Monday, April 6, 2009

Seven Muslim Children

The British playwright Caryl Churchill has written a short play called "Seven Jewish Children". It purports to relate the story about seven Jewish children in seven different time periods, from the Holocaust through the present, through voices of adults who debate what to tell the children about what is happening. No children appear in the play. It is very critical of Zionism, and, not surprisingly for a 10 minute play, treats issues with extreme superficiality. It has been staged both in London and in the US; Churchill has now made the text available for free to encourage local performances.

Jeffrey Goldberg, writing in the Atlantic Monthly termed it "a drive-by shooting of a play" and a "blood libel" . Goldberg also contrasted the response to this play to a hypothetical similar effort aimed at Muslims: "One of the reasons the Muslim world is in trouble is that self-criticism is so stifled. But there comes a point when its like, "enough already." But answer this question. If David Mamet were to write "Seven Muslim Children: An Inquiry Into Why Palestinians Allow Their Sons to Become Suicide Bombers," do you think that people would be sitting in Beirut and Amman, staging the play and having dialogue groups about whether the play was fair or not?"

So, inspired by Mr. Goldberg, I have written "Seven Muslim Children". (I can hear Goldberg now: "I know David Mamet; David Mamet is a friend of mine; and you, sir are no David Mamet." Trust me, I already know that.)

Many of you will read this and think that it is a superficial, Islamophobic, hateful piece. It is. Just as "Seven Jewish Children" is a superficial, anti-Semitic, hateful piece. Those of you who felt that "Seven Jewish Children" is a literary atrocity should feel the same way about this. Please note that I am not (repeat: NOT) endorsing the sentiments reflected here. It is a literary device, a satire, a through-the-looking-glass version of Churchill's "play". But for those who feel that "yes, let's have discussion groups, let's put on this play in the interest of art and free speech": do you think the anti-Muslim version is a legitimate point of view? do you think it is appropriate to present THAT viewpoint in your theater? do you think it should be given equal time? and if not, why not? (discuss amongst yourselves...)

For those who have not yet read it, I have included the original text of "Seven Jewish Children" first. I have also added notes on some of the references made within "Seven Muslim Children".

The time frames in Churchill's play are fairly obvious. For benefit of the reader, I will label my chapters with the time frames, since they are not the same as Churchill's.

Seven Jewish Children by Caryl Churchill, courtesy of Elder of Ziyon
Tell her it’s a game
Tell her it’s serious
But don’t frighten her
Don’t tell her they’ll kill her
Tell her it’s important to be quiet
Tell her she’ll have cake if she’s good
Tell her to curl up as if she’s in bed
But not to sing.
Tell her not to come out
Tell her not to come out even if she hears shouting
Don’t frighten her
Tell her not to come out even if she hears nothing for a long time
Tell her we’ll come and find her
Tell her we’ll be here all the time.
Tell her something about the men
Tell her they’re bad in the game
Tell her it’s a story
Tell her they’ll go away
Tell her she can make them go away if she keeps still
By magic
But not to sing.

Tell her this is a photograph of her grandmother, her uncles and me
Tell her her uncles died
Don’t tell her they were killed
Tell her they were killed
Don’t frighten her.
Tell her her grandmother was clever
Don’t tell her what they did
Tell her she was brave
Tell her she taught me how to make cakes
Don’t tell her what they did
Tell her something
Tell her more when she’s older.
Tell her there were people who hated Jews
Don’t tell her
Tell her it’s over now
Tell her there are still people who hate Jews
Tell her there are people who love Jews
Don’t tell her to think Jews or not Jews
Tell her more when she’s older
Tell her how many when she’s older
Tell her it was before she was born and she’s not in danger
Don’t tell her there’s any question of danger.
Tell her we love her
Tell her dead or alive her family all love her
Tell her her grandmother would be proud of her.

Don’t tell her we’re going for ever
Tell her she can write to her friends, tell her her friends can maybe come and visit
Tell her it’s sunny there
Tell her we’re going home
Tell her it’s the land God gave us
Don’t tell her religion
Tell her her great great great great lots of greats grandad lived there
Don’t tell her he was driven out
Tell her, of course tell her, tell her everyone was driven out and the country is waiting for us to come home
Don’t tell her she doesn’t belong here
Tell her of course she likes it here but she’ll like it there even more.
Tell her it’s an adventure
Tell her no one will tease her
Tell her she’ll have new friends
Tell her she can take her toys
Don’t tell her she can take all her toys
Tell her she’s a special girl
Tell her about Jerusalem.

Don’t tell her who they are
Tell her something
Tell her they’re Bedouin, they travel about
Tell her about camels in the desert and dates
Tell her they live in tents
Tell her this wasn’t their home
Don’t tell her home, not home, tell her they’re going away
Don’t tell her they don’t like her
Tell her to be careful.
Don’t tell her who used to live in this house
No but don’t tell her her great great grandfather used to live in this house
No but don’t tell her Arabs used to sleep in her bedroom.
Tell her not to be rude to them
Tell her not to be frightened
Don’t tell her she can’t play with the children
Don’t tell her she can have them in the house.
Tell her they have plenty of friends and family
Tell her for miles and miles all round they have lands of their own
Tell her again this is our promised land.
Don’t tell her they said it was a land without people
Don’t tell her I wouldn’t have come if I’d known.
Tell her maybe we can share.
Don’t tell her that.


Tell her we won
Tell her her brother’s a hero
Tell her how big their armies are
Tell her we turned them back
Tell her we’re fighters
Tell her we’ve got new land.


Don’t tell her
Don’t tell her the trouble about the swimming pool
Tell her it’s our water, we have the right
Tell her it’s not the water for their fields
Don’t tell her anything about water.
Don’t tell her about the bulldozer
Don’t tell her not to look at the bulldozer
Don’t tell her it was knocking the house down
Tell her it’s a building site
Don’t tell her anything about bulldozers.
Don’t tell her about the queues at the checkpoint
Tell her we’ll be there in no time
Don’t tell her anything she doesn’t ask
Don’t tell her the boy was shot
Don’t tell her anything.
Tell her we’re making new farms in the desert
Don’t tell her about the olive trees
Tell her we’re building new towns in the wilderness.
Don’t tell her they throw stones
Tell her they’re not much good against tanks
Don’t tell her that.
Don’t tell her they set off bombs in cafés
Tell her, tell her they set off bombs in cafés
Tell her to be careful
Don’t frighten her.
Tell her we need the wall to keep us safe
Tell her they want to drive us into the sea
Tell her they don’t
Tell her they want to drive us into the sea.
Tell her we kill far more of them
Don’t tell her that
Tell her that
Tell her we’re stronger
Tell her we’re entitled
Tell her they don’t understand anything except violence
Tell her we want peace
Tell her we’re going swimming.

Tell her she can’t watch the news
Tell her she can watch cartoons
Tell her she can stay up late and watch Friends.
Tell her they’re attacking with rockets
Don’t frighten her
Tell her only a few of us have been killed
Tell her the army has come to our defence
Don’t tell her her cousin refused to serve in the army.
Don’t tell her how many of them have been killed
Tell her the Hamas fighters have been killed
Tell her they’re terrorists
Tell her they’re filth
Don’t tell her about the family of dead girls
Tell her you can’t believe what you see on television
Tell her we killed the babies by mistake
Don’t tell her anything about the army
Tell her, tell her about the army, tell her to be proud of the army.
Tell her about the family of dead girls, tell her their names why not, tell her the whole world knows why shouldn’t she know?
Tell her there’s dead babies, did she see babies?
Tell her she’s got nothing to be ashamed of.
Tell her they did it to themselves.
Tell her they want their children killed to make people sorry for them, tell her I’m not sorry for them, tell her not to be sorry for them, tell her we’re the ones to be sorry for, tell her they can’t talk suffering to us.
Tell her we’re the iron fist now, tell her it’s the fog of war, tell her we won’t stop killing them till we’re safe, tell her I laughed when I saw the dead policemen, tell her they’re animals living in rubble now, tell her I wouldn’t care if we wiped them out, the world would hate us is the only thing, tell her I don’t care if the world hates us, tell her we’re better haters, tell her we’re chosen people, tell her I look at one of their children covered in blood and what do I feel? Tell her all I feel is happy it’s not her.
Don’t tell her that.
Tell her we love her.
Don’t frighten her.


7 Muslim Children

1 (circa 900)
Tell him how wonderful it is
Tell him that we won
Tell him about the swords and the rivers of blood
Don’t tell him about the swords and the blood
Tell him we’re doing it in the Name of the Prophet
Tell him they will all convert or be dhimmis
Don’t tell him about dhimmis
Tell him this will all be ours forever
Tell him al-Andalus is Dar al-Islam

2 (circa 1800)
Tell him how we used to rule
Tell him how the world changed
Tell him it was the Europeans’ fault
Don’t tell him it was the Europeans’ fault
Tell him we will go back to al-Andalus and all the other lands one day
Don’t tell him about al-Andalus

3 (circa 1900)
Tell him the Jews are coming back
Don’t tell him the Jews are coming back
Don’t tell him they were ever here
Tell him they’ve always been here
Don’t tell him they’ve always been here
Tell him they want to live as a free people
Tell him they are buying the land
Don’t tell him they’re buying the land
Tell him they’re stealing our land
Tell him they love the land and are draining the swamps
Tell him we want to live where they have built hospitals and schools and roads
Don’t tell him that we didn’t build anything
Don’t tell him they love the land
Don't tell him they have prayed every day for hundreds of years to return to the land

4 (1948)
Tell him to get his gun
Tell him to shoot the Jews
Tell him to block the road
Tell him to shoot the convoys
Tell him they can’t have a country here
Tell him we were going to have a country too
Don’t tell him we were going to have a country too
Tell him the Jews will slaughter him
Tell him about Deir Yassin
Tell him about Deir Yassin
Tell him about Deir Yassin
Don’t tell him about Kfar Etzion
Don’t tell him about Latrun
Don’t tell him about “itbach-al-Yahud”
Tell him “itbach-al-Yahud”
Tell him we will drive them into the sea

5 (1967)
Tell him we’re going to go back
Tell him we’re going back to Jaffa one day
Don’t tell him we’re never going back to Jaffa
Tell him our Arab brothers will help us
Don’t tell him our Arab brothers refuse to help us
Tell him how our Arab brothers kicked out all their Jews
Don’t tell him that the Zionists took in their Jews
Don’t tell him why we can’t leave the camp
Don’t tell him why we can’t live in Cairo, or Beirut, or Damascus
Don’t tell him that it's because they hate us
Tell him they are doing this for our own good
Tell him they will help us go back to Jaffa
Tell him we’re going to go home soon
Tell him Nasser will take us home
Tell him the armies are ready
Tell him the Jews are scared
Tell him we will slaughter all of them
Don’t tell him we will slaughter all of them, even the children
Don’t tell him…..that we lost again
Don’t tell him that they’ll give it all back for peace
Tell him “no, no, no”

6 (2002)
Tell him to put on the bomb belt
Tell him he will have 72 virgins
Don’t tell him that he must die
Don’t tell him that he must kill children
Tell him the Jews aren’t human
Tell him they’re the sons of apes and pigs
Tell him they are infidels in Dar al-Islam
Tell him they let their women be free
Tell him their gays are free
Don’t tell him their gays are free (just in case…)
Tell him Allah will bless him
Tell him we will call him a hero
Don’t tell him how they will die
Don’t tell him how they will be scarred
Don’t tell him they have parents too
Don’t tell him they offered us a country again
Tell him they have no right to a country
Tell him it’s better to die than to admit it
Tell him how we danced in the streets on 9/11
Don’t tell him we danced in the streets on 9/11
Tell him it’s better to kill them than live with them

7 (2008)
Tell him to launch the rockets
Tell him to use the school yard
Don’t tell him to use the school yard
Tell him they’re afraid to fire back because the world will hate them
Don’t tell him they might fire back anyway
Tell him they must all die
Don’t tell him they might attack
Tell him we’re living in the Warsaw Ghetto
Tell him what the Warsaw Ghetto was
Don’t tell him what really happened in the Warsaw Ghetto
Don’t tell him about Auschwitz and Treblinka
Tell him they’re afraid of us and won’t attack us
Tell him we can shoot off rockets forever.
Tell him if he’s lucky the rocket will hit a kindergarten
Tell him “itbach-al-Yahud”
Tell him “Filastin hi arduna, Wa al-Yahud kilabuna”
Tell him we will go back to al-Andalus
In the Name of the Prophet


all definitions, unless otherwise hyperlinked, are from

Andalus: Al Andalus (Spain), and other former Muslim conquests are considered by radical Islamists to be Islamic lands lost to the infidels.

Dar al-Islam: Dar al Islam (Arabic: دار الإسلا) is the area of the world under the rule of Islam , literally, "the home of Islam" or "the home of submission." This is often used by extremists to include areas that used to be part of the Muslim world such as Al-Andalus (Spain) as well as the Muslim world.

Deir Yassin a village near Jerusalem, site of a massacre by Jewish Irgun/Lehi forces (April 9, 1948)

Dhimmi: (Arabic: ذمي) (often pronounced "Zimmi") are Christians, Jews, and sometimes Zoroastrians and people of other faiths living in a Muslim state and enjoying special protection not afforded to other non-Muslims. Dhimmi are supposed to wear special dress and pay the jizyah tax. They are exempt (or rather forbidden) from fighting and from paying the Muslim Zakah tax. The dhimmi were often forced to wear special dress. A dhimmi could not testify against a Muslim in a court of law, meaning that non-Muslims had virtually no legal relief against injustice by Muslims. Many Dhimmi converted, usually because of the social pressure, but also because of forced conversions under various Muslim rulers.

“Filastin hi arduna, Wa al-Yahud kilabuna”: Arabic for "Palestine is our land, and the Jews are our dogs."
Itbach-al-Yahud: Arabic for “slaughter the Jews”;
Both were chanted by Arabs during the 1920 Nebi Musa pogrom and on many occasions since then, including at anti-Israel demonstrations in the US

Kfar Etzion site of a massacre of surrendered Jewish defenders by Palestinians on May 14, 1948

Latrun is the site of a fort and monastery. The position was controlled by the Jordan Legion in 1948, and enforced the blockade of Jewish Jerusalem by the Arab forces.


  1. Whats sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If European anti Semites who shed crocodile tears for Palestinians don't like it, too bad.

  2. This is very good. Certainly as good as Churchill's.

    Though that's not saying anything.

  3. Bravo! Quite brilliant.


  4. Trust those that seek the truth, doubt those that have found it...

  5. Tell him Hebron is our ancient city
    Don't tell him we kill everyone at hebron and jerusalem at 1936
    Don't tell him we join the Nazis at 1940

  6. Who knows, you might be a David Mamet, and even a Caryl Churchill. But we can't know that unless you make a little effort and give yourself the chance to be a playwright.
    Believe me, if your play was any close to Churchill's, it would have had a chance to be played in Beirut. Let me rephrase that. Were you to write a better play, I would produce it in Beirut. And I'm sure the public will enjoy it. It certainly won't be the first or the last time in which they would see a critical play on Arab and Muslim affairs. In Lebanon, we have at least two or three very critical dramas in each theatrical season (one cannot count the number of comedies and parodies on these topics).

    So what's missing in your "Seven Muslim Children"? You do recognise that it is a superficial, islamophobic, hateful piece... But that's not its greatest problem. It lacks drama, it lacks empathy, it lacks craftsmanship.
    If you go back to Churchill's play, you notice that the periods are easy to recognise, even though you only find indirect references to events. Your play doesn't manage that. It is rife with direct references, with names... You're never able to hint at anything.
    Churchill's play is very empathetic. You feel the emotions, the fear, the care for the young, the hurt, the humiliation, the pride, the bewilderment of the character(s). This is completely inexistant in your play.
    Yes, sure, the play is critical about Israeli policies . But there's a difference between being critical and being hostile. I believe you completely missed that point. Why don't you write a play that is critical about Palestinian policies? Could you try to be understanding with Palestinian feelings? Can you show how they have evolved, why they have evolved? Could you determine when they felt hope, when they felt fear, when they felt helplessness, when they felt humiliation, when they felt pride?
    That is what Churchill's play is about.
    You see "Seven Jewish Children" as a superficial, anti-Semitic, hateful piece. I don't agree with you. I have already discussed it with a friend of mine, and we believe it can be used to help Palestinians be more understanding of Israel and Israeli Jews.
    - The first part is a good introduction to the horrors of the Shoah (the jewish child could well be Anne Frank).
    - The second part is a good introduction to the end of the opening of the death camps.
    - The third part is a good introduction to the Exodus episode.
    - The forth and fifth part are a good introduction to the war of Independence (that the Palestinians call Nakba).
    - The sixth and seventh part show the effects of the first and second Intifada on the Israelis. The radicalisation, the loss of hope for peace, the fear of terrorist attacks...

    You see the play as anti-semitic. I see it as empathetic towards Jewish-Israelis. And I strongly believe that this play can serve to foster a better understanding between Palestinians and Jewish-Israelis.

  7. Jeez louise. The second one is so bad, it's funny. It's so full of vitriol.
    The First text has a real ring to it, it's what people actually would have said when hiding from the SS. The second one is not like what Palestinians tell their children. They had (wrong) reasons to blow up innocent Jewish civilians or invade Israel but the text doesn't sound like something an intelligent palestinian would say.

  8. Is it just me or have someone missed the irony and hypocrisy of an Anglo-Saxon Brit (Ms. Churchill) lecturing the Jews of Israel about the Israeli/Palestinian mess THAT those EVIL brits created in the first place. Isn't this typical of Brits to first start a fire and then fan the flames. I mean as an outside observer, it's clear that the original borders of Israel that Britain 'engineered' were absolutely unsecure and inviting of attack. This is a consistent pattern of the British empire after their global defeat & retreat. One get's the impression that some in Britain wanted to finish (by proxy; i.e. using the Arabs to do the dirty work) what Hitler started. They did the same on the Indo-Pak border and the Sino-Indo-Tibet border; creating borders that conferred advantage on whoever attacked first; leading to 5 wars. Has anyone thought about publicizing Britain's atrocities and continued Machiavellian pandering toward the Islamic world?

  9. Your play - Seven Muslim Children is actually very good!!

    But if C. Churchill had written, it, she would have a fatwa on her head and there would be boycotts and riots.

    ps - Tell Churchill that the UK denied immigration to the Jews during WWII. No, don't tell her - she's so happy in her dream world.

  10. There was a time during the Spanish Inquisition that Muslims took care of Jewish refugees, when they were both being expelled from europe. That was in 1492. Nobody talks about their cooperation when confronted by a common enemy. Nobody notices that in 1492 europe unwittingly discovered a new land full of people to disregard, exploit, and massacre.