Countdown to 'Klinghoffer'

Monday, October 20, is the day (evening, actually) that New York’s Metropolitan Opera will première its production of “The Death of Klinghoffer,” an operatic depiction of the murder of disabled Jewish retiree Leon Kinghoffer by Palestinian terrorists who hijacked the Achille Lauro, a cruise ship on which he was a passenger with family members, shot and killed him and then threw him -- still in his wheelchair -- overboard.

Despite objections from a plethora of Jewish (and Christian) organizations and individuals, including Klinghoffer’s two daughters, the Met’s manager Peter Gelb insists on going ahead with the production.

Objections have been so broad and strong that, as the Sunday edition of the New York Post reports, there will be a heavy police presence at Lincoln Center to ensure that the protest planned there remains peaceful:

There will be a “heavy police presence” for “The Death of Klinghoffer” at The Metropolitan Opera Monday, when critics plan to storm the controversial show, police sources told The Post.

Both uniformed and plainclothes officers will patrol the event, along with cops stationed inside the opera house to prevent protesters from disrupting the performance, a police source told The Post.

…protest organizer organizer Jeffrey Wiesenfeld [a Trustee of the City University of New York] told The Jewish Week "This opera is not just anti-Semitic but there is gratuitous anti-Semitism that is repeated and repeated,” Wiesenfeld slammed. “This is a game-changer.”

Nevertheless, the New York Times, which has been cheerleading the Met’s decision to put on the production, which it calls an "operatic masterpiece," devotes almost a full page’s linage to an article about it beginning on the front page of its Sunday Arts section, continued inside, complete with large photos -- a huge chunk of free publicity that any flack would give his right arm to get.

Meanwhile, after the ADL had reached the half-baked compromise with the Met to cancel the simulcast and include a statement from the Klinghoffer sisters in the printed programs, other voices began to be raised in objection, including that of the Catholic League.

The Jewish Community Relations Council issued a letter of protest and invited other organizations to sign.

As reported in the Jewish Week:

Among those who have thus far signed are the top lay and professional leaders of UJA-Federation of New York and the leaders of Hadassah, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Orthodox Union, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the National Council of Young Israel, the Religious Zionists of America, Jewish National Fund, several JCCs and YM-YWHAs, the Bnai Zion Foundation, New York Association of Jews from the Former Soviet Union, and the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County. So far no leaders have signed from the Union for Reform Judaism, by far the largest denomination.

The American Jewish Committee released its own statement last week expressing concern that the opera will glorify terrorism and noting that canceling the simulcast has not alleviated concerns in New York City, the site of the 9/11 terror attacks.

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, Executive Vice President of the New York Board of Rabbis, denounced the opera’s production roundly on his weekly radio commentary over WINS1010, the city’s CBS AM radio news outlet.

To be fair, the Times article did say that, “Several of the prominent reviews of that presentation, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in September 1991, including one by Edward Rothstein in the New York Times, were strongly critical of the work and its politics.” But it couldn’t resist snarking that “many of those most offended by the opera seem not to have seen or heard it.