‘Seven Jewish Children’ in Bolton (or Octagone to the PSC?)

This is a guest post by Jonathan Hoffman

“Seven Jewish Children” is the antisemitic play that was written by PSC Patron Caryl Churchill after Operation Cast Lead.

CiF Watch readers will not be surprised that “Seven Jewish Children” was thoroughly embraced by The Guardian.

Michael Billington of The Guardian wrote the following defamatory sentence “But Churchill also shows us how Jewish children are bred to believe in the “otherness” of Palestinians and how, for generations to come, they stand to reap the bitter harvest of the military assault on Hamas.” Notice the eugenic redolence of that word “bred”.

On last Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening it was performed at the Octagon Theatre in Bolton in the UK. On Saturday afternoon there was to be a debate on it and ‘All My Sons’, the main play being featured by the Octagon Theatre. The event was to be a cosy Israel-hate session with speakers from the PSC, JFJFP and the local MP who is secretary to the All Parliamentary Britain-Palestine Group, with the line up as follows:

Linda Clair – Chair of Manchester Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Of Jewish origin. Recently visited the West Bank.

Dr Brian Iddon – Labour MP for Bolton SE and secretary to the All Parliamentary Britain-Palestine Group. Has visited Palestine several times. He is also a patron of the Octagon Theatre.

Asad Khan – Consultant Physician in Bury. Visited the West Bank in 2007. Member of Physicians for Human Rights, Israel and the British Medical Committee on Palestine.

Richard Kuper – Chair and Publications officer of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, an organisation of more than 1,300 Jews in Britain.

Norma Turner – Manchester health care worker. Visited Gaza post Jan 2009 and recently visited the West Bank.

But thanks to someone on the theatre mailing list, I was alerted to the event in good time and insisted that the ‘antidote’ play ‘Seven Other Children’ was shown as well and that I and others be called on to speak at the debate. This was accepted – the theatre has close links with Bolton University and receives public money.

The Artistic Director of the Octagon, David Thacker, told me that “Seven Jewish Children” was being performed at the request of the PSC. If you look at a cached copy of the Octagon website you will find the same explanation:

When premiered the play caused uproar. It was the Bolton Palestine Solidarity Campaign who approached the organization to produce Seven Jewish Children. The Octagon Theatre would like to thank Bolton Palestine Solidarity Campaign for their ongoing support.

Yet when we debated on BBC Radio Manchester on Monday night (starts 41:20) and in the theatre on Saturday, Thacker insisted the play was his free choice to perform. Go figure. If the BNP asked him to perform a play called “Whiter than White” would he oblige and claim it was his own idea?

And how come in 1994 he had such concerns about “Merchant of Venice” but now seems to have none about “Seven Jewish Children”?

With increasing racist assaults and Nazi activity throughout Europe, we have an obligation. There is a real responsibility to not only avoid any possibility of fuelling that racism but moreover to confront and reveal the source of that racist upsurge.

Go figure……


Engage has also been following this story. See the comments by Morten and IsraeliNurse who were both also there. IsraeliNurse suggests that a more appropriate Arthur Miller play for the discussion would have been The Crucible

14 replies »

  1. Jonathan : “…The event was to be a cosy Israel-hate session with speakers from the PSC, JFJFP and the local MP who is secretary to the All Parliamentary Britain-Palestine Group, with the line up as follows..”

    I can’t believe that this lot would play from anything other than a stacked deck, but what actually happened at that session and what was said and what was the reaction to what you and the others argued?

    It’d be useful to know from you, as well as from Israelinurse by way of Engage.


  2. I recall that when the play “Seven Jewish Children” was first shown, the Guardian had a column about wonderful and beautiful the
    play is. Like Christine Chinkin, Cheryl Churchill is a woman of no personal honor whatsover. The Palestinian media, from television to newspapers, is filled the most venomous antiSemitic poison. Particularly in Hamas controlled Gaza, the media is controlled by Islamic fanatics who poison the minds of Palestinian children on a daily basis. Churchill could quite easily go to the MEMRI web site and see it first hand if she had any desire to do so. In contrast, the Israeli press is closely monitored and legions of Guardian reporters (most notably Freedman) are on the lookout for the slightest trace of racism in Israeli school books, radio and television. Usually Freedman and Churchill can’t find any and they are bitterly dissapointed that they can not. So Churchill just created the image of blood thirsty Jews who are drooling with desire to harm and kill angelic Palestinian kids. In contrast, Palestinians are portrayed as almost waiflike innocents, all filled with love and affection.
    The only good Jews in Churchill’s world are Jews she creates who are willing to renounce their fellow Jews, to abandon the State of Israel and to join the chorus of leftists who are pathologically obsessed with Israel. If Cheryl Churchill and Tony Lerman ever meet, I can write a movie script about it. It will be titled: “When Cheryl met Tony: A Love Story”.

  3. “Linda Clair ….. Of Jewish origin……”

    Linda Clair,this events ASAJ.

    Remember,always be sure to include at least one AsAJew, to make sure your hatefest goes with a swing,and has that genuine,Endorsed by a Jew zing.

  4. Mitnaged

    It started at 2pm. First Thacker asked everyone if they agreed to have a ‘prayer break’ at 5pm. Morten (see Engage thread) said that he was surprised at the contrast that this suggestion showed versus the non-sensitivity to Jews since the event was on a Saturday when many Jews from Manchester could not travel. Then they played a scene from All My Sons – the one where Chris Keller confronts his father Joe when Chris finds out the truth about what his father did. Then we discussed it. One of the PSC team (they sat together) said it was an anti-War play and linked in Israel! I responded that I thought it was a play about patriotism and that that was something which is not fashionable in Europe (see Robin Shepherd’s book).

    Then we had Seven Jewish Children. Then we had it effectively again when one of the actors acted out an Israeli mother who – under the guise of protecting her children – showed hate of Palestinians. It was a manipulative disgrace by Thacker.

    Then he opened it up. Responses were predictable. I was not allowed to finish my response because I was “slow handclapped” so I could not be heard. I began by asking Thacker why his response to Merchant of Venice and to 7JC was so different. IsraeliNurse said that she had had 57 years experience of the Israeli school system (the total years her children had spent in schools there) and that this play was simply not helpful. Israelis and moderate Palestinians always go back to making peace because there is no alternative to living together.

    Kuper (JFJFP) said that the rockets had stopped in the months before Cast Lead. That is simply not true and he was challenged.

    Clair made it clear that she was disappointed that 7OC had been added to the programme. Its addition had made her want to stay away – she said -because of her ‘no platform for racists’ policy. But the PSC had made a collective decision to come.

    The 7OC was performed. The author Richard Stirling and the Director Simone Vause were invited to speak about it. They were accused by someone in the PSC group of being too extreme (in fact the play could be a lot more extreme, for example showing some of the things on Hamas TV for children eg Assoud the Jew-eating rabbit).

    Iddon the MP spoke predictably. IsraeliNurse on Engage: “I found it particularly revealing that Dr Brian Iddon MP (Bolton SE, Lab) repeatedly tripped himself up by saying ‘Jews’ instead of ‘Israelis’.”

    I pointed out that it was Iddon who had hosted in Parliament the launch by CAABU of ‘Israeli Apartheid’, the antisemitic book by Ben White.

    Finally the invited speakers were allowed to sum up. Khan alleged that around 70 (I think that was the number) babies had been born at checkpoints and that all of them had either died or suffered brain damage. Nothing about why checkpoints are there.

    And I don’t know if that figure is true or verifiable.

    It was a pointless afternoon and many people said so. But as Morten says on Engage: “At least they were made to feel uneasy at their own event and realised we’re not entirely a pushover.” I left copies of the EUMC Definition of antisemitism.

    The fact was that had we not insisted on 7OC and representation in the debate, this would have been a PSC Israel hatefest financed with a mix of taxpayer and PSC money.

    I would like to thank the private donors who made it possible for 7OC to be shown as well as StandWithUs, ZCC and the Manchester Jewish Representative Council. As well as those who had an 18 hour day travelling from London and back.

  5. “Kuper (JFJFP) said that the rockets had stopped in the months before Cast Lead. That is simply not true and he was challenged.”

    Kuper obviously reads only the Guardian. If you look back at the Guardian archives for the week prior to Cast Lead, when Hamas was firing 70+ rockets every day from Gaza, you will see that there are exactly two articles on Israel, both on the upcoming elections. The Guardian always has its own reporers in the area who must have been aware of the mood in Israel and the inevitable implications, so the only question is whether the reporters deliberately ignored such a major story or whether the Guardian deliberately suppressed their reports. Either way, it could only have been to create an impession hat Israel launched an unprovoked attack.

  6. Jonathan is to be congratulated on all his efforts
    I am delighted that the person who first became aware of this potential danger at Bolton Octagon contacted me and that I immediately recognised that Jonathan was the person who would leap into the right action and get something done as he always does.
    I am also glad with my StandWithUs UK hat on I was able to make an SWU contribution to ensure we could stage Seven Other Children

    Clearly there was an agenda with the Octagon artisitic agenda here which I intend to follow up when I return from Israel

  7. How did Tony Lerman miss out on all the fun of speaking out in favor of this dreadful play and lambasting anyone as a “Zionist” if he or she disagreed with the dreadful Churchill play?

  8. Well done Jonathan, Joy and Israeli nurse.

    It is telling that you were slow handclapped Jonathan – sounds like many had already made up their minds, but then I suppose they weren’t there to have their eyes opened but to have their prejudices massaged.

    Very worrying that 7JC is being peddled around the country in this way, and that foolish theatre heads not only permit it but actively conspire and suggest prayer breaks (!). As you said, what happened to the sensitivity to Jewish religious requirements, as in not showing this on a Shabbat?

    I find it unbelievable that these fellow travellers of radical Islam in academe, government, the media and the arts, fall over themselves to accommodate those they appear to admire. Do they not understand that the same people they admire consider them religiously to be beneath contempt and are simply using them to achieve their own ends?

  9. Thanks, Jonathan.

    I am sorry you had to experience that (although I have to say that I am not surprised) but thank you for sharing that experience here.

  10. ” Seven Jewish Children” is a poor imitation of Luigi Pirandello’s Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore [Six Characters in Search of an Author]. His play fits the Guardian to a tee: find anything or anyone to malign the Jewish state.

  11. I cannot add much to Jonathan’s excellent account of this predictably one-sided event other than what I have already written at ‘Engage’.
    During the closing remarks I said that I felt that nothing had been acheived, which is certainly true of the event itself, but on the positive side I did get to meet some lovely people from the Jewish community.

    Since then I have also realised that I am very grateful that it is the Palestinians in the Middle East we need to make peace with and not the likes of the PSC : the former are much less extreme in my experience!

  12. Jonathan’s account does not adequately convey they unsuppressed and obsessive hatred that Richard Kuper, in particular, has for the Jewish state.
    Dispensing lies at bullet speed is what he does best, in his compulsive aim to demonise and de-legitimise Israel, prior to its hoped-for demise.
    The others are not far behind.