My daughter, who goes to an orthodox Jewish school, tells me that, when the subject of Israel is discussed in their Jewish studies GCSE class, students routinely state things like "the Jews have no right to Israel because they stole the land from the Palestinians".
In making statements like that, those regular 15-16 year old Jewish kids, are simply repeating what they are told relentlessly in every part of the media (as I have regularly reported on this web). In the midst of the big story of revolution across the entire Arab world (funny how the media is suddenly realising that these Arab countries were abusing their citizens for decades - they have been telling us all along that Israel is the pariah state in the region) the BBC and Channel 4 has gone into overdrive ... to demonize Israel. Just a few examples of the anti-Israel tsunami engulfing British TV, in the last few days alone we have had:
- Scandalous BBC 'documentary' attacking Geert Wilders that also promoted the view that anybody supporting the State of Israel in any way was a criminal
- The Promise, on Channel 4, which Richard Millett sums up as ‘rich European Jews came to Palestine after the Holocaust, stole the Palestinians’ land and murdered British soldiers’.
- A film War Child, on Channel 4, about ‘Jews killing innocent Palestinians'
- The Richard Dimbleby Lecture on BBC Tuesday 15th Feb 2011 about 'the rights of children' given by the author Richard Morpurgo which included a very strong political anti-Israel message plus the completely unsubstantiated and ridiculous claim that Israeli soldiers were shooting at Arab children in Gaza like in a computer game (yeah, like Arabs never lie about these things - just like they claimed a demonstrator was recently killed by tear gas).
I went yesterday. Was delighted, as were most of the Jews in the audience, that the discussion afterwards did not become an Arab/Israeli debate. One person did speak out (pro-Palestinian) and tried to make it political...and the audience (vast vast vast majority being non-Jewish Richmondites - retirees who enjoy theatre) were annoyed by his trying to turn a theatrical performance into a political debate. So it actually worked against him...and, to a limited extent, for Israel! The Director - rightly in my view - said that the post-show discussion was to discuss the play NOT the politics (which will be discussed on the Sat "workshop" - which is the only thing I have real issue with). Of the Jews present, most were from Wimbledon Reform - primarily as one of their members was one of the key characters.Here are the things that disturb me about what he wrote
Most of the discussion - as it should have been - was about the play itself, its staging and the characters portrayed.
I did find much of the content disturbing - although relieved that (albeit in short supply) the counter-arguments were also made within the text - and certain scenes I was slightly offended by (then again, I suppose the author has the right to write what he wants). Viewed as a piece of theatre...it did its job well. It was thought provoking. My guess is that it would only be the real "self-hating Jews" (those who can see nothing good in what Israel does) and the "blind Jews" (those who can only see the good in Israel and are not prepared to consider the other side) that would have any major issue with the production...in part because it revolves around one character who is obviously a troubled individual (in his personal life) and his political stance is obviously fuelled by other life issues rather than being a rational political stance.
It's not enjoyable theatre...but it is good theatre. I didn't emerge invigorated. I wasn't pushed to the left or the right as a result. I was intrigued by the simplicity of the post-show discussion. I was proud that there were no counter-productive rants. I was thrilled that the one radical view expressed was from the other side (and the mutterings I overheard as people left the theatre were all about the show and that one "idiot")...
- He completely misses the whole context of what is going on here. Terrible massacres have been carried out on a daily basis by Muslim terrorists - often supported by governments - for decades. Take a look here at a log of all terrorist attacks in recent decades; for example, since 9/11 alone there have been 16,839 deadly attacks by Muslims. Terrible massacres are also carried out routinely in many countries of the world. Israel has especially been the victim of terrorist attacks (indeed there were several massacres against Israelis in the days immediately prior to what happened in Hebron). Hebron itself was the scene of one of the worst massacres of Jews by Arabs in 1929 (that was 19 years before the State of Israel).
- None of those massacres was ever used as the basis for a play, let alone a play to criticise Muslims or Arabs. Yet the one and only terrorist act committed by a Jew in Israel in recent decades merits a play. And it is not just this play. Of all the 'political' plays that have been staged in the UK in the last 5 years that are focused on criticism of a foreign country I would bet that at least 90% of them have been about Israel. This is despite the fact that, as recent events demonstrate, Israel is the only country in the Middle East which provides its citizens with freedom and democracy. When did you last see a play critical of: Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Tunisia, Morroco, Algeria (or any one of the world's 58 Muslim countries), not to mention the tyrannies that still exist in Eastern Europe, as well as China, Burma etc?
- Nobody is questioning the right of the playwrite to produce and say whatever they want, but we have every right to question why playwrites and theatre directors are ONLY interested in political plays that are anti-Israel. That should be the context for any debate about this play.
- Given that Jews were effectively barred from the 'political' debate at the Saturday workshop, I am concerned at Joe's cowering acceptance that he had no right to raise any political objections to the play. How the hell do you discuss, for a political play like this, "the play itself, its staging and the characters portrayed" without the political context?
- I am concered at Joe's casual and quite offensive suggestion of moral equivalence between anti-Israel fanatics (whose greatest wish in life is to see the violent destruction of the State of Israel) and people who simply love Israel and don't feel the need to have to swallow all of the lies and proganda told against it.
- I am concerned that pro-Israel supporters are giving this kind of play far more prominence and support than it deserves.