INVESTIGATE: All My Children

The Octagon Theatre in Bolton announced they were to show the play “Seven Jewish Children” with a panel debate. They have now decided to show “Seven Other Children” as well and now have a slightly more balanced panel for the panel debate.

All My Children seeks to offer audiences the opportunity to consider the issues raised by All My Sons and Seven Jewish Children. We have also extended an invitation to Richard Stirling, the author of Seven Other Children, and the original cast of the New End Theatre production of Seven Other Children to perform the play as part of the event. Seven Other Children was written as a direct response to Seven Jewish Children.

Some speakers have been suggested by the Bolton Palestine Solidarity Society. Other speakers, including Richard Gold and Jonathan Hoffman will be offering an alternative perspective. Scroll down for a full line-up of speakers.

Although some speakers have firm political views, they understand that the purpose of the event is to consider the issues raised by the three plays, and to assess their merits as plays.

The convener and facilitator for All My Children will be David Thacker, Artistic Director of the Octagon Theatre Bolton.

Order of events


1. Octagon Theatre Bolton presents
An extract from
All My Sons
By Arthur Miller
Director David Thacker

“An excellent cast is headed by George Irving… Margot Leicester… She gives a beautifully layered performance… Miller’s powerful work still has resonance today, as does his condemnation of those who make deceitful profit from war.” THE STAGE

Although some productions of Miller seem to show him to be dated and long-winded, Thacker has shown that with the right hand on the helm he can still be as powerful, emotionally-charged and relevant as he ever was.” BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE

Discussion of some of the issues raised by the play.

2. Octagon Theatre Bolton presents
Seven Jewish Children

By Caryl Churchill
Director Elizabeth Newman
Performed by the cast of All My Sons
“Carol Churchill’s ten-minute play was written in response to the recent tragic events in Gaza. …What she captures, in remarkably condensed poetic form, is the transition that has overtaken Israel, to the point where security has become the pretext for indiscriminate slaughter. Her play becomes a heartfelt lamentation for the future generations who will themselves become victims of the attempted military suppression of Hamas.” Michael Billington (THE GUARDIAN)

An open analysis of the play – facilitated by David Thacker

3. Evergreen Theatrical Productions Ltd presents
Seven Other Children

By Richard Stirling
Director Simone Vause

“The issues to be raised and discussed during the afternoon are sensitive but vital. As is happening in similar theatres elsewhere, such as in Norway and California, the Octagon has shown it is not afraid of embracing these issues in a theatrical forum for debate.” Richard Stirling (WRITER)

A theatrical response to Seven Jewish Children allows Caryl Churchill’s play and Seven Other Children to be subjected to balanced scrutiny, in the context of a debate about the responsibilities of writers and artists in society.

Simona Armstrong
Rob Cavazos
Philip Chamberlin
Gerel Falconer
Joel Laurence
Joy McBrinn
Claire Malka
Jodie Osterland
Phineas Pett

An open analysis of the play – facilitated by David Thacker

All My Children will be the sixth in our Investigate series, which is designed to encourage theatre-goers to investigate plays and consider the issues raised by them. The first in this series – on verbatim theatre – was chaired by David Edgar who, in his summing up, said that it was the most important discussion on theatre that he had ever attended.


Linda Clair – Chair of Manchester Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Of Jewish origin. Recently visited the West Bank.

Richard Gold – an editorial board member of Engage. Engage is a single issue campaign. It focuses on anti-Semitism.

Jonathan Hoffman – co-Vice Chair of the Zionist Federation. His articles and letters are published in a wide range of newspapers including the Jerusalem Post, the Guardian and the Independent.

Dr Brian Iddon – Labour MP for Bolton SE and secretary to the All Parliamentary Britain-Palestine Group. Has visited Palestine several times. He is also a patron of the Octagon Theatre.

Asad Khan – Consultant Physician in Bury. Visited the West Bank in 2007. Member of Physicians for Human Rights, Israel and the British Medical Committee on Palestine.

Richard Kuper – Chair and Publications officer of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, an organisation of more than 1,300 Jews in Britain.
Norma Turner – Manchester health care worker. Visited Gaza post Jan 2009 and recently visited the West Bank.

Final Plenary

UPDATE : The minibus bringing the cast of “Seven Other Children” from London has a few spaces on it. So if anybody wants to come and needs a lift from London and back then contact engage.

56 Responses to “INVESTIGATE: All My Children”

  1. modernityblog Says:

    The point to make surely is, that any work of art which deliberately seeks to excessively generalize or to paint a detrimental stereotype of an ethnic minority or portray them constantly in a negative light would be considered, in most circumstances by intelligent people, to be bigoted or racist.

    That is exactly what Churchill’s play does.

    Thus, it is a racist piece of work.

  2. zkharya Says:

    This is a setup by Bolton PSC:

    “Some speakers have been suggested by the Bolton Palestine Solidarity Society. Other speakers, including Richard Gold and Jonathan Hoffman will be offering an alternative perspective. Scroll down for a full line-up of speakers.”

  3. Harry Goldstein Says:

    I notice, looking at the descriptions of the panel members, that the ‘slightly more balanced panel’ means 5-2 in favour of Churchill and against Israel, rather than the presumably initially intended 5-0.

  4. Lynne T Says:

    Linda Clair – [Chair of Manchester Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Of Jewish origin. Recently visited the West Bank.

    why is one panelist’s “origin” worth mentioning, but not any other?

  5. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Looks a nice, balanced discussion group.

  6. PetraMB Says:

    Well, Richard and Jonathan, I wish you luck. I know for myself that if I first had to sit through a performance of Churchill’s odious play, I would have considerable difficulties to speak calmy shortly afterwards.

  7. NIMN Says:

    Does Linda Clair prefer “beef or chicken” on an airplane? or is she a vegetarian? What is her favourite colour?
    What soccer team, if any, does she support?

    How can I judge what she says about this important matter unless I know these biographically relevant facts?

    After all, as we know, when it comes to Israel what really counts is not what is said but who says it. What do you think, what anti-Zionist Jews say counts, what twice, three times more than Zionist Jews?? (who, as we know, lie anyway; otherwise they wouldn’t be zionists would they?)

  8. Curious Says:

    Will Ms Clair be wearing some sort of badge as a mark of her origin that distinguishes her from others with, apparently, no origin?

  9. Richard Gold Says:

    UPDATE : The minibus bringing the cast of “Seven Other Children” from London has a few spaces on it. So if anybody wants to come and needs a lift from London and back then contact engage.

  10. Jonathan Says:

    There are 6 spare seats at the moment

  11. Bialik Says:

    We have two kinds of badge-wearers here. There’s what seems to be an assortment of asajew speakers, and then some justbackfromPalestine speakers.

    My local party had a meeting about Palestine once with an ‘expert speaker’ who turned out to be a member who had recently visited the West Bank. I wonder if people justbackfromJerusalem are experts on Israel?

    I’m just back from Asda, by the way, and happy to answer your questions.

  12. Curious Says:

    Here is Linda Clair’s party defending Stalin (no, seriously!)

    And, if you interested, you can buy from thier site, “Chinese Posters”, “Soviet Posters” and “Palestinian Posters”!!

    No wonder Linda Clair would rather hide behind her “Jewish origin” when talking about politics; it would be a bit embarrasing speaking as someone “who defends the murder of millions” along with antisemitic purges!!

  13. NIMN Says:

    I guess Linda Clair would rather people think she speaks as someone who has a “Jewish origin” rather than the unreconstituted Stalinist and defender of mass murder that she is, judging be the political group to which she belongs,
    (Love the placing of inverted commas around the word “crimes” as in Stalin’s “crimes”).

    Maybe one should ask Clair what she thinks about this travesty of justice?

  14. Comrade T Says:

    No, seriously – this from LC’s party!!

    “Revisionism did exist before, he said, and the draft does not claim that “Khruschov’s speech was the only factor in the post-war development of revisionism.” He said it identifies the 20th Congress speech as “a watershed in the development of post-war revisionism and hence anti-communism.”

    In a wide-ranging defence of the draft, he suggested that far from a secret speech — that actually lacked real analysis of the Stalin period, what Khruschov said had all the hallmarks of tailoring for the capitalist mass media. It gave a green light to Western subversion and war and strengthened ultra-leftism.

    The draft highlights that “pivotal” speech, not because it is unique — it is one contribution among many to revisionism — but because it came “at a time of escalating Cold War and when the world communist movement needed to he strong and united,” he said. That was “guaranteed to cause disunity. The very reverse of what was required.” ”

    “what Khruschov said had all the hallmarks of tailoring for the capitalist mass media”…………………!

  15. zkharya Says:

    Farcical. And all centred on a play that portrays Jews as breeding themselves into genocides in seven generations.

  16. zkharya Says:

    What is so evil about Churchill’s play, is that it seeks to create/portray an amorphous Jewish entity that seeks to do unto others what was done to it, out of no other motive than to work out some kind of transferred repression/aggression.

    And it fuses this with a very antisemitic notion of Jewish chosenness, namely the right to commit genocide to Jewish advantage (the biblical notion of “seven”, election and genocide goes back to Deuteronomy:

    Deuteronomy 7
    A Chosen People
    1″When the(A) LORD your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you,(B) the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations(C) more numerous and mightier than yourselves, 2(D) and when the LORD your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must(E) devote them to complete destruction.[a](F) You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. 3(G) You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, 4for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods.(H) Then the anger of the LORD would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you(I) quickly. 5But thus shall you deal with them:(J) you shall break down their altars and dash in pieces their(K) pillars and chop down their Asherim and burn their carved images with fire.

    6″For(L) you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8but(M) it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping(N) the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9Know therefore that the LORD your God is God,(O) the faithful God(P) who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, 10and(Q) repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them.(R) He will not be slack with one who hates him. He will repay him to his face. 11(S) You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment and the statutes and the rules that I command you today.

    To portray Zionism and Israel in only these terms, in these terms at all, in fact, without a hint as to its being an historical movement of national liberation and determination, just like the Palestinian Muslim and Christian national movement, which Churchill espouses, is the height of wickedness.

    And the fact that Jews like Rosen endorse it, in ignorance, prejudice, or whatever, simply compounds how wicked it is.

    This is antisemitism, pure and simple.

  17. zkharya Says:

    It’s a very Arnold Toynbee/George Bernard Shaw kind of antisemitism, the former claiming that the Nazis had a “Judaistic” notion of chosenness, the latter referring to “Joshua-Hitler”, and doing to the Jews what they had done to others.

  18. zkharya Says:

    ‘sorry, just to bang on about this, since I won’t be going, Churchill’s is a very Christian antisemitic notion-portrayal) of the Jew/Israeli/Zionist, or whatever (truthfully a fluid amalgm). It is a reduction of Jews qua Jewish nationalism/nationality to “Old Testament People”, which she concocts from her “knowledge” i.e. collection of half-backed or digested information and prejudice, for her specific political purpose.

    Jews and Judaism, as well as Zionism, is about so much more than this. But you wouldn’t know that from Churchill’s reductionist approach. But that is what you would expect from an author who gave up naturalistic and historical drama, for the mythical and the surreal. That is how she concocts her theatrical “reality”. And antisemitic Christian myth, which of old portrays the Jews as savage, literally observant Old Testament people, is some of the most potent on earth.

    For the mythmaker, it is sheer gold/dynamite. A passion play is intended to evoke emotions of hatred and revulsion, as well as empathy and worship. The play is the Passion of Palestinian Christians and Muslims with Jews/Israelis/Zionists, born in the womb of the holocaust, born in darkness, returning to that same darkness, revisiting that same holocaust, this time as its agents, against these new victims.

    These Jews are the darkness incarnate.

    And the fact that Rosen gave this his stamp of approval is unspeakable.

  19. Jonathan Says:

    41:20 – the radio debate last night between me and David Thacker of the Bolton Octagon

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      Nice try, Jonathan, but I don’t think you got equal treatment access in the chat. But then David Thacker is, for the time being, a local and you are an outsider (it was ever thus for Jews, of course). Given his point about the Moslem-oriented play, bet he didn’t ask Manchester-based Zionists what they thought of the Churchill play.

      Good luck to you and Richard with the debate on Saturday.

  20. Jonathan Says:

    The theatre has a blog on the play which is open for comment.

    Thank you Brian. An Israel lady is joining me and Richard on the Panel. She has 57 years of experience of the Israeli education system (adding up her children’s school years) and will confirm that Israeli schools do not teach their children to hate…..

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      Jonathan, I’m shocked, _really shocked_, that the Israeli education system actually _teaches_ children to think for themselves! What is the world coming to? Next, we’ll have a world full of people all able to consider the evidence and come to their own conclusions. Worse, they will _all_ be able to recognise assertion unsupported by evidence, let alone logical argument, for themselves!

      Just think, Engage would be out of business. We would _really_ be preaching to the converted!

      That the world would be a better place is (almost) is almost an unanticipated (beneficial) consequence.

  21. zkharya Says:

    I respect you guys, but I think this is like a mediaeval Christian-Jewish disputation. The Prosecution is centre stage and is baiting Jews to challenge it.

  22. zkharya Says:

    Seven Jewish Children is a PSC propaganda piece. It professes to be a psychoanalysis, an “understanding”, of Israeli Jews and, to that extent, a Defence, or submission of mitigating circumstances.

    But this is a case of the Prosecution staging the Defence on the Defendant’s behalf. It is Hypocrisy, literally the wearing of a play actor’s mask, a drama that Plays at being merely drama, albeit dramatic Reality and History, rather than a polemic intended to further a pro-Palestinian Christian and Muslim nationalist agenda.

    Whatever facts it adduces (and it misrepresents and invents many), it uses in the service of that agenda.

    The Defendant and those that truly (not hypocritically) seek to Defend him or her (Israel, Zionism or whatever) is entitled to object to this Act of Hypocrisy on the Part of the Prosecution.

    This is like a Soviet show trial, where state psychiatry is used against a dissident, professing to be sympathetic to him or her, in fact adduced as a prosecuting weapon.

    Churchill abandoned naturalistic and historical drama long ago, and has now deployed her mythmaking talents, polemically, upon one of the most complicated pieces of history in history, to create a new myth of her own.

    A myth where, surprise surprise, Jews are born in the Holocaust, in the darkness, are the darkness incarnate, in fact, and return to the darkness, to genocide, this time not as victims but as agents, latent if not realised.

    Antisemitic myth is some of the most potent myth of all, and surrealist Churchill has decided she is old enough to escape the consequences of playing with fire, to write a new mystery play, a Passion, where Palestinian Christians and Muslims are the national Lamb-Christ, crucified by the new Jews, sorry “Zionists”.

    In the staging of this new Mystery, a ritual to be performed over and over again, for free, PSC performers enter into a mystical “understanding” of the alleged Psychosis of Israeli Jews, and the affirmation of their latent genocidal nature, and everything that leads up to that. They enter into a Gnosis of the nature, cause and reason of alleged Israeli Jewish Evil, allegedly to “understand” it, sympathetically, in fact to affirm the fact of its existence, over and over again.

    And all Palestinian Christians and Muslims are in this play, who only ever appear as Passive Victims, Sacrificed for Israeli Jewish security, never as Active Agents in their own fate, ever, is a collective national Lamb-Christ that was or is to be Slaughtered, by the new Jews, sorry “Zionists”.

    That is that other Gnosis into which performers mystically enter.

    Over and over and over again.

    Truly a piece of mythmaking, a ritual, sacred dama, to be reaffirmed and spread, gospel-like, by the act of repetition.

    Caryl Churchill as a psychoanalyst/psychiatrist to Israel is a bit like O’Brien to Winston in 1984: her “sympathy” and “understanding” is entirely subject to her cause, and the good to Winston entirely secondary.

    But at least O’Brien didn’t pretend anything else.

    The Drama, the Play Acting, in 7JC consists precisely in the Pretence that Churchill is Psychoanalysing Israel for her good, chiefly or otherwise.

    It is Theatre in that it is a Lie, rather than merely the lie that is all theatre.

  23. Jonathan Says:

    We (four or five of us in an audience of around 200) made the case yesterday in Bolton that this is an antisemitic play. We also rebutted such idiocy as came from the MP for Bolton who said that he had met a Hamas leader and he had no interest in killing Jews and we made the point that to show this play on a Saturday was discriminatory against Jews. Linda Clair said ‘the goalposts has been moved’ when the theatre had decided to show 7OC alongside 7JC. She said she normally has a ‘no platform for racists’ policy but she had decided to come as a collective decision with the PSC (an example of the warped logic of the PSC).

    Richard Stirling and Simone Vause (Director) spoke about 7OC in particular why Richard felt it necessary to write it.

    When we were discussing them showing 7OC, the Artistic Director of the Octagon, David Thacker, told me that Seven Jewish Children was being performed at the request of the PSC. If you look at a cached copy of the Octagon website you will find the same explanation:

    “When premiered the play caused uproar. It was the Bolton Palestine Solidarity Campaign who approached the organisation to produce Seven Jewish Children. The Octagon Theatre would like to thank Bolton Palestine Solidarity Campaign for their ongoing support.”

    Yet when we debated on BBC Radio Manchester on Monday night (starts 41:20) and in the theatre on Saturday, Thacker insisted the play was his free choice to perform.

    If the BNP asked him to perform a play called “Whiter than White” would he oblige and then claim it was entirely his own idea?

    I asked him how come he had such concerns in 1994 about the antisemitism in “Merchant of Venice” but 15 years later seems to have no similar concerns about “Seven Jewish Children”…

    “With increasing racist assaults and Nazi activity throughout Europe, we have an obligation. There is a real responsibility to not only avoid any possibility of fuelling that racism but moreover to confront and reveal the source of that racist upsurge.”

    He also told me he agreed with the EUMC Definition of antisemitism in its entirety.

    Bottom line: Contrary to the original intention, this event was not a PSC/JFJFP walkover and Israel hatefest….

  24. Israelinurse Says:

    Yesterday’s event at the Bolton Octagon was, of course, predictably depressing. The actual format of the event did not and could not promote real debate because of its structure whereby the Director called upon people to speak and most simply recited pre-prepared statements slamming Israel. We endured all the usual slogans (ethnic cleansing, massacre etc.) and were treated to quite a few downright lies including the bizarre claim from Richard Kuper (JFJFP) that no rockets were fired into Israel in the months prior to Cast Lead.
    I found it particularly revealing that Dr Brian Iddon MP (Bolton SE, Lab) repeatedly tripped himself up by saying ‘Jews’ instead of ‘Israelis’.
    As one lady said to me during the interval, the Miller play which should have been staged at this event is ‘The Crucible’; not ‘All My Sons’.
    A particularly significant moment for me personally was when, in the interval just after I had ‘outed’ myself as an Israeli, I suddenly found that the stairs and corridors leading to the lobby emptied magically before me as various audience members pressed themselves against the walls as though they were afraid of any type of contact. Far from being curious at the chance to meet a real Israeli, these people seemed terrified that something, anything, might upset their world view.
    In short, this was an entirely self-indulgent event on the part of the assorted PSC supporters, ‘AsAJews’, anarchists and Quakers present. Nobody had come to listen, nobody had come to bridge gaps. Their aim was twofold; firstly to outdo each other as regards which shocking ‘fact’ about Israel they could publicly reveal, and secondly to obtain reassurance for their world view and the comfort of being part of a group which they perceive as being righteous.
    I cannot say that I was surprised; most of my dealings with the PSC have been of this nature. The event did, however, strengthen my growing belief that Britain is becoming increasingly irrelevant as a place for open and democratic debate. What a pity that this particular section of the theatrical community is co-operating with the attempts of organisations such as the PSC to stifle any views which do not conform to their monotone perceptions. In a place such as Bolton, this would seem to me to be particularly unproductive.
    The event also strengthened my view that Britain no longer deserves its Jewish community and that the only real answer to this despicable phenomenon is aliyah.

    • mostly harmless Says:

      ‘Britain no longer deserves its Jewish community’

      Please stay, we promise not to question your right to the promised land for the chosen people. We don’t mind what you do to Muslims and Christians of Palestine. Even if you kill them, starve them, humiliate them, imprison them, bomb them, evict them, rob them, all will be forgiven.

      No-one likes this superiority complex

      • Mira Vogel Says:

        Britain’s Jewish community clearly haven’t done any of the things you say, ‘mostly harmless’. And you have no grounds for interpreting Israelinurse’s discomfort as a superiority complex. Your comments go a small distance towards proving her right – according to you, British Jews should take the blame for crimes they have not committed. Why would any group of people hang around to be scape-goated like that? Do you realise what you are saying? Contain yourself!

  25. Absolute Observer Says:

    “She said she normally has a ‘no platform for racists’ policy but she had decided to come as a collective decision with the PSC (an example of the warped logic of the PSC).”

    So, anyone who dare raise the question of antisemitism is to be deemed “a racist” akin to the BNP and not allowed to speak.

    I assume Richard Kuper challenged this point and explained how legitimately raising the question of the image of Jews in Churchill’s play, despite differering opinions on the question of Israel, should not be treated in such a manner; and that antisemmitism is a serious concern for many Jews, both Zionists and anti-Zionists.?

  26. Morten Says:

    I would like to support both comments made before me. No, it wasn’t an Israel hate fest, but it certainly wasn’t a success for rational non-antizionists either. However, it was sadly and predictably depressing to see so many maniacally committed middle aged antizionists and quite a few young people alongside them. And who was there for a more sane perspective on these issues? Very few people indeed and very few young ones. Have we, both Jewish and non-Jewish, potential antiantizionists all become so depoliticised? I wonder …

    However, me personally, I was very happy with the contributions made by israelinurse. I found them to be truly encouraging in a climate of lies and fabrications thrown at each other by antizionist zealots. Also, I’d like to thank Jonathan for putting pressure on the smug (antizionist) Octagon director and making the performance of 7OC happen – despite it having been on a Saturday. At least they were made to feel uneasy at their own event and realised we’re not entirely a pushover

    What really disturbed me deeply was the smug way in which 7JC was actually performed twice under the auspices of artistically “discussing” or elaborating on the play. I was very close to stopping that nonsense. Very little mention of the deliberate slip of the feather that it addresses Jews after all and not Israelis. That much for their supposed antizionist – and not antisemitic – lines of argument. Neither was there much chance to actually discuss or even mention the audacity of the play suggesting that Jews – all of them and everywhere – a) lie to their children, because they b) have an awful lot to cover up. This is simply an outrageous standpoint, purely evil and massively antisemitic. Something that appeals to people who like to think of themselves as standing up against monopolies of (political or economic) power and who, as lazy as they are intellectually, have nothing better to do than buy in on the most apparent antisemtic stereotypes around, ptretending to be fighting the good fight. They don’t care about Palestinians. They love to patronise them. Were they to give only the slightest consideration to the well-being of Palestinians and Israelis alike, they wouldn’t support the likes of Hamas or the Al Aqsa martyr scum. Well, they couldn’t care less. They’ve identified the Jews as the new (old) core evil and they would like to see the world getting rid of them. When the next Endlösung is just around the corner it will be middle-aged women clad in Palestinian head nappies herding Jews (and don’t forget Hitler’s dictum: “We will decide who is a Jews and who is not”) into the death camps.

    They don’t care about racism, because they themselves are the worst racists of all. They condemn people into living in supposedly culturally authentic restrictive inhumane and autocratic societies – policed by the likes of Hamas, the Hizbollah, Saudi or Iranian guardians of virtue and so forth. They are deeply hateful towards anything Jewish and are so far gone down the road of lunacy in a parallel universe, they will probably never ever find their way out from there self-chosen inner exile where nothing but Jew-hatred means anything at all. All the other worries and woes of the world count for nothing as long as they can lash out towards the Jews, brand Jews the new Nazis and secretly wishing they could show “the” Jews how real new Nazis would fare with them …

    Not much hope, no. But we cannot, we must not give up. Not the fight for the (hopefully) undecided and the unbiased – if these people even still exist …

  27. zkharya Says:

    That Thacker business is extraordinary. He has qualms about Shylock and his pound of flesh, but none about Israeli Jewish parents sacrificing Palestinian Muslim children as substitutes for theirs and themselves.

  28. zkharya Says:

    What do you expect? If you say Zionism, pro-Zionism and sympathy for Israel is a psychosis, you aren’t going to give an equal platform to the mentally ill.

    The medieval disputations weren’t debates either: they were prosecutions whose verdict was already decided.

  29. Debating Anti-Jewism Racism. « ModernityBlog Says:

    […] on October 25, 2009 6:32 pm As anti-Jewish raism seeps into the public discourse via the British liberal establishment, it is apparent why those with a fixation or animosity towards Israelis or Jews are largely […]

  30. zkharya Says:

    From an article by Ron Kampeas:

    There are three obvious anti-Israel and anti-Semitic “tells” here:

    First, this arc, irreducibly, equates Israel’s action in Gaza with the Holocaust.

    Second, “the chosen people.” Such a flag. It’s become the easiest way to objectify Jews: “They think they’re ‘chosen,’ we choose to out them.” Newsflash: In our daily dealings, when we eat, go to the movies, make love, buy a pizza, start a war, we don’t consider ourselves “chosen,” even when we contemplate what choice is Jewish and what isn’t. The word simultaneously signals a difficult, thorny theology and a broad joke, but it doesn’t guide our every thought. Really. We go to war because we think others want to kill us. Maybe we’re wrong. But it’s the same as everyone else. Geez.

    Finally, the title: Seven “Jewish” children. Not so much because it visits the decisions of a government elected by a majority of Israelis upon all Jews everywhere, but because it suggests that the choice Churchill imagines that we take, to lash out, to kill, is somehow inherently Jewish.

    But there’s a subtler and even more insidious reduction here: The Jewish girl in the opening—the one in hiding—is an icon, a cartoon of Jewish suffering. She sings! She likes magic! Fellow moms and dads: How many real children spontaneously burst into song during crises? I thought so.

    By contrast, the Palestinian child covered in blood is immediate and real, based on real photos, preceded by the only passage written in actual dialogue, not verse, and packed with references to real events: The “family of dead girls,” the “dead policemen.”

    Dead Jews are comfortably a myth. Dead Palestinians are, discomfitingly, not. This is not Holocaust reduction, it’s Holocaust denial.

  31. Sarah Says:

    @Morten. “And who was there for a more sane perspective on these issues?” I think this is simply the type of event which is going to attract zealots who – as Israelinurse’s account demonstrates – refuse to listen to anything which contradicts their world view. I found Zkharya’s comment about the prosecution staging the defence on the defendant’s behalf and the comparison with Soviet show trials very suggestive. It chimed with one slight disagreement I’ve had with some people about this play – those who have said it doesn’t give ‘good’ Israelis a voice. I think Zkharya’s comment ties in with the way it does give them a voice of sorts but how this is only an illusion of fair play. As I’ve discussed (on Harry’s Place) with a couple of people on this thread already I am soon going to be leading an MA session on both this play and also 70C so it has been interesting to read this.

  32. James Mendelsohn Says:

    I was also there on Saturday and would echo the comments of Jonathan, Morten & Israelinurse. Two things to add:

    (1) It seemed telling that, when Richard Gold of Engage sought to address issues of antisemitism near the end of the discussion session, he was first of all heckled and then cut short so that Richard Kuper could speak before he (Kuper) needed to go to catch a train. Needless to say, Richard was given no further opportunity to speak.

    (2) In conversation after the event, Brian Iddon MP was challenged over his decision to chair Ben “I do not consider myself to be an antisemite and yet I can also understand why some are” White’s “Israeli Apartheid” event at Portcullis House ( Needless to say Iddon expressed no regret for this, even when it was explained to him that one of White’s sources is the Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy.

    Fourteen children, two plays and one taboo subject: antisemitism.

  33. zkharya Says:

    Thank you for the reference, Sarah, and I agree entirely about the fact and purpose of polyphony.

    When do you intend to teach the module? Unlike you, I keep intending to write pieces, including a proper 7 act response to 7JC (I only managed one act), and rarely do (mainly because it is hard to do merely what I need to),

  34. Richard Gold Says:

    Hope to write something up on this event in the next few days.

  35. zkharya Says:

    I recall a rather difficult exchange I had with Professor Michael Silk when doing part of my MA at KCL. I was writing a piece assuming and expounding the notion of Tradedy’s having a purpose in bolstering the polis. Not an original theory, but I tried (not very successfully) to show how plot, action and performance allowed or facilitated (a horrible Americanism to which, alas, I am addicted) a sympethetic audience participation (again, not an original theory, by any or extensive means) according to a certain principle. Namely, that, in some way, the death or fall of the principal characters often leads to a material or intellectual consequence, or moral or philosophical deduction, that saves or enables the survival of the polis, symbolised by the chorus. I attempted to show this by multiple examples.

    I was victim of a youthful hope or illusion that everything happens to some purpose, that a moral can always be drawn.

    Michael Silk objected that I systematised the voice/voices of the chorus and interpreted them as signifying something social or political when all he heard were “voices”. I supposed I was, in fact, interpreting Tragedy as agit-prop.

    I have since bowed to Michael Silk’s infinitely greater knowledge of the Tragedians. But the polyphony of Greek Tragedy debates, openly, the actions and events of the play. Usually the larger plot is set by tradition. But every twist of fate, character deed, is discussed or interpreted. And the distance and antiquity of the mythical events allows the playwrite a certain objectivity and freedom. It is hard to see the polyphony of 7JC in this light. It is not truly open. The Tragedians were not writing agit-prop, at least not like this.

    It would be like the Athenians’ relating their suffering during the Spartan seige and capture of Athens, and portraying it as a product of the “poor” Spartans’ overly militaristic upbringing and education. Even if the account was so portrayed in fear of Spartan rule, Spartans would pretty quickly see through it.

    It is a pseudo-Christian attempt at “Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they do” Yes, in theory, the evangelists allow for the possibility of Jewish repentence, their acting merely from a kind of madness. But they also relate in detail their alleged collective crimes, and the net effect of the gospels, historically, is to inculcate hatred and revulsion at the Jew as unique and especial enemy of g-d.

    Churchill is saying, en effait, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do”, theoretically allowing for their repentence and “cure”, their coming to a rational understanding of who they are and what they are doing.

    The “alternative” voices in 7JC are really the options for repentence and salvation that Churchill is presenting to Israeli and other Jews.

    The final “Tell her we love her” is simply there so Churchill and her followers i.e. those that perform her play can claim they have fully humanised Israeli Jews.

    But underlying that is, as in the gospels, a fundamental account of their wrong doings, of their “crimes”. That fact is uncontested. Churchill throws in remarks about “security”, but she makes quite clear, in what she says elsewhere, that such concerns are not “real”.

    And this not a genuine attempt to get into the mind of the Israeli Jew, the quintessential “Zionist”. This is Churchill’s attempting to portray the “Zionist” as blackly as possible while professing or pretending to show sympathy and genuine understanding. That is why it is insidious and disingenuous. And it is certainly not an open ended discussion or investigation.

    As I said, it is a Lie in the form of a lie.

  36. Sarah Says:

    @zkharya – Thanks – it’s just a single session and it’s on 9 November. I’m going to begin with an informal short lecture – indeed I must start working on this soon! – I’d be happy to send it to you.

  37. Sarah Says:

    @zkharya – hadn’t read your latest post when I last replied – I’ll have to think further about your points – the parallels – and contrasts – with a Greek tragic chorus are interesting. I’m teaching Greek tragedy (in translation) this semester and we’ve been thinking about how the refusal to allow a character the right to speak or the ‘ganging up’ against a character by the chorus can have the effect of inspiring sympathy in the audience for that character (even though that may not have been the author’s intention). It’s interesting to see how 7JC neatly evades this extreme onesidedness in a disarming move. The dynamic of 7JC is really more like that of an Elizabethan revenge play (as I’m sure has been noted many times already!) than it is like a Greek tragedy.

  38. modernity Says:

    “an Elizabethan revenge play… “

    Never thought of it like that 🙂

    Be good if a video of that MA session could be made for a wider audience, it sounds very promising.

    PS: Can I suggest that should another of these events, as at the Octagon, take place, that a video recording is made?

  39. zkharya Says:


    a) apologies for my half-baked thoughts on Sophocles. Michael Silk accused me of swearing at him, when I have no recollection I did.
    b) I’m not sure what an Elizabethan revenge play is. ‘will investigate. At any rate, have written 3 scenes of 7 Palestinian children.

  40. Israelinurse Says:

    Sarah – I don’t know if this adds anything to your research, but from a dramatic point of view I have to say that there was very little difference as far as I was concerned between seeing the play acted and merely reading the script. In fact my scriptwriter daughter described it as ‘a shopping list’ rather than a play.
    There is no three act structure, no conflict, no mid point, no trial and error, no raising of the stakes, no real protagonist or antagonist, no resolution, no development of the characters.
    Another question any scriptwriter must ask is who is the target audience? Is this a case of ‘preaching to the converted’? We also see a distinct lack of research. In fact if any proper research had been done, I’m convinced that this play in this format could not have been written.
    In the first act, for example, we have ‘Tell her she can make them go away if she keeps still/ by magic’. Does any sane parent trying to protect their child in time of war put the onus of the outcome on the child by telling it that its actions will be of influence? Certainly not in my personal experience!
    However, my daughter also put forward the possibility that the first act is lifted from Roberto Benini’s ‘Life is Beautiful’.

  41. zkharya Says:

    “In fact my scriptwriter daughter described it as ‘a shopping list’ rather than a play…However, my daughter also put forward the possibility that the first act is lifted from Roberto Benini’s ‘Life is Beautiful’.”

    Begnini, but yes.

  42. zkharya Says:

    oops, idiot: Benigni

  43. Sarah Says:

    @Modernity – a video would be interesting! Obviously I’ve got to be careful to make my students feel comfortable about discussing the play – whether or not they agree with me about it – so I couldn’t really do this!

    @Zkharya. In a play such as The Revenger’s Tragedy the protagonist is wronged, and takes revenge on villains, but becomes himself as bad as them – to his own surprise and dismay. When lecturing on revenge drama I sometimes use an analogy from Dr Who – The Doctor wants to destroy the Daleks because they destroyed his home planet. One Dalek tells him ‘You would make a very good Dalek’.

    You get the general pattern!

    @Israelinurse – yes I can believe that – about the shopping list effect – although I’ve only seen the monologue version. In that sense it is indeed like a Greek chorus where different characters have different lines but there is no sense that they have consistently definable personalities as individuals. I think this problem of who says what is crucial to 7JC – you can shape all sorts of different emphases from the text because of the confusion. I agree that the question of audience is vital – I definitely want to think about the circumstances surrounding the play’s creation, production and reception. Perhaps it takes on a different meaning if – as I think it has been – it is performed in Israel.

    Actually I think the detail about ‘magic’ could be quite moving – but if we go back to the revenge play parallel that fits in – the hero of The Revenger’s Tragedy is a sympathetic victim at the *beginning*. If the play were more *obviously* biased it wouldn’t be so problematic!

  44. Israelinurse Says:

    Thanks for the corection Zkharya – that’s me translating from Hebrew with its rather more economical use of letters!

  45. zkharya Says:

    Thank you, Sarah.

    I think you are right, to a agree. But, surely, Churchill’s “point” is that Israeli Jews are taking revenge on those who have done them no wrong whatsoever and are, to all intents and purposes, entirely innocent?

    It is a kind of transferrred revenge.

  46. modernityblog Says:


    A video would be priceless, but here’s a way around any objections, just have the focus of it on yourself.

    By doing that any shy student won’t be on it, a second sound source is a good idea and could be edited out later if they don’t like it.

    A camera on a tripod, placed in the corner as a fixture, students will soon forget it and discuss the play more openly.

  47. Sarah Says:

    Absolutely – it’s not an exact comparison – but it’s the moral decline of victim into aggressor which was similar. And the idea of turning into a reflection of your enemy as well – Israelis as Nazis. And sometimes the revengers in such plays *do* take it out on the innocent (though these are usually children of their enemy).

  48. Absolute Observer Says:

    (Sorry to lower the tone, but,

    “The Doctor wants to destroy the Daleks because they destroyed his home planet. One Dalek tells him ‘You would make a very good Dalek’. ”

    Apparently (and I amke know claims to the accuracy of this point) Terry Nation saw the Daleks as a cross between Nazis and London Hackney Cabs of the era.

    Just thought I’d mention it).

  49. Sarah Says:

    I’ve drafted my lecture – and also this – excuse frivolity.

    Tell them we’re studying Seven Jewish Children this week.
    Tell them it ‘shows theatre’s power to heighten consciousness and articulate moral outrage’.
    Tell them it constitutes ‘incitement to hatred’
    Tell them it’s literature
    Tell them it’s complicated
    Tell them it’s serious
    Tell them it’s a game

    Tell them they’re special students!
    Tell them Modernity would like a video of our session
    Don’t tell them that
    Don’t frighten them

    Tell them to read Zkharya’s comments on the play on Engage
    (Tell them to set aside a not inconsiderable chunk of time for doing this)

    Tell them ‘meaning is generated at the point of reception’
    No, don’t frighten them
    Tell them the play is anti-Semitic
    No don’t tell them that

    Tell them they’re safe
    Tell them it’s over
    Tell them it’s 8 o’clock
    Tell them they’re going home

  50. James Mendelsohn Says:

    Hahaha thanks Sarah, glad we can laugh about these things 🙂

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