Leon Klinghoffer was the 69-year-old paralyzed New Yorker who in 1985 was aboard the hijacked cruise ship Achille Lauro, then executed by Islamic terrorists because he was a Jew. The terrorists forced the ship's barber and a waiter to throw his body and his wheelchair overboard off the coast of Egypt.
Klinghoffer's daughters, Lisa and Ilsa, have objected to this opera for decades. In the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, they recently proclaimed, "Terrorism is irrational. It should never be explained away or justified. Nor should the death of innocent civilians be misunderstood as an acceptable means for drawing attention to perceived political grievances. Unfortunately, 'The Death of Klinghoffer' does all of this and sullies the memory of our father in the process."
The Anti-Defamation League tried a moderate approach, applauding the Met's decision to cancel plans for a global simulcast. While agreeing the opera itself wasn't anti-Semitic, it could "foment anti-Semitism globally or legitimize terrorism." That should be enough to cancel the operation, shouldn't it?
So why would the most prestigious opera company in America promote this terrorist-sympathizing production? As always is the case in instances such as this, the left pleads artistic license. In The New York Times, drama critic Anthony Tommasini proclaimed: "Of all the arts, opera can use the subliminal power of music to explore motivations, including seething hatreds. This opera tries to explore what drove these Palestinians to take that ship and murder its most vulnerable passenger."
Tommasini declared further, "To try to understand why someone does something or to appreciate the fact that evildoers do not see themselves as evildoers is not the same as glorification or promotion of that evil." He called it "a searching, spiritual and humane work."
After this artistic monstrosity, could a searching, spiritual, and humane exploration of the "seething hatreds" of Adolf Hitler be not too far behind?
No, because when it comes to the performing arts in America's cultural capital, there's a remarkable bias and selectivity among the tastemakers.
Surely there were people who despised Kennedy with every fiber in their beings in 1962 but no one's going to finance an opera sympathetically exploring the motivations of Lee Harvey Oswald. Let's face it: There were those who wanted Martin Luther King dead.
Would anyone ever countenance a performance at the Met — or anywhere else — that might be described as a "searching, spiritual and humane work" studying the motives of James Earl Ray? So why do we need a tasteless work of "art" that allows a Palestinian terrorist project the murder of an innocent American Jew as anything other than what it is — evil?
Don't get us wrong. It's not that the drama community feels any sort of affinity with religions or the religious. While the Met sympathizes with Islamic terrorists, Broadway is making a mint mocking Mormon missionaries in "The Book of Mormon."
The newspapers have lauded stage productions like Colm Toibin's "The Testament of Mary," which derided the apostles of Jesus Christ as a group of mouth-breathing buffoons, or worse. That production lasted all of two weeks on stage last year, but was nominated for three Tony Awards. Mary Gordon in The New York Times applauded how these evangelists "are portrayed as menacing intruders, with the lurking shadowy presence of Stalin's secret police."
Why provide sympathy to Islamists? It is not because these "artists" are sympathetic to the message of Islamofascism. It is because they're cowards. It's quite obvious that the theatre artists of New York have never dared to paint Muhammad and his contemporaries into a "secret police" corner of Mecca.
In a video from the Metropolitan Opera, the composer John Adams promoted his work by saying "Opera is the art form that goes to the max. It's the art form that is the most emotional, the one that goes the furthest, and in a sense terrorism is the same thing." Apparently, extremism and murder can be casually compared to opera, and extremism in the defense of opera is no vice.