The announcement by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign that it will stage January performances of Jim Allen's celebrated 1987 anti-Zionist play, "Perdition," triggered off enraged response by the British Jewish establishment.
According to the November 10th Jewish Chronicle, Scottish Council of Jewish Communities director Ephraim Borowski condemned the play as "a deliberate insult to all who perished."
Since the Chronicle cited my book, "Zionism in the Age of the Dictators," as inspiring Allen, and I will accompany the performances with a lecture on Zionist collaboration, I sent in a letter defending his play. The JC warns writers that their epistles "may be edited for length and clarity," and indeed it cut up my note. But this is only adding to the controversy.
Below is my letter, with the Chronicle's cuts in caps, followed by an explanation of the significance of the paper's deletions.
17/11/2006INDEED SUCH AN EVENT WOULD COMMAND ATTENTION, BUT TO HIS "BECOMING EICHMANN," PERDITION IS ALREADY ONE OF THE MOST DISCUSSED PLAYS IN BRITISH HISTORY.
Your article (JC, November 10) about the January performances of "Perdition," Jim Allen's 1987 play about Zionist collaboration with the Nazis in 1944 Hungary, says it was "inspired" by my book, "Zionism in the Age of the Dictators," and that I've challenged historian David Cesarani to a discussion about the play's "Zionist-Nazi relations."
I now learn from your paper that he scorns the proposed debate as a "publicity stunt." INDEED SUCH AN EVENT WOULD COMMAND ATTENTION, BUT TO HIS "BECOMING EICHMANN," PERDITION IS ALREADY ONE OF THE MOST DISCUSSED PLAYS IN BRITISH HISTORY. I hoped to confront Cesarani because pressure from Britain's Zionist establishment, and from him, WITH HIS "REPORT" ON PERDITION, got the Royal Court
Upstairs Theatre to refuse to allow the play, already in rehearsal, to go on.
But THEIR SCHEME this backfired, as he confessed in the July 3, 1987 JC: "Personal representations coincided with the threat of a mass protest outside the theatre, the combined effect of which made it seem as if pressure were being applied." It looked as if the theatre "had been bullied into censoring the play."
I'd hoped that he repented. The jacket of his book on Eichmann says that "Cesarani shows how Eichmann unexpectedly developed into the Reich's 'expert' on Jewish matters and reveals his initially cordial working relationship with Zionist Jews in Germany."
He admits Eichmann went to Palestine in 1937 as the guest of Labour Zionist Fievel Polkes, "a Haganah agent," who "was prepared to ÔŽ help Germany to extend its influence in the region if it facilitated an exodus of Jews to a Jewish national home."
It was a hop, skip and jump from Polkes to Reszo Kasztner, the real-life 1944 Labour Zionist villain of "Perdition." In a 1954-55 libel trial, he was found guilty of collaboration by an Israeli judge who later tried Eichmann.
Israel's Labour Zionist high court reversed the decision, but admitted that he wrongfully sent an exonerating statement on behalf of a war criminal to the Nuremberg courts. EXCEPT THAT WHO BUT A COLLABORATOR WOULD DO THAT?
IN 2007 CESARANI STILL CAN'T ADMIT THAT HE WAS WRONG DENOUNCING PERDITION IN 1987. SO I'LL HAVE TO DEBATE AN EMPTY CHAIR. THAT'S OK. THE 1987 PUBLIC SAW HIM AND THE ZIONISTS AS DENYING THEM THE RIGHT TO SEE THE PLAY AND MAKE UP THEIR OWN MINDS AS TO WHETHER OR NOT ZIONISTS COLLABORATED WITH HITLER. IN 2007, THE PUBLIC WILL GO TO THE PLAY AND ACCOMPANYING LECTURE, IN LARGE PART BECAUSE OF ZIONIST RANTING AGAINST IT, SEE THE CHAIR, AND CONCLUDE THAT HE KNOWS THAT NO ONE CAN DEFEND ZIONISM'S ROLE IN HUNGARY.
Early this year, I asked his publisher for a review copy of Cesarani's Becoming Eichmann. I am reviewing it for the Journal of Palestine Studies. After being invited to Scotland, I further offered to debate him, anywhere in Britain, re Perdition and its charge that Kasztner had collaborated with Eichmann: "I'm an author making a proposal to a fellow author. We all want publicity for our books. If he accepts my challenge, win, lose or draw, the wide British public will know about Becoming Eichmann."PERDITION IS ALREADY ONE OF THE MOST DISCUSSED PLAYS IN BRITISH HISTORY
Between January and May 1987 some 120 editorials, articles and letters to the editor appeared in the mainstream British press. Indeed David Lan began his 4/2/87 London Review of Books discussion of Perdition by describing its opening scene and remarking
"Is there anyone in Britain interested in the theatre, in civil liberties or in Jews who can't identify this as a scene in Jim Allen's play Perdition? The successful lobbying by Jews in Britain to have its production canceled has made it one of the most famous plays of the decade."
Thanks to their stupidity, it automatically got additional mainstream coverage whenever it has subsequently been performed.WITH HIS "REPORT" ON PERDITION
Cesarani got an early version of the play from the theatre for his 20 page "Perdition, by Jim Allen: A Report." Altho he concluded that "In an artistic and political atmosphere sensitive to potentialities for racism, the play as it stands is wide open to a crippling critique," even he had to admit that when Allen cited "Rabbi Joachim Prinz as evidence of a symbiosis of Zionism and Nazi ideas about the volk etc." that "this is a now a well established fact of the historiography of Zionism, although the material presented in the play is incomplete."
He went on:
"'Blood and soil' Zionism dates from the turn of the century and derived from the influence of German nationalism on Zionism. Racial theories permeated all ideologies at this time, and it is banal to observe that Zionism was expressed in, and legitimated according to, the discourse available. Zionism could not have transcended the thought of the period."EXCEPT THAT WHO BUT A COLLABORATOR WOULD DO THAT?
Walter Laqueur is a leading Zionist historian and an intense opponent of mine. But, in the December 1955 issue of Commentary, he described the impact that Kasztner's postwar testimony in favor of Kurt Becher, the SS economic specialist in Hungary, had on the 1954-55 libel trial.
"Kasztner underwent cross-examination by Tamir .... Tamir asked suddenly: 'And how did it happen that Kurt Becher, the high-ranking SS leader and war criminal, was acquitted at Nuremberg as a result of your intervention and testimony?' Kasztner cried: 'That's a lie! I never testified for him!' With that, he had fallen into Tamir's trap. This first inconsistency led to a second, third, and tenth, until there was no way out for him. For Kasztner HAD testified at Nuremberg, on August 4, 1947, asking that Becher's services be accorded the 'fullest possible consideration,' and Tamir had no trouble in obtaining a transcript. But worse was to follow .... in a letter to Israel's first Minister of Finance, the late Eliezer Kaplan, Kasztner had expressly stated that Becher was acquitted on the strength of his, Kasztner's testimony.IN 2007 CESARANI STILL CAN'T ADMIT THAT HE WAS WRONG DENOUNCING PERDITION IN 1987. SO I'LL HAVE TO DEBATE AN EMPTY CHAIR. THAT'S OK. THE 1987 PUBLIC SAW HIM AND THE ZIONISTS AS DENYING THEM THE RIGHT TO SEE THE PLAY AND MAKE UP THEIR OWN MINDS AS TO WHETHER OR NOT ZIONISTS COLLABORATED WITH HITLER. IN 2007, THE PUBLIC WILL GO TO THE PLAY AND ACCOMPANYING LECTURE, IN LARGE PART BECAUSE OF ZIONIST RANTING AGAINST IT, SEE THE CHAIR, AND CONCLUDE THAT HE KNOWS THAT NO ONE CAN DEFEND ZIONISM'S ROLE IN HUNGARY.
Tamir tightened the screws mercilessly. Had Becher been a good Nazi? No. Had he taken money and valuables wherever and whenever he could? Yes. Wasn't it a national crime to testify on behalf of an SS officer and recommend his acquittal? Yes.
That was the beginning of the end. From there on it was easy for Tamir to show that a Jew willing to testify for a high-ranking SS officer was capable of any infamy."
Becoming Eichmann's jacket tells us that Cesarani "has advised the British government on commemoration of the Holocaust and in 2006 was recognized in the Queen's New Year's Honours List for services to Holocaust education." Indeed January 27 is the official UK Holocaust Commemoration Day, when Blair & Co. will talk about the Holocaust. That is why the SPSC chose that week to present Perdition.
From a Holocaust education perspective, there is no better way of teaching the public about the political realities of that epoch than a serious debate on major aspects of that horror. Of course we, the SPSC, the Dialogue Theatre Group and myself, all see the holocaust as a crime. But we say that many UN delegations who voted in 1947 for the creation of an Israeli state were motivated by the wish to compensate surviving Jews for the Holocaust. They projected onto Israel the human feelings they had towards Hitler's victims. However they based support for Zionism on what Hitler did to the Jews, rather than on factual knowledge of what Zionists had done for the Jews.
What little remains of that misguided spirit is rapidly fading as the world sees Zionism for what it is today; the nonstop colonialist oppressor of the Palestinians, the most eager of imperialist George Bush's allies, etc. Given thi s, it is inevitable that folks would want to look into its history. How can Zionists, constantly reminding us that Israel is the home of so many holocaust survivors, object to that? If they have nothing to hide, then we are giving them a once in a lifetime opportunity to expose left anti-Zionism. But if they refuse to debate, the skeptical public will say 'They had their chance and they blew it.' So, let Cesarani, or a representative of the World Zionist Organization's British affiliate, debate me -- or shut up, now and forever more.