There's a debate going on as to whether Caryl Churchill’s play “Seven Jewish Children" is anti-Semitic. It's my view that it really doesn't matter how you describe this despicable piece. People whose intentions are clearly anti-Semitic are certainly using it and unsurprisingly, it has received a following from a small group of Jews who have aligned themselves politically with those who want to see an end to Israel.
The play is being performed at Melbourne's State Library this evening under the aegis of Australians for Palestine.What follows is the wording from a pamphlet critical of the play and prepared initially for distribution outside London's Royal Court Theatre, which recently promoted Churchill's play. The same theatre refused to accept a production of Richard Stirling's "Seven Other Children" - a response to Churchill that looked at how the history of the conflict was being distorted by the Palestinian side and of the damage being done to their children by this indoctrination. The associate director of the Royal Court, told Stirling that he would "think twice" about staging a play critical of Islam:
Just like any other open Western democracy, Israel should not be immune to valid criticisms of its government and their policies.
Legitimate criticism of Israel is NOT anti-Semitic.
What is anti-Semitic though is Caryl Churchill’s play “Seven Jewish Children”.
Although apparently about Israel, ‘Seven Jewish Children’ is in fact a direct attack on Jews.
It tells them in effect that they are to be held responsible for the fact that in Israel Jews have supposedly turned into Nazis. Indeed, the title ‘Seven Jewish children’ makes that explicit.
There are seven scenes in which notional adults are said to be explaining to seven Jewish children, in an oblique fashion, seminal episodes in modern Jewish and Israeli history – the Holocaust, its aftermath in Europe, the creation of the State of Israel, the Six-Day War, theSecond Intifada and operation Cast Lead in Gaza. The underlying message is that the Jews who started out as victims of the Nazis – when they were Good, apparently, because they were Victims and even better were Dead Victims – then claimed the land of Israel out of a sense of their own superiority, dispossessed its rightful Arab inhabitants and ever since have set about killing them out of instincts of rapacious colonialism, hatred and blood-lust.
There is of course no acknowledgement of Jewish history before the Holocaust. No acknowledgement of the unique and historic Jewish claim to the land of Israel, which ledthe great powers in 1920 to commit themselves to re-establishing within it the Jewish national home. Instead:
Tell her, of course tell her, tell her everyone was driven out and the country is waiting for us to come home
Don’t tell her she doesn’t belong here
Tell her of course she likes it here but she’ll like it there even more.
Tell her it’s an adventure
Tell her no-one will tease her
Tell her she’ll have new friends
Tell her she can take her toys
Tell her she’s a special girl
Tell her about Jerusalem.
Note that ‘special’. It’s still the giveaway, isn’t it -- the old, old resentment at ‘the chosen people’. That’s the only reason, apparently, why the Jews feel entitled to claim this land and dispossess its ‘rightful’ inhabitants:
Tell her this wasn’t their home...
Don’t tell her who used to live in this house
No but don’t tell her her great great grandfather used to live in this house
No but don’t tell her Arabs used to sleep in the bedroom
No acknowledgement – indeed, apparently a denial even – of the fact that Jews did indeed maintain an unbroken inhabitation of pre-Israel Palestine, with a Jewish majority in Jerusalem from the mid-nineteenth century onwards. No acknowledgement that many of the Arabs living in Israel when the State was established in 1948 had only arrived there in the preceding decades on the back of the Jewish immigrants -- who had started to arrive not after the Holocaust, as Churchill suggests, but from the late 19th century onwards – and who were bringing new prosperity with them.
No mention of the fact that in the vast majority of cases until that point, those formerly Arab houses subsequently inhabited by Jews had been sold to them, legally and openly, by largely absentee Arab landlords. No acknowledgement of the fact that – as some Arabs have candidly admitted – the reason why Arabs no longer slept in some of those bedroomsafter 1948 was that they were told by the Arab states to leave their homes while the Arab armies destroyed the State of Israel at birth.
Don’t tell her she can’t play with the children
Don’t tell her she can have them in the house...
No acknowledgement of the equal civil and political rights for Arabs within Israel. No acknowledgement of the fact that there are Arab members of the Knesset, Arab students in Israeli universities and Arabs – including those from Gaza -- receiving equal treatment in Israeli hospitals. Instead, the big lie of institutionalised Jewish prejudice.
Tell her again this is our promised land
Don’t tell her they said it was a land without people
But no-one ever did say this.
What was said was ‘a people without a land for a land without a people’. The indefinite article is crucial. No-one ever denied there were people in the (sparsely populated) land when the Jews started to return at the end of the nineteenth century. No-one ever denied the majority of those were Arabs. But these Arabs were not a people particular to Palestine. They had no specific Palestinian nationality, culture, language or religion – because there wasn’t one. They regarded themselves variously as belonging to a generic Arab people, or to Syria or Egypt or from wherever they came in later years. Indeed, ‘Palestinian’ was the adjective then applied to the Jews who were living there.
It was the Jews who were a people who were without a land. The Arabs of Palestine were not a people. That’s why the saying sometimes took the form: ‘a nation without a land for a land without a nation’.
From the fifth scene, apparently about the Six-Day War, this evil travesty steadily ratchets up the scale of the lies and the consequent incitement to hatred.
Tell her we won
Tell her her brother’s a hero
Tell her how the tanks rolled in
Tell her how big their armies are
Tell her we turned them back Tell her we’re fighters
Tell her we’ve got new land
No acknowledgement that the Six-Day War was a defensive war. No acknowledgement that, after it was over, Israel offered to return virtually all the territories it had conquered in return for peace – an offer rejected in August 1967 at Khartoum, where the Arab leaders issued their ‘three noes’ response: no peace with Israel, no negotiation with Israel, and no recognition of Israel. Instead, the wicked suggestion that Israel was not the prospective victim of annihilation but the aggressor.
And of course, no mention that the occupation has ended in Gaza – and the outcome has been more than 6000 Arab rockets fired at Jewish families in order to kill them. And so it follows that ‘the occupation’ is presented as the big lie: a regime of unbridled aggression and malice by the Jews towards the Arabs.
Don’t tell her the trouble about the swimming pool
Tell her it’s our water, we have the right
Tell her it’s not the water for their fields...
Don’t tell her not to look at the bulldozer
Don’t tell her it was knocking the house down
Tell her it’s a building site...
Don’t tell her about the queues at the checkpoint...
Don’t tell her they throw stones
Tell her they’re not much good against tanks
Don’t tell her that
Don’t tell her they set off bombs in cafes
Tell her, tell her they set off bombs in cafes...
Tell her they want to drive us into the sea
Tell her we kill far more of them...
Tell her we’re stronger
Tell her we’re entitled
Tell her they don’t understand anything except violence
Tell her we want peace
Tell her we’re going swimming
No acknowledgement of the aid and facilities provided by the Jews to the Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza, even while their inhabitants are trying to commit human bomb attacks or firing rockets against Jews; instead the lie that the Jews are maliciously depriving the Arabs of the means to sustain life. No acknowledgement that house demolition (taught to the Jews by the British as an anti-Arab terror tactic) is used against terrorists who use their houses as bomb factories and its purpose is solely as a deterrent against terrorism; instead the lie that the Jews are maliciously destroying Arab homes. No acknowledgement that the checkpoints exist solely because of Arab murder attacks against Jews; instead the lie that the Jews are gratuitously causing hardship to the Arabs.
And then, more disgustingly still, the suggestion that the Jews kill and persecute the Arabs out of some kind of strutting power complex, and that while they pay lip-service to peace they idle away their time in their swimming pools.
Thus the Jewish state, desperate for peace and institutionally traumatised from six decades of exterminatory attrition directed at it solely for the crime of existing, has its victimisation not only erased but turned against it in a systematic inversion of truth and lies.
Thus the stage is now set for the spigot of hatred against the Jews to be fully opened in the seventh and final scene:
Tell her the Hamas fighters have been killed
Tell her they’re terrorists
Tell her they’re filth...
Tell her we killed the babies by mistake
Don’t tell her anything about the army
Tell her, tell her about the army, tell her to be proud of the army.
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? tell her there’s dead babies, did she see babies?
Tell her she’s got nothing to be ashamed of.
Tell her they did it to themselves.
Tell her they want their children killed to make people sorry for them, tell her I’m not sorry for them, tell her not to be sorry for them, tell her we’re the ones to be sorry for, tell her they can’t talk suffering to us.
Tell her we’re the iron fist now, tell her it’s the fog of war, tell her we won’t stop killing them till we’re safe, tell her I laughed when I saw the dead policeman, tell her I wouldn’t care if we wiped them out, the world would hate us is the only thing, tell her I don’t care if the world hates us,
tell her we’re better haters,tell her we’re chosen people, tell her I look at one of their children covered in bloodand what do I feel?
Tell her all I feel is happy it’s not her.
So here we have the blood libel finally out in the open. With no acknowledgement of Israel’s claim that the vast majority killed in Gaza were male terrorists, and with the suggestion that the Jews are lying when they say that Hamas used their own children as bomb fodder, the inflammatory focus instead is solely upon dead babies. The Jews are presented as literally dehumanised, with the claim that they feel no pity or sorrow for the babies they have killed because they assert they have a monopoly on suffering; indeed, they supposedly laugh at those they have killed. And the portrayal of Jews as not only monstrous child-killers but‘better haters’ because they are the ‘chosen people’ is straight out of the hallucinatory lexicons of medieval Jew-hatred.
This is an open vilification of the Jewish people, not merely repeatedly perpetrating incendiary lies about Israel but demonstrably and openly drawing upon an atavistic hatred of the Jews.
It is sickening and dreadful beyond measure that the Royal Court theatre is staging this. It is not a contribution to a necessarily polarised and emotional debate. It is open incitement to hatred. In the Middle Ages, ‘mystery plays’ which portrayed the Jews as the demonic killers of Christ helped fuel the murderous pogroms against the Jews ofEurope. With this piece by Caryl Churchill, the Royal Court is staging a modern ‘mystery play’.
It is a despicable act.