This Ongoing War..
21 October '14..
The New York Metropolitan Opera, in a co-production with the English National Opera, began a run of John Adams' 1991 opera The Death of Klinghoffer last night in Manhattan with a standing ovation and mixed reviews. Death is an artistic interpretation of the actual murder of Leon Klinghoffer, a Jew of 69, confined to a wheelchair, who took a cruise with his wife in 1985 on the Achille Lauro in celebration of their wedding anniversary. Armed Palestinian Arab terrorists in the service of the Palestine Liberation Organization hijacked the ship as it sailed between Alexandria and Port Said, Egypt. In pursuit of their Palestinian liberation, the Arabs shot the disabled Jew at point blank range in the forehead and chest, and then hurled the body, along with the wheelchair, into the Mediterranean. Wikipedia provides a summary of the opera's culturally-uplifting contents, entertaining narrative and delightful musical innovations.
Five years after Klinghoffer's murder, Mahmoud Abbas who succeeded Yasser Arafat as head of the PLO, explained that
the seizing of the cruise ship in 1985 was a mistake, and apologized for the killing of disabled U.S. passenger Klinghoffer. [CNN, April 24, 1996]
The US State Department rejected the Abbas statement.
An angry crowd, mainly of Jews, assembled outside the performance's opening last night at the Lincoln Center in New York City, holding placards and chanting messages reflecting fury at the glorification of terrorists and the trivialization of the murder of a helpless man. The late Mr Klinghoffer's children joined their voices to those of the protesters decrying the cruel and cynical exploitation of their father's murder.
This surprised the man who wrote it who offered this rather disingenuous comment to an interviewer:
“I expected there would be some pushback,” Mr. Adams said by phone recently. “But to see posters saying the opera is pro-terrorist, it’s really kind of shocking.” ["An Opera Under Fire", New York Times, October 16, 2014]
So lots of shock to go round. But really he's not that shocked. The opera has attracted criticism from the outset, most particularly because of the way it normalizes terrorists and attempts to understand them better. Or in the words of Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer, the way its creator "rationalizes, romanticizes and legitimizes" their father's killing. The show runs, by the way, until November 15.
There's a great deal of silliness on display about the protests (from this twit, for instance), much of it revealing something we learned to our sorrow more than a decade ago: most people (by far) fail completely to comprehend (a) how terror differs from other forms of sociopathic behaviour and (b) how real the danger that it constitutes is to their own lives.