Monday, August 01, 2005

Arab-Israeli Cookbook (Directors Tim Roseman & Rima Brihi)

Tricycle Theatre, 30 July 2005

An Israeli family member saw this play earlier in the week and thought it was good. So I really was taken by surprise at how offensive it actually was. This play is classic left-wing, moderately subtle, anti-Israel propaganda. The fact that it is based around food and cookery is irrelevant and purely pretentious, because it is actually a relentless diet of the simple "Palestinian = victim", Israeli = aggressor" message.

It is based around a number of characters relating their personal experiences of life during the intifadah. All the Arab characters are warm, wonderfully sympathetic and compassionate (who, as an aside, also cook or eat wonderful food that would be even better if only the nasty Israelis hadn't robbed them of their livelihoods). And of course the point is made very clearly that these Arabs and their families have been living on this land since the beginning of time. By contrast the first, and main, Jewish character is a stereotypical wealthy neurotic, thoroughly unpleasant, New York woman. She came to Israel 20 years ago when she says 'all Israeli food was disgusting Ashkenazi European fare like chopped liver and kishkas'. Note the implications here: Jews only came to Israel recently; they are all rich and neurotic. Moreover, not only was there no history of Jews in this land but they even had to bring with their disgusting European habits to pollute it. The only other Jews of note in the first half of the play are two appalling gay men lovers who know nothing about cooking even though they run a hip restaurant in Tel Aviv.

To give an example of the bias here one Arab man has recently got a job learning how to cook in a restaurant in Ramallah. This job was set up, so we are told, by a wonderful Arab Women's Organisation dedicated to alleviating hardship. The guy says that, until a month ago he was unemployed for nearly 4 years. Why? Because up until Sept 2000 he was working in a bar in Jaffa. But then "the radio brought news of Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount and the subsequent murder of Arab men, women and children". His Jewish bosses told him that he had to leave and "go back to the West Bank because we don't want any Arabs around here". When he got back to Ramallah he says he went to "help the emergency services saving Palestinians who were being shot by Israelis, but an Israeli shot him and smashed his arm to pieces". Hence he had be "helped by the very emergency services he was trying to help himself." Without the use of his arm, he could not get work. And of course "we receive not a penny in social services" etc.

So what about the Jewish Israeli victims? Well curiously there aren't any despite the first half of the play talking about two suicide bombs. The first was in a falafel restaurant whose owner (relating the story) could not understand why the restaurant was completely empty at a time when it should have been packed. Although nobody was in the restaurant a 16-year-old Arab boy walked in and blew himself up. The restaurant owner was aghast that this 'poor boy with his whole life in front of him should take his life in this way'. Note the bizarre distortion of reality here. You see the suicide bombers obviously don't want to kill anybody other then themselves, so they really are wonderful martyrs. The other suicide bombing is related by a Jewish woman who was buying her Passover shopping in a supermarket. Again miraculously nobody in the supermarket is injured because they are saved by a stack of toilet rolls that took the blast of the impact. In fact the only concern on the woman's mind is to return to get the shopping she had already paid for. So there you have it. Suicide bombings are not really such a bad thing after all.

I forgot: there was one Jewish victim. But of course this was at the hands of another Israeli Jew. The awful American woman tells us that her husband was knocked down by a lunatic Israeli driver 11 years ago. The Israeli police (note lacking any compassion) called her to tell her to get a taxi to the hospital.

During the interval we thought about leaving, but decided to stick it out. However, the second half opens with another wonderfully compassionate Arab woman relating the story of how Israelis shot up her house and killed children in the street, so at this point we decided to cut our losses and walk out.

So, I could of course have got it all wrong. Maybe the rest of the play told the story of some of the 90% of Arabs who strongly support suicide bombings of Israeli civilians. Maybe the play recounted some of the sermons broadcast on the Palestinian Authority TV calling for Arabs to kill Jews wherever they can find them. Maybe the play even focused on one of the relatives of the thousands of Israelis butchered for no reason other than that they were Jews. But somehow I doubt it....

Edgar, 30 July 2005

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