UPDATE: After relentless pressure and charges of anti-Semitic and anti-American content, the Metropolitan Opera announced that it will no longer stream the Death of Klinghoffer in live HD come the fall. The Met’s GM Peter Gelb asserted that “I’m convinced that the opera is not anti-Semitic,” though the production has come under fire for providing sympathy with the terrorists who murdered WWII veteran and wheel-chair bound Leon Klinghoffer. Curiously, Gelb noted in a press release that the cancellation was due in part to the rise of world-wide anti-Semitism and the fear that the broadcast would add to the growth.
Just 13 years ago, citizens of New York witnessed the greatest terrorist attack the Western world has ever seen. Today, they are being forced to bankroll a production at the Metropolitan Opera which romanticizes similar crimes.
Written in 1991, The Death of Klinghoffer positively portrays the brutal murder of Jewish and wheelchair bound World War II veteran, Leon Klinghoffer, which occurred in 1985 at the hands of the Palestine Liberation Front.
But what’s most disturbing about the Met’s decision to host The Death of Klinghoffer is the fact that it will be doing so on New York taxpayers’ dime. The same taxpayers and citizens who watched the Twin Towers’ fiery collapse are now in part funding a production that justifies the very ideology that led to 9/11, which will be shown in some 2,000 theaters, 66 countries, and 700 U.S. theaters.
The Met Opera is an influential platform that explores cultural and political issues of our world. As such, it had an opportunity — indeed, a responsibility — to encourage its audience to take a stand against the evil that terrorized their city. Yet, it has opted instead to promote moral relativism, and anti-Israel, and anti-American propaganda.
Indeed, the play encourages its audience to empathize with the terrorists who shoot Klinghoffer and then push him off of the side of the hijacked cruise ship. The opera also perpetuates libels against the Jewish state and the Jewish people, including accusations that Israel blindly destroys Arab houses and shoots innocent Arab women and children. One scene features a character saying “Wherever poor men / Are gathered they can / Find Jews getting fat.”
While the librettist Alice Goodman is of Jewish decent, she is a member of the Anglican Church. It is nothing more than a new version of the old European anti-Semitic libels — a racist portrayal of Jews as soulless monsters. This same racism and manipulation of the arts by the Nazis led to the Holocaust and the death of 6 million European Jews.
That such hideous propaganda should be portrayed on an American stage is repulsive.
In 2012, Leon Klinghoffer’s daughters, Lisa and Ilsa, spoke out against the production: “Unfortunately, The Death of Klinghoffer perverts the terrorist murder of our father and attempts to rationalise, legitimise, and explain it. The opera’s juxtaposition of the plight of the Palestinian people with the coldblooded murder of an innocent disabled American Jew is both disingenuous and appalling.”
In the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks, the anti-Semitic opera was cancelled due to its positive portrayal of terrorists. And if you live and suffered first-hand on that fateful day as a New Yorker, you’re funding it.
The Met benefits from New York taxpayer money on a yearly basis, including $136,200 in 2014 alone. According to the NYSCA’s website, it is “dedicated to preserving and expanding the rich and diverse cultural resources that are and will become the heritage of New York’s citizens” and the grant’s site notes that “Every citizen of New York State can have a meaningful connection to creativity and every community has a right to cultural self-determination.” This makes the production of The Death of Klinghoffer even more problematic, as it portrays Jewish self-determination as the greatest evil in the world, and obfuscates the crimes of terrorists who threaten the very “cultural self-determination” the grants purports to represent.
Per our Constitutional rights to freedom of speech and freedom of expression, private opera houses can host and promote whatever content they choose. But New York taxpayers should not have to fund a production that downplays the very ideology that led to the terror attacks on their city on September 11, 2001.
In an attempt to defend the production, the Met’s General Manager Peter Gelb said it is being shown “because of its artistic value as a contemporary operatic masterpiece” and claimed that “[w]e are not endorsing any political views expressed in the libretto.”
But that is the very issue. The opera is a corrupting influence regardless of whether or not there is a deliberate political endorsement. Art has power. By showing the play, the Met is placing its stamp of approval on a bigoted production. To suggest that such a play is “a contemporary operatic masterpiece” is as repugnant as the play itself. If there was a production in which African-Americans were portrayed as inferior monsters worthy of being lynched by white members of the KKK there would be public outrage and that same outrage is warranted in this case as well.
The Klinghoffer daughters also noted, “[t]he people who murdered him were not benign, thoughtfully conflicted characters. They were hard-core terrorists, whose goal was to wreak havoc and destruction for base political motives. There can be no ‘balance’ and no ‘objectivity’ to these basic facts.”
If our societal commitment to “art” compels us to collectively entertain Jew-hatred and genocidal terror, we must reexamine our priorities. New York taxpayers, minimally, must be allowed to determine if their money is spent to justify the actions of terrorists and encourage anti-Semitic and anti-American diatribes.
Daniel Mael is a rising senior at Brandeis University and a contributor to TruthRevolt.org and the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity.