Tag Archives: Seven Jewish Children

Author Tom Sperlinger: “Poem about ‘Zionist SS’ is not anti-Semitic.”

Tome Sperlinger reading from his Romeo and Juliet in Palestine on Thursday.

Tome Sperlinger reading from his Romeo and Juliet in Palestine on Thursday.

Tom Sperlinger is the author of a new book Romeo and Juliet in Palestine: Teaching Under Occupation. He launched the book last Thursday at Blackwell’s bookshop in the Institute of Education.

Sperlinger is Reader in English and Community Engagement at the University of Bristol and this is his first book. He has also been a regular contributor to the Guardian on education issues and his new book was reviewed in that very newspaper.

In 2013 Sperlinger taught English literature at the Abu Dis campus of Al Quds University for a term. The book is an account of his time there and the affinity he built up with Palestinian students while teaching them works like Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet.

Zero Books, his publisher which also published Gilad Atzmon’s anti-Semitic book The Wandering Who?, are selling it as an academic memoir with important questions like: “What does it mean to read under occupation? What might such encounters reveal about the nature of pedagogy and the role of university?”

However, from what I read of the book at the event it is just another anti-Israel diatribe which will now go into bookshops and libraries and onto student reading lists.

Before going into Sperlinger’s account of his time at Abu Dis the book opens with the usual biased account of Israel’s creation. Anti-Israel author Ilan Pappe is heavily quoted and Sperlinger mentions Ali Abunimah and Jeff Halper, both anti-Israel propagandists, for their writings on the so-called one state solution.

Sperlinger goes on to describe an Israeli soldier kicking a Palestinian child as the child is going to visit his father’s grave (P. 108). He also describes how he helped in the translation of the play Seven Jewish Children when it is staged by Palestinian students at Abu Dis (P. 65).

Seven Jewish Children is a very short anti-Semitic play which portrays Jews as slowly metamorphosing from being victims of the Holocaust into baby-killers.

When I put this to him Sperlinger didn’t agree Seven Jewish Children is anti-Semitic. He also didn’t agree that a poem by Tom Paulin is anti-Semitic.

Paulin has given an endorsement of Romeo and Juliet in Palestine for its front cover. I questioned Sperlinger about the poem and whether he might consider having Paulin’s endorsement removed in light of it. Sperlinger said he didn’t find Paulin’s poem anti-Semitic.

Here’s Paulin’s poem with its preceding quote as printed in the Guardian in 2001:

paulin

CAMERA pointed out at the time: “While he (Paulin) condemns Zionists as Nazi murderers, his usage of the term “dumb goys” echoes Hitler’s similar use of it in Mein Kampf.”

The CAMERA article states that the quote chosen by Paulin to precede his poem is also anti-Semitic.

Considering Sperlinger is a Reader in Community Engagement it would have been reassuring for the Jewish community to think that he at least had a problem with “Zionist SS”, “dumb goys”, “Zionists…nosing after blood” and Seven Jewish Children.

Sadly, it seems, this isn’t the case.

Blackwell's selling Sperlinger's book with Tom Paulin's endorsement on front cover.

Blackwell’s selling Sperlinger’s book with Tom Paulin’s endorsement on front cover.

Blackwell's know their audience.

Blackwell’s know their audience.

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Beware the monster being created by the anti-Israel Lobby.

There are worrying developments in this country’s anti-Israel lobby. Maybe it is the continuing strength of Israel both militarily and economically while the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement is having limited, if any, success.

But while Israel and many Israelis continue to prosper, even more so in light of the upcoming change in the law of universal jurisdiction which will make it harder to arrest an Israeli official on allegations of war crimes, Diaspora Jews are still a target.

One might disagree with Israeli policies but what we think is irrelevant. We do not live there and so do not suffer the same threats as Israeli Jews.

Similarly, one would not expect Israeli Jews to advise UK Jews. Only those that live in a country can truly judge the appropriate action to take.

And Hasbarah is easy anyway. We all understand the history of the conflict. We know that Jews have a right to a sovereign state in the Middle East and that the Palestinians have a right to one also. The job may be big but that is no bar to trying to explain Israel’s position to office colleagues, friends and television audiences.

The main problem comes when you are attacked for what you are, a Jew, not what you think. Instead of being able to respond constructively the only response you are left with, apart from being left open-mouthed, is denial.

MP Gerald Kaufman claimed this year that rich Jews controlled the Conservative Party. Martin Linton, Chair of Labour Friends of Palestine, said that Israel’s “tentacles” were controlling our political system. Both accusations could be straight out of the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

And, on seventh night of Chanukah the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) staged Seven Jewish Children at the Polish Centre in Hammersmith. The choice of venue for this outrageous play seems particularly cruel when considering the plight of Jews in Poland during the Holocaust. The production is full of horrendous accusations about Jews.

I saw it at the Royal Court last year and felt uneasy amidst an applauding London audience. The show lasts 10 minutes and uses seven short acts to portray how the Jews have turned from being killed during the Holocaust into the killers themselves during Operation Cast Lead.

According to the play Jews are biblically driven, think of Palestinians as “filth” and “animals”, justify the killing of Palestinian babies to their own children and enjoy swimming in nice pools while the Palestinians become dehydrated.

There may be some Jews who think like this, Baruch Goldstein was an example, but to imply that all Jews do is racist. However, the play is available for anyone to put on for free, including in schools.

On the fifth night of Chanukah, Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of a London-based Arabic newspaper, gave a talk at LSE and allegedly pointed at Jewish students and accused them of bombing Gaza. In 2007 Atwan stated that he would “dance with delight” if Israel was hit by Iranian missiles. Imagine someone pointing at Muslim students while shouting they are all suicide bombers. That person would be accused of inciting religious hatred.

My suspicion, which may be wrong, is that the PSC came to the Polish centre via Ewa Jasiewicz, a Polish anti-Israel activist. During the summer Jasiewicz visited the Warsaw Ghetto and helped to daub “Free Gaza and Palestine” on the walls of one of the Ghetto houses in, what could be considered, a crude attempt to equate the Palestinians with the Jews under the Nazis. The Ghetto is now considered a grave to the 100,000 Jews that perished there.

More recently, the PSC and Middle East Monitor invited Richard Falk, the United Nations Human Rights Council’s representative to the Palestinian territories, to London to give a talk on Israel’s assault on human rights.

Yet, it was the same Falk who, in 2008, said that Israel’s treatment of Gaza was a “Holocaust in the making”.

Criticising Israeli policy is one thing but comparing the Palestinians with the fate of the Jews during the Holocaust and accusing today’s Jews of condoning the killing of babies while justifying it to their own children is another.

This will only lead to dangerous repercussions elsewhere. During the summer I had to intervene after seeing a Jewish teenager violently attacked by a Muslim teenager. Britain’s anti-Israel lobby should beware the monster it is helping to create.

(This piece appears in the latest edition of The Jewish News)

Doughnuts, candles and anti-Semitism

seven Chanukah candles outside the Polish centre last night

seven Chanukah candles outside the Polish centre last night

Last night the Palestine Solidarity Campaign held its Winter Concert at The Polish Centre in Hammersmith, London.

The concert consisted of classical piano compositions, Palestinian music and a couple of short plays, one called Love Amidst the War and Isiah and the other called Seven Jewish Children.

Complaints had been made to the Polish Centre about the latter play on the basis that it is anti-Semitic, which it is.

And for a Polish community centre to show an anti-Semitic play when three million Jews were murdered by the Nazis in Poland made the event doubly insulting.

In fairness the centre probably didn’t know the nature of the booking and once booked it was too late. Last night it issued a statement distancing itself from the event and racism in general.

In 10 short minutes the play portrays Jews as being transformed from being murdered into being child killers themselves.

This is the old anti-Semitic myth updated for modern day audiences and the play is performed many times throughout the year for free.

With this in mind about 15 hardy activists journeyed to west London in freezing conditions to stand outside the Polish centre.

They lit seven Chanukah candles, ate doughnuts and handed leaflets out to passers-by.

Lots of people stopped to ask what was going on and were given a full explanation of the nature of the play that was being staged by the PSC inside the centre.

The irony was that many of those who had paid the £15 to go in and watch Seven Jewish Children would probably have been outside demonstrating against it had it been staged by the BNP.

But when it comes to supporting the Palestinians anything goes, including anti-Semitic plays.

Although last night’s protest outside the Polish centre was relatively small it was effective with the Chanukah candles bringing some welcome light to a very dark evening.

(Thanks to The Party Store, 62 Edgware Way, Edgware T:02089589797 for supplying the candles and to the CST, the ZF and the police.)

A protestor makes his feelings known outside the Polish centre.

A protestor makes his feelings known outside the Polish centre.

The Polish Centre where the PSC staged Seven Jewish Children.

The Polish Centre where the PSC staged Seven Jewish Children.

Palestine Solidarity Campaign stages Seven Jewish Children

Imagine the outcry if an organisation staged a play called Seven Muslim Children.

The play might start off with Srebrenica where 8,000 innocent Muslim men and boys were murdered by the Serbs.

It might then portray how Muslims have become so hardened by the massacre that they don’t care who they kill or cause to suffer.

It might then show how Muslims dehumanise their enemies to justify the murder of innocent children, while all the time taking solace for this from the Koran.

There would be an outcry in the media and political circles and justified cries of Islamophobia. Jewish organisations would protest against such a play.

So why is there no outcry over the continued staging of Carly Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children which portrays Jews gradually being transformed from the innocent killed into the killers of the innocent.

Why are mainstream Muslim organisations silent?

I saw this play when it was originally performed at the Royal Court theatre. The theatre was full.

It was quite unnerving sitting there as a lone Jew watching the audience heartily applaud.

The play packs virtually every single anti-Jewish trope going into its nine minutes.

It felt like a throwback to past times when Jews were a powerless minority continuously taunted by a non-Jewish majority.

But this was London, 2009.

Now not only is the Palestine Solidarity Campaign staging it on December 7th as part of its Winter Concert, it is doing so at the Polish Centre in Hammersmith, London.

It adds insult to injury to hold an anti-Jewish play that invokes the Holocaust at a Polish centre when 3,000,000 of the 6,000,000 million Jews who perished during the Holocaust died in Poland.

Here is a performance of Seven Jewish Children:

And the script:

1

Tell her it’s a game
Tell her it’s serious
But don’t frighten her
Don’t tell her they’ll kill her
Tell her it’s important to be quiet
Tell her she’ll have cake if she’s good
Tell her to curl up as if she’s in bed
But not to sing.
Tell her not to come out
Tell her not to come out even if she hears shouting
Don’t frighten her
Tell her not to come out even if she hears nothing for a long time
Tell her we’ll come and find her
Tell her we’ll be here all the time.
Tell her something about the men
Tell her they’re bad in the game
Tell her it’s a story
Tell her they’ll go away
Tell her she can make them go away if she keeps still
By magic
But not to sing.

2

Tell her this is a photograph of her grandmother, her uncles and
me
Tell her her uncles died
Don’t tell her they were killed
Tell her they were killed
Don’t frighten her.
Tell her her grandmother was clever
Don’t tell her what they did
Tell her she was brave
Tell her she taught me how to make cakes
Don’t tell her what they did
Tell her something
Tell her more when she’s older.
Tell her there were people who hated Jews
Don’t tell her
Tell her it’s over now
Tell her there are still people who hate Jews
Tell her there are people who love Jews
Don’t tell her to think Jews or not Jews
Tell her more when she’s older
Tell her how many when she’s older
Tell her it was before she was born and she’s not in danger
Don’t tell her there’s any question of danger.
Tell her we love her
Tell her dead or alive her family all love her
Tell her her grandmother would be proud of her.

3

Don’t tell her we’re going for ever
Tell her she can write to her friends, tell her her friends can maybe
come and visit
Tell her it’s sunny there
Tell her we’re going home
Tell her it’s the land God gave us
Don’t tell her religion
Tell her her great great great great lots of greats grandad lived
there
Don’t tell her he was driven out
Tell her, of course tell her, tell her everyone was driven out and
the country is waiting for us to come home
Don’t tell her she doesn’t belong here
Tell her of course she likes it here but she’ll like it there even
more.
Tell her it’s an adventure
Tell her no one will tease her
Tell her she’ll have new friends
Tell her she can take her toys
Don’t tell her she can take all her toys
Tell her she’s a special girl
Tell her about Jerusalem.

4

Don’t tell her who they are
Tell her something
Tell her they’re Bedouin, they travel about
Tell her about camels in the desert and dates
Tell her they live in tents
Tell her this wasn’t their home
Don’t tell her home, not home, tell her they’re going away
Don’t tell her they don’t like her
Tell her to be careful.
Don’t tell her who used to live in this house
No but don’t tell her her great great grandfather used to live in
this house
No but don’t tell her Arabs used to sleep in her bedroom.
Tell her not to be rude to them
Tell her not to be frightened
Don’t tell her she can’t play with the children
Don’t tell her she can have them in the house.
Tell her they have plenty of friends and family
Tell her for miles and miles all round they have lands of their own
Tell her again this is our promised land.
Don’t tell her they said it was a land without people
Don’t tell her I wouldn’t have come if I’d known.
Tell her maybe we can share.
Don’t tell her that.

5

Tell her we won
Tell her her brother’s a hero
Tell her how big their armies are
Tell her we turned them back
Tell her we’re fighters
Tell her we’ve got new land.

6

Don’t tell her
Don’t tell her the trouble about the swimming pool
Tell her it’s our water, we have the right
Tell her it’s not the water for their fields
Don’t tell her anything about water.
Don’t tell her about the bulldozer
Don’t tell her not to look at the bulldozer
Don’t tell her it was knocking the house down
Tell her it’s a building site
Don’t tell her anything about bulldozers.
Don’t tell her about the queues at the checkpoint
Tell her we’ll be there in no time
Don’t tell her anything she doesn’t ask
Don’t tell her the boy was shot
Don’t tell her anything.
Tell her we’re making new farms in the desert
Don’t tell her about the olive trees
Tell her we’re building new towns in the wilderness.
Don’t tell her they throw stones
Tell her they’re not much good against tanks
Don’t tell her that.
Don’t tell her they set off bombs in cafés
Tell her, tell her they set off bombs in cafés
Tell her to be careful
Don’t frighten her.
Tell her we need the wall to keep us safe
Tell her they want to drive us into the sea
Tell her they don’t
Tell her they want to drive us into the sea.
Tell her we kill far more of them
Don’t tell her that
Tell her that
Tell her we’re stronger
Tell her we’re entitled
Tell her they don’t understand anything except violence
Tell her we want peace
Tell her we’re going swimming.

7

Tell her she can’t watch the news
Tell her she can watch cartoons
Tell her she can stay up late and watch Friends.
Tell her they’re attacking with rockets
Don’t frighten her
Tell her only a few of us have been killed
Tell her the army has come to our defence
Don’t tell her her cousin refused to serve in the army.
Don’t tell her how many of them have been killed
Tell her the Hamas fighters have been killed
Tell her they’re terrorists
Tell her they’re filth
Don’t
Don’t tell her about the family of dead girls
Tell her you can’t believe what you see on television
Tell her we killed the babies by mistake
Don’t tell her anything about the army
Tell her, tell her about the army, tell her to be proud of the army.
Tell her about the family of dead girls, tell her their names why
not, tell her the whole world knows why shouldn’t she know? tell
her there’s dead babies, did she see babies? tell her she’s got
nothing to be ashamed of. Tell her they did it to themselves. Tell
her they want their children killed to make people sorry for them,
tell her I’m not sorry for them, tell her not to be sorry for them,
tell her we’re the ones to be sorry for, tell her they can’t talk
suffering to us. Tell her we’re the iron fist now, tell her it’s the fog
of war, tell her we won’t stop killing them till we’re safe, tell her I
laughed when I saw the dead policemen, tell her they’re animals
living in rubble now, tell her I wouldn’t care if we wiped them out,
the world would hate us is the only thing, tell her I don’t care if
the world hates us, tell her we’re better haters, tell her we’re
chosen people, tell her I look at one of their children covered in
blood and what do I feel? tell her all I feel is happy it’s not her.
Don’t tell her that.
Tell her we love her.
Don’t frighten her.

Seven Jewish Children is Caryl Churchill’s
response to the situation in Gaza in January
2009, when the play was written.
Seven Jewish Children first published in Great Britain in 2009 by
Nick Hern Books Limited, 14 Larden Road, London, W3 7ST,
in association with the Royal Court Theatre, London
Seven Jewish Children copyright © 2009 Caryl Churchill Limited
Caryl Churchill has asserted her moral right to be identified as
the author of this work
Typeset by Nick Hern Books, London
ISBN 978 1 84842 047 2