Nobody should be fooled by this ‘concession’

Jeffrey Wiesenfeld  (Joe Marino / New York Daily News)
Jeffrey Wiesenfeld (Joe Marino / New York Daily News)

By Jeffrey Wiesenfeld / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Last week, in response to public blowback about its plans to stage “The Death of Klinghoffer” this fall, the Metropolitan Opera offered what it seems to think is a significant concession — namely, that even as the opera goes ahead at Lincoln Center, it will not be simulcast in movie theaters around the world.

Interesting logic: Don’t broadcast this incendiary drama — about the coldblooded murder of a Jewish man by terrorists — across the globe, where violent anti-Semitism has spread, but continue to show it in New York, a place where people from the world over basically get along.

In other words, the Met seems to be saying, there’s already plenty of anti-Semitism in Europe, but maybe not quite enough here.

This is an indecent outcome, and one that should offend Jewish New Yorkers. I cannot imagine the Met treating any other ethnic group this way. But it’s sadly consistent with how the institution has approached its plans to stage a work of art many people, including myself, consider insensitive at best and anti-Semitic at worst.

Metropolitan Opera General Manager Peter Gelb, in a letter to the members of the Met’s board, defended “Klinghoffer,” citing its “its artistic value as a contemporary operatic masterpiece.” Meantime, Gelb derided opponents of this presentation as “activists.”

This was just days before, claiming to have taken the criticisms to heart, he made the decision regarding telecasting. Don’t buy it.

At a time when we too often see the terrible human wreckage left by the inhumane acts of terrorists, it is easy to forget about the horrifying case of Leon Klinghoffer. But he must not be forgotten. His murder was the result of poisonous anti-Semitism and cruelty — the type that still run rampant today.

I have read the detestable libretto of “Kinghoffer.” In it, a hijacker at one point utters, “whatever poor men are gathered, they can find Jews getting fat.” Another says, “We are soldiers fighting a war, we are not criminals and we are not vandals, but men of ideals.”

Gelb excuses these and other utterances embedded in the opera by saying composer John Adams, “tries to understand the hijackers and their motivations and to look for humanity in the terrorists.”

Humanity in the terrorists? There was no more humanity in the men who executed an elderly stroke victim with a shot to the head than there was in the mass murderers who attacked this country on 9/11. The Achille Lauro terrorists, in fact, were the precursors to the 9/11 killers.

There would be no logic or decency in staging an opera exhibiting the “humanity” of Osama Bin Laden’s disciples. “Klinghoffer” is a similar perversion of culture.

Further, Gelb wants us to believe the notion that we can countenance this production as long as a “proviso” letter appears in the playbill explaining the concerns of the Klinghoffer family. Absurd.

Would Gelb stage an opera that showcases the “humanity” of Ku Klux Klan members who burned churches and lynched blacks, covering his conscience by including such a letter? I think not.

I respect the commitment of the Klinghoffer family to fighting terrorism. Of course I feel for their deep personal loss. But it is not for them to say that the larger community of New York should be satisfied with a statement in the playbill.

This issue is larger than one family. It affects every citizen who is a potential terrorist target, which is everyone in the city of New York.

Anti-Semitism is increasing across the globe, accompanied by delegitimization of the state of Israel, driven by those who inspire Klinghoffer’s killers and their cohorts. There are those who do not wish to damage their ties and business relationships by “pushing too hard” against what is clearly despicable behavior.

But Jewish history shows that we are always vulnerable to the poison of hate — and all have a responsibility to speak out.

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Wiesenfeld was an aide to former Mayor Ed Koch, former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato and former Gov. George Pataki.


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