Abraham Foxman of Bergen County, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, answered our questions about the opera “The Death of Klinghoffer”:
Jewish Standard: What is your response to the cancellation of the HD broadcast of “Death of Klinghoffer”?
Abe Foxman: While we would have hoped that the Metropolitan Opera would have stayed away from mounting such a problematic opera, we are pleased that Peter Gelb and the Met decided to cancel the global simulcast of “The Death of Klinghoffer.” While not everyone will be pleased with the outcome, I believe that this was the best solution, given the fact that the opera will now only be seen by patrons attending the production at Lincoln Center in New York. Moreover, the Met has volunteered space in the Playbill program for an essay by the Klinghoffer daughters explaining their point of view. It should be noted that other recent productions, such as one staged earlier this year by Long Beach Opera in California, have made similar accommodations to the Klinghoffer family.
JS: Have you seen or read “Death of Klinghoffer”?
AF: I haven’t personally seen the opera, but numerous ADL staffers – experts on anti-Semitism and the Arab-Israeli conflict – have seen it, and our objections are based on their analyses and a full reading of the libretto.
JS: Would you advise people to see it or stay away?
AF: Obviously, opera patrons can decide what production they want to see and what they want to stay away from. We are certainly not encouraging people to boycott the opera, and disagree with those who plan to picket outside Lincoln Center. We are not opposed to picketing. Those who decide to picket have every right and are entitled to their view.
JS: Does it “romanticize terrorists,” as one critic said?
AF: The Klinghoffer family has stated that they think the opera tries to romanticize and legitimize the terrorists. The opera spends a lot of time (numerous arias) highlighting Palestinian suffering, and this can serve to both explain and romanticize the motivations and goals of the terrorists. We join with the Klinghoffer family in asserting that nothing can justify terrorism, and that the terrorists on the Achille Lauro were not romantic, conflicted figures, but violent, thuggish terrorists.
JS: The opera apparently tries to be 50-50 regarding Israelis-Palestinians, whereas Americans are far more sympathetic toward Israel than 50-50. Is this a major objection to the opera? It tries to be neutral when neutrality actually favors the terrorists?
AF: We would disagree that the opera is 50/50 or neutral regarding the Palestinian-Israel conflict. The opera highlights Palestinian suffering at the hands of Jews/Israelis at the time of the founding of the State of Israel. The opera also highlights Jewish suffering, but that suffering is solely related to the Holocaust. The Jewish connection to the Land of Israel is not referenced, and there is no context as to why Jews have established a state in Israel, and what Israelis have endured over the years.