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ADL's Jacobson: 'Troubling' Klinghoffer Opera Justifies Terrorism

By Bill Hoffmann   |   Friday, 20 Jun 2014 07:23 PM

The Anti-Defamation League has successfully lobbied to have the plug pulled on a worldwide broadcast of an opera about Leon Klinghoffer, a wheelchair-bound Jewish man murdered on a cruise ship by Palestinian terrorists.

Ken Jacobson, the league's deputy national director, told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV that "The Death of Klinghoffer," while not expressly anti-Semitic, leaves the impression that the terrorists had reason to kill.

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"It is troubling. It doesn't defend the terrorists, but contextualizes their actions in a way and relates it to the suffering they claim is imposed on Palestinians by Israel,'' Jacobson said.

"And subliminally [it] leaves the impression that the terrorists had reason to do what they did.

"Of course, to do that in the face of horrible terrorism is not only personally offensive to the family … it's so counterproductive in a world where terrorism is such a great threat.''

Klinghoffer, a disabled American appliance manufacturer, was onboard the Achille Lauro cruise ship when it was taken over and held hostage by four armed Palestinian terrorists off the coast of Egypt in 1985.

They ordered the captain to sail to Syria, and demanded the release of 50 Palestinians in Israeli prisons. After they were refused permission by the Syrian government to dock, the gunmen singled out Klinghoffer and shot him in the forehead and chest. His body was thrown overboard.

Composer John Adams' opera, "The Death of Klinghoffer,'' opened in 1991 and was criticized for being too sympathetic to the killers.

While the world simulcast of "The Death of Klinghoffer'' has been canceled, the live show, at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, will go ahead.

"We believe in freedom of expression, artistic works have a right to be shown,'' Jacobson said.

"But we also were concerned particularly in light of an ADL survey on anti-Semitism around the world that showed significantly high manifestations of anti-Semitic attitude in Europe and elsewhere in the world.

"At this particular time, to be showing a film — which we're not claiming is anti-Semitic, but which we say is full of all kinds of bias — could easily rationalize anti-Semitism in many places.''

He said one particularly disturbing aspect is that the opera begins with words about how the Israelis allegedly drove the Palestinians from the Holy Land.

"And so that sets the stage for everything to come,'' Jacobson said.

"We would have preferred that they chose not to select this opera in the first instance, but we understand. We live in a free society, and this is an artistic expression.

"What we were concerned about was the potential impact on anti-Semitism around the world through the simulcast. So we were very pleased that they agreed to cancel that event.''

The Metropolitan Opera production will be staged in October and November.

The ADL was founded in 1913 "to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all."

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