Jewish Telegraph article on the Octagon Theatre Bolton.

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38 Responses to “Jewish Telegraph article on the Octagon Theatre Bolton.”

  1. Jonathan Hoffman Says:

    Maybe Tony Sheldon – who attacks me in the letter – would like to tell us here what he said at the Octagon to protest at this antisemitic play?

    Maybe he would like to tell us what he did to bring ‘Seven Other Children’ from London to neutralise it and what he did to get Thacker to turn the event away from a PSC Israel hatefest financed by the taxpayer?

    • leila glancy Says:

      I neither read the JT or Guardian, but I would like to express my thoughts and feelings re ‘The Investigation’ at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton, of which J Hoffman and I were participants.
      1stly I wrote a very long letter to David Thacker and he has replied to say he has read all I sent and would be very pleased to meet and have a further discussion about what happened at the event. I intend to take him up on his suggestion, but with appropriate companions who understand and are knowledgeable on the subject of the event. .
      And that is surely what is important here. The objective of that event. Thacker could never have achieved what he set out to. He was somewhat naieve in my view to think he could – compare in some way the premise of Miller’s ‘All My Sons’ with ‘7JC’ or for that matter ‘7OC’, both of which contained extremist views, in my opinion, and could not, in any case, be termed ‘plays’. The notion that a leading theatre director with drama being central, could get a sensible and level headed discussion going concerning a highly emotive & inflammatory political issue with the full backing of the PSC was really very silly.
      But on the other hand did Jonathan Hoffman really think that delivering his agenda in the way he did would lend help to the discussion or happenings – and more importantly the ultimate effect it had on the attenders, some of whom had quite the opposite agenda to his, and were going to make profit from his outburst.
      And to you, Jonathan Hoffman, I simply want to urge you, before setting out to an event of this type in the future, to please think carefully about how you present yourself. If there was a fire to be fuelled for our foes, you’d did a better job than any Palestinian sympathiser could have done that day, or for that matter at any time, any place.
      I have coached presentation for over 18 years and I cannot say how much I advise you to seek help with formulating your content, structure, and more importantly physical/personal approach concerning use of your voice, stage management, and appearance.

      Leila Glancy

      • Jonathan Hoffman Says:

        Leila please tell us:

        1. What if anything you said in the Octagon to condemn this antisemitic play?

        2. What you did to ensure that the antidote play “Seven Other Children” was performed alongside it?

        3. How much you contributed to the £1000 or so needed to stage “Seven Other Children” in Bolton?

        Best wishes
        Jonathan

  2. Absolute Observer Says:

    I do not know Jonathan Hoffman nor have I heard him at meetings. However, judging from his absurd letter in today’s JC attacking Jonathan Freedland, it would appear that Sheldon’s letter is on the mark.

    Perhaps one would be advised to remind Hoffman of Arendt’s astute observation that one of the skills of political engagement is to know the difference between one’s friends and one’s enemies.

  3. Chas N-B Says:

    I have seen Jonathan Hoffman in action at numerous events including debates, meetings and television shows. He is an effective, passionate and brilliant campaigner in defence of Israel and Britain’s Jews. Unlike many tireless campaigners he is also a selfless man.

    I regret that Hoffman’s courageous nature offends those who seem to believe that doing nothing is the way to counter the growing menace that is being faced.

    We need more Hoffmans and less cowards in this world.

  4. Jonathan Hoffman Says:

    Absolute Observer calls my letter in today’s JC ‘absurd’.

    Last week Jonathan Freedland complained that UK Jewish leaders ignore antisemitism in Eastern Europe. I pointed out that this was somewhat incongruous given that Freedland (i) works for a newspaper whoise website CIF is an incubator of antisemitism and (ii) in the London Mayoral election he was a cheerleader for Livingstone who told me three times that Israel should not have been created and the third time said (knowing it was untrue) that the previous Chief Rabbi had said the same thing.

    Why – AO – is that “absurd”?

  5. Jonathan Hoffman Says:

    Maybe the author of the (unnamed) article could tell me in what way declaring it “unacceptable” and “culturally insensitive” to stage this antisemitic play on Shabbat meant that I was “unable to retain my cool”?

  6. PetraMB Says:

    First, this letter to the editor is a bit strange: the writer sharply criticized Jonathan Hoffman for being too assertive, and Rabbi Brian Fox for being too accommodating. Maybe the guy is hard to please?
    What struck me from the article linked to is this passage:
    “We were right to go and try to splice the venom. But, having experienced so-called ‘debates’ with committed anti-Zionists, I find there is an impenetrable brick wall behind which nothing is conceded to Israel, whereas Zionists are invariably prepared to acknowledge Israel’s mistakes while declaring their love of the country and desire for peace.”
    True enough, and given the reporting from this meeting, it’s perhaps time to highlight the concept of the “Gold-Standard” – pun intended….
    However, it’s perhaps also interesting to look at this kind of British discussions through the prism of the regional politics – after all, that’s what the debate is about. From an Israeli perspective, the positions advocated by Engage are somewhere in the Meretz neighborhood, i.e. very much on the left of Israel’s political spectrum. By contrast, the kind of “pro-Palestinian” activists that seem to dominate events like the one described here are basically presenting Hamas positions, or reflect views like those repeatedly expressed by the Oxford academic Ahmed S. Khalidi, who every now and then writes articles for the Guardian that make very clear that he isn’t interested in a Palestinian state – one of his pieces was aptly entitled “Thanks, but no thanks”, and his most recent piece is a rejection of Fayyad’s plan to press ahead with a 2 year plan for institution building to prepare for Palestinian statehood.
    Jonathan Hoffman, on the other hand, reflects very much how the average Israeli with politically centrist views would look at what’s going on in Britain. Since he represents the Zionist Federation, he is arguably right on track with this. That this apparently plays badly within a British context perhaps tells us more about the state of the British debate than about Jonathan Hoffman: it seems to me that when a debate principally legitimizes the most reactionary and intransigent views from one side, and expects the other side to respond only with the most dovish views expressed in the most conciliatory language, there is a problem.
    And the problem is highlighted very appropriately in the very first sentence of the article here:
    “The theatre, at the instigation of the Bolton Solidarity Campaign, performed Caryl Churchill’s play Seven Jewish Children, deemed antisemitic by respected critics, and rapturously received by the majority of the audience who had come to vent their spleen on Zionists, Israelis and Jews.”
    Among those “respected critics” who “deemed” the play antisemitic were of course Mark Gardner and Dave Rich from the CST. Their critique of the play was published in the Guardian/Cif, which had produced a video of the play that, if anything, made matters worse, — and what was the reaction? The Guardian’s Readers’ Editor who once pronounced on the matter basically shrugged off this critique, saying something like: OK, there are liberal Jews who make a reasoned argument that the play is antisemitic, but why should people like us who just adore the play care?
    So while I greatly admire and appreciate the “Gold Standard” way of rational debate and argument practiced by Engage and CTS, it also seems clear that in the context of the British debate, these low-key voices are being dismissed – and not only in fringe theaters, but also in the Guardian.

  7. Israelinurse Says:

    The anti-Israel campaign in Britain has reached, in my opinion, unprecedented levels of hostility, aggression and downright madness. No-one who was present at the Octagon last week could have been oblivious to the menace in the atmosphere and the overwhelming feeling of frustration at being unable to effectively counteract such a barrage of lies and distortions.
    We were right to try, but if we are honest with ourselves we have to admit that polite attempts at dialogue have no chance of being effective in the current state of affairs.
    Unfortunately, I do not have a magic solution to this dilemma, but I am convinced that the Jewish community publicly arguing amongst itself is not only counterproductive, but provides oxygen for the fires of intolerance raging around us.
    Throughout our history, when Jews have been busier arguing between themselves than uniting against the common foe, the outcome has always been tragic.
    At this stage it is vital that British Jews stand together rather than splitting into Prushim, Tsdukim and Zealot -like factions.

  8. Jonathan Hoffman Says:

    The comment about Rabbi Fox in the letter is plain dumb. Plenty of decent people would claim ‘pikuach nefesh’ for attending an Israel hatefest on Shabbat. They are wrong but they do not deserve this ridicule. The comment about ‘sporting a blue yarmulke’ is plain offensive.

    Why does the Jewish Telegraph publish such garbage?

  9. zkharya Says:

    “Why does the Jewish Telegraph publish such garbage?”

    Because Sheldon doesn’t sound like an anti-Israel nut and has a degree of discernment. He CRITICISED the pro-Israel performance. He said what he thought worked, and what he thought didn’t. It wasn’t a fawning review, it wasn’t an offhand dismissal.

    He thought about how everyone performed, as one would any performance (is this Tony Sheldon the actor, btw?:
    http://www.officiallondontheatre.co.uk/news/interviews/view/item104874/Tony-Sheldon/ ).

    I also take issue with Israelnurse’s saying Sheldon was criticising the substance of Jonathan’s position. I don’t think he was. He was criticising the presentation.

    I’m not saying he was right. I wasn’t there. I know Jonathan works tirelessly, even as a full time family man. I love it that PSCers probably assume this short, non-English looking man is a default Palestinian supporter.

    But winning wars, battles or debate isn’t about how much energy one expends. It is about expending it in the right place, at the right time, in the right degree to the greatest effect.

    (and I am not saying this war can be won. But sometimes it is better to go in dignity, to speak one’s piece quietly, against the grain, though the mob howl at you, and bay for your blood).

    Sometimes less is more. Sometimes nothing that is counterproductive is better than a barrage that is.

    I’m just saying, is all.

  10. zkharya Says:

    And I could be wrong: perhaps Jonathan’s way of doing things is the best, at least for him. I admire how Jonathan is not afraid to be hated, by an audience outraged by this little upstart “Zionist”, bringing downtown Golders Green-Tel Aviv in their faces.

    Perhaps it is insufficiently English, for Tony Sheldon. I am not sure it is my way, but, perhaps, this is the only way Jonathan, full time family man, can muster.

  11. Absolute Observer Says:

    “You are guilty of antisemitism. Shame on the Octagon!”
    What a stupid thing to say. But, hey, let’s all applaud because at least Hoffman is “doing something”!

    If you were to think for just a single moment, you will realise that this is the same “excuse” the boycotters use – “we have to do something”.

    The same ignorance and knee-jerk reaction is common to both. Empty vessels make the most noise. Indeed, compared to that, Hoffman doing nothing would appear to be a blessing.

    And, how dare you come on Engage and talk about people not doing anything. Check out Engage’s history. Of course, there are only those who will follow the loud mouth. We all know what type they are!!

    Petra,
    Engage is committed to the fight against antisemitism.

    It does not, can not and should not be defined according to the political spectrum of another country.

    Nor should “dovish” be confused with “low-key”.

    Much to the annoyance of many, Engage’ stand on antisemitism is anything by “dovish”.

    Israelinurse,
    Nice sentiment, but there are many Jewish groups, from both “left” and right with whom I have nothing in common and oppose for any number of grounds.

    Moreover, Engage is not a “Jewish” site. Alliances are not to be premised on “ethnic” grounds but on political perspective.

    Jonathan Hoffman,
    Engage is not a “Jewish” site, do not presume it is. Could you, therefore, please stop using folsky Yiddish words since many, including myself, have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.

    Yes, Jonathan, the Guardian publish rubbish, the JT publish garbage, only you, the great sage and thinker don’t talk garbage. You merely shout it at the top of your lungs. Have you not heard the expression, think before you speak.

    You have far more in common with those you oppose than you realise.

    Poor old Richard Gold, PCS on one side (and the idiot Kuper with his pronouncements and conspiracy theories alongside them) and Hoffman on the other.

    Well done Richard for being neither a fool nor a knave.

  12. NIMN Says:

    As far as I am aware, “Engage” is not a “Jewish” site, but a site that opposes antisemitism.
    Could I ask, therefore, that those who chose to make specifically “Jewish” references or use folksy Yiddish phrases offer a translation of the terms and references used.

    Likewise, whilst a call to Jewish “unity” may be appealing, first, there are many groups and individuals who I would not touch with a barge pole (or sing Xmas carols with) such as the conspiracy theorist loving jjfp or the loud mouth Jonathan Hoffman – two sides of the same “doing something” coin.

    More importantly, the fight against antisemitism is not a species of “identity politics” (as antisemites and anti-zionists often present it). It is a political position that transcends one’s relgion and any call to the mythology of “community consensus”. To argue otherwise is to loose the fight before it begins.

  13. Too Much Heckling Says:

    I was there on Saturday and while i didn’t agree with Jonathan Hoffman’s antics i would also like to point out that Richard Gold was badly heckled and that he had to stop speaking at one point so the chair could stop the heckler. Also Richard Gold was interrupted by both the chair (David Thacker) and the producer, finally being cut off in mid flow so that a gentleman from Jews For Justice For Palestinians could speak before catching his train.

  14. zkharya Says:

    “Empty vessels make the most noise.”

    Harsh, but true.

  15. Jonathan Hoffman Says:

    AO – Still waiting to hear why my letter is ‘absurd’. You criticise me for saying “You are guilty of antisemitism. Shame on the Octagon!”. Why? Why should antisemitism not be identified when it occurs? What do you do? Keep stumm? (sorry – silent).

    “Engage is not a “Jewish” site, do not presume it is.”

    Well silly me. I thought antisemitism was about hating Jews.

    Pikuach nefesh is the obligation to save life. In the interest of saving life one can break the laws of Shabbat (sorry the Jewish Sabbath).

    But you could have found that out by googling it – couldn’t you…?

  16. zkharya Says:

    Yeah, Sheldon’s remark about shabbat were ridiculous. I’m assuming Sheldon is Jewish.

  17. zkharya Says:

    ‘I was there on Saturday and while i didn’t agree with Jonathan Hoffman’s antics i would also like to point out that Richard Gold was badly heckled’

    Well, in certain circumstances, one needs to give as good as one gets. If someone tries to shout you down or silence you, it can be a form of bullying. It sounds like you guys went into the bear pit. I (shouldn’t have) heckled at MPACUK’s The Great Debate and got manhandled for my trouble before being forcibly ejected. It’s hard to keep silent when there is supposed to be equal representation for Israel at a debate and there isn’t. But, then, this was supposed to be a PSC killing ground. They see Cast Lead as Israel’s killing ground in Gaza, so they feel entitled to set up a “debate” in the same way.

    But I’m not sure heckling is the most effective way to make a point.

  18. zkharya Says:

    One needs to be a kind of orator, which entails what style or technique to use in which circumstance, a lot of experience and skill. Galloway is quite a good orator of the popular style, which he will alter to circumstance, be it street, westminster or QT.

    More effective than saying 7JS is antisemitic, is briefly saying why. Mere assertions can be met contrariwise.

  19. Jonathan Hoffman Says:

    Zkharya

    Of course I said ‘why’! One, the blood libel. Two, the ‘chosen people’ trope. Three, it demonises Israel and stereeotypes Jews.

  20. PetraMB Says:

    Absolute Observer, I didn’t mean to argue Engage should reflect the Israeli political spectrum; my point was that Jonathan Hoffman as chairman of the Zionist federation probably should — and he does.
    At the same time, Engage still has to argue politically, simply because it is faced with opponents that argue in political terms and take a political positions — usually pro-Hamas, or in favor of the so-called 1state solution, or in favor of ongoing “resistance” etc.

    I also emphasized that I have great respect for how Engage defends and advocates its positions, but the obvious question is if it achieves anything. I think I remember a piece written by Eve Gerard a few months ago where she also expressed some resignation about the seeming futility of reasoned polite argument — so that’s what I had in mind when I questioned how far the doubtlessly praiseworthy and admirable conduct of Richard Gold works.
    It’s not that I can think of a good alternative; but I’m also not sure why it should meet with so much criticism if somebody reacts like JH entirely human, with some authentic passion, to such an intransigent and deeply hostile audience.

  21. Absolute Observer Says:

    ““Engage is not a “Jewish” site, do not presume it is.”

    Well silly me. I thought antisemitism was about hating Jews.”

    I think that the linking of these two sentences in this way proves exactly what little Hoffman knows about both antisemitism and about Engage.

    Petra,
    Thanks for your comments.
    “but I’m also not sure why it should meet with so much criticism if somebody reacts like JH entirely human, with some authentic passion, to such an intransigent and deeply hostile audience.”

    Because it lacks reflection, it lacks thought, it is a bluderbuss that is noisy but nearly always misses the target.

    Thacker and the Octagon are not antisemites. Calling people and institutions that are not antisemitic, antisemitic is both stupid and counter-productive (as well as exhibiting a failure to seriously understand the phenomenon of contemporary Jew-hatred).
    Like the boycotters, who shout and scream outside supermarkets and theatres, Hoffman’s noise masquerades’s as serious political action and comment, whilst illustrating little understanding.

    Look at the comments here so far,

    Chas NB confuses shouting at people with “doing something” and those that don’t shout and scream as “doing nothing”.

    Hoffman appears in Rosepierrian guise and asks what his critica “are doing”? as if shouting and screaming is the only way of “doing something”.

    The point about “rational dialogue”, or the lack of, is probably true; so does that mean that we should accept that he who shouts loudest wins? All it does is alienate people who still want to think about things.

    If I was at the Octagon and heard the PCS and Hoffman, I’d have probably thought that they both deserve each other; that they are locked in to a struggle to the death; in other words, a mirror of the worst type of politics.

    As with the boycott, so too Hoffman represents a politics of despair; a politics that takes as its base point the belief that all rational forms of debate and action has broken down and all that is left is to exclude the other side from being heard. It also empowers the worst elements of the antizionist movement by treating them as if they represent the whole and as if no-one at all is open to discussion.

    It is politically bankrupt.

  22. Absolute Observer Says:

    “but the obvious question is if it achieves anything”

    Whilst Gold’s approach has been acknowledged as a mature intervention, perhaps Hoffman could tell us precisely what he thought he achieved by shouting, heckling, interrupting and by labelling people “antisemites”? Because from what has been said so far, his only triumph was his own ego.

  23. Jonathan Hoffman Says:

    AO

    You clearly have an agenda.You still have failed to say why my letter in the JC is ‘absurd’.

    You say “Calling people and institutions that are not antisemitic, antisemitic is both stupid and counter-productive.”

    I agree – and I didn’t. There is a difference between ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ antisemitism. ‘Subjective’ antisemitism is perpetrated by those who hate Jews. ‘Objective’ antisemitism is perpetrated by those who do not hate Jews but nevertheless encourage ‘objective’ antisemites. Those who put on Seven Jewish Children are guily of ‘objective’ antisemitism. See Robin Shepherd’s excellent new book for more (“A State Beyond The Pale”).

    I wonder if your attacks would be as vicious and nihilist if you dropped the cowardly mask of a pseudonym. I doubt it somehow.

  24. Jonathan Hoffman Says:

    http://cifwatch.com/2009/10/25/seven-jewish-children-in-bolton-or-octagone-to-the-psc/

    AO you can find my account here. I recommend also the comment by ‘Morten’ on the previous Engage thread:

    “At least they were made to feel uneasy at their own event and realised we’re not entirely a pushover”

    https://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/10/18/investigate-all-my-children/#comments

    Try being less belligerent and nihilistic. Then maybe people will engage with you.

  25. Jonathan Hoffman Says:

    Corrction to my 3:03:

    ‘Objective’ antisemitism is perpetrated by those who do not hate Jews but nevertheless encourage ‘subjective’ antisemites.

  26. Absolute Observer Says:

    “Objective’ antisemitism is perpetrated by those who do not hate Jews but nevertheless encourage ‘objective’ antisemites”

    As it stands, this makes no sense at all.

    Assuming you got your “objective” and “subjective” mixed up – do think before you speak! – that was exactly the point Gold was making. You have to sit down and spend time explaining to those who have adopted an “objective” antisemitic or who are seduced by it, why it is, indeed, antisemitic. Some will listen, some will not. It takes time and patient. It is difficult. This is what Gold did. It also means assuming that the entire audience was not as hostile as the awful Linda Blair and the moronic Richard Kuper.

    By huffing and puffing you undid all the work Gold (and Engage) did at the meeting. Which leads to the following question.

    “but the obvious question is if it achieves anything”
    Apart from “doing something” what did you achieve from the meeting, Jonathan?

    Do you really think that after your interventions, people like Thacker and those who you deem “guilty” of “perpetrating” “objective” antisemitism were in anyway troubled in their views by your approach? Do you really thing
    those present and who were willing to listen was convinced by you? Or, do you think they thought, “what a jerk”? “Who is this guy?”

    (I leave out of the discussion the Stalinism notion of “objective” crimes.)

    “You clearly have an agenda.”
    Well of course I do! Don’t you?

    “I wonder if your attacks would be as vicious and nihilist if you dropped the cowardly mask of a pseudonym. I doubt it somehow.”

    Yes.

  27. Jonathan Hoffman Says:

    Your sanctimony is boundless AO and you have still failed to say why my letter is ‘absurd’. Or come out from behind that cowardly mask of anonymity.

    If you doubt that I spent hours trying to explain to Thacker over the last three months why Seven Jewish Children is antisemitic then you are even more absurd than I have surmised from this thread to date.

  28. PetraMB Says:

    Absolute Observer, I’m of course an outside observer when it comes to the British (or European) debate about antisemitism and Israel, so maybe I miss some of the nuances. That said — plus, as I said before, that I don’t feel I have answers — it seems to me that certainly in the UK, the position of people who oppose antisemitism and point to it when it occurs is rather dismal: they are continuously expected to be super polite and tiptoe around the sensitivities of people who would like to employ antisemitic language and tropes without being challenged.
    Let’s just take Churchill’s play and be real honest about it: the “counterplay” shouldn’t be “7 Other Children”, but it should be just as “in your face” as 7 Jewish Children is — with all the crude stereotypes about Muslims as terrorists, polygamists etc. that are peddled by the various “Jihad watchers” out there in cyberspace. None of the people, not a solitary single one of them, who now think it’s at best “debatable” if Churchill’s play is antisemitic would be willing to debate if such a counterplay would be “Islamophobic” – they would all just scream with indignation at the top of their lungs.
    The fact of the matter is plainly that over the past few years, it has become perfectly acceptable, even fashionable, in Europe, and certainly in the UK, to peddle antisemitic themes as long as you do it for the right, that is: left reasons. At the same time it seems to me the ways to counter antisemitism that are regarded as “polite” and “acceptable” have been circumscribed increasingly strictly, and my sense is that in places like e.g. the Guardian, many would have just as little respect for the views of Mark Gardner and Dave Rich of CST, or David Hirsh, as they have for Jonathan Hoffman. In other words, if you think that “good behavior” gets any rewards or is more effective, I can’t really see any signs of that.

  29. Gil Says:

    Well said Petra MB@4.01 and Israeli Nurse. ‘nuances’ are utterly absent from the Left’s vitriolic campaign against Israel from the Left.
    It’s also time to start preparing the next stage in the plan of attack against antisemitism for when (as it appears more and more likely) action will be taken against Iran; because what happened after Gaza on the streets of London will come to be seen as a picnic.

  30. Absolute Observer Says:

    OK Jonathan,
    I am bored, you have now been reduced to callling me names.

    You letter was absurd because your criticism of Freedland raising the question of antisemitism in Poland, was that, a he works for the Guaridan, and b. he thought voting for Livingstone was better than voting for a Tory candiditate.

    However, I will ask you one more time,

    “but the obvious question is if it achieves anything”
    “Apart from “doing something” what did you achieve from the meeting, Jonathan?”

    You say,

    “If you doubt that I spent hours trying to explain to Thacker over the last three months why Seven Jewish Children is antisemitic then you are even more absurd”

    So, you have chalked up one failure to convince even a single individual with whom you have been speaking to for hours.

    It would seem from the reports that the only effective speaker on those who were willing to listen on the subject of Churchill’s rancid little playlet was Gold, and not yourself.

    So, that’s two failures.

    (Perhaps, you may want to compare that to Engage’s involvement, along with others, in fighting the boycott motions in the AUT and UCu; you know the Union that does not have a boycott motion anymore).

    Rather than keep insulting me, maybe you would like to address these points and tell those reading this petit little squabble quite what it is you achieved at the Octagon and in Bolton? how you achieved it, and the lasting significance of this presumed achievement?

  31. Jonathan Hoffman Says:

    At last I get an answer on my JC letter – but what a pathetic answer:

    “Your letter was absurd because your criticism of Freedland raising the question of antisemitism in Poland, was that, a he works for the Guaridan”

    Wrong. My criticism was because he works for a newspaper with a blog that incubates and hosts antisemitic discourse. See my study of 18 months ago which is referenced on CiFWatch.com and see the material on that site.

    “and b. he thought voting for Livingstone was better than voting for a Tory candiditate”

    Wrong. My criticism was because Freedland felt able to support a candidate who had a record of antisemitic remarks.

    Now to my achievements in Bolton. The event was going to be a PSC-organised Israel hatefest, showing 7JC only – at a taxpayer-financed theatre. With the help of others I successfully insisted that 7OC was shown alongside 7JC and that panel members who were not PSC were included. I recruited those people. I raised the money (around £1000) to bring the 7OC cast from London. I spoke to many concerned people as the publicity of the event spread. I explained carefully to Thacker why it was antisemitic (and given his reaction to Merchant of Venice – see my piece in CiFWatch) I still cannot understand why he equivocated. I did a radio debate with him on BBC Manchester.

    The day itself: Bear in mind that this was more a medieval bearbaiting spectacle than a cultural event. Bear in mind what Zkharya said on the previous thread::

    ”I think this is like a mediaeval Christian-Jewish disputation. The Prosecution is centre stage and is baiting Jews to challenge it. … 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……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.”

    This was no Cambridge University debate about Israel This was not balanced and did not start on a level playing field. The presumption of Seven Jewish Children is that Jews teach their children to hate Arabs and grasp everything they can get. That is not a matter for polite debate, for honeyed tongues or for nuanced speech. That is something which must be resisted, protested about, named for what it is: vicious antisemitism. It is simply not up for debate, any more than the Ku Klux Klan’s racism is up for debate. As anyone who was there will tell you, I explained why it was antisemitic as well as other failings: it portrays Israeli parents as inhuman triumphalists who care little about anything except their children’s feelings and who teach them that Arabs are subhuman and must be hated. It is historically inaccurate. Specifically, it omits all mention of Jewish history prior to the Holocaust and fails to say that the Six-Day War was a defensive war (against Arab States committed to Israel’s eradication), following which Israel offered to return virtually all the land it had gained, in return for peace (Khartoum – 3 Noes; Peace, Recognition, Negotiation). Moreover, it excises from history the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, and ignores the sequel of more than 6000 rockets, launched with the sole aim of the indiscriminate killing of Israelis.

    Maybe some people expected a dramatic seminar. Maybe others expected a polite debate about Israel. They should have read the play first and the reviews, including mine on Harrys Place which was the first to appear.

    As Morten said on the earlier thread “At least they were made to feel uneasy at their own event and realised we’re not entirely a pushover”. Maybe as a result of our protest (and action still to come) other publicly funded theatres will think twice before performing this piece of racist hate.

    In short I made a difference, AO. And I did it in my own name – as opposed to cowering behind an assumed one.

  32. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Absolute Observer says, somewhat higher up this thread, that “Thacker and the Octagon are not antisemites. Calling people and institutions that are not antisemitic, antisemitic is both stupid and counter-productive (as well as exhibiting a failure to seriously understand the phenomenon of contemporary Jew-hatred).”

    Umm, “up to point, Lord Copper”…many threads back, someone provided a link to an article (in CiF, as I recall) by Gary Younge, a Guardian journalist who is, in ethnic terms, black. He noted that he was often accused of many things in his writings, things he ought not to be doing as a presumed liberal-left journalist. He noted of himself that he did indeed regard himself as liberal-left, but that he ignored all of these accusations, _except_ when he accused of antisemitism. This was because he felt that he might possiby be (_might_ be, not was) guilty of this, until he had satisfied himself otherwise.

    This was because he was sensitive to the threat of being or becoming (in _my_ words, not his) one of Nick Cohen’s “progressives”. His attitude and the arguments of James Hoffman and Richard Gold should bring us back to the EU definition of racism (and antisemitism) and the EUMC’s statement of who should be seen as the proper person to state when a racist or antisemitic situation has occurred: the victim.

    In this context, that of Churchill’s playlet and the Octagon’s staging of it, the victims are Jews: not Thacker, not the PSC, not even necessarily Absolute Observer, and certainly not Caryl Churchill and her claims that her playlet isn’t antisemitic. How can she possibly know? In the EUMC terms, she’s never going to be a victim of antisemitism, by definition.

    And AO is in no position to state with such conviction that David Thacker and the Octoagon Theatre are not antisemitic: how can he possibly know, unless he is a regular attendee at the Octagon and/or is personally acquainted with Thacker? Especially as he wasn’t at the event. We do keep arguing that mere assertion is not in itself enough without evidence, etc.

    Please note that I am not asserting that JH & RG are right & AO wrong, or vice versa: I wasn’t there, and I can’t know. But _they_ (and Israelinurse and Moreton were and so were some people of my acquaintance) and they appear remarkably unanimous in their view of the situation.

    • Richard Gold Says:

      Brian. I was there v, i heard David thacker , i spoke to him beforehand (where he agreed with me about there being a problem of people slipping into antisemitic rehetoric. He was way out of his depth with the whole event, he’s not the most savvy of guys. But he’s certainly not an antisemite.

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        Richard, I’m sure Thacker isn’t antisemitic, not least because you say so and you are in a position to know, but please note the nuance of my comment: how can Absolute Observer be so sure when _he_ wasn’t there. He is making claims on what appear to be no basis whatsoever, unless he has knowledge he isn’t revealing. If he does have such knowledge, he should reveal it.

  33. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Further to my comment: I haven’t seen the playlet performed, but I _have_ read it, and I do regard it as antisemitic.

  34. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    The link I referred to above, re Gary Younge, is to be found (Engage’s own archive search engine says) iamong the comments to the following article:

    engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/03/20/chris-of-cafe-crema-responds/

    Note that there are 164 comments: I failed to find the link on a trawl through all of those comments, but it is (or should be) there somewhere.

    Anyway, it’s late, my time, and I’m off to bed to read all those reports of the game my wonderful Leicester Tigers won yesterday (rugby union, for ther uninitiated, and especially those from non-rugby playing countries).


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