We Jews have no monopoly on suffering, nor on the ability to dehumanize others

Caryl Churchill’s play, Seven Jewish Children, posits a direct historical line between Jewish trauma, Jewish fear, and Jewish callousness towards Palestinian life. I think it’s not only fair, but compassionate, even as it makes us look at something so ugly and disturbing about ourselves. I wrote a post on this yesterday which I saw quoted in other blogs. Something didn’t feel right- and I added this piece which I think is worth highlighting. It follows a statement I made about the general disregard for Palestinian and Arab life that can be found at many Jewish dinner tables.

It must be remembered that the same question can be asked of virtually all people. How many Americans ate dinner as usual after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? How many people in the Arab world today might think little of the deaths of Israelis or Jews? How many Europeans paused even a moment to consider the horror of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, or their homeland’s vicious colonial practices? We are all implicated. All accountable. To think Jews are exceptional on this count is to be in denial about the fundamental nature of people. [And it's anti-Semitic.] But to move out of this terrible ability to dehumanize and disconnect requires open discussion, not silence. We have to lift the rock and peer beneath, no matter how ugly.

I do not take from the Holocaust the lesson that Germans are essentially evil. I take from it the lesson that we all are capable of being Nazis, in some fashion.

Rather than working to shut down Seven Jewish Children, as some wish to do, we should support cultural production that forces all people to ask these questions about ourselves. Let’s start with Seven, or maybe Seventy American Children.

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