Now I’ve got your attention. Well, Goldberg’s head didn’t exactly explode. But he did–shockingly I might add–discover an anti-Semitic blood libel going on right under our noses. And we never even knew!
Yes, the distinguished English playwright Caryl Churchill has written a 10 minute meditation on the meaning of Zionism in the aftermath of the recent Gaza attack, Seven Jewish Children (read script–pdf). The theater piece is provocative, no question. It raises all sorts of questions about how Jews should respond to both their history (i.e. the Holocaust), the modern state of Israel, and its treatment of the Palestinians.
What partisans like Goldberg want you to believe is that it is impermissible to remind Jews that because they were the victims of the Shoah that they should be supremely sensitive to victimizing another people. That is treif by Goldberg. The Shoah is unique. It is the Jews’ beautiful burden to bear before the world. It must never be referenced except in its own right and context. Never compare it to anything else because it was incomparable. No one suffers as we suffered. No one can ever suffer as we suffered. To even whisper that we can cause suffering to others that even begins to come close to rivaling what we suffered is a shande. Shame on you!
Here is the most disturbing final passage, which is what Golberg objects to:
Tell her the Hamas fighters have been killed
Tell her they’re terrorists
Tell her they’re filth
Don’t tell her about the family of dead girls
Tell her you can’t believe what you see on television
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 policemen, tell her they’re animals
living in rubble now, 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
blood and what do I feel? tell her all I feel is happy it’s not her.
Don’t tell her that.
Tell her we love her.
Don’t frighten her.
Is this troubling? Yes. But is this language that was never uttered by Israelis in discussing Gaza? No. Is Churchill making things up out of whole cloth? No. Are these ideas common to many Jews and Israelis? Certainly. In fact, you could read far worse hate published by commenters to this blog (or to be more accurate, comments Israel supporters attempted to publish, as some were so hateful and vicious they never saw the light of day).
I call Seven Children a meditation because to call it a play is misleading. It’s not a linear narrative with defined characters. It’s a series of thoughts, slogans and ideas thrown up against each other. There is dissonance, there is anger, there is heedlessness, there is hatred, there is love. And contrary to Goldberg’s head-exploding claim that this is a blood libel, nothing could be farther from the truth.
Boy and girls, no Jews are being killed at the Royal Court Theater where this piece is currently running. No one is shouting “Death to Jews” when they leave the theater. No one will hate Israel (unless they already do) after seeing this play.
What’s really troubling Jeffrey Goldberg about Seven Children? That people will be forced to think thoughts about Israel, some unpleasant thoughts. That they will ask questions, unpleasant questions. That they will grapple with difficult questions of rights and wrongs. That they won’t have any pat answers and certainly not ones that end up by patting viewers on the back for their easy support for Israel in its current predicament.
That’s the problem with the querulous pro-Israel crowd like Goldberg: there are blood-libelers under every bed and nowhere for Jews to run, nowhere to hide. It’s really a tiresome attitude that infantilizes Jews and Israel. Goldberg’s approach would have the world eating pablum and teething biscuits when it comes to discussing the hard, intractable questions about the Israeli-Arab conflict. In fact, Churchill’s play perfectly encapsulates this attitude in advice it proffers to adults about what they should say about the conflict to the “child:”
Tell her she can’t watch the news
Tell her she can watch cartoons
Tell her she can stay up late and watch Friends.
Tell her they’re attacking with rockets
Don’t frighten her
Tell her only a few of us have been killed
Tell her the army has come to our defence
Goldberg is of the camp that we can’t tell “her” anything. Not only that, but the world can’t tell her anything either. Protect her from the unpleasantness at all costs. And anyone like Churchill who threatens to break through the protective shield is a blood-libeler.
It appears Goldberg’s “blood-libel” slogan was derived from a post at the Trotskyite pro-Israel Harry’s Place blog. Which should teach him something about that blog’s level of histrionics. Both Harry’s Place & Goldberg should remember the story about the boy who cried wolf once too often. After a while, everyone turned their backs and said: “There he goes again.” And that was the time he needed to be believed most.
The Times story reveals that James Nicola’s New York Theater Workshop is contemplating bringing this piece to New York. He is the very same who buckled under imaginary pressure and refused to produce Rachel Corrie when it was offered to him. Though Corrie wasn’t a very good play, that wasn’t the reason he refused it. He refused it because he was afraid is was too provocative and would be too offensive to New York’s Jewish population.
The problem Nicola has here is that Churchill’s piece is not a bad play. It is a very good and provocative play. And because it is a play that carefully represents many conflicting emotions and points of view (as opposed to agit prop), it is even more challenging than Rachel Corrie was. If he couldn’t deal with Corrie how will he deal with this?