Churchill defends ‘anti-Semitic’ play

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The Independent Culture

Caryl Churchill has defended herself against accusations of anti-Semitism after her play Seven Jewish Children caused uproar among Jews.

The play, on stage at the Royal Court Theatre, is billed as a 10-minute history of Israel. Through seven scenes – from the Holocaust to the Gaza bombing – adults debate how much a child should be told of events.

It drew criticism from the Board of Deputies of British Jews and from the author and Independent columnist Howard Jacobson. Mark Frazier, a Board of Deputies spokesman, said the play went beyond the boundaries of reasonable political discourse: “We knew the play was going to be horrifically anti-Israel because Caryl Churchill is a patron of the PSC [Palestine Solidarity Campaign].”

In The Independent, Jacobson said the work was anti-Semitic because it suggested the Middle East conflict was brewed up in the minds of Jews, depicting them as glorying in their separateness and superiority and revelling in child murder.

Churchill responded in a letter to The Independent today: “Howard Jacobson writes as if there’s something new about describing critics of Israel as anti-Semitic. But it’s the usual tactic. We are not going to agree about politics … But we should be able to disagree without accusations of anti-Semitism.”

The play was about the difficulties of explaining violence to children. Its length meant favourable and unfavourable information about Israel had been omitted, she said. “Jacobson seems to see the play from a very particular perspective so that everything is twisted … I don’t recognise the play from [his] description.”