Stage plays are not often banned, censored, or otherwise suppressed in modern Britain, but when they are it’s usually something to do with ethnic group sensitivities. When in 2004 a play called Behzti (Dishonour) by Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti concerning the issue of rape within the Sikh community was about to be performed at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, local Sikhs reacted with sufficient fury to have the play cancelled.
Other plays, such as Richard Bean’s England People Very Nice, have caused controversy, and sometimes playwrights feel pressure to change elements of their work, but outright suppression is a rare thing indeed. Pressure such as this contributes to a cultural atmosphere in which works of a particular type are simply not written.
A similar situation occurred in 1987 when the English Marxist playwright Jim Allen attempted to stage a play called Perdition upstairs at the Royal Court Theatre in London. Perdition concerns itself with the Kastner trial, which took place in Israel in 1953, when one Rudolf Kastner, a man with strong connections to the Labour-Zionist establishment, was a witness in a libel trial brought by the Israeli government against Malkiel Greenwald. Greenwald alleged that Kastner had collaborated with the Nazis in Hungary during 1944/5. Why would the Israeli government bring an action against an unknown man? The Jewish writer Akiva Orr suggests that it might have been to cover up for others higher up in the Israeli establishment of the time.
Each period in history has its shadow, into which are cast the inconvenient, the difficult, the facts which may work against the interests of the ruling powers. Central amongst these powers today is Zionist-Jewry, who, since the end of World War II, have cultivated the world’s most successful “victim identity,” the result of the alleged (and hotly disputed) mass gassing of six million Jews by National Socialist Germany. Recently, however, some troublesome facts have emerged, disrupting the “holier than thou” image so assiduously built up by Zionism.
The founder of modern Zionism, Theodore Herzl, believed that the Jews would always be aliens in Europe and elsewhere, and that anti-Semitism was inevitable. Herzl proposed that the Jews be given their own state, preferably in Palestine, though he did consider a proposal from the British in 1903 for the Kenyan Highlands.
In the post Great War world, with Herzl dead, Zionism faced a transformed situation. A bankrupt Europe turned to Fascism and Communism to attempt its regeneration. Zionism’s response to the rise of these two creeds is probably not what you would expect from the “Jews as innocent victims only” school of historiography. Winston Churchill argued in 1920 that a struggle was taking place “for the soul of the Jewish people,” a struggle between Zionism and Bolshevism.
Bolshevism was itself originally Jewish led, as its promise of universal equality was seen as a way of combating anti-Jewish legislation and advancing Jewish interests (the reality of Bolshevism turned out to be somewhat other than equality and justice for the East European peasantry). Bolshevism also claimed to oppose all forms of nationalism, including Zionism. Consequently, and in line with its own thinking, Zionism looked for allies elsewhere and co-operated with European nationalist and anti-Semitic forces on the common concern of Jewish emigration to Palestine.
Most people probably think of the Jews as a religious group, but they have not always been seen as such, either by themselves or by others. Max Nordau, a fervent follower of Herzl, said in 1903 that Zionism was “not a question of religion, but exclusively of race.” It is therefore not so surprising that the Zionists should seek to collaborate with both German and Italian Fascism.
Initially Mussolini was hostile to Zionism, seeing it as a tool of British foreign policy. However, in the mid-1920s the Italians became convinced that in fact the building of a Jewish state in Palestine was the way to remove British influence from the region—an Italian policy goal. The Fascist press began to comment favorably about Zionism, and vice versa. Vladimir Jabotinsky, leader of the Revisionist faction of Zionism set up a Betar (Revisionist youth) squad at the maritime academy at Civitavecchia, which was run by Fascist Blackshirts. A leading Revisionist, Achimeir, wrote a newspaper column entitled “Diary of a Fascist.”
In Germany, the Zionist Federation (ZVfD) began a collaboration with National Socialism shortly after Hitler’s accession to power. Kurt Tuchler of the ZVfD and Baron von Mildenstein of the SS jointly visited Palestine for six months, the outcome of which was a long series of articles in Dr. Goebbels’ influential Berlin daily Der Angriff. Later in 1933 Sam Cohen and Chaim Arlosoroff set up the Transfer Agreement with the Third Reich, by which Jewish money was moved from Germany to Palestine via the Zionist Bank. German interest in Zionism continued with a visit to Palestine in 1937 by SS men Adolf Eichmann and Herbert Hagen.
Eichmann later declared himself impressed by the Zionist efforts, even to the point of saying “had I been a Jew, I would have been a fanatical Zionist.” Earlier, Eichmann had met Labour Zionist agent Fievel Polkes, who volunteered to spy for the Reich as long as this did not conflict with his own political goals. Meanwhile, Zionist kibbutzim training camps prepared young Jews for emigration, with one at Neuendorf continuing to operate until at least March 1942.
The SS also made an alliance with the Mossad le-Aliya Bet to smuggle Jews illegally into Palestine. The infamous Stern Gang, well known in Britain for their terrorist campaign against British troops, offered in January 1941 to make a political and military alliance with Hitler’s Germany. The proposal stated, “The establishment of the historical Jewish State on a national and totalitarian basis, and bound by treaty with the German Reich would be in the interest of maintaining and strengthening the future German position of power in the Near East.” This totalitarian spirit returned to haunt the world in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s in the form of Israeli governments dominated by Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, the former a Revisionist, the latter a Stern Ganger.
Jim Allen (1926-99) was a successful English Marxist playwright, perhaps best known for the teleplays for the 1974 series Days of Hope, which dealt with the General Strike of 1926, and for several screenplays for Ken Loach films. Perdition seems to have been the subject of internal debate at the Royal Court from some time in the mid-1980s, and by early 1987 it was about ready to be performed to the public. Perdition is structured as a straightforward two act courtroom drama, in which Allen has invented a second libel trial taking place in London in 1967.
An anti-Zionist Jewess has published a pamphlet accusing a Dr. Yaron of collaboration with the Nazis in Budapest, Hungary in 1944, the object of this alleged collaboration being to save some “prominents” — that is rich Jews, Zionists, and their families — while sacrificing ordinary Jews to the concentration camps. Of course, Allen is here writing about the Kastner trial at one remove, since Dr. Yaron supposedly served on the same Zionist Committee as Kastner. Some of his characters are fictional, but the events, personalities, and statements referred to by the trial witnesses are taken from the sources he lists at the front of the book.
The interpretation Allen makes of Zionism is essentially the Trotskyite one; that is, that Zionism is an outgrowth of European colonialism, and reflects its racism. Nowhere does Allen or any of his characters question the established narrative of the “Holocaust” in its main conclusion that six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis, his concern being with the behavior of the local Zionist leadership. That sort of play would be suppressed so severely we’d probably never have heard of it, even supposing a known playwright had the nerve to write such a thing, itself unlikely given the internalization of the dominant values of our time and place.
Perdition was in development for two years by the Royal Court Theatre in London before being withdrawn with 36 hours to go before its first public performance. There followed a spasm of press coverage, primarily in the Guardian, the New Statesman, and the Jewish papers. The bone of contention was whether the play had been withdrawn because of difficulties with Allen’s historical interpretation and whether this is sufficient reason to have withdrawn the play, or effective suppression by the Zionist lobby.
The board at the Royal Court, which was and is publicly funded to produce difficult and challenging work, came down in favor of withdrawal, citing a loss of confidence in the plays’ historical credibility. The delay in the production was caused by the fact that the Theatre’s management had seen fit to submit the script to scrutiny by two Zionist historians, Martin Gilbert (official biographer of Winston Churchill), and David Cesarani. Yes, that’s two Zionists, not one Zionist and one anti-Zionist as a fair-minded person might expect. However, the response doesn’t quite break down conveniently with all Jews on one side and Gentiles on the other, since some anti-Zionist Jews supported the play and its analysis from the beginning (including, inevitably, Noam Chomsky).
There are 34 pages of press comments reproduced at the back of the Ithaca Press edition I have (Including Spearhead, Feb. 1987, “That Censorship Again”), and that’s by no means all of it, since the Jewish Chronicle, for example refused permission for their contributions to be included, and news reports have been excluded.
This might all be considered a conflict between contending interpretations of “What’s good for the Jews,” with the Leftist-Trotskyite element effectively arguing that Zionist racial nationalism is a betrayal of the Jewish commitment to universalist values, and by extension, to the leadership of the Gentile nations. Jim Allen has the Trotskyite concern with the working class being betrayed by their supposed leaders – the Trade Union leadership in his earlier TV series Days of Hope, about the General Strike in Britain in 1926, and here the betrayal of the Jewish masses by the Zionists. (The notion that the working class has been consistently sold out by its supposed leaders might be the one thing the Trots are right about, though their “solutions” would only make matters worse.)
Perhaps most interesting of the press commentary is David Cesarani’s “The Perdition Affair” in the April 1987 edition of the Jewish Quarterly. In order to attack Allen’s leftwing anti-Zionism, Cesarani raises the question of whether Zionism is an entirely modern phenomenon, or something with much deeper roots in Jewish history and traditions. If, as the Trotskyites claim, it is the former, then Zionism and the state of Israel represent a grotesque distraction from the task of building the egalitarian socialist society in which anti-Semitism would cease to exist. Cesarani sees this as simplistic, since it “ignores the role of rabbinical figures like Mohliver and Kook who were ardent Zionists, not to mention the whole stream of Mizrachi, the religious Zionists.”
Cesarani reveals his hand a little by picking out a number of Christian references in the play. Though Allen was not, so far as I know, a religious man, we might forgive him these references to the culture he would have been raised with, but I suppose forgiveness is not a defining feature of the Hebrew mind. There’s more: “The only Jews to appear in a positive light (in the play) are left-wing Jews, anti-Zionist Jews or assimilated Jews – none of whom would find ready acceptance in the established Jewish community and who have no obvious commitment to Jewish continuity.” Cesarani clearly regards Jewish continuity as a good thing, probably the good thing, a notion not always extended by Jews to other ethnic groups, especially ours. And again: “. . . if there had been a Race Relations Act in 1596, and Jews in England willing to contest their negative depiction on the stage, perhaps the eternally dangerous stereotype of the cruel, wheedling Jew would not have entered Western culture.” There we have it: if only some of the greatest products of Western culture could be retroactively abolished, then Jewish power could have been established much earlier. But since it wasn’t, we’ll just have to make do with suppressions, distortions, and manipulations today.
In the end, the question is whether Perdition was knobbled by the Zionists, or withdrawn due to artistic and historical weaknesses. Given what we know about the Jewish method of operation, it seems certain to have been the former. Indeed, from the eye of the storm, director Ken Loach was clear: “The plain truth is that Perdition was stopped by public abuse and private manipulation organized by a political tendency, Zionism, that will not acknowledge its past because of the light it sheds on its present.” Let’s leave the last word to the late Jim Allen: “We are told how Stephen Roth, president of the Institute of Jewish Affairs, ‘indicated the powers he could use to remove the play. He could picket. He could contact the Court’s friends in New York. He could influence funding bodied in London.’ . . . We know that one London producer was told: ‘I own nine theatres, my friend owns six. Put the play on and you’re finished.’ Another producer received a phone call from New York, telling him that his career would be in jeopardy if he produced Perdition.”
1. Jim Allen, Perdition: A Play in Two Acts (London: Ithaca Press, 1987).
2. Perdition, 147.
3. Perdition, 149.
4. Perdition, 142.
5. Perdition, 142.