March 08, 2011

The old Anthony Julius libel

'Ere we go.  Jonathan Freedland had an article in The Guardian manipulatively implying that it is antisemitic to say that the charge of antisemitism is used to smear and silence Israel. He said other stuff besides like:
What most Jews object to is not, in fact, criticism of Israel itself, but when that criticism comes wrapped in the language or imagery of Jew-hatred. In Trials of the Diaspora, his forensic study of English antisemitism, the critic and lawyer Anthony Julius provides example after example. He cites Tom Paulin's polemical poem Killed in Crossfire, published in the Observer at the height of the second intifada, or Caryl Churchill's 2009 play Seven Jewish Children, suggesting they are the latest in a long line of English literary works that tap into the "blood libel" – the medieval accusation that Jews hanker after the blood of gentile children, a defamation that led to massacres of Jews in England and far beyond.
I don't know how he knows what most Jews like or don't like but by the next paragraph he knows what all Jews find "unnerving":
Jews are unnerved when they read learned essays by foreign policy experts alleging the domination of US affairs by the "Zionist lobby" 
He lists out various examples of what he claims is evidence of "the longest hatred" mostly without any consideration of arguments had at the time. For example,
They [Jews] feel similarly alarmed by claims that the hidden hand behind all world events is really Israel – that it was Israel that pushed George W Bush to invade Iraq (when, in fact, Israeli policymakers were warning that Iran posed the greater threat, or that Israel is the reason why Britain has long backed despots in the Arab world, when Britain has plenty of self-interested reasons of its own for its policy in the region.
The Israel lobby went into overdrive for the war on Iraq and it only emerged after the war that Israel itself, specifically Ariel Sharon, was against the war. I don't entirely accept the Israel lobby thesis but as per Mearsheimer and Walt, the Israel lobby works, it supposes for Israel but is not Israeli, therefore they say it is no good for Israel nor America. I mention this because it is yet another example of Jonathan Freedland's dishonesty when it comes to Israel's critics. Of course, I am none too concerned whether the lobby is good or bad for Israel but I think Mearsheimer and Walt are stretching their point on Israel and failing to define what is in America's "national interest".

But still, after a lengthy intro, all I really wanted to do was draw attention to Caryl Churchill's letter complaining of Freedland's and Julius's dishonesty:
Jonathan Freedland (G2, March 3) denies that criticism of Israel is often wrongly called antisemitism. His point isn't helped by quoting Anthony Julius's allegation that my play Seven Jewish Children "tap[s] into the 'blood libel'". The line he is referring to is "tell her there's dead babies, did she see babies?" It refers to babies killed in the attack on Gaza in 2009 and shown on TV. When people hear of babies killed in a war, they don't usually think of medieval accusations of Jews consuming Christian children's blood, but of babies killed in a war. If readers want to judge the play for themselves it is on the Guardian website and the text can be obtained on the internet and performed without charge to raise money for Medical Aid for Palestinians.
Caryl Churchill
It's a pity no one dealt with other aspects of what he wrote but then Freedland is the main (but by no means the only) resident zionist at The Guardian.

But, far be it from Anthony Julius to let someone undermine one of his false allegations:
In Trials of the Diaspora, I argue that Caryl Churchill's play Seven Jewish Children is antisemitic. Churchill (Letters, 4 March) denies this characterisation, writing that I rely on the line "tell her there's dead babies, did she see babies?".
I had in mind the following lines, among others. "Tell her we killed the babies by mistake / Don't tell her anything about the army." "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." "Tell her I wouldn't care if we wiped them out." "Tell her I don't care if the world hates us, tell her we're better haters, tell her we're chosen people."
In this play, Jews confess to lying to their own children and killing Palestinian children. They also confess to something close to a project of genocide. And they freely acknowledge the source of their misanthropy to be Judaism itself.
None of this seems to bother Churchill – nor, indeed, the Guardian. As she correctly notes, the play is available on your website.
Anthony Julius
I suppose one can always hope that Guardian readers will have sophisticated enough bogus allegation detectors to be wise to Julius but happily enough, The Guardian allowed Caryl Churchill another bite of the cherry.  Well antisemitism did used to be a serious allegation.  Here it is:
Antony Julius (Letters, March 7) quotes more lines from my play Seven Jewish Children to bolster his claim that it is antisemitic. What he doesn't seem to realise is that these lines are not spoken as he suggests by "Jews" in general but by individual Israelis, desperate to protect their own child, during an attack of disproportionate violence on Gaza. I don't think the play is a disproportionate response to that attack. It should be possible to pillory the defensive self-righteousness and racism of some – not all – Israelis without being called antisemitic.
Caryl Churchill
Not if some zionists get their way, it won't.


Post a Comment