The war is over, let the wars begin


British writers have a way of wrapping a shiv in the softest of silks, one I can only hope in my dreams to emulate.

Howard Jacobson, writing in London’s Independent, eviscerates his nation’s (and for that matter, his employer’s) mind meld when it comes to Israel: How the febrile comparisons of Israel’s recent action in Gaza to the Holocaust amount to a denial more insidious than that peddled by the world’s Richard Williamsons and David Irvings. There’s a morality, however perverse, to conventional denials: Arguing that the Holocaust did not take place at all at least implies its evil.

In contrast, Caryl Churchill’s disgusting play,  "Seven Jewish Children," now playing at London’s Royal Court theatre, divests itself of morality by acknowledging the Holocaust – and implying that the Jews deserved it.

Jacobson says it better:

Berating Jews with their own history, disinheriting them of pity, as though pity is negotiable or has a sell-by date, is the latest species of Holocaust denial, infinitely more subtle than the David Irving version with its clunking body counts and quibbles over gas-chamber capability and chimney sizes. Instead of saying the Holocaust didn’t happen, the modern sophisticated denier accepts the event in all its terrible enormity, only to accuse the Jews of trying to profit from it, either in the form of moral blackmail or downright territorial theft. According to this thinking, the Jews have betrayed the Holocaust and become unworthy of it, the true heirs to their suffering being the Palestinians. Thus, here and there throughout the world this year, Holocaust day was temporarily annulled or boycotted on account of Gaza, dead Jews being found guilty of the sins of live ones.

Anti-Semitism? Absolutely not. It is “criticism” of Israel, pure and simple. A number of variations on the above sophistical nastiness have been fermenting in the more febrile of our campuses for some time. One particularly popular version, pseudo-scientific in tone, understands Zionism as a political form given to a psychological condition – Jews visiting upon others the traumas suffered by themselves, with Israel figuring as the torture room in which they do it. This is is pretty well the thesis of Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children, an audacious 10-minute encapsulation of Israel’s moral collapse – the audacity residing in its ignorance or its dishonesty – currently playing at the Royal Court. The play is conceived in the form of a family roundelay, with different voices chiming in with suggestions as to the best way to bring up, protect, inform, and ultimately inflame into animality an unseen child in each of the chosen seven periods of contemporary Jewish history. It begins with the Holocaust, partly to establish the playwright’s sympathetic bona fides (“Tell her not to come out even if she hears shouting”), partly to explain what has befallen Palestine, because no sooner are the Jews out of the hell of Hitler’s Europe than they are constructing a parallel hell for Palestinians.

What baffles me about tripe-peddlers like Churchill is that their crap serves only to obscure substantive criticisms of Israel’s actions. These are now emerging in considerations of war crimes. Atlantic Monthly blogger Andrew Sullivan wraps up a number of accounts here; the most detailed, the alleged shooting of an unarmed woman bearing the white flag of surrender, is reported by the Los Angeles Times.

Also at  the Atlantic, editor James Bennet describes his encounters with Nizar Rayyan, the terrorist who revived the literal meaning of child sacrifice and who was killed – along with much of his family – during Israel’s action.

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