The University of York’s Palestinian Solidarity Society has been criticised for holding a performance of ‘Seven Jewish Children’ – a short play described as “anti-Semitic”.
The student group, of which Jeremy Corbyn’s son Tommy is a committee member, performed the play by Caryl Churchill – a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign – as part of Israel Apartheid Week.
‘Seven Jewish Children’, written after the 2008/9 Gaza war, has been described by author Howard Jacobson as “Jew-hating” and by journalist Melanie Phillips as “an open vilification of the Jewish people” – but other critics disagree with this claim.
Staged by the Royal Court, it shows Jewish parents discussing what and how to tell their children about issues and events such as the Holocaust and war with the Palestinians. The parental advice morphs from one of tolerance and understanding about other cultures and religions to one of nationalist pride and of intolerance, culminating in remarks such as: “Tell her they set bombs off in cafes… Tell her they want to drive us into the sea.”
The university’s Jewish Society (J-Soc) condemned the staging of the performance as part of Israel Apartheid Week “in the strongest possible terms,” saying: “This is not a play about Israel… Jews and alleged Jewish behaviour is core throughout.”
The society added that “by far the greater worry” was a “lack of concern regarding anti-Semitism shown by the University of York Students’ Union,” criticising it of “not taking a stand against this play and the anti-Semitism therein”.
However Dr. Lisa Peschel, a university lecturer, said: “This play does not claim to be a balanced and objective look at the entire range of Israeli political opinions, but it accurately represents certain voices in Israeli politics while acknowledging Jewish suffering as well. It addresses a humanitarian crisis that urgently needs to be discussed.”
Eran Cohen, an Israeli student at York who is a member of the Palestinian Solidarity Society, said: “Five anti-Zionist Jews saw the play and had no problem with it. Three Zionist Jews saw the play and had a problem with it. Does that imply that the play is anti-Semitic, or anti-Zionist?”