05 October 2014

The Klinghoffer Letters

Re-posting these letters to the Editor of The New York Times with no comment, save that some of the points raised have echoes in this blog post of 19 June.

The Opinion Pages | LETTERS‘Klinghoffer’: An Opera and a Protest
SEPT. 22, 2014To the Editor:Re “The Met Opera Stands Firm” (editorial, Sept. 20): 
In joining protesters of the New York Metropolitan Opera’s production of “The Death of Klinghoffer,” I echo the silenced voice of our son, Daniel Pearl, and the silenced voices of other victims of terror who were murdered, maimed or left heartbroken by the new menace of our generation, a savagery that the Met has decided to elevate to a normative, two-sided status worthy of artistic expression. 
We are told that the composer tried to understand the hijackers, their motivations and their grievances.
I submit that there has never been a crime in human history lacking grievance and motivation. The 9/11 lunatics had profound motivations, and the murderers of our son, Daniel Pearl, had very compelling “grievances.” 
In the last few weeks we have seen with our own eyes that Hamas and the Islamic State have grievances, too. There is nothing more enticing to a would-be terrorist than the prospect of broadcasting his “grievances” in Lincoln Center, the icon of American culture. 
Yet civilized society has learned to protect itself by codifying right from wrong, separating the holy from the profane, distinguishing that which deserves the sound of orchestras from that which commands our unconditional revulsion. The Met has trashed this distinction and thus betrayed its contract with society. 
I submit that choreographing a “nuanced” operatic drama around criminal pathology is not an artistic prerogative, but a blatant betrayal of public trust. We do not stage “nuanced” operas for rapists and child molesters, and we do not compose symphonies for penetrating the minds of ISIS executioners. 
Some coins do not have two sides. And what was done to Leon Klinghoffer has no other side. 
What we are seeing in New York is not an artistic expression that challenges the limits of morality but a moral deformity that challenges the limits of the art. 
This opera is not about the mentality of deranged terrorists, but about the judgment of our arts directors. The Metropolitan Opera has squandered humanity’s greatest treasure: our moral compass, our sense of right and wrong, and, most sadly, our reverence for music as a noble expression of the human spirit. 
We might someday be able to forgive the Met for decriminalizing brutality, but we will never forgive it for poisoning our music, for turning our best violins and our iconic concert halls into megaphones for excusing evil. 
JUDEA PEARLPresident, Daniel Pearl FoundationLos Angeles, Sept. 21, 2014 

A version of this letter was read at the protest at the Met on Monday. 
To the Editor: 
You say the Metropolitan Opera’s presentation of “The Death of Klinghoffer” is “moving and nuanced” and an assertion of “artistic freedom.” The Met’s right to present this opera is not in question, but its wisdom in doing so should be. 
Even the title is misleading. Leon Klinghoffer, an elderly, wheelchair-bound American, did not simply die. In 1985, he was murdered, as a Jew, by Palestinian terrorists while on a cruise ship. Moreover, the composer, John Adams, was blunt in revealing his own outlook when he complained in his autobiography, “Hallelujah Junction,” that “Israeli behavior on the world stage is off-limits to criticism.” But Israel was not even directly linked to the actual story as it unfolded. 
Moreover, in a world rife with gruesome terrorism — from Al Qaeda to the Islamic State, from Hamas to Boko Haram — what exactly is it about the outlook of anti-American, anti-Western and anti-Semitic murderers that evokes artistic notions worthy of one of the world’s most prestigious stages? 
In this spirit, should we expect Mr. Adams to prepare sequels for the Met, including “The Deaths of James Foley and Steven Sotloff” (not, alas, “The Beheadings”)? The possibilities for giving “voice to all sides” is endless, if, that is, one is prepared to abandon any semblance of decency. 
DAVID HARRISExecutive DirectorAmerican Jewish CommitteeNew York, Sept. 20, 2014

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