Going toe-to-toe with the wonderfully pugnacious Jeffrey Goldberg of Atlantic Monthly for 12 rounds was good fun… But it’s about serious stuff. He despises Churchill’s play. I tried to bring to Theater J to tell us why. I think we duke it out to a draw… Here’s an excerpt.
Jeffrey Goldberg: Well, tell me why I’m wrong.
Ari Roth: Well, let me ask you, do you think you’re still right?
JG: I read the play five times. It reads like anti-Jewish agitprop to me. I see it as a short polemic directed against one party in a complicated conflict. Take the line, “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.” I mean, I think she moves from the traditional smug, self-righteous European morally superior stance —
AR: When you say she starts, she doesn’t start there —
JG: No, no, no, let me finish my sentence. I think she moves into an area that she has to know has this very, very terrible historic resonance. It’s associating Jews with the spilling of innocent blood. She knows what that means and I think it kind of feeds into, obviously, the very worst and most dangerous stereotypes about Jews. How they revel in non-Jewish blood.
AR: I totally agree with you. I mean, I’m on the watch for this as well —
JG: Then why are you putting it on?
AR: I wrote in the Washington Post and the Washington Jewish Week when the Royal Shakespeare company came over with their Canterbury Tales two years ago and included The Prioress’s Tale and they brought, in order to make it pungent and fresh again, they did this re-enactment of essentially a blood libel, a young boy was slaughtered by Jews and buried under the floorboards, and all the Jews wore hook-noses. This was very primitive and I blasted it. They wanted to make it fresh, they wanted to elicit outrage, they didn’t contextualize, they didn’t — they wanted to surprise the shit out of people and surprise they did….