Thursday, December 05, 2013

Blatant anti-semitism on stage in London ("From Here to Eternity")

Long-term readers of this blog will know that I was motivated to start the blog by the incessant and obsessive anti-Israel bias I kept coming across at cultural events in London. Over the years I have reported on many of these. Notwithstanding the fact that much of this anti-Israel activity is intrinsically anti-Semitic, I actually do not recall witnessing any blatant (non-Israel related) antisemitism. That was until Monday night when I went to see Tim Rice's musical "From Here to Eternity" (about American soldiers in Hawaii just prior to the Pearl Harbour attack), at the Shaftsbury Theatre .... and discovered that Tim Rice has also created a 1940s Shylock - without the redeeming features and without any justification from the perspective of the storyline. I am actually not normally bothered by this type of thing, but it was so blatant and so totally unnecessary that I have actually fired off a complaint to the theatre.

Most people have seen or heard of the Oscar-winning 1953 film of the same name, but few will know that the 1951 book by James Jones on which it was based, was banned because of its explicit sex. While the film retained the heterosexual scenes it removed all references to the homosexual activity, The play reintroduces these as it does a minor character - a soldier by the name of Isaac Bloom. As in the book Bloom is a Jew - and disliked for it,  being called a  "Jew boy", "Kike" etc. I don't have a problem with that because, in a similar vein, the play portrays the anti-Pole and anti-Italian mindset of the typical soldier. As in the book Bloom is also a homosexual. But for reasons that only Tim Rice can explain he has decided he also wanted to introduce a really evil soldier into the play. And that was also Bloom. And not just evil, but also a coward, a liar, and a snitch. In the play Bloom turns out to be the soldier who, having been caught by the Military Police in a gay bar, earns his personal freedom by revealing the names of all the other soldiers who were present. When confronted with this by the hero Pru, Bloom says something like "yeah that's typical, always accusing the Jew of being the snitch" which in other contexts might be seen to be exposing antisemitism. Except, because here it was true, it actually is an example of gratuitous antisemitism. For the audience Bloom is indeed a stereotypical evil queer Jew. And in case the audience 'still did not get it' Bloom then pulls out a knife and attacks the hero Pru with it. When the ensuing fight is broken up by the sergeant, Pru gets Bloom 'off the hook' by saying that no knife was used. Shortly afterwards the evil Bloom kills himself by firing a gun into his mouth. Now compare this portrayal of Bloom with what James Jones' daughter Kaylie Jones says about the character, and his suicide, in a recent interview

One soldier, Bloom, realizes he enjoys sex with men, and is so terrified and ashamed of being gay and of being called on it, that he commits suicide. The sin and the shame, it seems, are not associated with the act itself or even in getting paid for it, but in whether or not a soldier enjoys it. My father saw the total hypocrisy and ridiculousness of this and Bloom’s death is portrayed as a tragedy, absurd and unnecessary.  
In stark contrast the only thing portrayed in Bloom's death in the play was that the evil Jew bastard deserved it. At least Shakespeare endowed a modicum of sympathy in Shylock, but there was nothing to redeem Bloom.

The question I would like to ask Tim Rice is not why he decided to introduced a new evil character and make that character not just a Jew but the only Jew in the play (plenty of writers have done that for generations). I would not even bother asking him why he would introduce such a character when such a character was irrelevant to the main plot (again plenty of writers have introduced the token evil Jew just for the heck of it). The question I would ask is: would he even have thought about introducing a similar character from some other ethnic minority, such as, for example a Muslim, or a Black. He would not of course. But Jews, it seems, are safe and therefore fair game. And that is why Tim Rice has got away with as blatant a piece of 'cultural' antisemitic stereotyping as you will see anywhere outside the Muslim world.


Genie said...

the term anti-semitism is reserved for Semites, if you please.It's the Europeans calling themselves "Jews" who are the anti-semites which makes the real Semites...Arabs... victims of anti-semitism.

Anonymous said...

Hello Genie - you are correct to say that Arabs are also Semites, as they were decended from Shem - son of Noah. However, you are wrong to label 'Jews' as anti semites, as wherever they come from they descended from Isaac, and not Ishmael. Its usually the sons of Ismael who vilify the Jewish character. Its not alright to do this,and modern anti-semitsm is definately hostility toward Jews. Did Hitler try to annihalate Arabs? Think about it.

Daphne Anson said...

The statement 'it's the Europeans calling themselves "Jews"...' is egregiously antisemitic for reasons that anyone with more than a room temperate IQ will understand. And Genie should know that the term antisemitism was coined in the late 19th century by the German judeophobe Wilhelm Marr to refer to Jews - not Arabs - just Jews. That is how the term was intended, and thus that is how the term has been and is always used.