Chapter 12 Imagined Israel? Israel in Contemporary British Theater

In: Imagined Israel(s): Representations of the Jewish State in the Arts
Glenda Abramson
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In 2017, a British online magazine asked why, with regard to Israel, “British theatre can only produce shrill agitprop.” It answered that “British theatres think it is better to be self-righteous than carefully to explore both sides of complex conflicts.” In recent years, the arts in the United Kingdom have suffered from outbursts of anti-Israel action: a visit by Habima was canceled in 2012, and in 2011 a concert given in London by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra was disrupted by anti-Israel protests. Over the past 20 years, there have been a number of British plays attacking Israel. This led to a headline in a Jewish magazine: “British Theatre Has an Enemy and Its Name Is Israel.” While this is exaggerated, there have been instances of anti-Israel judgment in British plays such as Perdition, My Name Is Rachel Corrie, Alive from Palestine: Stories under the Occupation, and Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza. Criticism of any national entity is legitimate if it is well reasoned. The question I ask in this chapter is whether three of these plays, My Name Is Rachel Corrie by Katharine Viner and Alan Rickman, Seven Jewish Children by Caryl Churchill, and David Hare’s Via Dolorosa present well-reasoned arguments or whether they can be classified as shrill anti-Israel agitprop. I also consider The Holy Rosenbergs, a play by the British Jewish playwright Ryan Craig, as representing a Jewish view of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

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