by Morton A. Klein
"The Jew of Malta" is to be shown at the Center for Jewish History. Would an African-American group show a racist film at one of their centers?
The ZOA has just learned that one of the most anti-Semitic plays of all time, Christopher Marlowe’s “The Jew of Malta” (written in 1565) is scheduled to be performed in a few days at the Center for Jewish History (CJH) headed by controversial Israel-basher David Myers.
Why is a Jewish group showing this anti-Jewish play? Would any African American group ever show the notorious racist film “The Birth of a Nation”?
The travesty of performing such an anti-Semitic play at CJH also reinforces ZOA’s previous exposé and demand that the CEO of the Center of Jewish History, David Myers, who has a long record of propagandizing against Israel, needs to be removed from his post.
The play’s protagonist, the Jewish merchant Barabas, is a money-obsessed, vulgar, traitorous mass murderer. The play increased anti-Semitism in England, and contributed to the anti-Semitic atmosphere that led to the torture, conviction and execution of the Queen of England’s Portuguese Jewish physician, Rodrigo Lopez, in 1594, on likely false charges of conspiring to poison the Queen. (One of the methods that “The Jew of Malta” play’s Jewish protagonist used to murder people was poisoning them; the Jewish character Barabas poisons a whole convent of nuns, including his daughter who has converted to Christianity, and other people.)
Audiences seeing Marlowe’s play believed that Jews really were as evil as the play presents them to be. The play also led to other anti-Semitic plays such as the Merchant of Venice, and the additional promulgation of blood libels against Jews.
The Jewish character Barabas’ lines in the play include: “First, be thou void of these affections.”; “Compassion, love, vain hope, and heartless fear.”; “Be moved at nothing; see thou pity none.”
Barabas’s daughter’s lines include: “There is no love on earth, pity in Jews, nor piety in Turks.“
In other words, both of them say that Jews are cold-hearted, and lack pity or compassion for anyone. Of course that’s the opposite of who Jews are.
According to the play, Jews are damned. Malta’s governor tells Barabas that Jews, like infidels, live “hateful lives” and “stand accursed in the site of heaven.”
ZOA has contacted the American Sephardi Federation (ASF), a Center for Jewish History member group involved with the play and was given the extremely misguided flawed excuses that “there will be a Note to the Audience about the horrifying history of The Jew of Malta” and that someone “will make mention of that history” and that “the production is a vehicle for exploring anti-Semitism, particularly against Sephardim.”
These excuses are contradicted by the advertisements for the play. The CJH advertisement for the play (posted on CJH’s website) says that the “American Sephardi Federation proudly presents the Jew of Malta,” and makes no mention of any supposed “educational” purpose.
Any educational purpose could be far better served by a lecture about the anti-Semitism in the play instead of showing it.
A mention of the play’s history does not justify performing a vicious blatantly anti-Semitic play. And CJH and ASF’s performance of “The Jew of Malta” risks making this horrendous anti-Semitic play “kosher” for others to perform.
ZOA demands that CJH and ASF cancel the performance of this play – or replace it with an educational discussion about the anti-Semitism in the play.
The travesty of performing such an anti-Semitic play at CJH also reinforces ZOA’s previous exposé and demand that the CEO of the Center of Jewish History, David Myers, who has a long record of propagandizing against Israel, needs to be removed from his post. (See “ZOA: Hostile-to-Israel Propagandist David Myers Should Not Lead Center for Jewish History,” Sept. 18, 2017.)
Morton A. Klein is the National President of the Zionist Organization of America.
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