Today was the opening day of the Metropolitan Opera’s showing of Death of Klinghoffer, a film humanizing 4 Palestinian terrorists who captured the cruise ship Achille Lauro and murdered 69 year old wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer just because he was an American Jew. There was a protest outside the Met which had 100 wheelchairs and signs saying “Leon Klinghoffer is us.” I was planning to attend, but I have been feeling under the weather, so I did not make it in. However, I watched The Voyage of Terror, the film detailing the hijacking. The film shows how, while the 4 terrorists were captured (thanks to an American plane which chased theirs down), the two higher-ups in the PLO who orchestrated the attack got away due to an agreement Italy had with the PLO.
The opera was produced in 1991, so why the protests now, 23 years later? For a simple reason: the fact that Death of Klinghoffer has permeated an institution of mainstream culture is extremely disturbing. As we know from our history, propaganda and scapegoating often permeates from culture. I would feel the same way if an opera romanticizing Jewish terrorists appeared at the Met. The bottom line is that terrorist actions are being humanized is completely unacceptable and unjustifiable.
For the record, I have not seen the opera in its entirety although I have seen a number of scenes (including the opening act), which were painful to watch and which demonstrated to me the problematic nature of this opera.