Sunday, January 11, 2009

Self-Persecution is a Terrible Thing

Whilst the State of Israel has apparently been torn ragtag by Hamas rockets since the dawn of time, the local Jewish community recently fell victim to attack from one of their own.
At Hills Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge - where I am a Lower Sixth student -, there has been an undercurrent of support for human rights. The school has our own chapter of Amnesty International and also had two former students feature in international news coverage after climbing phone masts in Beijing in protest of PRC's treatment of the Tibetan people.
This undercurrent continued in the form of the Lower Sixth production, an adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof which in essence discusses the responsibility of Jews the world over to maintain their traditions even when impeded. Our Director, Richard Fredman - himself Jewish - seemed uncomfortable with a message that may be interpreted as Zionist within a defined secular education system. It was presumably for this reason that, at the end of the show, a video was shown featuring Israeli tanks and warplanes as well as soldiers rounding up Palestinians.
What followed was a hateful torrent from the local Jewish community. The video, according to a spokesperson of the Cambridge and Suffolk Jewish Community confirmed that Cambridge is an "institutionally anti-Jewish city," "a blot on cultural landscape." The spokesperson then slammed Mr Fredman as "misguided," an abuser of public funds. Julian Cohen-Gold, the father of one of my schoolmates, claimed that Fredman had no right to portray the "very strong political message," especially since it has "no parallel with the pogroms." The influential Jewish Chronicle saw requisite to throw its weight around and claimed that Mr Fredman had intentionally developed a piece of "anti-Zionist and even anti-Jewish propaganda." May I ask, how is it that a Jew can be anti-Jewish?
Mr Fredman thankfully recognised this propensity to find offense where where there was none and preemptively wrote in his programme notes, "I make no apology for dedicating this production to all people forced from their homes by intolerance, ignorance and fear." Mr Cohen-Gold must have been looking to avoid the parallels because they were pointed out to him in the program and then reinforced when the house lights went on at the end. Our principal, Ms. Sinclair offered a vague apology but reiterated that Mr Fredman had raised awareness of political and moral issues "with considerable success and with the college's full support".

I have never been the victim of self-persecution so perhaps I just cannot recognise the symptoms but nonetheless, I consider the depiction of our city, with thriving Muslim and East Asian districts, as a "blot on the cultural landscape" as an extremely offensive remark, especially because the nature of its origin was that the director of a high school musical rightly refused to fall into the political hypochondriac's mindset that seems to plague so many of his religious peers.

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