What does Caryl Churchill know about how Israelis bring up their kids?

This is from the comments box on Harry’s Place, written by someone who calls themself “Israelinurse”:

What really annoys me about the Caryl Churchill play is this.

I’m an Israeli parent -which is who, in fact, the play is criticising. I have raised 5 children in Israel, which is no easy task, over and above the normal difficulties of parenting. Like the majority of Israeli parents I have wrestled with the dilemma of how to raise happy, balanced children in an environment with so many instances of violence and fear.

One has to cope with the fears of a child whose father and/or brother has gone to war. One has to cope with the anxieties of children forced to wear a gas mask for hours at a time for weeks on end and forbidden to leave the house. One has to cope with the nightmares resulting from seemingly unending terror attacks. One has to decide on a balance between the freedoms a teenager demands and the obvious dangers. One has to comfort teenagers who have buried friends.

But all the while, from their infancy one tries not to opt for the easiest route. So one buys children’s books promoting Arab-Israeli co-existance. One takes them to play with the children of Arab friends. One encourages them to study hard in Arabic lessons in school. One discusses current affairs and politics taking care to present the other point of view. When they go to the army one makes sure that they discuss their difficulties and moral dilemmas over a shabbat meal.

And then along comes Caryl Churchill and makes a complete stereotypical lie out of all those years of parenting and all those sleepless nights of dilemma.

12 Responses to “What does Caryl Churchill know about how Israelis bring up their kids?”

  1. Bialik Says:

    I grew up in Israel and I was taught at school (and felt uncomfortable as a consequence being English) that the baddies were the British for turning ships away etc. I was never taught anything about Palestinians being ‘the other’ or that the state of Israel was justified by previous persecution. It wasn’t justified at all – none of the teachers at my school (nor my parents), ever felt the need to justify the establishment of the state. Churchill’s play is a strange thing indeed.

  2. Karl Pfeifer Says:

    Modern anti-Semites expect Israel to be perfect while not expecting from its neighbours the minimum of Human rights. In both cases it is racism and double standard.
    Obviously C. Churchill has a political agenda. She is not interested in the complex reality of Jews of the Diaspora or Israel. She wants to stimulate emotions against Israel.
    And she would have written her piece even if every Jew were an angel.
    It is hard for an anti-Semite to recognize that Jews are like anybody else and the best way to justify their own anti-Semitism is to show how bad the Jews are.

  3. Efraim Says:

    I grew up on a Kibbutz and was taught often and repeatedly that the Arab people were not our enemies only their leaders who used their animosity to keep themselves in power.

    It took me a while to realize that while the Arab leaders did exploit their hatred of Israel that many Arabs too did hate us.

    The same on our side. It’s a complex picture and the idea that mothers teach their children to hate on either side is too simplistic.

    An Israeli who has witnessed a sucide attack or a Gazan who witnessed and Israeli counter attack don’t need their mothers to tell them to hate.

    What is harder to explain is why Muslims in countries like Iran, Egypt, Algeria and Pakistan hate Jews. Where did they learn to hate them?

    Churchill’s play is simplistic and cynical. It is also written in bad faith She needs to ask herself where her own hatred of Israelis comes from.

  4. zkharya Says:

    I’ve written this commentary on Acts 3 and 4, Act 3 being where Palestine/Israel comes up:


    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

    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.

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

    Again, a false note. Why would the migrating parent tell their child she does not belong whither she goes? Again, this is not an authentic Jewish parent oleh, it is Churchill. It is she who is saying the child does not belong in Palestine.

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

    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.


    “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”.


    “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. Susan Says:

    What does Caryl Churchill really know about Jews or Judaism or the way Jews around the world bring up their children? What doe she know about the depth and breath of the Jewish civilization? Not much from what I can see.

  6. hasan prishtina Says:

    Superb comment, zkharya.

    “Don’t tell her he was driven out”
    “Tell her, of course tell her, tell her everyone was driven out”

    As you say, she minimizes Jews’ connection to the land of Israel. But she also implies: a) that Jews are a mongrel race of Khazars, Slavs and others who have no connections to the Middle East; and b) “he,” not “everyone,” was driven out because “his” own actions, because of the inevitable disgust that peoples the world over feel towards the behaviour of Jews. Certainly not out of any feelings of anti-semitism they might have had which would, under the circumstances, be quite “understandable.”

    This are classic anti-semitic tropes and she hasn’t even bothered to dress them up that well.

  7. SevenOtherChildren Says:

    020 7592 9666

    Written as a theatrical response to Seven Jewish Children, which caused such disquiet and anger at the Royal Court Theatre in February, Richard Stirling’s eight-minute play matches Caryl Churchill’s format and vernacular but seeks to provide the necessary context to the debate.‘Seven Other Children’ is written not in its own right, but to show a dimension overlooked by recent plays on the subject: the tragedy of the Palestinian child as victim of a distorted education about Israel, and the crescendo of hate that continues to grow. A charitable collection will be made at the end of the performance, for OneVoice, the international mainstream grassroots movement that puts pressure on politicians of both sides to conclude a two-state solution guaranteeing an end to occupation and violence: http://www.onevoicemovement.org

    5 – 16 May 2009, Tuesday – Saturday at 9.50pm
    New End Theatre, 27 New End, Hampstead, London NW3 1JD

    Admission to Seven Other Children, as with Caryl Churchill’s piece, is free; performances last less than ten minutes.

    Richard Stirling trained at RADA, and has appeared on film, TV, in the West End and US. His written work includes the Sunday Times Top Ten bestselling biography of Dame Julie Andrews and many articles for newspapers and magazines.

    The fully staged production is directed by Simone Vause.

    The cast of nine, matching the Royal Court number, comprises an international ensemble. Confirmed so far: Simona Armstrong, finalist from BBC’s How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?; Martin Brody, from ABC’s Emmy Award-winning series The Path to 9/11 and ITV’s Trial and Retribution; Jodie Osterland, 2002 Laurence Olivier bursary winner from East15 Drama School; Phineas Pett, The 24 Hour Plays, Old Vic; Claire Malka; Philip Chamberlin

    Three more to be announced.

    Advance booking is required. Please telephone the dedicated booking line 020 7592 9666 and leave a clear message with your name, telephone number, dates and ticket requirements.

    The play follows nightly performances of the New End Theatre’s One Act Play Festival.

    Press enquiries: please contact Emily Taylor, PR agent for the New End Theatre 020 7472 5800.

    On Facebook:


  8. zkharya Says:

    OK, Acts 6 and 7. All errors are, of course, my own:


    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.


    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.

  9. Susan Says:

    What about Mizrachi Jewish parents who come from Arab countries who can speak Arabic themselves. What are they teaching their children? There are some Mizrachi Jews who have a connection to the Holocaust, but some have absolutely none. Yemenite Jews have no connection to the Holocaust at all.
    Jacqueline Rose seems to think that Israel only has Middle-Class European Jews as citizens.

    There weren’t any Palestinians in Tel Aviv, because it is a new city built by Jews.

  10. zkharya Says:

    OK, Act 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 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.

    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.

    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.

  11. Academic Says:

    What’s so bad about the play is that there’s no way, as far as I can see, to draw any positive message or lesson from it. No plea for reconciliation, no hint of a suggestion for what the Jews (let alone the Arabs) might have done differently or (which should be more important) might yet do differently to promote a peaceful resolution of the conflict. If there is any conclusion we are being led to draw, it would seem to be: Those damned Jews. They should never have gone to Palestine. If only they had never existed, the world would be a better place. Why can’t they just disappear?

  12. Jonathan Romer Says:

    I found Israelinurse’s post moving and sad. My hat’s off to him, for hishumanity, his child-raising skills and his skill with words, but in reality the issue with Churchill’s play is not what we say to children.

    I finally got around to reading this poisonous little play last night. The children of the title are a feint, a diversion. They don’t appear on stage because Churchill’s pretend Jews are not talking to them, they are talking to us — the audience, the rest of the world — and each other. Churchill starts by presenting justified but obvious lies to establish the template. Having done that, we are encouraged to assume by analogy that everything else these Jews say is also a lie. A more honest title for her work would be “How Jews Lie”. She is too savvy a manipulator to say that, but the sole purpose of this play is to persuade audiences to disbelieve everything Jews say about Israel or the Palestinians, and to believe they are dissembling when they say it. I have no reason to believe Churchill was influenced by it, but what reading the play brought to my mind was the Protocols: Jews plotting the lies they will use to delude the world. The only difference is that the Jews of the Protocols are self-knowing and intentionally evil; Churchill’s Jews are moderns, they slip into their evil accidentally, little by little.

    A ten minute play forces the playwright to reduce her focus to the essentials. Churchill’s message is: Jews lie.

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