As part of its “10 days against the siege” campaign, the Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP) has brought Caryl Churchill’s “Seven Jewish Children – A Play for Gaza” to Israel to play tonight in Hebrew in Tel Aviv. The 10 minute play has caused heated protest and debate in the UK, Australia and the US so far as it continues to be staged worldwide. Termed “one of the most controversial plays in years”, Seven Jewish Children has been termed “antisemitic” and a modern day “blood libel“.
Accused of “conflat[ing] criticism of the government of Israel with polemic about Israelis and Jews in general” and making a “connection between pre-World War II Jews as victims of the Nazis and present-day Israelis as the oppressors of the Middle East”, the Jewish community of Britain wrote that the play reinforces “false stereotypes” and is “horrifically anti-Israel”.
Such reactions have caused official sources to distance themselves from the play. The BBC refused to air the play because it would “compromise its impartiality” and the city of Liverpool revoked its funding for a festival that included the play after the festival refused to show a response play called “Seven Other Children” alongside it.
A neglected element of the play is the fact that the rights to the play are free (p.8) to anyone as long as they collect money for the NGO Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP). Most criticism of the play has relied on the content of the play while paying little attention to the politicized NGO that is benefiting from each showing. While Steve James, Chief Executive of MAP, claims that “[w]e don’t take a political view on what’s happening in Palestine, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he has blamed Israel for “denying” medical care to Palestinians and MAP’s head of advocacy, Andrea Becker, has referred to the “collective punishment” of Palestinians.
This is just one of the myriad of activities included in CWP’s “10 days against the siege” campaign which so far involved bringing a convoy of contraband to the Erez crossing where CWP claimed it would resort to “digging tunnels” if their items were not passed through the “regular channels”. Another major theme of the campaign is calling for BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) against Israel. CWP is funded by the New Israel Fund.