We’ve been dismayed by some of the observations made concerning the Metropolitan Opera’s production of “The Death of Klinghoffer.” Defenders of the opera claim it is not at all anti-Semitic; a New York Times editorial blandly described it as a work “that gives voice to all sides in this terrible murder, but does not offer resolutions.”
In 1985 Leon Klinghoffer, a wheelchair-bound elderly American Jewish passenger on an Italian cruise ship, was shot and then thrown overboard by Palestinian terrorists who had commandeered the vessel in international waters.
There is no disputing that Mr. Klinghoffer was selected for execution because he was Jewish. So his murder in fact represents the ultimate expression of anti-Semitism. Yet the opera gives its Palestinian protagonists – the murderers – a platform to express their side of the story.
But can there be a conceivable Palestinian “side” to the cold-blooded murder of an American solely because he was Jewish? What does the killing of Leon Klinghoffer have to do with any notion of Palestinian victimhood? How can the opera not be deemed anti-Semitic?
More fundamentally, why would it occur to the opera’s composer to choose the murder of an American Jew by Palestinian terrorists as a vehicle to make points about Israeli policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians? And why would the Metropolitan Opera cooperate with him in that effort?
The controversy over the opera is not new. The production debuted back in 1991 and immediately drew criticism for its rank effort to draw a moral equivalency between terrorists and their victims. When Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer, the daughters of Leon Klinghoffer, saw the opera at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1991, they angrily denounced it. Last week the women made it clear the passage of time had not softened their view, saying in a statement released by the Anti-Defamation League that the work “perverts the terrorist murder of our father and attempts to romanticize, rationalize, legitimize and explain it.”