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October 25, 2014 / 1 Heshvan, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Leon Klinghoffer’

Klinghoffer: Pretending Art Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry

Monday, September 15th, 2014

The most important thing to know about the Metropolitan Opera’s staging of the provocation piece “The Death of Klinghoffer,” is that the first of what should be many protests against it will be on Monday, Sept 22, starting at 4:30 p.m., at the Metropolitan Opera, which is nestled in the Lincoln Center Complex, at Broadway and West 65th Street in New York City.

The opera itself is still set to run at the Met for eight performances, starting on Monday, Oct. 20, running through mid-November. But in a concession that should serve as an admission, the Met pulled “Death” from its line-up of operas it simulcasts to theaters around the world.

Why?

Because as Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager admitted in a statement issued in mid-June, the international Jewish community is genuinely concerned that “the live transmission of The Death of Klinghoffer would be inappropriate at this time of rising anti-Semitism, particularly in Europe.” 

It beggars the imagination that Gelb and his board recognized and acted in deference to genuine concern about the effect the opera could have for Jews in Europe, but shuts his ears to the genuine concern and outrage over staging it in New York City, where there is one of the largest concentration of Jews in the world.

What is wrong with this opera, you ask?  Spending hours listening to scenes from the opera only undergirds the enmity expressed towards the opera by concerned ranks of the Jewish community.

AMERICAN JEWS GETTING FAT WHEREVER POOR PEOPLE ARE SUFFERING

There are lines in this opera that are simply blatantly anti-Semitic. Lines such as this, sung by one of the terrorists to Klinghoffer: “wherever poor people are gathered they can find Jews getting fat. America is one big Jew.”

And then there is this line sung about the Jews: “You know how to cheat the simple, exploit the virgin, pollute where you have exploited, defame those you cheated, and break your own law with idolatry.”

Yes, those lines are both flat-footed and bigoted and should not have been written nor sung. If you think not, can you imagine an opera made about Ferguson in which Michael Brown and all black people are described with all the worst stereotypical insults leveled at African Americans? Of course not.

But the problems with the opera go far beyond several unforgivably offensive lines spoken by a romanticized Arab terrorist. And it’s even worse than the decision to title the opera using a magic wand that converts a pathological act of brutal violence into a passive act for which no one, at least not the actual murderer and his accomplices, are to blame.

KLINGHOFFER DID NOT JUST ‘DIE’

Leon Klinghoffer did not just “die.”

On Oct. 7, 1985, Leon Klinghoffer was murdered in cold blood by Arab terrorist members of the Palestine Liberation Front. Klinghoffer was shot point blank in the head and in the chest as he sat in his wheelchair on the deck of the cruise ship on which he was traveling with his wife to celebrate their 36th wedding anniversary. Shot in the head and in the chest, and then thrown overboard, he and his wheelchair, simply because he was a Jew. A 69-year old disabled American Jew. It was murder, not death. If there must be an opera about this atrocity, at least have the decency to use the proper term.

ART MEANS NEVER HAVING TO SAY YOU’RE SORRY?

The opera begins with two choruses. The “Chorus of Exiled Palestinians” and the “Chorus of Exiled Jews.” The story of the “Exiled Palestinians” starts in 1948. It starts with the Jews arriving and destroying the homes of the “Palestinians.” Those homes where “no one was turned away” and the doorway had been worn down from all the guests. But then, as the crescendo builds, the chorus intones:

Keeping An Open Mind About Murder

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

The decision of the Metropolitan Opera to continue with its plan to produce “The Death of Klinghoffer” but to cancel its simulcast to theaters around the world has pleased no one.

Critics of “Death,” which rationalizes the cold-blooded murder of Leon Klinghoffer, an elderly Jew in a wheelchair, by Palestinian terrorists are rightly outraged that one of the world’s premiere arts organizations will still be performing the opera.

Defenders of “Death” (and critics of Israel) are dismayed that General Manager Peter Gelb succumbed to pleas from the Klinghoffer family and the Anti-Defamation League to move it off the Met’s prestigious broadcast schedule.

Predictably, one voice that falls into the latter category spoke up to express dismay at the unsatisfactory compromise: The New York Times editorial page. It termed Gelb’s move “lamentable” and not only dismissed the ADL’s fears about the opera helping promote anti-Semitism, particularly in Europe, but defended the piece as a fair-minded and evenhanded approach to a divisive issue.

While anything that smacks of censorship is bound to raise hackles among the elites in America’s arts capital, the paper’s decision to not only trash the opera’s critics as uninformed but to speak up for John Adams’s opera speaks volumes about its animus for Israel and soft approach to terrorism directed at Jews.

The Times is right to assert that one of the purposes of art is to challenge its audience. Many great works of art, including many operas, have their origins in issues that were, in their day, deeply controversial but were eventually transcended by the value of the piece. What we are discussing here, however, is not so much a question of art versus politics but the decision on the part of the artist to view atrocities as simply a matter of opinion.

The Times is also right that, to some extent, “The Death of Klinghoffer” is even-handed about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. The Jews, and specifically the Klinghoffers are allowed to denounce their captors as cowardly terrorists and murders. But the balance is tilted in favor of the alleged grievances of the Palestinians, which are not only exaggerated and taken out of context but put forward in the most prejudicial manner possible and backed by some of the most inspired and powerful music in the opera. You don’t need to read the program or do much research to see where the composer’s sympathies lie.

Moreover, the entire premise of the opera – that even the most atrocious and callous act of murder may be rooted in the grievances of the perpetrators –frames the issues in a manner in which Israel’s existence is treated as the real crime. While it is possible to debate the rights and wrongs of the complex Middle East conflict, surely the morality of terrorism and the murder of a helpless old man are not debatable.

Such a crime does not cry out for an even-handed analysis of the two sides, but Adams’s choice of Klinghoffer’s murder as the focus of his art places his opera in a context that is not merely controversial but fundamentally amoral.

New Yorkers who view this fuss from the perspective of the Times may think those who are complaining about the opera are merely narrow-minded censors. But they need to ask themselves whether they would stomach the Met’s production of an opera about 9/11 in which the positions of the hijackers and their thousands of victims were treated as two moral equivalent sides of the same question. Would the same arts world that lionizes John Adams and proclaims “Death” a “masterpiece” be equally willing to stand up for an opera or play that justified the actions of the Ku Klux Klan or other racists who committed acts of violence against African-Americans?

American Israeli Terror Victims Spurned by Obama, US Admin

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

President Obama lands in Israel on Wednesday, March 20.  Perhaps on his flight someone will brief him on the American law which provides that those who commit acts of terrorism against Americans – anywhere in the world – will have to answer to the United States.

Right now terrorists must know that the U.S. is all talk, because despite the ever-increasing number of American victims of international terrorism, the U.S. rarely saddles up, heads out, and “gets their man.”  It certainly has never done so when the perpetrator of overseas terror against an American was a Palestinian Arab.

President Obama will only be in the Middle East for three days, starting Wednesday, March 2o. But while the time pressure will force him to skip certain sites, it is hard to imagine a better use of his time than to meet with American Israelis who have been terror victims and whose pleas for assistance can be easily met.

That is, unless this president, like the past several, and all of the US congress, doesn’t think it is absolutely essential to pursue terrorists who have maimed and murdered Americans abroad.

A section of the federal anti-terrorism law allows the U.S. to investigate, extradite (where there is a relevant treaty) and prosecute those who are believed to have murdered or maimed Americans in acts of terrorism committed outside of the United States.

This law was passed in 1985, following the brutal point-blank shooting death of Jewish American Leon Klinghoffer by Arab Palestinian terrorists who boarded the Achille Lauro off the coast of Egypt.

The terrorists boarded the vessel hoping to hold hostage the passengers, and then exchange them for Arab Palestinian terrorists who were being held in Israeli prisons. Sound familiar?

While the investigation of crimes overseas by American agents can be extremely expensive in terms of resources and manpower, that’s not a problem in cases where a foreign, respected judiciary – here, Israel – has already investigated, tried and convicted the violent criminals.  Which is exactly the case for the 1027 convicts released in the Gilad Shalit hostage exchange deal in 2011, 15 of whom have American blood on their hands.

What’s more, many of the convicts have publicly bragged about their acts of terrorism, and have pledged to continue their terrorist pursuits.

Also, unlike Israel, the U.S. is not barred from prosecuting the released convicts.  While Israel was blackmailed into releasing those terrorists and has foresworn prosecuting them again for the crimes for which they were imprisoned, the U.S. is under no such obligation.

So, this should be an easy case.

But tell that to Dr. Alan Bauer, who has been banging his head against the brick wall of the U.S. Justice Department for eight years, trying to get them to do exactly what this federal law was crafted, and enacted, to do.  Bauer, a Chicago-born, Harvard-trained biochemist and his then seven-year old son were seriously wounded in a homicide bombing in Jerusalem on King George Street, eleven years ago, on March 21, 2002.

Or tell it to Sherry and Seth Mandell, whose 13-year old son Koby was stabbed and beaten to death with rocks by Arab Palestinians in the spring of 2001.  The Mandells moved to Israel from Maryland in 1996, in the wake of the Oslo Accords.  The Mandell family moved, hoping to live in peace with their Arab neighbors.

Nearly ten years ago the US congress directed that an office within the Justice Department, the “Office for Victims of Overseas Terrorism,” be created to “ensure that the investigation and prosecution of terrorist attacks against American citizens overseas remain a high priority within the Department of Justice.”

The OVT is responsible for monitoring the investigation and prosecution of terrorist attacks against Americans abroad,” but not a single terrorist has ever been pursued by this office.  Oh, files are open and updated, but that’s it.

A nasty notation in a file in the OVT has never, and one can be assured will never, stop a terrorist from maiming or murdering Americans anywhere.

The answers Bauer and the others have received to their many dozens of pleas to those in the OVT- when there is any response at all – is “thank you for sharing your views.  We share your concern.”  In other words, absolutely nothing of any value.

Holder Won’t Prosecute Palestinian Killers of 54 U.S. Civilians

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

News broke out last week that the US has captured Osama Bin-Laden’s son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith. It appears that the former Al-Qaeda spokesman was picked up as he was traveling from Turkey to Amman.

But in Amman, capital city of Jordan, resides a woman who was far more active than Abu Ghaith in killing and maiming American citizens. Ahlam Tamimi, described as a university student and part-time journalist, planned the Sbarro massacre of August 2001 in Jerusalem, and personally led the guitar-case carrying bomber to the crowded destination.

President Obama is planning to visit Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Amman, Jordan this month. He could do a great service in the fight against terrorism by publicly committing his administration to the active prosecution of Palestinians who willfully murdered and wounded American citizens. U.S. terror victims are not asking for favors; we are asking our government to bring justice to those who have been devastated by wanton Palestinian terror funded by U.S. tax dollars.

Fifteen people were murdered in the Sbarro massive explosion, including two American citizens, and another four Americans were wounded. Tamimi was arrested, tried, and sentenced to sixteen life sentences in Israeli jail. But in October, 2011, she went free as part of the deal Israel made to release captive soldier Gilad Shalit. Today, Tamimi sits in Amman where she has her own talk show. As to her role in the bombing, one can hear it in her own words:




The story of Tamimi is the story of failed U.S. law enforcement as it should apply to Palestinian terrorists. After the murder of Leon Klinghoffer on the Achille Lauro, in 1985, the U.S. passed a set of laws to make a terror act against a U.S. citizen anywhere in the world an offense prosecutable in U.S. federal court. A summary of the laws may be found here. These laws form the basis for the extradition of terrorists and pirates, but, to date, the U.S. has never applied these laws to a Palestinian terrorist involved in the death or injury of an American citizen.

This state of affairs is not due to a lack of information: from the 1993 signing of the Oslo Accords to 2006, the tail end of the “Second Intifada,” Palestinian terrorists have murdered 54 American citizens and wounded another 84—including this author and his son—a total of 72 separate terror attacks. The FBI dutifully opened files on every attack and a new office was opened in the Department of Justice to “monitor” such cases: the Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism (OJVOT).

If anything should be abolished during the present “sequester,” it is this office: the number of Palestinian terrorists tried since this OJVOT came into existence in 2005 is equal to the number prior to that date: Zero.

While no Palestinian terrorist has ever been extradited by the U.S., the DoJ has been busy coordinating with Israel the transfer to the U.S. of accused drug dealers and wanted criminals. Since 2004, two years after my son and I were the recipients of Palestinian shrapnel from a suicide bombing, I have begged and pleaded with U.S. officials to prosecute Palestinian terrorists. While their responses have uniformly been of sincere concern and determination (“The United States is committed to seeking justice for our citizens victimized by terrorism whether at home or abroad…”—AG Holder to this author), no Palestinian terrorist has ever been prosecuted.

When Israel was set to release hundreds of convicted terrorists in the aforementioned Shalit deal, I frantically contacted officials in the US government: the two women who brought “our” bomber to downtown Jerusalem were on the launch pad for release. The U.S. belatedly passed along to the Israeli government that no terrorist with American blood on his or her hands should be released. This note was given the day before the prisoner exchange. Needless to say, Israel ignored the request and not a word was said in Washington about the matter.

The reason is simple: Washington never expected Israel to comply, because our cases are irrelevant to the FBI and the DoJ. When the terrorists were released in exchange for the Israeli soldier, the FBI could not even figure out who got out: they could not translate the names because identity numbers were missing digits. Finally, an American lawyer who has worked harder than all of the various governmental agencies combined for U.S. terror victims, informed the FBI that 15 terrorists directly involved in the murder and maiming of American civilians walked free.

English National Opera in Hot Water over “Death of Klinghoffer”

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

The Telegraph reports that Jewish groups have accused the English National Opera of “giving a voice to terrorism” and have threatened to mount protests after the company’s decision to stage the rarely-performed “The Death of Klinghoffer”. Based on the murder of a disabled Jewish tourist during the hijacking of a cruise ship by Palestinian militants, the opera company itself says the production will “shock” audiences.

Leon Klinghoffer, a 69-year-old American, was celebrating his wedding anniversary in October 1985 aboard the Achille Lauro, when he was shot twice and thrown overboard in his wheelchair during the ship’s hijacking off the Egyptian coast by members of the Palestinian Liberation Front.

But according to John Berry, ENO’s artistic director, “one cannot shy away from the fact that this was the most brutal of terrorist attacks, and nor does the production, but the purpose of art is often to shock and challenge audiences. The story is handled with sensitivity and gives an even-handed portrayal of those on both sides of the conflict.”

Back in 1991, when the Brooklyn Academy of Music first staged “Klinghoffer,” Leon Klinghoffer’s daughters Lisa and Ilsa attended anonymously and were “disgusted at the idealistic portrayal of their father’s killers,” according to Reuters. They issued a statement that read: “We are outraged at the exploitation of our parents and the cold-blooded murder of our father as the centerpiece of a production that appears to us to be anti-Semitic.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/jewish-news/english-national-opera-in-hot-water-over-death-of-klinghoffer/2012/02/19/

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