BBC refuses to air controversial Gaza play

Network says airing 'Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza' would compromise its impartiality.

By JONNY PAUL, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT, LONDON
March 18, 2009 22:37
2 minute read.
BBC refuses to air controversial Gaza play

gaza play 248.88. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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The BBC has refused to broadcast a radio version of a highly controversial play that critics have labelled anti-Semitic, stating that airing the drama would compromise its impartiality. Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza caused a storm last month while it was being performed at the Royal Court Theater in west London. Jewish community leaders dubbed it anti-Semitic for its portrayal of Israelis, which they said reinforced false stereotypes and included incorrect information. Written by British playwright Caryl Churchill, a pro-Palestinian activist and patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the play was produced to raise funds for Gaza. The 10-minute drama describes seven world events through the eyes of Jewish parents and grandparents who are determining how best to explain Jewish history to their children - Nazi Germany, the aftermath of World War II, the journey to Israel, the social anxiety apparent before The War of Independence, the consequences of the Six Day War, the first Intifada and finally today - post-Operation Cast Lead. This excerpt describes a parent's emotional response to events in Gaza: "Tell her they did it to themselves. Tell her they want their children killed to make people sorry for them, tell her I'm not sorry for them, tell her not to be sorry for them, tell her we're the ones to be sorry for, tell her they can't talk suffering to us. Tell her we're the iron fist now, tell her it's the fog of war, tell her we won't stop killing them till we're safe." According to The Guardian newspaper, BBC Radio Four rejected the script, deciding they could not use it on the grounds of impartiality. BBC Radio Four's commissioning editor Jeremy Howe said: "It is a no, I am afraid - both Mark Damazer [Radio Four controller] and I think it is a brilliant piece, but after discussing it with editorial policy, we have decided we cannot run with it on the grounds of impartiality. I think it would be nearly impossible to run a drama that counters Caryl Churchill's view. Having debated long and hard we have decided we can't do Seven Jewish Children." However, a statement made by the BBC added: "This play was not commissioned and no indication was given it would be broadcast. After due consideration, we felt it would not work for our audience." Last month, over 60 prominent Jewish community members - including actors, rabbis and leaders - opposed the theater's decision to stage the play in a letter published in The Daily Telegraph newspaper. "It portrays Israeli parents as inhuman triumphalists who care little about anything except their children's feelings and who teach them that Arabs are sub-human and must be hated," stated the letter. The play was described as "a 10-minute history of Israel, ending with the bombing of Gaza," and the letter's signatories questioned the historical facts contained within it. Seven Jewish Children has also roused strong reactions from the general public. A letter published in The Irish Times on Monday said: "I'm going to write a short play, and the title will be Seven Muslim Children. It's going to be a 10-minute history of Islam and will consist of a series of short dialogues in which Muslim parents, teachers and clerics teach their children to hate. They teach them to hate the West, to hate Jews, to hate globalization, to hate democracy, to hate everything except Islam. No entrance fee will be charged, but viewers should make a donation to a charity for children orphaned by 9/11." Mel Bezalel contributed to this report.

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