Two days ago, the School of IR screened the opera "The Death of Klinghoffer" by John Adams. After its creation, in 1991, the piece received several controversial responses. The author was accused by his detractors of having "humanised" terrorists and, consequently, the work was labelled as anti-Semitic.
"The Death of Klinghoffer" tells the story of the Achille Lauro hijacking in 1985 by four Palestinians, members of the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF). These men first hijacked the cruise ship Achille Lauro and then killed Leon Klinghoffer, a Jewish- American passenger on a wheelchair.
"The Death of Klinghoffer" did not seem an anti-Semitic work to me. On the contrary, the hijackers are depicted as individuals coming from a poor background attacking violently these people on the boat, and acting without any plan, except vengeance. Furthermore, the "dehumanisation" of Palestinians seems evident in certain scenes lacking of accuracy. For example, in a scene taking place in Palestine, a group of men disfigured a woman with acid because she was not wearing the hijab. This was not (and is not) a common practice in Palestine and I think that the scene just aimed to show Palestinians as brutal and repressive people.
In my opinion, the opera was taking a clear anti-Palestinian side, so I deducted that most of the people who criticised this work for being anti-Semitic, actually never saw it.
During the discussion that followed the opera screening, some people complained about the format the author chose to represent this fact, because opera is something which is not "accessible" to everybody. I think that the main reason why the opera did not seem to be "accessible" was the monotony of the music, which has nothing to do with the chosen format.
Finally, I think that it was good to show this opera, because the Achille Lauro hijacking is not very famous (even not amongst some academics who study terrorism). This hijack was a fact that at the time deteriorated the relationship between Italy and the U.S. In fact, the Italian government knew of Klinghoffer's death, but did not inform the U.S. government on time. Moreover, after the hijacking, the Italian government let go one of the terrorists, Abu Abbas, against the will of the U.S. These facts were not shown in the opera, which ended with Klinghoffer's wife discovery of her husband's death.