Britain’s anti-Semitism threat seeps into the cultural arena
A new play on the revival of the oldest hatred has been targeted with abuse
Europe’s wave of anti-Semitism is spreading beyond the political arena to a cultural frontline, as the writer of a new play in London on the topic revealed he fears abuse over his new production could turn violent.
One Jewish Boy, which premiers on Tuesday evening chronicles a relationship between a Jewish man, and a French-Algerian woman amid the racial and anti-semitic abuse they suffer in contemporary Britain. Yet, in an indication that fiction has become reality the play itself has become dartboard for anti-Semitic abuse.
As publicity for the production began in September, the cast and crew found themselves on the receiving end of abuse both online, and in the real world. Social media pages of the play were spammed with Palestinian flags, posters were defaced and vitriolic comments were aimed at writer Stephen Laughton included the likes of “You’re a f***ing enabler. You Jews disgust me”.
Another told the playwright to “write a play about Palestinian kids being blown to pieces by Jews”.
Mr Laughton voiced fears the abuse could morph into something more damaging. “I expected something, but I didn’t anticipate they’d come for me. I’m worried there’ll be more antisemitism when the play opens, and I’m worried it could become physical,” he told a British newspaper.
The playwright suggests much of the anti-Semitism stems from the conflation of the actions of Israel with those of Britain’s Jewish population, but is himself deeply critical of current Israeli policies.
“Most anti-Semitism seems to be coming via the situation in Israel and I would challenge that the Israeli government have a responsibility to think about the effects their actions have on diaspora Jews,” he told Jewish News last week.
Every night of the play’s four week run will see a charity collection for a number of charities, including Medical Aid for Palestinians and Yad Vashem – Israel’s official memorial to the holocaust.
It may be no coincidence that One Jewish Boy will run at The Old Red Lion, a theatre in the north London borough of Islington, on the doorstep of Jeremy Corbyn’s parliamentary constituency. Mr Corbyn’s own Labour party has been plagued by anti-Semitic scandals in recent years.
A number of Jewish MP have been targeted by the racial abuse, and an inquiry into the issue within the Labour party was accused of whitewashing the issue. The report’s author Shami Chakrabarti was promoted to the House of Lords and appointed to the shadow cabinet just months after the report’s publication.
A major report on anti-Semitism by the European Union published on Monday, suggested that the issue is worsening across the bloc. It said the situation was worst overall in France where some 20% of respondents claimed to have suffered anti-Semitic abuse in the past year.
Despite the threats, the curtain will rise as planned on Tuesday night, and one of Britain’s most promising young playwright says it won’t put him off his work. “I’m scared it could escalate and become more physical towards me, but it isn’t going to stop me making challenging work”.
“We need to discuss what it is, what it looks like, how we respond to it.”
Updated: December 11, 2018 03:33 PM