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Sunday, 25 October 2009

Seven Jewish Children, Numberless Jewish Traitors

It’s about 18 months since I last visited The  Octagon Theatre, Bolton. It was to see a fairly pedestrian production of   Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Now I find that Miller’s equally brilliant All My Sons has been hijacked by local Israel haters as part of a so-called ‘investigation’.

Miller, a proud if religiously non-observant Jew, was among the great English-language playwrights of the 20th century. As usual, Jews who seem  scared of being disliked by playground bullies,  today topped the bill of a Lancashire farce at the Octagon directed by the Manchester Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

The theatre hosted  a performance of  Seven Jewish Children by Caryl Churchill, labelled antisemitic by critics  and the simultaneous performance of Seven Other Children, the Jewish response to Churchill’s ‘opus’.

Even as I write (Sabbath or not!) Jonathan Hoffman,   Zionist Federation vice chairman  and Richard Gold of Engage were due to be on hand in an attempt to counter the remarks of  five pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel speakers during a four-hour debate.

Like the attempted supermarket boycott I highlighted last week, it is typical of Israel’s foes that  Saturday  was chosen for this event as  many Orthodox Jews neither could nor would go on a Sabbath afternoon. It was hoped that Christian Friends of Israel would be there to state Israel’s case.

The pro-Palestinians included South African-born Richard Kuper, Chairman and Publications Officer of Jews for Justice for Palestinians and Linda Clair, Chairman of the Manchester Palestine Solidarity Campaign.  She visited the Palestinian Authority with the "Zyara" group during the summer, with stops at Ramallah and Bethlehem and had been joined by two of her grandchildren, one of whom is a drama  student and hopes to do theatre work with Palestinian children.

Ms Clair is described as being of ‘Jewish origin’. But her connection to Judaism and the Manchester Jewish community is far stronger than the phrase implies. Her mother was recently buried under the auspices of the Sha’arei Shalom North Manchester Reform Synagogue and I helped with some of the funeral arrangements and with those for the headstone unveiling planned for early 2010. Further, I understand that her husband is the brother of another member of the synagogue.

Indeed, I’ve been advised that the couple work for the immigration service, which I consider not only to be a very noble career but in direct line from the biblical prophetic tradition. In my view there are a million ways to be ‘frum’ (pious) and this is one of them. All the more pity then, that Ms Clair and family cannot give as much to their Jewish brethren in Israel as to their Palestinian counterparts. If only they realised, there are as many vastly impoverished, undervalued and underfed Jewish kids in Israel as there are Muslim children in Gaza. But she and too much of the rest of the world would rather invent their own truths than face the real facts.

If I didn’t consider it a total waste of time, I’d challenge Miss Clair, Mr Kuper et al to front another, equally worthy group. I’d name it “Jews for Justice for Fellow Jews”.

Before closing, I must explain that this unpleasant episode reminds me very much of something which happened to me as we left the theatre after that performance of The Crucible. I couldn’t concentrate on discussing the pros and cons as I was conscious of being ‘centre stage’ for  two nearby young Muslim women who giggled and pointed at me for more than five minutes. I ignored them  to avoid a confrontation but even now, I’m unsure of their intentions and why they tried to provoke me.

Details of the video above:

(Manchester, England. 7th June 2008. Palestine Lives 2008 is a celebration of Palestinian art, culture, history and experience organised by Manchester Palestine Solidarity Campaign. It brings together artists, poets and musicians from Palestine and England to celebrate Palestine and its culture 60 year after the Palestinian Nakba, Zionism's ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
There are stalls informing people of issues facing people in the Middle East, as well as peace organisations campaigning not just for peace in the region but against nuclear weapons and all war. Speakers bring messages of solidarity with the Palestinian people's struggle for peace and justice. This event comes at a time when the situation in Gaza is at crisis point with people, especially children, starving and dying due to lack of food, water and medicines, but first and foremost the actions of the Israeli occupation forces).


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