A hallmark of the ongoing campaign to delegitimize the State of Israel is to claim that the Jews aren’t really the Jews. Thus, to treat Israel’s right of self-defense against terrorists and states that seek to destroy it as inherently immoral — a standard no one would seek to impose on any other country — you have to impose a new identity on the Jews.
The most popular way of doing this is to claim that the Jews have become Nazis. Such claims have become popular now in Europe as well as throughout the Muslim world. Such a juxtaposition is both offensive — not so very long ago the Nazis murdered approximately one out of every three Jews alive — and an absolute falsehood since Israel doesn’t seek to exterminate the Palestinians as the Nazis did the Jews, but merely to stop them from committing mayhem.
Such libels are not limited to the op-ed pages. As the New York Times arts section informed us last week, stealing the identity of the Jews can also take place in the opera house. In a new production of Camille Saint-Saens’s biblical set piece “Samson et Dalila” at the Flanders Opera in Antwerp, Belgium, the Philistines oppressing the Hebrews were portrayed as Israelis and the Hebrews as the Palestinians. This requires the audience (which, unlike an audience in say, New York, probably understands the language in which the piece is sung) to believe that when Samson rallies the Jews to overthrow their Philistine oppressors, “Israel romps ta chaine” — Israel break your chains — he doesn’t really mean “Israel” but Palestine. This is interesting because in this largely static oratorio-like opera, the Jews are the good guys but don’t get very much compelling music to sing. By contrast, the Philistines get all the good numbers including a really stomping Bacchanale just before the Temple of Dagon comes crashing down on their heads.
This atrocity aroused the ire of the local Jewish community but when, according to the Times, one Jew expressed his outrage and fear to the general director of the opera that the production would stir up anti-Semitism, he was told “that if the situation for Jews were really so precarious here, they should leave.”
As for Michael Kimmelman, the author of the article in question, he reacted to this invitation for the Jews to leave Europe with a one-word paragraph: “Oy.” By doing so, he registers his dismay, but his angst is more about the bad taste of the comment than the slandering of the State of Israel and its Jewish supporters. An Israeli and a Palestinian two-man artistic team created this production. The presence of the Israeli, Omri Nitzan, is meant to make it all kosher since we are supposed to think that if one of those smearing the Jews is a Jew himself, it is somehow okay.
Moreover, Kimmelman insists: “Rage is a perfectly sane response to the Israeli occupation. And all art is political in the end.” One can rebut that the “occupation” was a perfectly sane response to several invasions, the purpose of which was to eradicate the State of Israel and to slaughter its inhabitants. We could also point out that had the Palestinians been even marginally interested in sharing the country and living in peace with the Jews, they might have accepted any number of peace offers over the course of the past two decades, if not the last half-century. Even more to the point, Gaza, the setting of the final scene of the opera, is currently occupied by Hamas, not Israel.
For those who would like to experience this particular opera in a saner context, you could do worse than to watch the DVD version of the piece as it has been performed at the Metropolitan Opera since 1998. That production, created by Elijah Moshinsky, has the effrontery to portray the Jews in “Samson” as, well, Jews, and makes the point that the contrast in the story is between a people of faith and a people who have succumbed to the false gods of lust and idolatry.