On campuses across America, Israel is portrayed as among the cruelest of nations, and Jewish students who stand up for the Jewish state are hectored, intimidated, and have even been physically assaulted – this for supporting a “colonialist, apartheid” state which, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement says, stole Palestinian land, and needlessly oppresses the innocent, indigenous and indigent native Arabs. This is, as they say on campus, the Palestinian narrative.
And this is the story told in “Crossing Jerusalem,” a play that was – inexplicably — produced, paid for, and performed several times at the very pro-Israel JCC in Aventura, Florida; and which caused and continues to cause a storm.
It is clearly an anti-Semitic play. The behavior and character of every Jew in it expresses classical anti-Jewish tropes: they steal, they deceive, they use their power to manipulate the law and they mistreat their workers. Every one of the three Jewish women in the play is sexually licentious, unrestrained, even lusting for gentile men in exactly the way Der Sturmer once explained their behavior to young Nazis.
The Jews in this play abuse their own children; and they even murder a gentile (in this case, an Arab) child — not to make matzoh from his blood — as was the ancient calumny — but this time to keep the land they stole from the Arabs. The play’s Jewish mother is not the Jewish mother we all know; she has no time for her children, she seduces her Arab servant, and she is obsessively driven by a lust for lucre.
The Arabs, on the other hand are completely innocent victims of Zionist aggression. And they are good people. (“Everything was good before the Jews came.”) A Christian Arab café owner just wants to live and let live and to lead a good and moral personal life. Mahmoud, a Palestinian Muslim, was the Jewish family’s servant, and acted as a kind father to the Jewish children while the mother was too busy stealing Arab land. He was the one seduced by the Jewish mother who bedded him and then got rid of him by falsely reporting to the police that he stole her jewelry. Her cruelty reduced him to poverty.
There is an Arab cook, the most appealing character in the play perhaps, who deeply cares for his father Mahmoud and his younger brother who he tries to steer away from hatred and terrorism. One is even made to sympathize with this young hot head who wants to have, as he says, Jewish blood soak his hands, and who in the end blows them up as a suicide martyr. We don’t approve of his act, but we are given so many reasons to explain, perhaps to justify, his homicidal hatred.
So “Crossing Jerusalem” is a perfect dramatization of what our scholars describe as the “new antisemitism.” Today, Jews are mostly not hated because we killed Jesus or are racial vermin like the Nazis claimed. Instead, all the negative things once said about individual Jews are transferred to the character of the Jewish state. Today, people hate Jews because the “apartheid” state of Israel steals, deceives, plunders and manipulates. Israel, as Alan Dershowitz has pointed out, is “the Jew among nations.”
The play’s director of course defends his work. He says that the theme of the play is not Jewish evil, but that both sides need to stop the conflict because we are both losing our children. He points to the last scene, where a Jew and an Arab are killed and mourned tragically by their relatives. But this is not the theme of the play. If that were the case, if this were the sort of classical human tragedy he speaks of, then the Arabs too would have been shown to have inherent human flaws that led to tragic ends. But they do not. They are completely innocent, driven to maddening murderous acts only by Zionist oppression, and by nothing more. All would have been fine, as the young brother put is, “if there were no Jews.” That, actually, should be the title of the play.
The play’s real theme is that Zionism failed. “It was supposed to protect us,” said the mother. Instead, the play makes the case that Zionism made Jews even worse than they were, while inflating the hated individual “Jewish character flaws” into a monster Jewish state. The IDF son, considering whether to become a refusnik, muses that doing so would make him “a rotten Israeli,” but at least he could try to become a “decent Jew.”
“Crossing Jerusalem: is a BDS play. The Aventura JCC did the right thing to cancel an exhibition so defamatory of Jews and Israel that it would be the favored work of art by Students for Justice in Palestine, today’s campus brown-shirts.
After the shocked and outraged reaction of the community, the play has been cancelled. Yet now we hear howls of protest from those who claim the JCC’s cancellation is an act of censorship, even “book-burning.” “Art” is under attack. This is all nonsense. People are free in America to express negative reactions to so called “art” by not endorsing it. There is no obligation to support plays or other cultural forms that express hatred to the people to which one belongs. A JCC is not required to provide space for anti-Semitic creations.
Finally, what can one say about the people who staged a play which demonizes Israelis, then attack Jews who question the demonization, and then go on to claim that they are the victims of Sinat Chinam? How utterly shameful!
Charles Jacobs is President of Americans for Peace and Tolerance.