Benjamin Folkinshteyn

Slogans: A One-Act Play

Graffiti on University of Pennsylvania's campus. (Emil Pitkin)

(Curtains open onto a large public square. IRAN enters stage right with AMERICA trailing not far behind, distracted by her cellphone.)

IRAN: Marg bar Âmrikâ! Death to America!

AMERICA: Whoa . . . Whoa . . . Whoa . . . What did you say?

IRAN: Death to America!

AMERICA (laughing): Is it my hair? My good looks?

IRAN (hateful stare): Death to America!

AMERICA: I am not perfect – we’ve all made mistakes – but that’s a little extreme, don’t you think?

IRAN: Death to America!

AMERICA: Oh, I see what you are saying, you mean this figuratively. You are calling for “death” to our approach to foreign policy. You think that our foreign policy preferences certain national and international interests at the expense of others. We get that, but you have to understand that our democratic ideals . . .

IRAN (interrupts): Death to America!

(In the background off stage a loud multitude chants “God is the Greatest, Death to America, Death to Israel, A Curse Upon the Jews, Victory to Islam!”)

AMERICA: So it’s not figurative? Are you concerned that our support of Israel and our alignment with the Persian Gulf monarchies diminishes your influence in the Middle East? What is it? What can we do to engage in a dialogue here?

IRAN: Death to America! Death to the Zionist Entity!

AMERICA: OK, how about this? You agree to discontinue your nuclear program and allow us to inspect your nuclear facilities and we will aim toward normalizing our relations? Here’s a few billion dollars to sweeten the pot!

IRAN: Death to America! Death to the Zionist . . .

(A large CROWD of masked demonstrators enters the stage holding a variety of signs.)

CROWD: Zionism is Racism! From the River to the Sea Palestine Will Be Free!

AMERICA: Oh, hello, welcome! I am so glad you are exercising your right to speak freely and peacefully (dodges objects thrown her way). Isn’t Freedom of Speech awesome?

CROWD: America is a racist country! Speech is Violence!

AMERICA: Um. . . OK, but isn’t what you are doing . . .

CROWD: Zionism is Racism!

AMERICA: Well, I am glad you brought that up actually! You see, Zionism is a movement for self-determination of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. If we label as racist only one people’s national aspirations and not others, well, it’s sort of, racist, isn’t it? Wouldn’t that make anti-Zionism just plain old boring anti-Semitism? Wouldn’t that make Palestinian aspirations raci . . .

CROWD (interrupts): Palestine is Arab from the River to the Sea!

AMERICA: OK . . . but what happens to Jews in Israel?

CROWD: Israel is a Genocidal State!

AMERICA: But didn’t you just call for a genocide of the Jews?

CROWD: Jews – Go Back to Poland! Palestine is Arab!

AMERICA: Not every Jewish person is of Eastern European descent, you know. Over 800,000 Jews from Arab countries, some of the oldest Jewish communities in the world, were forced to leave and resettle in Israel after 1948. Their pogroms, attacks and expulsion of Jews throughout the Middle East after Israel’s declaration of independence is fairly well known, though often ignored.

CROWD: Israel is an Apartheid State! Zionism is Racism!

AMERICA: Umm.. yeah… Israel successfully resettled and absorbed many Jewish refugees from the Muslim countries as well as Eastern Europe. Yes, not a perfect country, but what country is? Moreover, Arab Israeli citizens/permanent residents comprise over 20% of Israel’s population. Israel is very diverse. Did you know that there have been many Arab Israeli justices on Israel’s Supreme Court? People of all faiths and walks of life can own property and participate fully in civil society unlike in many of Israel’s neighbors! Generally speaking, both Jews and non-Jews are freer in Israel than . . .

CROWD (interrupts): Pinkwashing! Queers for Palestine!

AMERICA (incredulous): Seriously?

CROWD: Israel = Nazis! Resistance by Any Means Necessary!

AMERICA: I am all for fighting Nazis with you, but not imaginary ones, of course. Not sure you know but to many people “by any means necessary” seems like you are praising Hamas for their October 7 atrocities.

(In the background off stage a loud multitude chants “Khaybar Khaybar Ya Yahud…!”)

CROWD: Long Live the Intifadah!

AMERICA: Oh brother….

(AMERICA goes to one side of the stage and bangs head against a wall spray painted with swastikas over Stars of David. CROWD and IRAN continue chanting slogans and waving signs.)


About the Author
Benjamin Folkinshteyn is an attorney in private practice in the Greater New York area. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
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