Wednesday, September 22nd | 16 Tishri 5782

October 24, 2014 7:56 am

Klinghoffer Opera is Blatant Anti-Semitism

avatar by Abraham H. Miller


Protestors outside "The Death of Klinghoffer." Photo: Amelia Katzen.

The French novelist Louis-Ferdinand Celine called for the destruction of French Jews at a time when Nazism was on the rise, and anti-Semitism poured  from the flesh of Europe’s elite like sweat on a hot summer’s day.

Celine’s anti-Semitism was so virulent and irrational that the Nazi  head of propaganda for occupied France, Bernard Payr, found it too extreme. But French intellectual Andre Gide found Celine’s anti-Semitism refreshing because it pulled away the cheap veneer of politeness of European society and revealed the hatred for Jews that was its common bond.

Even as French Jews were being rounded up and carted off to concentration camps, Celine was writing that the Jews controlled France. Celine’s disappointment in Hitler’s not creating an Aryan France led him to  state publicly that the real Hitler had been replaced by a Jewish double.

Celine came to anti-Semitism because he had written a play to impress a young woman he wanted to seduce and presented it to two Jewish producers to put  on stage. They found the play less than compelling, and Celine never forgave them – and their people – for impeding the satisfaction of his lustful desires. His hatred for Jews was so unrelenting that even during the Nazi occupation of France, he still turned out an anti-Semitic screed.

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With anti-Semitism once again emerging from the recesses of European society and the fact that Jews are being attacked, maimed, and murdered for the unforgivable crime of being Jews, the Metropolitan Opera is presenting “The Death of Klinghoffer,” a barbaric screed, like Celine’s Bagatelles. It masquerades as art but celebrates the murder of a wheelchair-bound elderly Jew, who was slaughtered  on an Italian cruise ship and dumped into the sea along with his wheelchair. The opera celebrates the murderers – Palestinian terrorists – and condemns the victim as a symbol of the ever greedy, powerful Jew from whose omnipotent perch all of humanity is exploited.

John Adams, the opera’s composer, in an interview on public radio, said that all great opera’s tackle controversial subjects and went on to allude to fellow anti-Semite Richard Wagner, who not only resented the operatic success of his Jewish rivals, but was obsessed, according to Friedrich Nietzche, with the idea that his biological father was really Jewish. Of course, whether all great opera’s engage controversial subjects is a matter of opinion, but certainly not all controversial subjects make for great operas.

Otherwise, why not, “The Death of Martin Luther King,” written as a drama that celebrates King’s assassin, James Earl Ray, as hero and King as the embodiment of an inferior race that is unwilling to recognize its subordinate position in society?

It would be intriguing to pull away the intellectual rationalizations and discover where the Celine is in John Adams’ motivation. After all, taking together the total corpus of his work, Celine might have been a brilliant novelist, but he was also a ranting sociopath.

New York Mayor Bill De Blasio condemns those, like former New York  Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who demonstrated against the opera. De Blasio asserts the opera’s creators have First Amendment rights. But does the First Amendment not  extend to those who want to demonstrate against the opera?

To add insult to ignorance, De Blasio says he is concerned about the rise of worldwide anti-Semitism while apparently failing to grasp that the opera contributes to that phenomenon by giving legitimacy to anti-Semitic stereotypes and justifying the murder of a Jew for being a Jew.

Klinghoffer is not art. It is one massive hate crime. It is an assault not just on the Jewish community but also on all decent people. If John Adams mouthed the excremental sentiments of his art into the phone directed at some Jewish organization, he’d probably be guilty of a hate crime. But directing his filth at all Jews, putting it to music, and having it produced against the backdrop of expensive scenery ostensibly turns excrement into art.

Getting inside the mind of terrorists through drama and finding a moral equivalence between terrorists and their victims might seem to be intellectual sophistication to those who fancy themselves deep thinkers. In their world, there is no such thing as good and evil, assailant and victim; there are only different layers of explanation for the societal circumstances that remove free will and cause people to act.

But such sophistication is easy when Jews are the target. What about 9/11? I await the opera where someone will get inside the minds of the hijackers and create a moral equivalence between those who flew airplanes into the Twin Towers and those who worked inside them trading financial instruments. I can already hear, and smell, an aria called, “Greed.”

Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati and a contributor to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. He is the author of Fourteenth Street: A Chicago Story, a work of political fiction.

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