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June 25, 2014

Reactions to the Met’s Cancelation of ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Simulcast

Following the announcement by Metropolitan Opera Director Peter Gelb that the Met was canceling it simulcast of the controversial “Death of Klinghoffer” performance, due to concerns that the screening could inflame the already rising tide of global anti-Semitism or legitimize terrorism, there have been strong reactions from all sides of the spectrum.

Many in the artistic community have long argued that the opera is purely a work of art and not a political statement, and number of media outlets and individuals have described the Met’s decision as a capitulation to pressure from outside groups and individuals. They argue that the opera is not intended to glorify or even justify the murder of Leon Klinghoffer, but rather offers an artistic perspective on the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the tragic events of the Achille Lauro.

Metropolitan_Opera_HouseFrom the NY Times editorial page:

“Art can be provocative and controversial. Many critics of this opera have not actually seen it, though they are certainly free to express their concern or even outrage. Their political and personal views, however, should not cause the Met to reverse its artistic judgment.”

Opposing voices have argued that simply canceling the simulcast is insufficient, and the Met should drop altogether the entire Fall performance of the “Death of Klinghoffer.” A number of these individuals and groups claim that certain scenes portraying the terrorists’ point of view are, at best, highly insensitive to the Klinghoffer family, or, at worse, anti-Semitic. They argue that just as the Met would never perform an opera showcasing the “humanity” of the 9/11 terrorists, they should not host one which attempts to humanize terrorists.

From the NY Post:

“[Peter Gelb, the Metropolitan Opera’s general manager] said, ‘John Adams has said that in composing ‘The Death of Klinghoffer’ he tried to understand the hijackers and their motivations, and to look for humanity in the terrorists . . .’ What humanity can — or should — be found in the murderers of innocents? When do we get an opera painting the 9/11 bombers as “men of ideals?”

In response to the widespread criticism of the Met’s decision, Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer, daughters of Leon Klinghoffer, wrote a letter to the New York Times defending the Met. They argue that, while they strongly believe the opera trivializes their father’s death and rationalizes terrorism, the Met did not capitulate to their request by canceling the simulcast, nor do they support the notion of censoring an artistic event.

From their letter:

“The Met should be praised, not faulted, for taking a step that will prevent this biased and flawed opera from appearing in 66 countries, including in some regions where anti-Semitism is disturbingly on the rise. The Met did not “bow” to our wishes in canceling the global simulcast scheduled for this fall, but rather listened to our concerns and acted appropriately. We are strongly opposed to censorship and resent the implication that we would want to censor an artistic event.”

Their letter concludes with a strong message about the dangers posed by terrorists to innocent civilians, and an important reminder to opera goers and others that “any effort to politicize that message is a distortion of our father’s horrific death.”

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January 30, 2014

The Media’s Coverage of Palestinian Incitement Towards Israel

Recently, the New York Times ran an informative piece on the proliferation of Hamas training camps in Gaza, where impressionable Palestinian teens are taught to hate Israel through participation in military-style boot camps, where they are trained to fire guns and build bombs in order to attack the Jewish State.

While the article itself was interesting, the timing seemed to suggest that Palestinian incitement was something of a new phenomenon. The reality is that this type of violent indoctrination equipping children with the skills and motivation to kill Israelis, as well as other forms of Palestinian incitement, are nothing new.

A recent Israeli government report highlights how Palestinian government officials, media outlets and educational institutions are engaged in an ongoing incitement campaign towards Israel. Hitler is quoted on school Facebook pages, Jews are described on TV as “barbaric monkeys” and the “murders of Mohammed,” and Palestinian President Abbas has repeatedly embraced released Palestinian terrorists as “heroes.”

Perhaps one of the most infamous instances of Palestinian incitement occurred in 2007 with Mickey Mouse “Farfour” episode, where Mickey was shown on Hamas TV being beaten to death by an actor posing as an Israeli agent trying to buy land. Young viewers of the TV program were than told that “Farfour was martyred while defending his land” and was killed “by the killers of children.” The Hamas TV episode was so horrific it even merited a spot on The Daily Show.

With Israel and the Palestinians currently engaged in an intense and protracted period of negotiations over the potential for a future Palestinian state, the need to highlight and counteract the dangers of incitement is even more pressing. The issue has been repeatedly raised in recent weeks by Israeli political leaders in meetings with international leaders, public speeches and other forums, but hasn’t received as much international media attention as it should.

In order for peace to be achieved, the Palestinian Authority must end the incitement campaign against Israel. It is the task of responsible media outlets to continue to draw attention to the issue, and not allow incitement to continue existing under the surface.


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December 31, 2013

International New York Times Op-Ed Blames Israel and International Community for “Coming Intifada”

On December 25, 2013, the International New York Times ran an op-ed by Ali Jarbawi, a former Palestinian Authority government minister and current contributing opinion writer for the Times, titled “The Coming Intifada.” As evidenced by its title, the premise of Mr. Jarbawi’s piece is that a violent Palestinian intifada (Arabic for “uprising”) is looming beneath the surface and could explode sometime in the near future. Most telling in Mr. Jarbawi’s piece is the absence of any support or even mention of moving forward with negotiations.

Sbarro Jerusalem Bombing

Mr. Jarbawi writes that despite the appearance of normality for West Bank and Gaza Palestinians, “no one should be surprised if a new intifada erupts in the next few months.” He claims there are four factors contributing to this: an unfulfilled hope for a Palestinian state, Israeli “violations” against Palestinians (of which he includes the scurrilous charge of “Judaizing Jerusalem”), financial challenges facing the Palestinian Authority, and the events of the Arab Spring.

While Mr. Jarbawi goes to great lengths to blame many non-Palestinians – with a heavy focus being Israel – for what he warns is the coming intifada, he assigns no responsibility for the challenges facing Palestinians to the Palestinians themselves. Attacking Israel for the failures of the 20-plus years of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, he makes no mention of the numerous Israeli offers – including from Ehud Barak at Camp David in 2000 and from Ehud Olmert to Mahmoud Abbas in 2008 – rejected by the Palestinians. He also overlooks the repeated statements by Israeli leaders calling on their Palestinian counterparts to return to the negotiating table, which went unheeded until Secretary Kerry’s initiatives this past summer.

He further absolves the Palestinians of any responsibility for their financial predicament by failing to mention reports of rampant corruption within the Palestinian Authority, and instead attacks Arab, European and other international donors for not offering sufficient aid.

Perhaps most disturbingly, however, is Mr. Jarbawi’s claim that Israel is “Judaizing Jerusalem.” The term “Judaisation” is frequently used by those who dismiss the 4,000 year-old Jewish connection to the land of Israel, and implies that Jews have no historical right to a presence in modern-day Israel. Stating, as Mr. Jarbawi does, that Israel is attempting to “impose its presence in the Al Aqsa mosque” further ignores the millennia-old religious connection to Judaism’s holiest site, which shares this tiny piece of real estate, the Temple Mount.

All this speaks to an element of self-deception on the part of the Palestinians at best, and, at worst, lays a foundation to justify Palestinian violence. By refusing to acknowledge complicity in the political and financial predicament they find themselves in, Mr. Jarbawi and his Palestinian colleagues delude themselves into believing that violence is a justifiable reaction to their current situation. They seek to convince others that their current approach towards Israel, including threats of violence, are acceptable, and it is incumbent entirely upon Israel and the international community to change their positions towards the Palestinians in order to resolve the conflict.

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