"Seven Jewish Children":

This, new short play opened in London recently, and it's hard to articulate how depraved it is without suggesting you first read the full dialogue. The essential "plot," if you can call it that, is to show how Israeli Jews, deranged by their suffering in the Holocaust, gradually turn into alter-egos of the Nazis.

Not surprisingly, the Guardian loved it. The Times did not. The Guardian also defends the play against charges of anti-Semitism, because, the author writes, "I cleave strongly to the view that it is possible to be critical of Israel without being antisemitic." Sure you can. But it's rather harder to make that defense when you start your play with parents trying to reassure children caught up in in the Holocaust, and end with this (including lines that evoke classic blood libels):

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.

That said, whether or not the playwright is anti-Semitic is somewhat besides the point. The play has many defenders, and one is left to wonder: if a non-member of any other minority group had chosen to psychoanalyze that group, implicitly claiming its members deranged and bloodthirsty because of earlier historic traumas, that they resemble the Nazis, are indifferent to the death of babies, believe they are superior to everyone else, etc., would the reaction be remotely the same?

UPDATE: Just to be clear, though, I'm not saying the author is anti-Semitic, or even that the play is inherently anti-Semitic (it is inherently ignorant and appalling to claim that Israel is Nazi-like in its treatment of Palestinians, and that this is the result of Israelis' own historical demons, but while anti-Semites can be condemned as appalling ignoramuses, not all appalling ignoramuses are anti-Semites).

I am saying that the author took no care to eliminate references that could easily be construed as anti-Semitic, that at least one reference (to Jews thinking of themselves as the "chosen people", which does not, in Jewish tradition, have any implications of ethnic superiority*) is inexplicable at least without reference at least to others' anti-Semitism that the author has absorbed, and that if a playwright had been similarly cavalier with the history and "psychoanalyis" of other historically oppressed ethnic group, in the process of accusing that group of being dominated by bloodthirsty fascists, she would be condemned, not lauded, in London's "progressive" circles.

[*I concluded in a previous post: "So, as far as I can tell, being the 'chosen' simply means that Jews are in a particular contractual relationship with God that our ancestors made, one that is not always to our advantage, and that is without prejudice to the status of Gentiles before God."]

FURTHER UPDATE: Howard Jacobson lambastes those who defend the play, particularly one Jacqueline Rose:

In its unquestioning espousal of [Rose's] theory that the Holocaust traumatised the Jews into visiting back upon the Palestinians what the Nazis had visited on them -- a theory of dazzling psychological simplicity that turns Zionism (and never mind that Zionism long predates the Holocaust) into a nervous breakdown, and all subsequent events into the playing out of the Jews' psychic instability. By this reasoning, neither the Palestinians nor the Arab countries who have helped or hindered them are relevant. Jacqueline Rose spirits them away from the scene of the crime. They are redundant to the working of her theory, of no significance (whatever they have done), since the narrative of the Middle East is nothing but the narrative of the Jewish mind disintegrating.

What Jacqueline Rose seems not to have noticed is that this theory is a perfect illustration of the very Jewish arrogance she decries, assuming to itself responsibility for every deed.

Putting aside the content of Jacobson's piece, I wish I could write like that!

And Jacobson, it turns out, makes a similar point to mine: "Only imagine this as Seven Muslim Children and we know that the Royal Court would never have had the courage or the foolhardiness to stage it."