Leon Klinghoffer was a 69-year-old wheelchair-bound American who was murdered and thrown overboard by Palestinian terrorists in 1985 during the hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro. John Adams wrote an opera about the incident titled "The Death of Klinghoffer" which shows the terrorists as idealists rather than murderers, and includes anti-Semitic lyrics such as “Wherever poor men—Are gathered they can—Find Jews getting fat." This November the Metropolitan Opera plans on staging the opera and transmitting the hatred to more than 2,000 theaters in 66 countries, including more than 700 U.S. theaters.
When the opera was performed in St. Louis in 2011, Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer, Mr. Klinghoffer's daughters, issued the following statement about the production:
We are greatly distressed that the Opera Theatre of St. Louis has decided to stage The Death of Klinghoffer – a production which American opera companies have avoided for 20 years. Our personal grief and sensitivity to the controversy that has surrounded presentations of the opera since its premiere are not diminished by the passage of time.
We are strong supporters of the arts, and believe that theater can play a critical role in examining and understanding significant world events. This opera, however, does no such thing. The Death of Klinghoffer takes a heinous terrorist event and rationalizes, legitimizes, and explains it. There is no way that this terrorist murder can or should be presented in a balanced manner.
There can be no compassion, understanding, or objectivity for terrorists, no matter who they are, where they live, or what their story is.
Myron Kaplan, a senior research analyst for CAMERA and opera fan, published an open letter protesting the production in JNS and CAMERA. The letter addressed to the Met's General Manager Peter Gelb explains the issue with the opera is a "tendentious story line and an inflammatory libretto that falsely maligns Israel and the Jewish people." He wrote:
This story line can be characterized fairly as “Understandably aggrieved Palestinian Arabs wreak vengeance on disabled Jew standing in for all his perfidious co-religionists.” This is an obscene inversion of the reality that was the Achille Lauro cruise ship hijacking and subsequent terrorist murder of passenger Leon Klinghoffer. In this regard, it must be noted that the librettist, Alice Goodman, during the writing of the opera, rejected her American Jewish heritage by joining the Anglican Church, the leadership of which is known for its hostility toward Israel. Goodman is now a parish priest in England.
Kaplan called for the Met to substitute a different performance for its international broadcast, which is sure to be used as ammunition for anti-Semites worldwide:
As alluded to above, the opera is based on the 1985 murder of a helpless 69-year-old American Jewish man, Leon Klinghoffer, confined to a wheelchair—shot in the head while vacationing with his wife on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean Sea. He was murdered by Palestinian Arab hijackers belonging to the Palestine Liberation Front, a component of Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization, and his body dumped into the water. The choice of the title, “The Death of Klinghoffer” and not “The Murder of Klinghoffer,” signals the work’s moral evasion and misrepresentation. In a sense, it is consistent with the PLO’s initial comments on the murder, that either Klinghoffer had died of natural causes or his wife pushed him overboard to be able to claim life insurance. The title’s sanitizing of murder is, however, also consistent with the opera’s anti-Jewish tone. Instead of properly characterizing the Palestinian hijackers of the cruise ship as permanent prisoners of their own rage originating from cultural indoctrination, Adams/Goodman impart idealism to them.
(...) Hijacker Rambo invokes anti-Semitic canards: “Wherever poor men—Are gathered they can—Find Jews getting fat—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.” Rambo’s lyrics, with virtually no artistic embellishment, could have been lifted from Nazi publications like Der Sturmer, as even a casual glance at the archives would confirm.
Repeatedly, the Palestinians are portrayed as humane idealists. Hijacker Molqi sings: “We are—Soldiers fighting a war—We are not criminals—And we are not vandals—But men of ideals.”
Men of ideals who just happen to shoot wheelchair-bound 69-year-old men and throw them overboard.
It is not known what the The Neubauer Family Foundation, whose patron was born in Israel and which sponsors the weekly opera broadcasts on radio, or any of the other major financial supporters of the Metropolitan Opera feel about the worldwide broadcast of anti-Jewish, anti-Israel hatred.