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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Loving to hate Israel

Two weeks ago, I did a post about the BBC rejecting the radio version of a brief anti-Israel play because it was biased. That play was called Seven Jewish children.

Unfortunately, the play - framed as a discussion among Jewish parents from the Holocaust to the present day - has now made it to New York City, where it is playing to mostly enthusiastic audiences in all the 'right' circles.

Much of the night at the theater is apparently a discussion that takes place after the play. So the play is actually available online and I am embedding it below. This is from the Chicago production of the play. Let's go to the videotape. Here's Part I:

Here's Part II:

This is Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal:
Just what is this supposed to mean? Michael Billington of the Guardian grasped Ms. Churchill's point when he wrote that the play captured "the transition that has overtaken Israel, to the point where security has become the pretext for indiscriminate slaughter." Ms. Churchill herself has written that she "wanted [the play] in some small way to reflect the shock and enormity of what happened in Gaza. I think it does that relatively mildly." (My emphasis again.)

All this makes perfect sense -- provided you're willing to reduce the Arab-Israeli conflict to caricature, magnify it to the exclusion of all others, assign blame (and moral agency) wholly to one side, and suppose that Israelis use the memory of the Holocaust cynically or neurotically as an alibi for gratuitous and wanton bloodletting.

In other words, if you're prepared to manipulate history as dishonestly as our vile little "play" about black America does, then it's easy to draw a damning moral. And if you're clever enough to cast the indictment as a story about some blacks or some Jews, or as one of generational decadence, then you might also acquit yourself of charges of racism or anti-Semitism, since you can point to a few Jews or blacks worthy of your considered respect.

Of course Ms. Churchill does just that, even as she mocks Jewish claims to statehood ("Tell her her great great great great lots of greats grandad lived there"). Of course she cites the authority of Israel's many internal dissenters and Jewish critics as another method of self-justification, thereby using Israel's own openness as a club with which to bludgeon it. Yet if you say, for instance, that Israel is a fascist state and cite the testimony of Israelis who freely argue as much, then you have done nothing except instantly disprove your own premise.

But logic is not the issue here, nor, really, are the facts: Try arguing either with someone determined to ignore them. The issue is about taboo -- a word easy to mock until you realize it often upholds what is best in society. Racism has become taboo in American society, and that's a very good thing. Anti-Semitism used to be taboo, but that's been eroded by an obsessive criticism of Israel that seems to borrow freely from the classic anti-Semitic repertoire ("tell her they're filth") while adopting the brilliant trick of treating Jewish victimization as a moral ideal from which modern Israel has sadly deviated.
At the Huffington Post Richard Chesnoff adds:
In fact, while it is arguably political drama, I am puzzled how anyone would see it as pure art - especially when it deals with so complicated an issue as the Mideast conflict.

Indeed, why choose to comment on this most recent phase of the decades old conflict by restricting it to a supposed discussion between Jewish/Israeli parents, especially repulsive one who are far from representative of Israeli parents who generally preach peace to their children - not war.

More to the point, why examine the Gaza battles and totally ignore the supposed thoughts of Palestinian Gaza parents who allow their children to be systematically taught to hate Christians as well as Jews, whose children are told that there must never, ever be peace with Israelis, whose children are exhorted from toddlership that there is no higher Palestinian goal than to strap an explosive belt around one's waist and then venture forth to murder as many Jewish men, women and children as possible.

The answer is because Ms Churchill, like her Hamas friends, is not interested in promoting true Mideast peace. I don't believe she's even that interested in defending all those hapless Palestinians she claims to identify with (she has forfeited any claim to royalties for this play in exchange for audience contributions to Palestinian medical welfare).

What interests her most, like a dangerously increasing number of left wing Britons, is to strike out at Israelis and Israeli actions, and in doing so to question the Jewish state's very validity. In the end, Churchill has produced a let's-hate-the-Israelis piece of political propaganda disguised as avant-garde drama.

Her work is a sad reflection of a growing tendency among "progressive intellectuals" here as well as abroad not merely to criticize specific Israeli government policies - their perfect right, even obligation - but to openly challenge Israel as such, to challenge its very right to exist as a Jewish state more than 60 years after its renaissance was ratified by the vast majority of the family of nations.

Indeed, it is increasingly chic in supposedly intellectual circles to claim "I'm not anti-Semitic, I'm merely anti-Zionist".

If that means "I disagree with certain Israeli government policies" - than calling oneself "an anti-Zionist", is a dangerous misnomer. Lord knows most of the people of Zionist Israel sharply disagree with their government's policies at one time or another. However, if by "anti-Zionist" one questions Israel's very legality, then this Zionist would argue the term is nothing more than a camouflage for anti-Semitism: it is denying to Jews the right that all nations have to a home on their ancestral land, even if, as in the case of Israel, they must share that land with another people that clearly doesn't want to share it.

Like so many who now proudly define themselves as "anti-Zionists", Caryl Churchill simply loves to hate Israel. And that isn't art.
But it's not just Britain and the phenomenon is not limited to sympathizing with the 'Palestinian' cause. On Thursday, I blogged an article by the Jerusalem Post's Khaled Abu Toameh (who is not Jewish), in which he reported that students on American college campuses are more pro-Hamas than the 'Palestinians' themselves.
The so-called pro-Palestinian “junta” on the campuses has nothing to offer other than hatred and de-legitimization of Israel. If these folks really cared about the Palestinians, they would be campaigning for good government and for the promotion of values of democracy and freedom in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Their hatred for Israel and what it stands for has blinded them to a point where they no longer care about the real interests of the Palestinians, namely the need to end the anarchy and lawlessness, and to dismantle all the armed gangs that are responsible for the death of hundreds of innocent Palestinians over the past few years.

The majority of these activists openly admit that they have never visited Israel or the Palestinian territories. They don’t know -and don’t want to know - that Jews and Arabs here are still doing business together and studying together and meeting with each other on a daily basis because they are destined to live together in this part of the world. They don’t want to hear that despite all the problems life continues and that ordinary Arab and Jewish parents who wake up in the morning just want to send their children to school and go to work before returning home safely and happily.

What is happening on the U.S. campuses is not about supporting the Palestinians as much as it is about promoting hatred for the Jewish state. It is not really about ending the “occupation” as much as it is about ending the existence of Israel.
Unfortunately, I do not believe that there is any hope of moving the Left to be pro-Israel unless we are willing to return to a socialist economy - something most Israelis are loathe to do. If 9/11 didn't move the Left into Israel's corner, it's not likely that anything else will. The Left has fallen lock, stock and barrel for Islamic fascism.

We Jews who support Israel should be allying with the moderate and conservative Right (I say that to exclude the Pat Buchanan's of the Right) to fight the sort of anti-Israel virulence that this play reflects and that has become chic in the West today. While we must have faith that God will ultimately save us, we also need to make our own effort to point ourselves in the Right direction (double entendre intentional).

Passover is rapidly approaching. Recall that the Sea did not split immediately for the Jewish people. It took a Nachshon ben Aminadav to go into the water up to his neck before God split the Sea. We need to make a start.

There's an alternative play called Seven Muslim Children (which is actually much more even-handed) here. (12-page pdf link).


At 6:30 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

I'm on the Right and I'm going to say the obvious: socialism doesn't work and that's why the Israeli Left is headed for extinction. Post-Zionism has largely been a replacement ideology for socialism but it too has no real staying power because it even more a cliche than socialism was. The only real source of hope Israel has left is Judaism and its a bugaboo with a Left that dismisses religion as the relic of a by-gone era. Israel is hated because its Jewish now and its also hated because it stopped being progressive. And its refusal to commit national suicide damns it with those who think is Islam is the new wave of the future. "Learning to hate Israel" is the expression of the zeitgeist of our time. Given its ugly reappearance in the West, there is really nothing Israel can or should do to win back the Left. Israel faces the growing threat from Iran, terrorist proxies and attacks on its legitimacy and existence and needs to form new political alliances. And unfortunately, the US Jewish Community do to its Leftist orientation, is the one element Israel should - but probably can't count on in navigating the turbulent storms that lie ahead.


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