a certain kind of author could do a kind of two-legs-bad-four-legs-good compression, but we’d be into a work of slogans, street theatre in the warm (with drinks from the bar).

    Of course, many campaigners simply can’t deal with complexity, with evidence that threatens a simplistic, manichaean worldview. In the sociologist Stephen Murray’s vivid phrase, they exhibit “the will not to know”, or act in accordance with Sir Isaiah Berlin’s depiction of an ideologue as somebody who is prepared to suppress what he suspects to be true.

    Minimalism can have great virtues but also great dangers. Into nutshells much mischief may be stuffed.

  27. Jonathan Hoffman Says:

    Nobody can “prove” antisemitism to someone whose personal agenda blinds them to it

  28. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Of course, Deborah M. ignores the critical (“critical” as in criticism) fact that good plays often give the best lines to their political opponents. We must all have seen plays, often by avowedly left-wing playwrights, in which the right-wing characters are given the best (in literary terms) lines. This happens when the playwright is honest to the text that is writing itself (as many writers note happens). When a _literary_ piece (such as a play or story) is one-sided, it tends to lose its impact.

    For example, in the short play “Dai” (“Enough”), in which the conceit is that a UK tv film crew are interviewing people in a Tel Aviv cafe just before a suicide bomber detonates himself, the best lines explaining/justifying the general Israeli position are given to a woman West Bank settler. It is also clear that the playwright is not in sympathy with her.

    I also commented on “Plonter” (“Tangle”) which was part of a thread a few days ago, where exactly this literary device was used: good lines to both sides in what is a Jewish/Arab-Israeli collaboration by the Cameri
    Theatre.

    If Deborah M. is so convinced that “Seven Jewish Children” isn’t antisemitic, why doesn’t she do what has been suggested: imagine (or even write) the Muslim version – word for word but substituting “Muslim” and Muslim practices etc for the Jewish ones. If she can _then_ put her hand on her heart and say the “Muslim” version isn’t Islamophobic, then she might begin to have a point.

    But I think we’d be fascinated to read it before we agree with her. And the attacks on Churchill and her play doesn’t mean that the attackers therefore don’t believe in a two-state solution. Being anti-antisemitic is not to be anti-Palestinian, surprisingly enough.

  29. Jacob Says:

    Deborah Maccoby Says: “If the piece is antisemitic, it’s crap”. A very questionable statement. “The Merchant of Venice” is antisemitic. But is it crap? The poetry of T. S. Eliot is antisemitic. But is it crap? Chaucer’s “The Prioress’s Tale” is antisemitic. But is it crap? There are many other examples from world literature – these are just a few.

    This is terrible literary analysis.

    “The Merchant to Venice” can be interpreted as being antisemitic but to do so to ignore the way the play also subverts the antisemitic surface of the text not only through the humanization of Shylock “the Jew” an unheard of phenomenon at the time, but also the way the play questions the motives of all the other characters. There is on single or simple message to the play. This is what makes it art.

    Also to suggest that Eliot’s poetry is antisemitic in its totality is crap. Eliot wrote some antisemitic poems but his “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” nor are many of his other poems. Even the antisemitic poems in question such as Gerontion (which I don’t like) are not just about Jews.

    “The Prioress’s Tale” has given lots of problems to readers since at least Coleridge and it is usually dealt with by pointing out that Chaucer may have been satirizing the Prioress and hence presenting the tale ironically. I am not sure I buy this explanation but the tale was written in the middle Ages and evokes ideologies of the period.

    Had Caryl Churchill written the play at that time we wouldn’t be having this argument.

    As it is from all descriptions her play “Seven Jewish Children” reads as if it were written in the middle Ages by the Prioress.

  30. academic Says:

    Both this decision, and the BBC’s earlier (wrong) decision not to broadcast the Gaza charity appeal seem to be made in the spirit of the sulking teenager who locks themselves in their room from 6pm onwards, hoping thereby to “prove” to their Mum and the rest of the world the unreasonableness of their Dad’s (yet to be pronounced!) ban on staying out after midnight.

    And it’s all been terribly effective. See e.g. the Guardian cartoon relating to the Gaza charity appeal story which invoked the “power” of (unspoken) words of Melanie Philips or the pursed-lip anti-Israel comments on the matter by some BBC TV “Question Time” panelists.

    The BBC decision-makers are no doubt relishing the protests against their refusal to air the Caryl Churchill play — their true intention being in fact to further promote the play and its agenda.

  31. Susan Says:

    Deborah, you are using the Holocaust as a cudgel. You are setting Jews and Israelis up on a false pedestal for the purpose of knocking us off. We have to be perfect or we don’t deserve to exist as a people. You are denying our basic humanity, and not allowing Jews to be fully human.

  32. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Actually, academic, it can be argued that the BBC should have the right not to broadcast something, such as the DEC appeal for Gaza; the question should always have been whether they were right not to braodcast _this_ item.

    As it turns out, the UN have, since that furore, confirmed that there are serious doubts that money raised by the appeal, in whole or in large part, will actually reach the intended recipients in Gaza. Rather, they suggested, much/most will end up in the Hamas coffers.

    If the BBC decision was right, it wasn’t made clear _at the time_ that this was the reason for refusal.

  33. letsgeteven Says:

    During the peace negotiations between Egypt and Israel, Sadat said Begin was behaving “like Shylock”. He didn’t mean it as a compliment, nor was he trying to humanize Israelis. After the Camp David accords were signed, the British Government sent the Royal Shakespeare Company to Israel and Egypt. Israel got 3 actors reciting the Hollow Crown on a bare stage, or some such. Egypt got a fully-fledged stage production of – wait for it – “The Merchant Of Venice”. Yet another example of the satanic anti-semitic malice of the FO Arabists and their subsidized collaborators in luvvie-land.

  34. Academic Says:

    OK Brian (two comments up) given what you have told me about the UN, I accept now that the BBC may well have been right not to broadcast these things but (and I take it this is partly the point of David Hirsch’s article) if so, I agree with you that they certainly cited the wrong reasons. Do you agree with my speculation (above) about what their true motives might be?

    I am especially dismayed to hear that the UN now doubts that the Gaza-DEC appeal money will go to the right place given that I actually made a donation myself! I might now raise the matter with the appeal. Can you supply a link to the UN statement? Presumably I’m not the only donor who might be concerned about this.

  35. Linda Grant Says:

    I wonder if the Royal Court would stage a 10 minute play by a white British writer which asks how could the South Africans, after all they went through with apartheid, deny their own population treatment for AIDS and allow Mugabe to systematically starve his own people to death, and ? Would this be considered racist?

  36. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Academic, try http://www.dec.org.uk. All sorts of links appear to flow from their home page.

    re the BBC, many people do increasingly suspect that their motivation for policy and actions concerning the Middle East are less than open and above-board. This is why I wondered out loud whether their refusal to screen the DEC appeal was for the right reasons (fear that the money would fail to get to the intended recipients) or, rather, because they wished to avoid further controversy over reporting the ME (whether they deserve the opprobium or not).

    So bad has the perception of the BBC become concerning this area that my wife was moved to comment, in a tone of wonder, following a Jeremy Bowen report from the region, that his report had been fair and balanced “for a change”.

    So, yes, I suspect their motives for any actions over the ME.

    Anyone interested in how reporting gets to be “biased” might find the 3 books by the Glasgow University Media Group (based in the Sociology Dept there) on how UK industrial relations got reported in the 1970s & 80s by the BBC interesting. These are, respectively, “Bad News”, “More Bad News” and “Really Bad News”. At root, the academic analysis focused on the taken for granted (middle class) view of the world that the reporters and editors in the News Dept. brought to their work.

    As a result, it also drove a stake into the heart of the taken for granted notion that the BBC is/was a hotbed of left-wingers undermining the Thatcher Government efforts to reform UK trade union law.

  37. Deborah Maccoby Says:

    It sounds a very interesting play – maybe Linda could write it? I certainly wouldn’t consider it racist.

    Re Susan’s accusation that I am demanding impossibly high standards – I don’t think it’s demanding impossibly high standards to ask Israel to refrain from killing hundreds of children in three weeks, in a brutal, entirely unnecessary onslaught, when all Israel had to do to stop the rockets was observe the terms of the ceasefire, including lifting the blockade. During four months of the ceasefire, from June 19th to November 4, Hamas did not fire a single rocket (a dramatically reduced number of rockets were fired by Islamic Jihad and other small groups, causing no casualties). It was only on November 4th, after Israel had entered deep into Gaza and killed six Hamas militants, that Hamas retaliated with a large barrage of rockets, causing casualties, and Israel escalated the situation, evidently seeking an excuse to attack Gaza.

    Re David’s comments – where in the play does it imply that there is an intrinsic Jewish propensity to murder children??? It certainly would be antisemitic to imply this, but it never does.

    Deborah

  38. Linda Grant Says:

    The National Theatre has come in for a great deal of stick for staging England People Very Nice, a collection of stereotypes (I have seen it and concur with this view) of successive waves of immigration to the East End by a white writer. Many have indeed accused the play of being racist, I imagine this South African play would provoke the same response. I don’t believe the Royal Court would stage it.

  39. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    It’s amazing how ideology can not only affect one’s interpretation of events, but also one’s ability to actually see _facts_, irrespective of one’s interpretation of those facts.

    Deborah Maccoby expects us to accept her interpretation of events, when she fails to see facts. Thus, although the number differs, a large number of commentators agree that from the end of the so-called cease-fire until the commencement of Operation Cast lead, at least 300 and (according to others) as many as 3000 rockets were launched into Israel. Further, they were indiscriminately aimed at civilian targets: a war crime in itself.

    The Israeli government warned Hamas what would happen should these rockets continue to be launched. Now, Hamas claims to be the government of Gaza. As such, it has the responsibility for order in Gaza. Either Hamas is unable to control its own armed wing and/or other groups launching rockets into Israel, or it had no wish to cease the firing of rockets into Israel. Either way, Hamas was aware of the consequences of this.

    Under international law, Israel as a sovreign state has the right to defend its territorial integrity and the integrity of its citizens. Thus, given the failure of Hamas to do anything (in 3 weeks), the result was inevitable. Whether this was the right response is another matter, and isn’t what Deborah Maccoby addresses. Furthermore, we have no evidence (beyond the fevered imaginings of members of JfJfP, JBIG, etc) that fully re-opening the border crossings would have brought about the ending of the rocket attacks.

    Subsequently, since the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead and the subsequent withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, it has become clear that the reports of civilian deaths in Gaza have (like Mark Twain’s death) been much exaggerated. While accepting that 1 civilian death is too many, the continued committing by Hamas of war crimes – by deliberately directing rockets at civilian targets in Israel, by firing rockets from within civilian occupied areas, by using civilians as human shields – inevitably leads to civilian deaths. Even so, it is slowly becoming accepted (at least by those who believe in facts and evidence) that the number and proportion of non-combatant deaths and injuries was both much lower than initially reported and a much smaller proportion of the total.

    In other words, despite Deborah Maccoby’s refusal to accept this, the Israeli army’s efforts to avoid civilian deaths paid off: the majority, by far, of the dead and injured were Hamas and other fighters.

    So, Deborah, the Israelis _didn’t_ kill “hundreds of children in three weeks”. What they did do was kill hundreds of Hamas fighters in 3 weeks, but Hamas won’t admit to that, because they would then have to acknowledge that their immediate strategy has been a dismal failure.

    Sound like she could do with reading those books in the comment immediately above hers.

  40. Mark Gardner Says:

    This does not require a masters degree in literary criticism, philosophy, sociology etc.

    If the play was called 7 Israeli children, then it would be about Israelis.

    If it was 7 Israeli Jewish children, then it would be about Israeli Jews.

    If it was 7 Israeli Policy Makers children, then it would be about Israeli Policy Makers.

    However, its actually called 7 Jewish Children. Therefore, its actually about Jews.

    More importantly: the fact that its about Jews (of the Bad Jew variety) is what the audience takes away from it.

  41. Jonathan Hoffman Says:

    Deborah, you need to be reminded of this:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/jan/11/salman-rushdie-satanic-verses

    In a recent article in the Observer Ramin Gray (associate director of the Royal Court Theatre) said that he would be reluctant to stage a play that was critical of Islam.

  42. Efraim Says:

    “It was only on November 4th, after Israel had entered deep into Gaza and killed six Hamas militants, that Hamas retaliated with a large barrage of rockets, causing casualties, and Israel escalated the situation, evidently seeking an excuse to attack Gaza.”

    This is a pathetic rewritng of events.

    Israel went into Gaza on that day because they had solid information that Hamas fighters were about to launch an operation like the one that resulted in the kidnapping of an Israel soldier a year or so ago.

    Countries will defend themselves and people like Maccoby will defend Hamas.

    However, non of this has anything to do with the awful play which also falisfies history and slanders the Jewish people.

  43. Absolute Observer Says:

    I do wish Maccoby she would stop using critcism of Israel to deflect from the question of antisemitism.
    A famililar tactic of the “antizionist Lobby, that those on the internaet recognise only too well.
    I am sure she received an email about this post and has answered the call.
    I mean it is no coincidence that as soon as you mention “antisemitism” the “criticism of Israel” brigade turn up screaming about Leiberman and Gaza.

    Do they really think they can stifle free debate in this way!

  44. Jonathan Hoffman Says:

    http://blog.indexoncensorship.org/2009/03/17/why-is-the-bbc-afraid-of-caryl-churchills-seven-jewish-children/

    There is a new article on the play in ‘Index on Censorship’ for those who have the appetite – complete with a Livingstone Manoeuvre ….

  45. Academic Says:

    Brian,

    I tried http://www.dec.org.uk but only found this reassuring statement at http://www.dec.org.uk/cgi-bi/item.cgi?id=231

    “What sort of assurance is there that the money raised through the appeal reaches those in need and is not used to fund Hamas?

    DEC members are independent humanitarian aid organisations and not aligned with any political parties. Our only aim is to get life-saving aid to innocent victims of the conflict, particularly those who are the most vulnerable in any crisis. Appeal money will be spent by the DEC agencies and their partners on the ground. We will buy goods and services directly and deliver them directly to people in need.”

    You said that the UN has raised doubts that the DEC appeal money is going to people in need and not to Hamas. I asked you for a link about that. Can you provide one?

  46. Academic Says:

    PS Sorry, David, on re-reading your posting, I see that my original point was really identical to one of yours and so unnecessary. (But I’d still like to know if the DEC money is being spent properly.)

  47. Susan Says:

    Deborah, Brian Goldfarb basically said what I would have said. You certainly have a biased and onesided view. I didn’t support the invasion, mostly because I didn’t think it would work. However, I blame Hamas rather than Israel.

  48. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    I notice that Deborah Maccoby hasn’t bothered to respond to the requests to her to a) justify her claims that the Churchill play isn’t antisemitic; and b) that she should write a similar play, substituting Muslim for Jew, and then see whether that would be Islamophobic, and if not, why not. But then she never does (respond, that is, to direct requests, questions, demands for evidence, etc). At best, all she does is reitereate her previous (unevidenced) assertions. Or, as above, “wittily” (it says in her lexicon of silly things to say) suggests that Linda Grant writes the play. She can’t even recognise satire when it bites her on the nose.

    Why am I not surprised?

    Academic, sorry, I thought you meant a link to DEC. It was in the newspapers – certainly in The Times, but the row would have to be much more firmly dated to narrow the time frame. Alternatively, I though a commenter here (some threads back) linked to such a comment by the UN. Perhaps another commenter actually has a lionk for Academic?

    Sorry I can’t be more help on this.

  49. Absolute observer Says:

    Since Hamas’ rockets are defended as a response to Israeli aggression; perhaps one could argue that Hamas is the cause for Leiberman’s election.

    In other words, Israel (like Hamas) should be characterised by a lack of agency and its “real” motivating cause placed elswhere.

    What is good for the gander is good for the goose.

  50. I thank you!! Says:

    “I didn’t like the play, but then I saw it under adverse conditions – the curtain was up. ”

    Groucho Marx

  51. Deborah Maccoby Says:

    Dear Brian,

    Re your claim “Subsequently, since the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead and the subsequent withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, it has become clear that the reports of civilian deaths in Gaza have (like Mark Twain’s death) been much exaggerated” – I think you should look at this article in Ha’aretz – and there is more to come about the soldiers’ testimonies about the shooting of civilians and the new moral low struck by the Israeli army.

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1072040.html

    Your next sentence -”While accepting that 1 civilian death is too many, the continued committing by Hamas of war crimes – by deliberately directing rockets at civilian targets in Israel, by firing rockets from within civilian occupied areas, by using civilians as human shields – inevitably leads to civilian deaths” actually reminds me of the line in the play “Tell her they did it to themselves”! It is absolving Israel of all responsibility. This is one of the questions that it seems to me the play is asking: “how can decent and intelligent people” (note that I class you in this way) “talk in such an inhumane way”?

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1072040.html

    Re your claim that I did not reply to the question of why I think the play is not antisemitic, I actually did address this question, much earlier on – and have also repeated just now what I think the play is really about.

    best wishes,

    Deborah

  52. Jacob Says:

    Deborah is deliberately distorting the contents of the article.

    She says:

    “I think you should look at this article in Ha’aretz – and there is more to come about the soldiers’ testimonies about the shooting of civilians and the new moral low struck by the Israeli army.”

    The article is indeed about tragic deaths, but it’s also about the efficacy of the rules of engagement and whether they ought to be changed or not. Moreover it’s the Israeli army that is conducting the investigation.

    Here is actual testimony in the article:

    “The platoon commander let the family go and told them to go to the right. One mother and her two children didn’t understand and went to the left, but they forgot to tell the sharpshooter on the roof they had let them go and it was okay, and he should hold his fire and he … he did what he was supposed to, like he was following his orders.””

    Mistakes like these happen in wartime all the time. Then are always trigger happy soldiers who should not be in uniform. Not all armies though investigate themselves. Where are the reports of Palestinian investigations about the killing of Israeli civilians? Even to ask such a question is to see the absurdity of the question.

    People like Maccoby and yes the Haaretz reporter want proportionality in war but only form one side. The Palestinian side is exempt from the rules of war but Israel should be condemned by the international community for not conducting a perfect moral campaign.

    The fact that the Israeli army is investigating these incidents and newspapers there are publishing these accounts gives the lie to that disgusting antisemitic play “Seven Jewish Children.”

    Finally notice that Maccoby has linked the same article twice in order to give the impression that she was citing different sources. She is being as dishonest as the play, she loves so much, because it expresses her own revulsion of Judaism.

  53. Deborah Maccoby Says:

    Dear Absolute Observer,

    I didn’t receive an email alert about this – no email alert was sent out about it by anyone, as far as I know. And I am not trying to stifle free debate at all. You of course are perfectly entitled to express your views, just as much as I am.

    best wishes,

    Deborah

  54. Sabato Says:

    Here is a story about Gaza which Deborah Maccoby will never mention. Via Harry’s Place and Solominia:

    http://www.hurryupharry.org/2009/03/19/a-terrible-mistake/

    which links to this story:

    “The following piece appeared originally in Maariv Hebrew here. Many thanks to Centrist for the exclusive translation. Lorenzo Cremonesi was the Italian journalist who ventured to Gaza during the war, made something of a pest of himself with the IDF, but had Hamas even less grateful for what he ended up reporting. As with his previous reporting, this piece about Cremonesi is well worth reading.”

    “If Only You Had Been There:
    A foreign correspondent’s story of Gaza”

    “Written by: Nadav Eyal (for Israel’s daily newpaper “Maariv”)”

    “Lorenzo Cremonesi, who writes for the Italian daily paper Corriere della Sera, can easily be mistaken for someone suffering from a secret death wish. He is not one to steer clear of any deadly war he wants to cover, with his typical Italian eagerness. His paper sends him on special missions and Cremonesi dives into the conflict with some zest, to bring out the story.

    This week he arrived at Tel Aviv University, to take part in a conference about media coverage of the war in Gaza. Unlike most of the journalists present in the room, Cremonsi was actually in Gaza during the war. He gained access into the Strip in defiance of Israel’s policy. The story he told, published in part in Israel, is quite remarkable.”

    Read it all here:

    http://www.solomonia.com/blog/archive/2009/03/lorenzo-cremonesi-in-gaza/

  55. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Deborah Maccoby, I stand by what I said. So far, as usual, all you have done is repeat earlier comments and not actually produced evidence to support your views. I confess that it’s second-hand, but how about a response on the posts by Jacob and Sabato that bracket yours. I see no reason to repeat what they say, but there are now three of us absolutely agog to hear what you have to say – and what, if any evidence, you might produce.

    In passing, I would note that you haven’t produced any evidence to refute the UN’s recantation of Hamas propoganda on casualty figures. (And that Ha’aretz article isn’t the refutation you’re looking for, as Jacob notes.)

    I wonder why?

  56. Absolute Observer Says:

    Sure Deborah, the standard antizionist line!!
    Do you really expect anyone to believe you!

    Funny how all you antizionists turn up on cif comments about antisemitism and turn into comments about Israel.
    What’s that all about? Coincidence?

    I noticed jjfg sends emails around regularly about antisemitism (are you not on their mailing list?)

    You claim to care about antisemitism, but really what you are doing is to use it as an excuse to turn the conversation to Israel and to stop people talking about antisemitism.

    See, this post is about Churchill’s antisemitic play, and Maccoby turns it to a question of Israel,

    Once again the co-ordinated actions of the antizionists have resulted in the closing down of a discussion about Jew-hatred. Apparently, that is the one subject they don’t want anyone to talk about, and they make it happen!

    Funny how it always follows the same pattern??

  57. Jacob Says:

    Brian Goldfarb: “Deborah Maccoby, I stand by what I said. So far, as usual, all you have done is repeat earlier comments and not actually produced evidence to support your views. I confess that it’s second-hand, but how about a response on the posts by Jacob and Sabato that bracket yours.”

    Brian I don’t expect an answer from Ms. Maccoby.

    As to the article from Haaretz she quoted without understanding here is some more information:

    “Channel 2 TV Army correspondent Roni Daniel stated at 6:30 PM this evening, that he personally tracked down one of the soldiers interviewed for the Haaretz article. Apparently the soldier’s testimony to Haaretz wasn’t based on anything he personally saw or witnessed, rather based on rumors and hearsay he heard (and the soldier wasn’t even in Gaza!)”

    http://israelmatzav.blogspot.com/2009/03/idf-being-smeared-over-cast-lead.html

    We haven’t heard the end from the latest nasty smear campaign.

    In any case, to my mind the fact that the IDF is investigating the whole affair in attempt to understand what actually happened is more important than the information collected even if the worse turns out to be correct because in war casualties based on mistakes or even trigger happy soldiers is to be expected. As many soldiers are at times killed by their own army as die from enemy fire. ( I don’t like the expression “friendly fire” but the phenomenon it denotes is real. I was in the service in the US and am aware of what can go wrong.)

    The only thing an army can do is minimize their occurrence. I salute the IDF for tying to do just that.

  58. Deborah Maccoby Says:

    Sorry I linked to the Ha’aretz article twice – it was actually a typing mistake! There was no ulterior motive behind it whatsoever. I found I had got the link in the wrong place and copied it into the right place and then forgot to delete the link in the wrong place. Will try to reply to at least some of the other comments later.

    best wishes to all,

    Deborah

  59. Deborah Maccoby Says:

    In reply to some of the comments: surely the soldiers’ testimony contradicts the claims of the Israeli army that they did not target civilians. Here is the Daily Telegraph today – I deliberately chose this paper because you can’t say it is anti-Israel!

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/5016115/Israeli-soldiers-admit-shooting-dead-civilians-during-Gaza-war.html

    The Jerusalem Post has reported that the UN is working on its own report of the number of civilian casualities during Operation Defensive Shield. So let’s wait for that to come out. In the meantime, it is getting a bit wearing having to reply to all the misrepresentations – so far, I’ve had to explain that I did not receive an email alert, am not trying to stifle free debate and did not deliberately repeat a link in order to give a false impression. So I will probably not be posting again on this.

    Deborah

  60. Efraim Says:

    “Seven Jewish Children fails to make the grade in girls’ school”

    From The Jewish Chronicle
    Leon Symons
    March 12, 2009

    “Parents have stopped a north London school from producing two performances of the controversial play Seven Jewish Children.”

    Read the rest here:

    http://thejc.com/articles/seven-jewish-children-fails-make-grade-girls%E2%80%99-school

  61. Jacob Says:

    “surely the soldiers’ testimony contradicts the claims of the Israeli army that they did not target civilians.” Deborah Maccoby

    No it doesn’t Deborah. If anything it contradicts the claim that it did. That the Israeli army is investigating the conduct of their soldiers in the war contradicts the claim made by the antisemitic play “seven Jewish children.” This is what we should be talking about.

    In any case, testimony is not a verdict. It is part of the procedure of an ongoing investigation. It’s up to a judge or a jury to sift through all the evidence and issue a finding.

    That Deborah and other Israel take some testimony as if it were a hearing’s conclusion doesn’t surprise. Nor does it surprise that they tend to treat those Israelis who are critical of their government as if they weren’t Israelis, merely anti-Israelis. This is an old antisemitic tactic. Treat Jews who don’t fit the stereotype as if they were not Jews.

  62. Brian Robinson Says:

    In resonse to Brian Goldfarb (above), “[t]hat she should write a similar play, substituting Muslim for Jew, and then see whether that would be Islamophobic …”

    But ‘islamophobic’ isn’t the counterpart (is it?) to ‘antisemitic’? When I attended (last October at the Conway Hall) the all-day conference of ex Muslims of Great Britain (I’ve just tried to give you a link, but the website seems to be down, hmm…), someone from the floor during questions proposed that the word ‘islamophobic’ be dropped from our vocabulary as being misleading, useless and dangerous.

    Perhaps it’s too late, however, to rescue the word.

    I’m sure someone could write a powerful play about, say, Mohammed and A’isha, or how the Prophet dealt with the Jews of Medina, or even how theories of jihad manifest in the modern world (perhaps they have, and it’s lying on some director’s table, maybe even in the BBC). It might well, directly or by implication, be critical of Islam and in that sense be ‘islamophobic’, but it wouldn’t (would it?) be islamophobic in the way that the Churchill play is alleged to be antisemitic?

    I don’t think this is a quibble. Do we have a word, a respectable word, free of any racist connotations, that we could use to refer to perfectly proper critiques of Islam, the religion?

  63. Deborah Maccoby Says:

    A correction again: when I wrote “Operation Defensive Shield”, I meant “Operation Cast Lead”. No ulterior motives behind this, just a simple (though maybe Freudian, since the two operations seem quite similar to me) typing error …..

    Re Brian R’s comment: yes, I do think it’s perfectly possible for someone – even a non-Muslim – to write a play critical of Islam without being Islamophobic – a serious, non-abusive critique. This is not, however, the case with the letter suggesting the play “Seven Muslim Children”. Such a play would be Islamophobic, in my view. It is typical Israeli government propaganda – “the Arabs all hate us, just because we are Jews”and is actually reminiscent again of one of the lines in the play: “Tell her they want to drive us into the sea”. The letter-writer is evidently trying to make out that this simple message is the equivalent to the message of “Seven Jewish Children”, but this is surely not the case at all. Is “Seven Jewish Children” really just saying “The Jews hate all the Arabs, just because they are Arabs?” To me, that would be a gross misreading of the play. (Brian G, please note that I’ve now addressed the question made to me about this “Seven Muslim Children” play….)

    Deborah

  64. Deborah Maccoby Says:

    Dear Brian G,

    Here’s today’s Ha’aretz piece on the soldiers’ testimony. Don’t you find it a bit disturbing?

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1072475.html

    Deborah

  65. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Deborah M., with reference to the suggestions from various quarters (including me) that someone (you, maybe?) write a play titled “7 Muslim Children”, substituing appropriate Muslim equivalences for the “Jewish” ones, and then see whether the result was or was not Islamaphobic, and why, you write in response:

    “This is not, however, the case with the letter suggesting the play “Seven Muslim Children”. Such a play would be Islamophobic, in my view. It is typical Israeli government propaganda – “the Arabs all hate us, just because we are Jews”and is actually reminiscent again of one of the lines in the play: “Tell her they want to drive us into the sea”.”

    I’m intrigued as to how you manage to get from the suggestions for the play to the absurd assertion that the result would be “typical Israeli government propoganda”. Where the hell does this come from? Not from me, not from the others who made the suggestion. We never mentioned the Israeli government, you have.

    What your ludicrous comment shows however (apart from your inability to follow other people’s rational argument) is that implicitly you accept that “7 Jewish Chldren” uses, at the very least, antisemitic tropes, even if the playwright isn’t herself antisemitic. How else would you manage to get from the suggestion that the alternative play to be written to the claim that such a play would not only be Islamaphobic, but somehow a creation of the Israeli government. Who’s creating straw men here: you or us?

    As far as I know, no spokesperson for the Israeli government has commented on Churchill’s play.

    Then you come back in a further comment with the following

    “Dear Brian G,

    Here’s today’s Ha’aretz piece on the soldiers’ testimony. Don’t you find it a bit disturbing”

    Actually, I haven’t raised the IDF soldiers’ alleged testimony to Ha’aretz (or made _any_ reference to it in any way), so I am neither disturbed (a bit or more than a bit) nor otherwise bothered – at least by you raising it. What does disturb me is your willingness to ignore those pople who _have_ mentioned alternative interpretations of the Ha’aretz story and have also come up with documented evidence that the story may no be all it appears. Thus we have Jacob posting on 19 March at 10.10 am, Sabato at 19 March, 10.23 pm, Jacob, again, 20 March at 3.34 am and finally at 3.19 pm on 20 March. Jacob even provides the following link
    http://israelmatzav.blogspot.com/2009/03/idf-being-smeared-over-cast-lead.html
    to a later than the Ha’aretz story, which suggests that the original tale may well be just that, a tale.

    And what do you do? You refer someone who hasn’t raised the particular issue in the first place to a story that has already become suspect, ignoring those who have provided the alternative evidence. To take notice of them would oblige you to actually _read_ the alternative story, and that would never do: you might have to change your mind.

    You do, Deborah Maccoby, what you always do on these comments threads: you make an assertion, unsupported by any evidence, let alone argument. When challenged, you repeat these assertions, still unsupported by evidence, and you carry on doing this, presumably in the totally vain hope that we’re either going to suddenly say that we agree with you, or just give up in despair , so you can go back to your equally intellectually unsophisticated allies and say “see, they have no answer to my brilliant arguments”.

    Ocassionally, of course, you attempt to slip in an elision, in this case some spurious reference to what a mythical Israeli government might do or say – again without any evidence on your part. Again, in the hope that either we won’t notice (fat chance) or we’ll agree with you.

    Ain’t going happen this side of hell freezing over.

    So, as we always say, provide _real_ evidence, backed with a solid, rational argument, or just go away.

  66. Deborah Maccoby Says:

    Dear Brian,

    I was actually referring to the letter (see below) in the Irish Times, suggesting the lines on which a play called “Seven Muslim Children” could be written. You must have seen it, because it is just above this blog item! But I have copied and pasted it below. As for my writing a play substituting “Muslim” for “Jew” in Caryl Churchill’s play, how could this possibly be done, since the play is about specifically Jewish historical experience? As I’ve said, I think a non-Islamophobic play could be written exploring how the once-great Islamic civilisation ended up in 9/11, 7/7, etc, but I don’t think the play as suggested in the Irish Times letter would be it.

    Thank you for your latest article link. But how could it possibly be the case that all those soldiers were just talking from hearsay? I suggest you read the latest article by Uri Avnery (most of it is about the appalling judicial ruling, but he relates this to the Gaza war):

    http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/1237674669

    In particular note this paragraph about the proposed investigation:

    “One can rely on the army to ensure that nothing tangible emerges from the investigation. An army investigating itself – like any institution investigating itself – is a farce. In this case it is even more than farcical, since the soldiers must testify under the eyes of their commanders, while their comrades are listening. In the alumni meeting, they spoke freely, believing that only those present would hear. Even so, they needed a lot of courage to speak out. And since each of them could speak only about what had happened in his immediate vicinity, only a few cases were brought up. The army intends to investigate only those.”

    Deborah

    LETTER IN IRISH TIMES

    Madam, – I’m going to write a short play, and the title will be “Seven Muslim Children”. It’s going to be a “10-minute history of Islam” and will consist of a series of short dialogues in which Muslim parents, teachers and clerics teach their children to hate. They teach them to hate the West, to hate Jews, to hate globalisation, to hate democracy, to hate everything except Islam. No entrance fee will be charged, but viewers should make a donation to a charity for children orphaned by 9/11.
    I wonder if the Abbey would be interested in staging it. – Yours, etc,
    JONATHAN BAUM,
    Blackrock,
    Co Dublin.

  67. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    I notice that yet again Deborah M, typically, ignores the substantive point I made, concerning her comment that such a play as “7 Muslim Children” would be “… typical Israeli government propoganda” when such a play has not actually been written, the actual Caryl Churchill play has not (to my knowledge) been commented on by any official or even unofficial representative of the Israeli gvernment. She does this by retreating to a letter published in the Irish Times which suggests a play not yet written (which may never be written – it’s _satire_, Deborah), which she says _would_ be Islamaphobic if actually written.

    Actually, by her argument, if the “7 Muslim Children” play, if written, would be Islamaphobic, how come the actual Churchill play “7 Jewish Children” _isn’t_, ipso facto, antisemitic?

    This is her usual non-argument, obfuscation by repeated assertion, sleight of hand and changing the subject.

    As for “how can it be that all those soldiers were just talking from hearsay?” Not for me to say – I haven’t actually commented anywhere on the original allegations: you have, and you still fail to respond to Sabato and Jacob. If you’ve actually read the link supplied by Jacob, why don’t you respond to it, instead of merely thanking me (you should be thanking Jacob) for it. Perhaps you haven’t actually _read_ it? Would that involve thinking about the whole matter, instead of swallowing wholesale the first newspaper report that panders to your prejudices?

    And if you are so believing of Avnery, how come the Israelis have actually found members of the IDF and Border Police guilty of various offences against Palestinians and others and sentenced them to various terms of imprisonment?

    Actually, despite Avnery’s scepticism, the IDF has been rather good (and better than most western, democratic, armies) at investigating and punishing wrongdoers in uniform. Better than the Brits, for example, see “Deepcut” the play at the Tricycle, kILBURN – they might still have tickets available.

    I suppose that it’s too much to expect a response to the points actually made by opthers, instead of a reiteration of the earlier assertions. Thought so.

  68. Jacob Says:

    Deborah Maccoby Says: March 21, 2009 at 12:16 pm “It is typical Israeli government propaganda – “the Arabs all hate us, just because we are Jews”and is actually reminiscent again of one of the lines in the play: “Tell her they want to drive us into the sea”. The letter-writer is evidently trying to make out that this simple message is the equivalent to the message of “Seven Jewish Children”, but this is surely not the case at all. Is “Seven Jewish Children” really just saying “The Jews hate all the Arabs, just because they are Arabs?” To me, that would be a gross misreading of the play. (Brian G, please note that I’ve now addressed the question made to me about this “Seven Muslim Children” play….)”

    Deborah again, confuses “history” with fiction.

    A comment may or may not be historically valid but it takes a totally different meaning in fiction.

    Her above comment: “It is typical Israeli government propaganda – “the Arabs all hate us, just because we are Jews”and is actually reminiscent again of one of the lines in the play: “Tell her they want to drive us into the sea” Is pathetically inadequate either actually or historically.

    There is no typical Israeli government propaganda or line. No Israeli Jew, especially no Mizrahi Jew needs to be told that they are hated by Arabs. They know it from listening to Arab media. Either Deborah has never listened to Arabs speaking of Jews (I don’t mean those few Arabs she may have met at Universities), or else she is lying.

    Moreover, the comment in the play “tell her they want to drive us into the sea” is also factual. It is what Arab media wrote during the wars of 47 and 48. It was also repeated ad nauseam till peace accords were signed with Israel first in Egypt then in Jordan. Now the line isn’t let’s “drive them into the sea,” but “let the refuges return and abolish the Zionist State.”

    Of course since Deborah agrees with this latter point of view she doesn’t see it as expressing hostility towards Israel.

    Deborah’s comments (and the play’s) assume that Arabs are not hostile towards Jews and certainly not towards Israel. But this contradicts reality. This is why the play is antisemitic and this is why Deborah’s defense of it is untenable and tendentious.

    Finally, comments in a play take on a general and abstract meaning that universalizes specific events. This is why the figure of say Fagin is an antisemitic portrayal because even if there had been such a Jew in a fiction he becomes a stand in for “the Jew.” This is another reason why a play like “Seven Children” is antisemitic, and a play “Seven Muslim Children” would also be anti-Muslim even thought we know from testimony that some Arab mother want their children to become suicide bombers.

    Actuality translated into fiction changes the meaning of the actual event. Writers and critics who don’t know this are like children playing with matches.

  69. Jacob Says:

    I couldn’t access Deborah’s link. However, from the excerpt of the letter she posted,

    “One can rely on the army to ensure that nothing tangible emerges from the investigation. An army investigating itself – like any institution investigating itself – is a farce. In this case it is even more than farcical, since the soldiers must testify under the eyes of their commanders, while their comrades are listening. In the alumni meeting, they spoke freely, believing that only those present would hear. Even so, they needed a lot of courage to speak out. And since each of them could speak only about what had happened in his immediate vicinity, only a few cases were brought up. The army intends to investigate only those.”

    It seems that the letter writer makes two incompatible claims: it claims that no institution can investigate itself which in an open society is isn’t always true and second that the testimony given is suspect because it is done under duress and because the witness only partly knows what happened.

    Here again, Deborah is missing the forest for the trees.

    Of course court room testimony is partial (in the word’s double sense) this is why it is subject to rebuttal and to corroboration. One can’t rely merely on single testimony which may be false and is partial. One needs to take into account all the testimonies as well as the rebuttals in order to arrive at a verdict. This is the job of a jury or a judge.

    The other point of “an army not being able to investigate itself sounds like sour grapes to me. There are many cases in which this wasn’t the case. How this plays itself out in this case time will tell. But why prejudge the outcome? It seems that the letter writer will (and Deborah) will only accept a guilty verdict as genuine. Any report which will exculpate the army will a priori from their point of view be a sign of a cover up.

    Note too the irony in these claims, btw, Gush Shalom is also a Jewish Israeli institution. Hence according to Caryl Churchill, Maccoby and their ilk they should not be trusted also since their mothers taught them to hate.

  70. Art And Racism. « ModernityBlog Says:

    [...] Also see Radio 4 and Seven Jewish Children. [...]

  71. Dectora Says:

    Deborah’s contention that ‘The Merchant of Venice’ is antisemitic is a mistaken reading; Shylock is a sympathetic character, rather more so than Antonio. Perhaps she should take a look at Avram Oz’s monograph on the play (Oz is the Hebrew translator of Shakespeare). I think that she is also mistaken in the case of Eliot and should perhaps read what Ron Schuchard has written on the subjetc.


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