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Posted in: Anti-Semitism, Israel, Arts, Film & Culture

Published on Oct 21, 2014 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Israel National News

Israel-Hatred 'Has Scaled the Wall of High Culture'


There was such a large police presence and so many police barricades that anyone passing by would think that terrorists were at large.

There were no terrorists on Broadway—although terrorists would soon be mounting the stage of the Metropolitan Opera. The police were protecting the right of the Opera House to present the Palestine Liberation Organization and their cause as mythically majestic and eternally just.

Here's what was also extraordinary: "The Suits"—men and women in positions of power, both politically, legally, and financially, felt compelled to take to the streets to be heard. Governors, Congressional Representatives, Mayors, Borough Presidents, financial advisors, were not presiding over a press conference in their grand offices. They were on the streets. I suspect this may have been the first time they have ever done so.

Peter Gelb had called the police to make sure that opera lover and former mayor—"America's mayor" during 9/11—Rudy Guiliani, did no harm to the opera house. That convener extraordinaire, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a partner in a major financial house, would not destroy the set. That Congressman Peter King and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney would not engage in any acts of petty vandalism. That attorney Ben Brafman, Borough President Melinda Katz, and Attorney General Michael Mukasy would not harass the opera board or the cast.

In essence, the large police presence was utterly ridiculous.

Wheelchair protest outside the Met Reuters

The tireless Helen Freedman of Americans for a Safe Israel and Charley Bernhaut, pulled out a really large rally which was still going strong two hours later when I made my way past many police barricades to the Opera House. I had vowed to see "The Death of Klinghoffer," to see what kind of production the Met had mounted.

Aside from any existential and political concerns I may have, it is my opinion, and one shared by others tonight, that the opera is tedious, pretentious, boring, and slow. However, also in my opinion, the production (set, costume, lighting), was masterful and is therefore very dangerous. The opera itself is without drama, it is more like an endless, and painful recital of events remembered and of some events re-enacted.

The opening Chorus of Exiled Palestinians are choreographed like a Greek Chorus, in long veils and long dresses; they were positioned as indigenous, eternal, wraith-like mourners. The Chorus of Exiled Jews are shown as more recent, almost new, as transplanted as the plants they literally bring on stage to symbolize how Israelis made the deserts bloom. There was an Apartheid Wall/Security Fence in the background, one brought to us by "Zionists".

All the years in which Israel was attacked and forced to defend herself: 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982—were flashed on stage again and again. It was never made clear that these were wars of self-defense. One was supposed to assume that these were wars of Israeli aggression.

The Chorus of Exiled Palestinians remain on board the hijacked ship, silent, moving reminders to the alleged crimes perpetrated against their people by the Israelis. This serves to soften the blow, the shock, of civilians being terrorized, convinced that the ship will be blown up at any moment or that they will be killed, one by one. This is precisely what the terrorists told them.

The audience came to display loud and vulgar support for the work; for the right to condemn the Jews and the Israelis in a respectable, even a highly lauded venue. The applause for a sub-standard libretto was outsized. However, to be fair, the set was very good as were the costumes, conducting, and Choruses.

The House was packed, nearly every seat was taken. Gelb had offered tickets at unheard of prices beginning with $25.00. The advertising for the opera was intense and creative and included mounting a special website. The New York Times continued to promote the piece for weeks beforehand.

John Adams, the composer, has a real following and they were there: Very young men, much older men, carefully dressed men, sweet opera fans.

Wheelchair protest outside the Met Phyllis Chesler

I sat with Dr. Charles Small, the founder and director of the Institute for the Study of Global Anti-Semitism and Policy. I feared that people would disrupt—and I feared that they would not.

But disrupt they did. Loud, strong voices from many different locations repeatedly called out: "The murder of Klinghoffer will never be forgiven." Security rushed to find the disrupters—but never did.

Some hostility from the audience arose: "We are not here to forgive his death," the young, blonde woman sitting directly in front of me yelled.

The opera started ten minutes late. This is absolutely unheard of. The conductor was given a serious ovation before the opera began.

When Charles and I softly whispered to each other, the man seated directly behind us immediately and with great annoyance told us to "Shut up." Charles turned around and stared him down.

As we know, the most lethal propaganda against Israel and America has captured the American campuses and the left and liberal media. Now, it has scaled the wall of High Culture.

The Metropolitan Opera House—a place I have loved—will never again be the same for me. No, I will not boycott it as some speakers have sworn to do, but in some sense, the Emperor is Naked.

The Opera House is tainted, polluted by contemporary politics. Gelb has taken a dangerous stand against America, against Israel, and against Jews by insisting on his First Amendment and artistic right to do so. No one has questioned these rights. I bumped into Gelb's lawyer, Martin Garbus, with whom I go way back. Garbus was watching the rally, and we greeted each other in a very friendly fashion.

In the past, the merely aesthetic minus morality=fascism. Think of Leni Reifenstal's "brilliant" film about the Munich Olympics in 1936. This is what we saw at the Met: Form devoid of content; form covering for malicious content.

I left at the intermission. I was too angry and too sad to remain. And bored too.

I have no idea about whether further disruptions arose or not. I do know that this is a signal moment of a very long fight in the Culture Wars against America, Israel, and the Jews. People with credibility and some power stepped up tonight, well-groomed people who do not usually take to the streets did so.

God bless them.


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