ZOA is Shocked, Mystified That ADL/Foxman Wrongly States “Klinghoffer” Opera is Not Anti-Semitic
June 19, 2014

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is shocked and mystified that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) wrongly stated this week (in ADL’s June 17 press release) that the “Death of Klinghoffer” opera is “not anti-Semitic.”   (Shamefully, the NYC Metropolitan Opera is still planning 8 live performances of this anti-Semitic opera this fall.)  ADL ignores the opera’s egregious anti-Israel lies, defamation of all Jews, and glorification and legitimization of terrorist murderers of Jewish people.

ADL’s statement contradicts the Klinghoffer daughters’ statement that the opera is anti-Semitic.  Leon Klinghoffer’s daughters Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer protested this opera from the outset, as follows: 

“We are outraged at the exploitation of our parents and the coldblooded murder of our father as the centerpiece of a production that appears to us to be anti-Semitic.” 

The New York Daily News editorial yesterday (June 18) noted that “Death of Klinghoffer has been “reviled as anti-Semitic and horribly sympathetic to the killers.” 

ADL’s statement harms the continuing efforts to stop the Met from performing this anti-Semitic opera.   

ZOA President Mort Klein stated:

“Death of Klinghoffer” includes libels that Jews get fat from the poor, cheat, exploit, pollute virgins, defame, break laws, and are idolators – and portrays terrorists who murder Jews as “men of ideals.”   The opera also includes outrageous lies about Jewish Israelis’ treatment of Arabs.  If ADL President Abe Foxman doesn’t think that all this is anti-Semitism, then what is? 

ADL’s inaccurate statement interferes with and harms the continuing efforts by ZOA and other organizations and dedicated individuals to stop the Metropolitan Opera’s still-scheduled 8 live performances of this anti-Semitic opera in New York this fall.”

“Death of Klinghoffer is undeniably anti-Semitic.  Here is a sampling of the evidence, which includes both the maligning of Jews in general and anti-Israel lies against Israel’s Jews:

 1. Arab murderers of Jews are portrayed as idealists.  A Palestinian Arab terrorist/murderer sings: “We are soldiers fighting a war; we are not criminals; we are not vandals; we are men of ideals.” 

 2. Jews are defamed, using the worst type of anti-Semitic stereotypes.  A hijacker sings:  “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.”

3, Jews are portrayed as speaking about trivial material concerns, while the Arab terrorists are romantically (and falsely) portrayed as avenging past violent persecution of Arabs by Israeli Jews.

 4. The opera falsely portrays Israeli Jews as destroying Arab homes and chasing Arabs from their homes in Israel in 1948.  The opera begins with a little Arab girl watching Jews shooting at, beating and chasing Arab women and children from their homes, while a Palestinian-Arab chorus sings: “My father’s house was razed, in 1948, When the Israelis passed over the street. . . Israel laid all to waste.”   One of the terrorists claims that his mother was “driven away” by an Israeli “raid.”

In fact, Israel begged the Arabs to stay and live peacefully together in Israel in 1948.  The Arab High Committee and seven invading Arab nations urged Arabs to leave to make it easier for the seven Arab countries which invaded the fledgling Jewish nation in 1948 to destroy Israel and murder Israel’s Jewish inhabitants.  See ZOA’s detailed prior press release which quoted: the British report that the Mayor of Haifa begged the Arabs to stay; Arab leaders urging Arabs to leave so that the Jews could be killed more readily; and other contemporaneous sources confirming this. 

Moreover, again in 1967, Israeli leaders including Moshe Dayan sent soldiers to stop and reassure the tens of thousands of Arabs who were voluntarily running from Judea and Samaria across the Allenby Bridge to Jordan, in the wake of the Six Day war.  The Israeli soldiers urged the Arabs to go back to their homes and reassured the Arabs that Israel would not hurt them. 

 5, The opera uses the peculiar phrase “when the Israelis passed over the street” to describe the invented Israeli destruction of Arab homes in 1948, apparently in order to bring to mind the Passover story, when the Angel of Death passed over houses, killing Egyptian families’ first-born sons.   Israelis are thus likened to the Angel of Death.

 6. The opera also leaves the false and defamatory impression that Jews murdered hundreds of Muslims in Sabra and Shatila – by having a Palestinian terrorist sing that his brother was decapitated in Sabra & Shatila, as one of several “justifications” for Palestinian terrorists murdering Leon Klinghoffer.  An Arab Palestinian terrorist sings, as part of his justification for murdering the innocent disabled Jewish-American: “She [my mother] was killed with the old men and children in Camps at Sabra and Shatila where Almighty God in His mercy showed my decapitated brother to me/ And in His mercy allowed me to close my brother’s eyes and wipe his face.” 

In fact, the Sabra and Shatila massacre in Lebanon was committed by Christian Phalangists, after Muslim terrorists assassinated Lebanon’s Christian president and Muslims had been massacring Christians.

 7. The opera lies about (grossly exaggerates) the number of Arab Palestinian refugees.   The opera’s claim of 3.8 million refugees in 1985 is 10 times the actual number of Palestinian refugees, most accurately estimated at approximately 367,000.  See ZOA’s prior release discussing this.  The wildly exaggerated numbers have been repeatedly used to defame Israel. 

 8. The opera also conveniently omits any mention of the almost one million Jewish refugees who were forced to flee from Arab countries by real Muslim persecution and pogroms against these centuries-old Jewish communities.

 9. The opera repeatedly invokes the falsehood that Israel was stolen from Palestinian Arabs.  In addition to falsely portraying Jews driving out Arabs in 1948, a Palestinian murderer lashes out at a British passenger, and sings that the Balfour declaration took away Palestinian land to give it to Israel. 

In fact, there was never an Arab country called “Palestine.”  Jews have lived continuously in Israel throughout the millennia.  Jews comprised the majority in Jerusalem since the mid-1800s.  The opera ignores the thousands of years of history of Jewish presence and connection to the land of Israel.  The opera also ignores the real Arab massacres of Jews living in Israel, in Hebron, Jerusalem and elsewhere, in the 1920s and 1930s, and in the Intifadas that started in the 1980s.

 10. The opera portrays the modern-day blood libels that Jewish Holocaust survivors from Europe took away “Palestinian” land, and that Jewish Israelis became the new Nazis.  The opera compares Nazi persecution of Jews to fabricated Jewish-Israeli treatment of Arab-Palestinians.  To drive home this outrageous anti-Semitic propaganda, in the opera DVD, the same actor plays both a Holocaust victim tormented by Nazis, and an Israeli Jew who chases and shoots at Arab women and children.

 11. The opera may have been inspired by one of the worst anti-Semitic, anti-Israel propagandists.  In an interview with David Beverley, “Klinghoffer” composer John Adams stated: “I read a great deal of Edward Said’s writing.”  

 12. The opera also uses crucifixion imagery to portray Jews as sinful, and to help justify the “need” for innocent Jews to be killed to atone for the alleged sins of Jews who allegedly mistreated Arabs.  Composer John Adams stated during his Beverley interview:  “Clearly his [Leon Klinghoffer’s] death was a kind of crucifixion.  He was crucified for the class of people that he happened to fall into.”  In the DVD, after he is killed and thrown overboard by the terrorists, Klinghoffer’s body is shown sinking in slow-motion in crucifixion-like poses.

 13. The title “Death of Klinghoffer” in itself woefully diminishes what the Palestinian terrorists really did.  The title should be the “Murder of Klinghoffer.” 

 14. As UC Professor and musicologist Richard Taruskin has written, “Death of Klinghoffer” utilizes soaring music to glorify the terrorists and Palestinian choruses’ anti-Jewish and anti-Israel pronouncements – and by contrast, trivial music is used when Jews speak, to emphasize supposed Jewish “materialism” and triviality. 

 15. The opera describes the Palestinian murderers in kindly, humane terms.  A female British passenger sings that Omar, one of the terrorists, is “extremely nice” and gave the passengers cigarettes and meat.   As noted above, the Metropolitan Opera openly acknowledges that the opera “looks for humanity in the terrorists.” 

Looking for the “humanity” in those who murder blacks is anti-black.  Looking for the “humanity” in those who murder gay people is anti-gay.  Looking for the “humanity” in those who murder Jews is anti-Semitism.

Would we look for the “humanity” in the 9-11 killers?  Or Charlie Manson?  Or the Ku Klux Klan members who lynched African-Americans?

In real life, the terrorists who murdered Leon Klinghoffer in his wheelchair were despicable and devoid of humanity.  After they committed this heinous murder, the terrorists even stooped to saying that Mrs. Klinghoffer killed her husband so that she could enjoy the life insurance money!  (Mrs. Klinghoffer was actually dying from terminal cancer at the time of the cruise, and died shortly afterwards.) 

ZOA thus urges ADL to join ZOA and other groups in speaking out against the malicious anti-Semitism and anti-Israel lies in “Death of Klinghoffer.”

ADL’s statement is also illogical:  

ADL’s press release stated:

“ADL noted that while the opera itself is not anti-Semitic, there is a concern the opera could be used in foreign countries as a means to stir up anti-Israel sentiments or as a vehicle to promote anti-Semitism.”

ADL’s statement that the opera is “not anti-Semitic” but could be used as a “vehicle to promote anti-Semitism” is illogical on its face.  If an opera is a vehicle for promoting anti-Semitism, it is in fact anti-Semitic.   And, as ZOA detailed above and in its press releases last week and earlier this week, the opera’s title, lyrics and musical language are in fact anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and anti-American.

“Foreign countries” are not the only place where the opera will promote anti-Semitism:  ZOA is also mystified as to why ADL’s statement only raises concerns that the opera could promote anti-Semitism in “foreign countries.”   An opera that can be used to promote anti-Semitism in foreign countries, can and will also promote anti-Semitism in New York.

New York’s Jewish communities are “prime targets” of anti-Semitic terrorists and criminals.  The ADL’s own website notes that physical attacks on Jews in Brooklyn tripled last year (2013).   In 2011, police uncovered a terror plot by two Muslim jihadists to attack a Manhattan synagogue with guns and grenades.  In 2009, four Muslim men were arrested in connection with a terrorist plot to shoot down military airplanes and blow up two synagogues in Riverdale, in the Bronx.  Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg stated with respect to the 2011 plot to attack a Manhattan synagogue: “We know that, as an international symbol of freedom and liberty, New York City is and will always be a target.”

And of course, the Met’s audiences include opera-lovers from all over the world, who will bring what they “learn” at the opera back to their home countries.

ADL should thus not be satisfied that the international broadcast of the opera has been canceled.  We hope that the ADL will join with ZOA and the other individuals and organizations who are still working to stop the Met Opera’s plan to still have 8 live performances of Death of Klinghoffer in New York.

ADL’s statement conflicts with the duty ADL undertook to fight terrorism:  ZOA also urges that the ADL should join in the fight to stop all performances of “Death of Klinghoffer” because the ADL undertook a special obligation to fight terrorism. 

The Klinghoffer children donated to the ADL the proceeds of their lawsuit against the PLO (reportedly 7 figures), and lent their name to the ADL to establish a special foundation that is supposed to fight terrorism.  The ADL website notes:

“The ADL Leon and Marilyn Klinghoffer Memorial Foundation combats terrorism through educational, political and legal means. The Foundation was founded in 1986.”

ADL also uses the Klinghoffer daughters and name to raise funds for combating terrorism.  See http://archive.adl.org/profiles/3.html

“Death of Klinghoffer” performances also need to be protested and stopped because the opera promotes the concept that terrorism against innocent civilians is justified.  As prominent University of California Musicologist Richard Taruskin, an expert in 20th Century music and nationalism, wrote in a detailed New York Times article praising the Boston Symphony for canceling performances of “Death of Klinghoffer,” “Death of Klinghoffer” “romanticizes the perpetrators of deadly violence toward the innocent.” 

Likewise, the Metropolitan Opera’s own form letter to those complaining about this opera openly and brazenly states that this opera “looks for humanity in the terrorists.”  

Romanticizing terrorists, “looking for the humanity” in terrorists, and seeking to justify terrorists’ heinous acts are counter-productive to efforts to fight terrorism.  Professor Taruskin aptly noted that the only way to defeat terrorism is to “focus resolutely on the acts rather than their claimed (or conjectured) motivations, and to characterize all such acts, whatever their motivation, as crimes.” 

ZOA and others are continuing our work to stop “Death of Klinghoffer”: 

ZOA was privileged to be a large part of the effort to stop the international broadcasts of “Death of Klinghoffer.”  ZOA spoke with AMC Theaters (which then immediately conferred with Met officials, and then called ZOA back to advise of the decision to cancel the broadcast), publicized the opera’s malicious falsehoods, and contacted major Met donors and their friends and numerous other individuals, whom all assisted with this important effort.

ZOA and other groups and dedicated individuals are continuing to work hard to stop the 8 live performances in New York, which have not yet been canceled. 

We again urge the ADL to join with ZOA’s and other’s continuing efforts to stop the Met’s 8 live performances of “Death of Klinghoffer” this fall.

Center for Law & Justice
We work to educate the American public and Congress about legal issues in order to advance the interests of Israel and the Jewish people.
We assist American victims of terrorism in vindicating their rights under the law, and seek to hold terrorists and sponsors of terrorism accountable for their actions.
We fight anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias in the media and on college campuses.
We strive to enforce existing law and also to create new law in order to safeguard the rights of the Jewish people in the United States and Israel.