Why is Caryl Churchill Having All the Fun?

David Hare must’ve been asking himself this very question lately. Churchill’s play Seven Jewish Children has garnered all the attention recently among British Israel-bashers and their intellectual followers. Her play has been performed all over the place, it has been the object of harsh criticism for its simplistic view of Israeli history and utter veneration for “speaking truth to power” (what truth? what power?). Caryl Churchill has left her colleagues far behind. She’s been hogging the spotlight.

So David Hare, another of Britain’s illustrious intellectual playwrights, got the chance in this week’s NYRB to vent his own frustration at the Israeli “apartheid-wall”. He calls it a monologue, lending a theatrical veneer to his rant, which others might simply call an op-ed piece.

I won’t pick through its every sentence. I’m not an authority on the subject, though I have seen it, and what I saw at the time (2004) was mostly a security fence. There was a section of high concrete wall, and it was explained to us that this was a built in a place where Palestinian snipers used to shoot Israeli motorists from their rooftops. Those Israelis are always exaggerating–eh, Mr. Hare?

To his credit, Mr. Hare admits that the fence has done its job by curbing Palestinian suicide bombers. He quotes his Israeli friends’ dismay:

“I regret it.” “I’m ashamed of the wall.” “I drive for miles so that I don’t have to see it. But it works. 80 percent of terrorist attacks against Israel have stopped. Have been stopped. Am I not meant to be pleased about that?”

Indeed, are we all not meant to be pleased about that? In Mr. Hare’s Israel, there are good Israelis–who are ashamed at having to protect themselves against genocidal fanatics–and bad Israelis–who do the protecting. Hare enjoys the company of Israeli intellectuals like himself, who discuss over tea and cakes how many meters of Palestinian farmland were confiscated in order to protect Israeli civilians from an endless terror campaign against them for the crime of being Jewish. He loves Israeli self-doubt, the mark of a true Jew. He, like his colleague Mrs. Churchill, despises Jewish self-defense. This is a crime worse than the sixty-year Arab-Muslim war against Israel’s existence.

Here is Hare on Hamas, in a perfectly polished gem of willful ignorance:

Hamas isn’t very nice. You wouldn’t be nice if you lived under permanent siege.

To be fair, Hare was speaking about Hamas torture of Fatah members in Gaza. So he knows they’re not nice guys. One assumes he’s done his homework, too, and knows about the way Hamas operates: booby-trapping homes, schools, zoos, using children as human shields, etc…the usual. But he’s not put off by any of that, he’s too much of an intellectual to be shocked by Hamas. He’s positively floored, however, that Israel would take security measures against such barbaric murderers–measures that–holilah!–inconvenience the murderers themselves and the society which supports them unconditionally. Hare makes no mention that the Palestinians of Gaza have been taken hostage by their own elected leaders, and that the failure of Palestinian society is far more the result of their unwillingness to relinquish their fanatical, monomaniacal and self-destructive war against the very idea of a Jewish state in “their part of the world” than it is the result of any Israeli intractability.

But wait, it gets better:

Even Professor Neill Lochery of London University, a friend of Israel, the author, for goodness’ sake, of Why Blame Israel?, has described the security fence as a white elephant. “Already,” he says, “the wall belongs to a bygone era.” Because before it was even finished, before the $2 billion had even been spent, Israeli’s enemies had switched tactics. They had moved on from suicide bombing to missiles, to firing Qassam rockets, which could, if deployed in the West Bank as they have been in Gaza, sail oblivious way up high above the wall, fueled by nothing but sugar and potassium nitrate.

Get it? Before the wall had even been finished, Israel’s enemies had “switched tactics!” Doh!! This is Israel-as-Homer Simpson, a blundering doofus always one step behind the wily Palestinians. Why bother trying to curb mass murder when your murderers will only switch tactics? How stupid of them! What could they be thinking? Of course, the Palestinians only abandoned suicide bombing because it was no longer feasible, because Israel had defeated it as a tactic. This is proof of the determined ingenuity of the murderers, not of the incompetence of the Israelis to forsee every possible attempt to murder and terrorize its citizens. David Hare has it backwards.

There is nothing especially new in Mr. Hare’s monologue. He chills with the intellectual elite on both sides, content to take their observations as hard-won truths. This gives his own insights more clout, being on familiar (and non-hostile) ground. And, as we all know, it’s no great feat of courage to criticize the Israelis. They will not come after you, kidnap you, graffiti your walls or threaten you. They will not wage war against you in any way, except perhaps intellectually. Some of them will even agree with you, whether you are full of shit or not.

Surely this is the mark of a sick society, one which has lost its moral compass in the muck of war. Eh, Mr. Hare?

5 thoughts on “Why is Caryl Churchill Having All the Fun?

  1. It always amazes me when people condemn the wall. Most of the critics make their asinine pronouncements from the security and comfort of their homes outside Israel. They don’t give a damn that the wall – and yes, it IS a security wall – has reduced SUICIDE BOMBINGS by 90%.

    Yet these utter hypocrites actually seem to believe that Israel should put the FEELINGS of Palestinians BEFORE the LIVES of Israeli civilians!

    It beggars belief.

    If the Palestinians have such a problem with the wall, then the answer is simple. All they need to do is STOP supporting terrorism against Israelis. That’s all. When Palestinians stop strapping bombs round their waists and then slipping into Israeli towns and schools and hospitals, then there won’t be any need for the wall.

    Until that day comes, please G-d, then Israel will do what ANY sane nation would also do: she will protect herself.

    And if some people don’t like that?


    There ends my rant!

    As you can tell, this topic is one I feel passionately about…!

    1. When Israel roots out terrorists with soldiers, the world screams, “Hey, you can’t just tantz in like that–that’s their property!” Then follow accusations of ethnic-cleansing, massacres and the like. So Israel ingeniously finds a way of stopping almost all the violence without taking lives or sending in soldiers, and they begin screaming, “Apartheid!” And intellectuals like Mr. Hare oblige all this nonsense with their snooty airs. Have artists lost their minds?

  2. When Israel roots out terrorists with soldiers, the world screams, “Hey, you can’t just tantz in like that–that’s their property!”

    Actually, the world screams “that’s their property” when the Israelis, well, steal Palestinian property.

    As for Caryl Churchill, it’s very amusing to see how many of her negative reviewers have written critiques imitating the “Tell her that–” model. The play has hit home, not because of its literary merit, which it absolutely lacks, but because of how effectively it ridicules Zionist brainwashing (“they never miss an opportunity to …,” “when they love their children more than …,” “we can forgive their killing our …”). The crude, childish indoctrination depicted in the play is in effect what young Jews are fed at Hebrew school.

  3. ‘hasbara’:

    Once again you utterly MISrepresent historical, verifiable FACT by rehashing the weary old rubbish about Israel having ‘stolen’ land. Allow me to correct you. It’s easily done.

    The ‘natives’ of Palestine were always the Palestinian Jews, who had been there for 3500 years non stop. Added to their number in the 1870s-1880s were many more Jews. Palestine was a province of the Ottoman Turkish Empire, ruled by the Sultan in far-off Istanbul. The entire non-Jewish population west of the Jordan River was about 140,000, including nomads who moved in and out and even roving bandits. That population had been stagnant or in decline for centuries.

    The land was depopulated, deserted, impoverished and barren. Western travellers, who knew from the Bible of the beauty, fertility and vitality of ancient Israel, came to visit and found not the Land of Milk and Honey but an empty wilderness of ruin and desolation.

    A British consul reported in 1857 that the land was not cultivated, villages had disappeared, and that “The country is in a considerable degree empty of inhabitants and therefore the greatest need is that of a body of population”.

    Mark Twain rode through just a few years before the start of Jewish resettlement and saw only “. . . the kind of solitude to make one dreary.” The Galilee was “unpeopled deserts . . . rusty mounds of barrenness” where he “never saw a human being on the whole route”. He concluded that “Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes . . . desolate and unlovely.” — Innocents Abroad, 1867.

    At about the same time, a British Christian clergyman came to the Holy Land and wrote: “But where are the inhabitants? This fertile [coastal] plain which might support an immense population is almost a solitude…. The denunciations of ancient prophecy have been fulfilled to the very letter – ‘The land is left void and desolate and without inhabitants.'” – Reverend Samuel Manning, These Holy Fields, 1894.

    By the early Nineteenth Century it was perceived, especially in the United States and Great Britain, that the only hope for the restoration of Palestine was in the return of the only people who loved it and would care for it. Those who seriously espoused the idea of the return of the Jews included U.S. President John Adams, British Prime Minister Disraeli, British Foreign Minister Lord Palmerston, and writer George Eliot.

    This had indeed been the sustaining hope of the Jews themselves for two millennia, and it became an active movement by the 1870s-1880s, even before Theodor Herzl organized Zionism as a worldwide movement.

    Thus we can see as a matter of simple fact, that no Jews took or ‘stole’ any land away from Arabs, or displace any Arabs. They went into areas long uninhabited and abandoned. The Ottoman Turkish government sternly restricted purchase of land by Jews. An effendi who could claim or contrive ownership of a bit of wasteland would be paid an exorbitantly inflated price for it. On the wasteland, the pioneers drained swamps and irrigated deserts, tilled soil untilled for centuries and built where nothing had been built for centuries. Many died of malaria and other diseases, and many more were murdered by bandits.

    They created conditions that attracted and drew Arabs from other countries and regions, who came to seek the work, wages and a better conditions found only in the vicinity of the new Jewish settlements. Within decades of the start of Jewish resettlement, the Arab population in those areas grew far beyond the limits of natural increase. If the Jews had not come, the Arabs would not have come either.

    “Around 1910, my family was staying at a hotel in Switzerland, where we met a very rich Arab. One of the other guests said to him, ‘You Arabs are making a mistake in letting Jews come into Palestine. You should throw them out while you can.’ “The Arab laughed and said, ‘Oh, no. Palestine is one of the poorest and most backward places in the world. There’s nothing there. The Jews will come and fill it with farms and orchards and towns. They’ll build factories and schools and hospitals and railways. Then we Arabs will throw them out and keep it all for ourselves.'” — Carrie Nora Isaac, New York

    Malcolm MacDonald, a British Secretary of State hostile to the Jews, admitted in 1938: “The Arabs cannot say that the Jews are driving them out of their country. If not a single Jew had come to Palestine after 1918, I believe that the Arab population of [Western] Palestine today would still have been virtually non existent.’

    In 1922, the British detached the entire region east of the river, depriving the Jewish National Home of a full 75 percent of Mandate Palestine. This they did in order to provide a puppet kingdom for their protégé Emir Abdullah, after he was driven out of Arabia. Since there was no historic name for such a kingdom, it was called after a biblical river. From that day to this, the Kingdom of Jordan has permitted no Jew within its borders, and when it seized control of Judea and Samaria (1948-1967) it killed or drove out every Jew there as well.

    The British progressively limited the areas open to Jews west of the Jordan River. They slammed and bolted the gates of the Jewish National Home at the very time when Jews most desperately needed a haven. The British obsessively counted and recounted the number of Jews, with a view to barring their entry or deporting them. At the same time they permitted a massive influx of Arabs from other countries and regions, technically illegal but never hindered.

    These newly arriving Arabs took the places meant for the Jews, and so charmed or intimidated the British that the Jews they displaced were consigned to the death camps of Europe, or left to drown on their way to the Promised Land. Shortly before the start of World War II, the British Foreign Office actually requested the government of Nazi Germany to prevent the escape of Jews, and a few years later admonished the U.S. State Department not to encourage the escape of Jews, because nobody wanted them.

    “So far from being persecuted, the Arabs have crowded into the country and multiplied until their population has increased more than even all world Jewry could lift up the Jewish population.” — Winston Churchill, 1939

    “If we must offend one side, let us offend the Jews rather than the Arabs.” — British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, 1937

    “If we must have preferences, let me murmur in your ear that I prefer Arabs to Jews.” — British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, 1943

    The Jews who succeeded in reaching the Jewish National Home were confined to only 17 percent of Mandate Palestine, which became the State of Israel in 1948. That the Arabs were not granted 100 percent is what they ever since constantly proclaimed to be the Crime of the Century, to be undone by any means.

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