Hateful Oratory


It is very admirable that Phyllis Chesler has taken the time to read the opera, study the libretto and watch the movie of the opera (“Rhetoric Rising As ‘Klinghoffer’ Opera Nears,” Oct. 17) before judging it. Many of us haven’t the time and, although we share her feelings, and find the staging of this opera deeply, painfully objectionable, we hesitate to criticize it at the risk of being called unfair for judging a work we haven’t seen. That is always a legitimate concern, and I almost always share it.

Nevertheless, in this case I will take that risk. Having worked in the research division of a Jewish human rights organization on extremist propaganda, being subjected daily to the rhetoric of hate of neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic groups of the far right and the far left, I recognize very well the hateful oratory that Stewart Ain quotes from the opera.

Almost word for word, I remember similar rhetoric from the likes of Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam and many neo-Nazi groups. Are we to accept that in the name of artistic integrity that equal time be given to such a hateful point of view — one gaining international legitimacy as it is being promulgated in more and more “respectable” places including cultural institutions — in order to understand it better?

Why? Would Peter Gelb and John Adams give equal time to Hitler’s point of view in another opera about the Holocaust lest Hitler and the Nazis be misunderstood? There appears to be more of an agenda here than the quest for fairness and artistic truth.