An Open Letter to Melissa Parke

Dear Ms Parke

You represent a political party with strong and proud values, and have a responsibility to uphold those values.  Your constitution notes that “Labor considers all human rights to be universal, equal and indivisible.”  Further, it reads that “It is an obligation also based on the consistency of experience across diverse cultures and societies in which ideals of popular sovereignty, equality of treatment, fairness and freedom are enduring themes.” 

In the section on Defending Free Speech your movement represents itself as follows: “Labor believes that adults should be entitled to read, hear and see what they wish in private and in public, subject to adequate protection against persons being exposed to unsolicited material offensive to them and preventing conduct exploiting, or detrimental to the rights of others, particularly women and children.”

These are very noble ideas, and expressed in words that could well have been written by Kevin Rudd himself.

With this in mind, I condemn you with the utmost contempt for the comments that your reportedly made regarding the witdrawal of the play “Seven Jewish Children” from Kucha Fremantle, as part of the Amnesty International ARTillery Youth Arts Event.  Amnesty International did the right thing by withdrawing this production, and the Kulcha Management are to be commended in the strongest terms for their statement “The Board of KULCHA Multicultural Arts WA has reaffirmed the commitment that KULCHA must uphold and practice reconciliation and cultural inclusivity. Hosting of the above play is not consistent with that focus.”

You are reported as saying that “I am acutely aware that there are relatively few avenues in Australia for the Palestinian perspective to be voiced and heard.  If not at Kulcha, then where?”

What sickens me more than anything, is the very notion that you could consider this play to be a “Palestinian perspective”.  Perhaps you are not aware of the difference between fantasy and reality?  This is a piece of theatre that contains inflammatory and anti-Semitic content.  It does nothing other than fan hatred and prejudice.  It is certainly not just a play that is critical of Israel’s former occupation and military offensive in Gaza.  It goes invokes images of Jews as insensitive murderers, linkages to the Holocaust, suggests Jewish parents teach their children lies, myths, and celebrate the death of innocents.  This is innocuous hatred against Jews, and is certainly not appropriate for the streets of Freo. 

What if a cultural institution within Perth decided that they would produce a short play with a stark yet provocative political message, for example that the stolen generation was of benefit to Aboriginal communities?  What would happen if  there was to be a play that contained scenes of Muslim children being taught to hate Jewish and Christian children, including suggestive statements that they should murder their infidel enemies?  What if it was gay bashing in the form of street theatre?  Were this to occur in our community, we would expect you to ban these public displays of hatred, for the disharmony and danger they present to community safety.  So too, when Jewish people are unfairly vilifed in the form of fictional hate, we expect good judgement to be exercised.

Maybe you have not read the text of this play?  Maybe you didn’t see the reviews by John Nathan or Carol Gould or Melanie Phillips?

A Palestinian perspective?  This work of fiction contains no representative voice of any Palestinian character.  Not a word spoken by a Palestinian character to deliver a Palestinian perspective.  The play in its totality crassly demonises Israeli’s by characterising them inhumanely.  If you want a Palestinian perspective through drama, then show Palestinians talking passionately about what they desire.  Don’t portray Jewish people in an unfair, unrepresentative and spiteful way, claiming in the process that the forum to hear a Palestinian perspective is limited.  If you really do think that the abuse of the arts and culture scene is a medium for political influence, then at least use it to present and talk for your cause.  Using it to depict what you perceive to be an enemy against your cause by demonising the values of that enemy is not constructive.  Turning Israeli’s into monsters is sadly all that Palestinian’s do.  They blame others for their own woes.  They take their own aggressive and unwavering position towards coexistance and transform themselves from aggressor to victim – in both fiction and reality.  If this play is supposed to advocate for a Palestinian position, then use it to put forward a Palestinian experience spoken by Palestinian characters.      

Ms Parke, I know you spent some time in Gaza as a Human Rights lawyer for the UN.  It’s ironic, that I was probably in the same area at the same time as you, visiting my friends in Gush Katif, who are now homeless victims of the very far reaching efforts the Government of Israel took to try and bring about peace.  The UN itself has done nothing constructive to aid Palestinian self-determination, and it does not take anything more than an objective look at the aspirations and deeds of respective Palestinain and Israeli leaders to see why there are real and currently unassailable obstructions towards the path of peace.   

We can talk anytime about the politics and merits of the Middle East.  However, to mix that with so-called theatre is nothing other than an idealistic and politically motivated emotive expression of creativity.  It is not the place to start.   

As a parliamentary member of the nation of Australia you have a responsibility to uphold values that do not spurn hatred and racism within the community.  Sadly, on this occasion you have, using your own flawed bias, failed to recognise the fine line between freedom of expression and the promulgation of racially offensive content.  I respect the freedom of speech as much as anyone, but this is not a matter of censorship in a market of free ideas.  It is a matter of crossing the lines of what is decent and appropriate to deliver  a message of falsehood and hatred.  It is all the more odious when it is a form of racial hatred masquerading as the Arts. 

Seven Jewish Children is Jew-hating racism that is offensive to the Jewish community.  And you have the chutzpah to view this as a Palestinian perspective that should be voiced and heard.  Please tell your leader, Mr Rudd, that so long as he has a member of his Parliamentary team that advocates for the staging of anti-Semitic theatre, Labor will not be receiveing any votes from me.

Yours in utter disgust

Gedalia

Jewgleperth blog.

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