As New York's Metropolitan Opera is poised to premier its controversial performance "The Death of Klinghoffer" on Monday night, a musical which critics call anti-Semitic and say justifies terrorism, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released a statement by Klinghoffer's daughters Lisa and Ilsa.
"Twenty-nine years ago, our 69-year-old, wheelchair-bound father, Leon Klinghoffer, was shot in the head by Palestinian hijackers on the Achille Lauro cruise ship," opened the statement, referring to the attack committed by Palestine Liberation Front (PLF) terrorists.
"The terrorists threw his body, along with his wheelchair, overboard into the Mediterranean. A few days later, his body washed up on the Syrian shore."
In the play, the bereaved daughters note "competing choruses will highlight Jewish and Palestinian narratives of suffering and oppression, selectively presenting the complexities of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The terrorists, portrayed by four distinguished opera singers, will be given a back story, an 'explanation' for their brutal act of terror and violence."
While the two note their support of artistic expression, they charge that the play "presents false moral equivalencies without context, and offers no real insight into the historical reality and the senseless murder of an American Jew. It rationalizes, romanticizes and legitimizes the terrorist murder of our father."
"Our family was not consulted by the composer and librettist and had no role in the development of the opera," they continued. "We lost our father because of the violent political agenda of these terrorists. The trauma of his murder never goes away."
Describing their father, the two noted he "was caring, creative, thoughtful and smart. As a young man, he invented the rotisserie oven, the first of its kind. After his stroke, our father continued to use his one good arm to repair anything that needed fixing. With the help of our mother, he never allowed his disability to limit his enjoyment of good times with his family and friends, who meant everything to him."
"He loved life and lived it to the fullest. He was an inspiration to us. It is particularly sad that the life of such a vibrant and gentle man could end suddenly in such a hate-filled and violent manner," they added.
Beyond being a personal tragedy, Klinghoffer's murder is a "universal symbol of the threat terrorism poses to our societies, our values and our lives. Indeed, we have dedicated our lives since this tragedy to educating about terrorism, and putting a personal face on the victims and their families."
The two daughters dismissed the play's efforts to "explain" the terrorist murder.
"Terrorism cannot be rationalized. It cannot be understood. It can never be tolerated as a vehicle for political expression or grievance. Unfortunately, The Death of Klinghoffer does all this, and sullies the memory of a fine, principled, sweet man in the process," they conclude.
As the play opens on Monday night, Rabbi Avi Weiss and a group of Rabbinical leaders will hold a fast and vigil across from the Met beginning at noon in memory of Leon Klinghoffer.
A group of elected officials and dignitaries will lead a 5:00 p.m. protest, where confirmed participants include Congressman Peter King and Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis.
Hundreds of demonstrators are expected to attend the protest.