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February 20, 2015 1:08 am

Jewish Studies to Bring Antisemitic Opera to UC Davis

avatar by Abraham H. Miller

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The Jewish Studies department at UC Davis is sponsoring a screening of 'The Death of Klinghoffer.' Photo:

In the wake of a week where the student senate voted to support boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel, where Jewish students were greeted by the Jihadist war cry, Allahu Akbar, and where swastikas appeared on a Jewish fraternity house, it was unimaginable that the situation at the University of California, Davis could get worse for activist Jewish students. It did.

The Jewish Studies Department announced that it is sponsoring the antisemitic screed posing as opera, The Death of Klinghoffer.  Leon Klinghoffer was an elderly, wheelchair-bound, Jewish-American whom Palestinian terrorists threw into the sea from a hijacked cruise ship.

Klinghoffer was murdered because he was a Jew.

The controversial opera drew thousands of protesters when it opened at the New York Metropolitan in 2014. As a concession to outrage from the Jewish community generally and the Klinghoffer family specifically, Met General Manager Peter Gelb permitted a statement from Klinghoffer’s daughters to be included with the program. It stated that the opera “rationalizes, romanticizes, and legitimizes the terrorist murder of our father.”

It also rationalizes, romanticizes, and legitimizes Palestinians killing any Jew, for Klinghoffer is merely a stand in for the collective guilt, as the opera portrays it, of the Jewish people for Palestinian suffering. Ironically, the underlying theme of collective guilt was precisely the same used in the South to justify lynching of any African-American for a crime that some African-American allegedly committed. The social psychologist Hadley Cantril delineated this phenomenon in his seminal work, The Psychology of Social Movements.

At UC Davis, there has been no shortage of antisemitic incidents. In November 2012, pro-Palestinian demonstrators kept Jewish students from going to class and pushed them into a corner while verbally and physically harassing them as five of the campus’ administrators looked on, apparently with approval, for not one of them took any action to come to the aid of the Jewish students.

Imagine if a gang of white activists kept black students from going to class while verbally and physically harassing them as campus administrators looked on and took no action. They would be asked to clean out their desks within hours and would never again find a position anywhere in academia. But administrators looking on while Jewish students were harassed did so with impunity.

So, against this background why would the Jewish Studies program sponsor the Klinghoffer opera? The answer to that begins with an examination of the political horizon in Northern California, where Jewish political identity is generally progressive rather than even liberal. Judaism for most Jews has little to do with their religion and less to do with Israel.  Jews, as Ben Shapiro, empirically documents are largely secular leftists. Progressivism, for them, is a calling, a sense of personal definition, an identity that is the mapping for personal interrelations.

The Klinghoffer opera is not the first instance where the Jewish community in this area chose to highlight their progressive commitment. At the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, in 2009, the film, Rachel – a paean to Rachel Corrie, the naïve, erstwhile Marxist and International Solidarity Movement activist who put her life on the line to protect terrorist tunnels bringing in arms to kill Jews in Israel’s south – was shown.

She has since taken on virtual sainthood among the anti-Israel left as a peace activist, whom the Israelis wantonly “murdered.” Why a Jewish film festival would not only show a propaganda film about her, but also invite a speech from her mother, who has made a crusade out of her daughter’s death in an effort to delegitimize Israel, is a question that regrettably almost answers itself.

For most progressives, bashing the United States is a sufficient to affirm one’s political identity. The most common explanation here for 9/11 is that we are the victims of our own foreign policy. We did it to ourselves. But for progressive Jews, traditional America bashing is insufficient. Progressive Jews most also bash Israel, and in doing so, they experience an addiction to self-loathing. With it comes a denial of the fundamental principle of normal politics, which is self-interest.

Ask yourself, would a black studies department sponsor an opera about the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. that provide a justification for King’s death and a rational for James Earl Ray carrying it out?

Of course, not.

Progressive Jews are still cowering in their mental cellars as their forbearers physically cowered in their cellars during the 1903 Kishinev pogrom. The Hebrew poet Chaim Nachman Bialik captured it in verse, and was unforgiving in his contempt. Modern progressive Jews are still cowering in fear that if they embrace Israel, they will no longer be viewed as good progressives.

They will bring Klinghoffer the opera to campus as they brought Rachel, the hagiography, to their film festival. And they will rejoice in the sublime contemplation that like Klinghoffer, perhaps, they too deserve to be pushed into the sea.

Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati, and a senior fellow with the Salomon Center. He is a former University of California, Davis faculty member. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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  • klaus

    California at the forefront again

  • Zicky

    This has come to be expected from the USA Universities, in USA media, and public service.
    America was once a great nation, but with the Universities stuffed with left wing tenured staff and lecturers with Antisemitic feeling which they disguise as anti-Israel (pro palestinian)just to appease their own conscience.

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  • Lynne Bursky-Tammam

    Please contact me with the names of the community leaders and students who are ready to protest this despicable opera. We can help them with materials that we used in New York!

  • IF you scratch the surface I am sure you will find the Arab front groups like Jewish Voice for Peace and J Street behind organizing this. Abe Miller writes of the events at SF Jewish Film Festival lauding Rachel Corrie. What he doesn’t mention is that Paul LaRudee of the ISM, another Hamas front padded the attendees with anti-Israel activists then tried to claim American Jews were on the Palestinian side. Jews still refuse to believe these organizations are infiltrated with anti-Israel activists posing as progressive Jews who really are working for the other side.

  • Wendy Stern

    it’s like being to have good “green” credentials also requires having strong pro-Palestinian and ant-Israel values/beliefs which is the biggest load of balderdash I’ve had the misfortune to encounter

  • yehudi

    if this is true, it is a sign of a deep sickness. this vicious, hateful “opera” must not be allowed to go up..again! the lyrics are plainly antisemitic, there is no vague implication here. after the protests in nyc we thought this was over. the university of california, a state funded school cannot legally be allowed to sponsor an antisemitic opera, period. time to go to court.

  • Guadalupe BRISEÑO

    I have a Jewish friend leftist progressive who thinks this way. I feel very sorry for him. I also feel that he hates to be a Jew. A guilt complex? I wished I could understand this phenomena; this article makes a very good analyses. Thanks to Abraham H. Miller

    • I can’t help but wonder as to why you would choose to maintain a friendship with a self-loathing Jew?

  • Laura Sigura

    This is absolutely insane. I am ashamed of this UC for enabling and encouraging this blatant Jew hatred to continue.

  • Steve Loeb

    For those confused …. one doesn’t have to be a Palestinian to suffer from “Palestinianism” One can be a Jew or Christian or even a non believer. “Palestinianism” is an obsessive behavior and many Jews are amongst those leading the charge – nevertheless as most can see, its clearly a mental disorder

  • Steve Loeb

    Read carefully because this is the general progression of what’s occurring –

    “Palestinianism is a mental disorder and left untreated can metastasize into a more serious mental disorder like Jihadism or severe anti Semitism which can become violent and even lead to murder

    Palestinianism is the “gateway” to complete radicalization”

    Their divest sanction attempt was overturned because its not a relevant student issue but a political one – but obsessed, they cannot stop without continuing to exhibit their anti Semitism – at least so it seems to the Leftist kids, mainstream and not something more akin to the KKK which could alienate the “progressive” types among them.

    Some of these “students” will no doubt end up fighting with ISIS against the US and the gateway to their radicalization was “Palestinianism”

  • Barb

    We need a spine. We need a little more grit, and react more like blacks did with Ferguson. The Nazis started with cultural propaganda. We are too nice. Where does it get us?

  • Yael zion

    Is this a joke??!! When is enough enough?! It’s time for some serious consequences for this blatant racist and dangerous behavior. UC university?!? It must be a joke

  • Gerald Kleinstein

    Some jews forever will remain “The Jews of the Poritz”. The Poritz was the Eastern Europe Landlord who owned the land on which he allowed Jews to satay. These are those Jews that Chaeem Nachman Bialik considered despeakable.

  • Elaina Electrah

    Its disgusting and good article/perceptions.

  • Stanley Dubinsky

    1. It was a lecture by the composer of the libretto, not a performance of the opera (not that I think a lecture by her is worth much).
    2. It already took place – 2/19

    1) Music and Middle East Pain: “The Death of Klinghoffer” (1991)
    Lecture by Composer Tamar Muskal
    Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 4:00 PM
    Music 115
    Israeli-born composer Tamar Muskal received her M.A from Yale University. She has received many prestigious awards, including a Guggenheim in 2009. She composed “The Yellow Wind,” inspired by David Grossman’s book.

  • Cindy

    So scandalous that it is sponsored by tge Jewish Studies
    group. Only a film glorifying the death of Palestinians could
    be a proper response.

  • Robert K

    So where and when will said opera be performed? All I could find is that on Feb 19 an Israeli-born composer was going to speak about said opera at UC Davis. Was actually looking forward to seeing it. Listened to it a while ago on the radio and despite modern opera not being my cup of tea, found the music quite nice.

  • steven L

    Congress tolerates the promotion of racism on Campuses.

  • Cindy

    As it is well know that Obama does not care for Jews at all it doesn’t surprise me that this is being allowed to take place on the college campuses all over the United States. And it also doesn’t surprise me that this is being allowed to take place at UC Davis. It is obvious that anyone is allowed to do what they want to while going there, except for the Jews. It sounds as if this is being supported by this University – makes me sick. Thank G-d I have no desire to enter the state of California. May the Karma of the hate in which all of these people (?) are spewing to the Jewish people come back to them 10-fold. From their hateful lips to G-d’s ears may He hear them and remember them. Such a sad, sad, time we are living in today. I guess the ACLU will protect any one or any thing except the Jewish person. SMH!

  • Wendy

    this makes me ill. These are self loathing Jews!


    I am appalled at the path that academia, in this instance, travels. We are the most maligned religion in the world. WHY would you consider presenting the opera that portrays the slaughter of a Jew? I personally PROTEST………as a Jewish woman, as a University graduate, as an intelligent United States Citizen………….I protest your action, question your substandard choice of presentation. This is beneath contempt.

  • nancy el

    Thank you for clarifying this distressing issue. There is no excuse for the behavior of the school administration in an American University for allowing persecution of any group of students.

  • Jill Jones

    Apparently the bar is set very low at UC-Davis. What’s the average IQ of a typical applicant?

  • Joseph Parvey

    I read this article with great enthusiasm. as the points made by the author are very much in line with my own thinking. I enjoyed it so much that I would like to share this on Facebook for my non-Jewish friends to gain more perspective on the state and rise of anti-Antisemitism in America. However, there are several significant grammar and spelling mistakes that to me are keeping me from sharing at this time. Please!!! understand that I write this only as constructive criticism, the mistakes are easy fixes. You are really onto something with your line of thinking, and this piece has the potential to sway minds with the parallels it has drawn to black America and ‘good old common sense’ but I fear that the grammatical errors could distract readers and reduce the impact that this piece could have on them. You are onto something here, and once posted, I am going to read more articles on this site. That doesn’t happen often – I usually don’t stick around after the first link has been read, but I have high hopes for this site, based on this article. Good job and great thinking!

    -Joe Parvey 02.20.2015

  • Yaakov Holansky

    Mr. Foxman(ADL National) with all due respect for the decades of commitment and honorable work you have done on behalf of our people you erred by negotiating with the MET and you should have dug in threatening massive demonstrations before and after Klinghoffer. Now pandora’s box has opened and the disgrace of a Jewish Studies Program inviting the opera is literally walking on the grave and memory of Klinghoffer a fellow Jew. If this were a Muslim situation the one thing I would have to give them credit for; they would have the tenacity let no holds bar and people would be afraid to attend or to allow the show to go on. Just a few short decades ago that was not much unlike us and we need to revisit that attitude fast.

  • brenrod

    It is only natural and just that such kapo jews should be the first to suffer from the anti semitism which they are facilitating and encouraging int the same way that christians heads are being chopped off by the same honor killers which the BDS churches hired to destroy Israel and kill the Jews.
    They are much worse than the kapo jews in the holocaust because those Jews were trying to save their own lives whereas these Jews do it for acceptance from their peers.

  • Yale

    As I recall, there are two Klinghoffer daughters, who should immediately sue UC-Davis for “intentional infliction of emotional distress” for enough to make this prohibitive for the UC system. Maybe they should start by asking for a cool billion.

  • g

    What little pissant idiots they are.

  • Robert Davis

    UC administrators are antisemites and cowards and probably CORRUPT people. Those Jewish students should sue them and the UC for harassment and non intervention while students were threatened.As to fake “palestinians” they do not suffer they take on Jews and harass them in Israel just as everywhere else. They are jordanians since 1949 AND MUST BE RETURNED TO JORDAN SO THAT PEACE BECOMES A REALITY IN THE MID EAST INSTEAD OF THE PLACE FROM WHERE THE 3rd WW. WILL START BECAUSE OF THESE JORDANIANS.

  • Leo Toystory

    Eject California from the union.
    Only registered Republicans will be allowed to escape into the USA.
    The state should be boycotted until Hollywood puts out all its new films in Spanish only.
    The Jews will be targeted by the Mexican Inquisition of California to see whether or not they are sincere in their show of love for low-riders.

  • victoria brandeis

    i am getting to the point of ‘ no reply ‘……when we talk of jews please share with us their motives……the motives behind all of this is a good tactic of brainwashing and instilling and inciting our dialogue

    your words, insults, heathens of the world and obamaites…..

    the only pushing into the sea was with the exodus…..and, it can happen again…..WHAT PART OF THE PICTURE YOU PLAY IN THIS ROLE is as usual your choice…..FREE WILL

    i do sense america is like the Egypt of the Past…Pharoh’s exist….even today in different clothes…..luckily one of them has a time capsule…OBAMA

    imagine that after his tour of duty…the .untouchable x president…..walks out of the ‘black house’ to his new and free life…IN CHAINS…..EACH OF THE FAMILY FOLLOWING BEHIND….while some lowly american recites all of
    the charges……..spending….inactivity in political needs…saving his country….feeding children mouldy foods…perhaps all a punishment for their own american historical theory.

    either way what a view that would be……..and who knows a short sea journey and a trip into the foam….but, i blame americans for the hatred to admit and open door to their world and believe they have the decision who enters America……

    now with so many priceless souls departed because the americans from Roosevelt felt……let all those BCE dress code flourish….they don’t fit in america……fortunately… is the only code that does exist.

    well america of the evil ….. the many of you do not belong in this world and if i remember the Democratic Party truly originated from the KKK

    and what do you think there moot plan is.


  • Julian Clovelley

    Think yourself lucky they aren’t doing the Ring Cycle…

  • Neil Kuchinsky

    This crazy phenomenon of nutty leftists being in charge of Jewish Studies departments has been going on for some time. When my daughter attended the University of Virginia ten years ago, the Jewish Studies department professors railed against the campus Hillel’s plan to bring in a camel on the organization’s recruitment day, as if the Jews were stealing something from Arab culture. They didn’t calm down until reminded that our Jewish forefathers ride camels, too.