Thursday, March 29, 2007

My Letter in Canada's National Post & Their Editorial

'Bomber' Samson not appreciated
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Re: Choir to depict bible hero as a suicide bomber, March 28.

The choice of Simon Capet -- musical director of the Victoria Philharmonic Choir -- to portray Samson as a suicide terrorist is perhaps a legitimate literary licensed decision. However, it is nevertheless invidious to link the Zionist Irgun resistance underground in 1946 to the Arab terror in Israel today. Mr. Capet is not reinterpreting the Bible, he is attempting to apply a moral equivalency: Jews in the 1940s were no better than Arabs today. That parallel is mendacious and malicious.

Irgun fighters took up arms against a regime that didn't belong to the country, as it had reneged on reconstituting the Jewish national homeland as charged by the League of Nations in 1922. They never purposefully attacked targets that were civilian.

Arab terrorists, on the other hand, are active almost exclusively against Israeli citizens. They had been killing Jews even before the 1967 war, before a presumed "occupation," their excuse for their actions.

Mr. Capet's real intention, I fear, is not a perversion of history but the maligning of Israel.

Yisrael Medad, Shiloh, Israel.


See this previous posting for the story and my original letter.


And there was an editorial:-

Hijacking Handel
National Post
Thursday, March 29, 2007

Most attempts to transplant classic plays and operas into modern settings are artistic disasters. But if the Victoria Philharmonic Choir (VPC) wants to try staging Handel's 1743 oratorio of the Biblical story of Samson as a tale of modern Middle Eastern terrorism, good luck to them. Artistic freedom needs to be protected -- whether the goal is to provoke debate or merely to drive ticket sales. Just, please, spare us the disingenuous claims that portraying the title character as a Jewish suicide bomber circa 1946 is not intended to offend. If one is going to undertake a controversial artistic adaptation, at least have the intellectual honesty and courage to admit one's motives are, at least in part, to shock prevailing sensibilities.

We will not dispute that there are superficial parallels between Samson and modern suicide bombers. Samson's final words as he toppled his enemies' temple on himself and 3,000 others was, "Let me die with the Philistines!" His homicidal/suicidal act was undertaken to deliver his people from the hands of their oppressors, in much the same way modern Islamofascists claim they are fighting neo-crusaders bent on stealing Muslim lands.

Even in the libretto of Handel's Samson, the religious context of the hero's act is clear. On the day of his death, he is brought to the temple of the Philistine god Dagon to be displayed before the gawking crowd. Under his breath, he welcomes the "rest" death will bring and the chance "to breathe heav'n's air, fresh blowing, pure and sweet." Yet, if he is to die, he vows that first he will make "the heathen hear [God's] thunder deep."

But even if these details do supply grist for those who seek to portray Samson as a Biblical-era jihadi, why would the VPC cast Samson as a member of the postwar Zionist brigade Irgun rather than, say, Hamas or al-Qaeda? And why have him blow up the British colonial headquarters at Jerusalem's King David Hotel in 1946 years ago instead of a busload of Jewish workers and school children in 2007? It would seem that if an artist wanted to make art that is relevant to today's audiences, he would choose a plot that echoes the current scourge of Islamist terrorism, not its short-lived mid-20th-century Jewish counterpart.

Simon Capet, the VPC's music director, explains "We didn't want to just present the work as a simple morality tale. There is a social and political commentary here that's important." But we suspect there is more to it than that. There is the scent of political correctness, too. Mr. Capet is likely playing a game of moral equivalence: "Look," he is telling his audiences, "You cannot condemn today's Palestinian bombers, because not that long ago Jews were doing the same thing."

No doubt, many of Mr. Capet's supporters see his production as edgy and courageous. But we doubt the VPC would have the courage to portray Samson as a Palestinian martyr. Not only would that offend Jews and Christians -- as the current production surely will -- it would also offend Muslims and multicultural boosters, two groups most lefty artists would never dream of slighting.

While we support Mr. Capet's right to mangle the works of Handel and express whatever point of view he wishes, we wish he would be more forthcoming about his intentions.

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