How to be ‘antisemitic’, on a porcelain plate,…

Mike Cushman

… without mentioning Jew, Israel, Zionism or any accepted or abusive synonym for any of these. Difficult, you might think, but according to Gillian Merron, the chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, leading Palestinian film maker Larissa Sansour has achieved this.

You can view her film until 1 September at password porcelain.

Still from ‘In the Future They Ate from the Finest Porcelain’
Still from Sansour’s film

Sansour’s film, co-created with Danish author, Søren Lind, In the Future They Ate from the Finest Porcelain is showing in the Barbican season ‘Into the Unknown: A Journey Through Science Fiction’.

Merron has demanded that the Barbican remove the film from the exhibition. Among Merron’s discomforts is that the dialogue is in Arabic. The film is about the creation of false narratives, a recurring theme in historiography and political theory and one dealt with in a literary form by George Orwell in 1984. In this case it is Merron who is reproducing the character of Winston Smith and trying to excise that which does not fit with her preferred representation.

Of course you can read the film as about Palestine/Israel, all works of art can be interpreted as the reader/viewer chooses – that is a basic understanding of all media theory; the reader/viewer has agency as well as the creator. However, just because someone with a world view that assumes that anything from a Palestinian artist is presumptively anti-Israel and thus, in the distorted view of the BoD, antisemitic does not mean that this is a value judgement that the rest of us have to take seriously or assent to.

Archaeology is a contested discipline in Israel as elsewhere but as Israeli NGO Emek Shaveh say, “Archaeology tells an independent story about human existence, culture and achievements. It is not selective nor is it subservient to sacred texts.”

‘In the Future They Ate from the Finest Porcelain’

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3 thoughts on “How to be ‘antisemitic’, on a porcelain plate,…”

  1. Saw this film in Liverpool- it is not in the slightest bit antisemitic. Thought provoking, poignant, fascinating, beautiful, elegiac- but not anti semitic

  2. False narratives used by the Zionists and their apologists have so impregnated the mind of Americans and westerners in general that it is impossible to have a conversation based on facts with them.The fear that Merron and other live with is that if the world get to know certain Facts about Palestine /Israel the Zionist state would lose it’s so called moral high grounds

  3. There are two quite shameful threads in the Conservative Government’s activities in the matter of antisemitism and the law: First, this Government actually sought to misrepresent its extravagantly pro-Zionist document, its ‘guidelines’ on what constitutes antisemitism, as a legally binding document. Fortunately, several very senior lawyers have thwarted this misrepresentation.

    Secondly, there is the Government’s failure to address the pernicious behaviours of some Jewish organisations. The article above references one such behaviour, i.e., the demand from Gillian Merron, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, that a film highly acclaimed for its artisitc value be removed from the Barbican. Another is the behaviour of another Jewish organisation, the Campaign Against Antisemitism. This CAA engages in the legal harassment of people with private suits. Surely, if the Crown Prosecution Service dismisses an allegation of antisemitism against a person (I have in mind the case of the musician Alison Chabloz and the CAA), then that person has no case to answer. Wheeling around to see if a private suit might achieve a finding against her is nothing short of an ugly abuse of the law.

    It cannot but be obvious to all that these sorts of aggressive behaviours cause resentment. Equally obviously, resentment of aggressive behaviours by Jews easily gives way to expressions of antisemitism. Surely, in a Government action against antisemitism, not only its expressions but also the actions that cause them should be addressed.

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