An Open Letter to Tony Kushner – Playwright, Angels in America

[After attending a reading of Seven Jewish Children, A Play for Gaza, by Caryl Churchill, New York Theatre Workshop, March 26, 2009.]

By Rafiq Kathwari

Dear Tony,

I am a hyphenated –American born and raised in the Kashmir Valley, where for the last 20 years a core group of 3000 Islamic militants are fighting a 750,000 strong Indian armed presence, the largest concentration of military power anywhere, anytime in history. Consequently, I know a bit about living under army occupation. Yet, regardless of my birthplace or my adopted country, America, my moral life is in Palestine.

Tony, are you out of your senses?  Do you really think the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC) will let you stage Caryl Churchill’s 10 minute play in New York or across the Hudson in the waste land? I want to prick the bubble in which you live as an angel in America.

Don’t you realize that AIPAC using only 1/100th of their political clout can prevent this play being dramatized? You are one of their own. They cannot call you an anti-Semite, Palestinian sympathizer perhaps, not an anti Semite. The Wall Street Journal reporter who was present at the reading asked, Where would you, a gay Jewish man, feel safer, Haifa or Hebron? The attacks have begun. They’re stripping you naked. Watch out.

And Caryl Churchill? O, they’ll brand her as yet another Brit anti-Semite just as they did Vanessa Redgrave, and they’ll prohibit Caryl Churchill entering America. Even if they don’t, the TSA will harass her; blacklist her before they let her in, at which point she may just turn around, her head held high, and wave bye bye to the new McCarthyism in America. Wake up, Tony.

What exactly is the trouble with telling seven Jewish children the truth and nothing but the truth?

Tell them the proper names of things: These are 25-foot-high concrete slabs. This is barbed wire. This is a watch-tower, so unlike the one in Brooklyn. These are thermal imaging video cameras.

Tell them this not a fence. It is a wall.

Don’t tell them about the open secrets in the Negev desert?

No, do tell them about the 200 warheads. That should make them feel secure.

Teach them to pronounce Shabila and Shatila.

Rent the dvd Waltz with Bashir. Children like animated movies.

Tell them they can have a dog as a pet.

Don’t tell them about the 90 dogs killed by Israeli gods in Hebron because their barks alerted Palestinian boys about approaching patrols.

Read them King Lear.

Don’t tell them that the children of Gaza are to Israeli troops as flies to kings. They kill them for their sport.

Tell them American taxpayers are aiding and abetting history’s most persecuted minority, the specious democracy in the Middle East, a colonial-settler state embracing biblical pretensions, to systematically exterminate the world’s most dispossessed tribe.

Tony, I applaud your courage to bring Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children, A Play for Gaza from London to New York, and to confront  a seemingly indestructible wall of self-serving vested opposition. I wish you good luck. In the meantime, let’s tell all the children of Israel the truth so they grow up to speak its name.

– Rafiq Kathwari is poet, essayist and photo-journalist. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: www.KashmirRetextured.com and contact him at: rmk28@columbia.edu.

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