How an Attempt to Bring “The Merchant of Venice” into the 20th Century Goes Wrong

There is, as Greenwald observes, nothing new about the leftist-jihadist alliance, which was very much in evidence when Jeremy Corbyn led Britain’s Labor party and allowed it to become overrun with anti-Semites. During that time, Tracy-Ann Oberman, a British stage and television actress, used her celebrity to stand up to anti-Semitism and the studied efforts to deny its existence.

She now plays Shylock in The Merchant of Venice 1936, a Royal Shakespeare Company production set in London’s East End, once home to a large Jewish immigrant community, during a time of intensifying anti-Semitism. Abigail Green writes in her review:

At first, it kind of makes sense to stage Merchant in the East End of London during the 1930s against the background of rising British fascism. Brits find it too easy to forget that moment and how it felt for Jewish Eastenders like Oberman’s family to watch the rise of Hitler on the continent and see Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts marching in the streets of London where they lived. Turning the nobles who taunt Oberman’s Shylock into homegrown fascists makes it easy to hate them—and to understand her own loathing for these Jew haters.

In Green’s view, a female Shylock is a brilliant conception, and Oberman’s performance, as well as those of her castmates, is praiseworthy. But the play “falls apart” in its second half.

The Merchant of Venice isn’t a play about racist, genocidal anti-Semitism; it’s more complicated than that. Shakespeare’s play is rooted in Christianity—the old world, not the new—in which a simple conversion is enough to resolve the entire predicament. His plot doesn’t make sense in 1936 London. Why, to take a small example, is the duke wearing a large crucifix in a courtroom adorned with a British flag, when anti-Catholicism is such a central pillar of British national identity? The problem with all the heavy-handed Nazi echoes is that what seems a compelling conceit actually lets Christianity off the hook.

Shakespeare wrote a comedy in which the uncomfortable fate of the Jew is set against the glamour of Venetian Christian lives; that is the real darkness at the heart of the play. Oberman’s production tells a less complicated story; it is a thoroughly modern and straightforward tragedy told from the perspective of the victim—not just a vicious moneylender but a loving mother as well.

And this brings Green to her sharpest criticism, that the play “turns Shylock and the whole history of European anti-Semitism into an opportunity for a feel-good moment.”

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Anglo-Jewry, Anti-Semitism, Theater, William Shakespeare

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict