Tag Archives: Achille Lauro

Open Letter to Peter Gelb-General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera

peter_gelbDear Mr Gelb,

You and I have something in common.  We are both the sons of Jewish immigrants from Europe.  I do not know you so I don’t know what meaning being Jewish has to you, but if you are anything like me it plays a major role in defining who you are as a person and as an American.  Although  the victimization of the Jewish people is hardly something I ignore, particularly as the son of Holocaust survivors, I am far more emotionally invested in the endurance of our people than I am in the tragedies of our past. Simply put, because of our strength and continuing contributions to society, I am very proud to be Jewish.  My question is, are you?

Yes Mr. Gelb, I am challenging you.  I am certain there are those who feel I have no right to do so, but under the current circumstances I believe every person of decency has that same right.  I am referring to your insistence on allowing the opera “Death to Klinghoffer” to be performed at the Metropolitan Opera.  My argument however, is different from many of the other arguments presented to you on this matter.  I have not seen this opera.  Although it appears by all accounts to be a distasteful and anti-Semitic opera, I wish to appeal to you from a different perspective.

We live in a society where Subway stores are taking ham out off their menu in an effort not to offend their Muslim clientele.  A football team, the Washington Redskins, is seriously considering changing its name to show sensitivity towards those within the Native American population that find it offensive.  Our society is notorious, or takes pride, depending on your perspective, for its political correctness.  Why would it not apply here?  I understand you do not find this to be an anti-Semitic opera, but what I am proposing to you is that your opinion is not the issue here.  What is the issue is that a large percentage of Jews feel otherwise. As a Jew, how can that not matter to you?  How is that in itself not enough reason for you to cancel this opera?  With all the concern our society shows for the feelings of others, how do you justify not caring enough about the feelings of your fellow Jews to do what is right for them?  And although I am sure you would insist that it would not matter if another ethnic or religious group was offended by an opera if you deemed it acceptable, as a Jewish man who sees my people often at the short end of the ethical stick, I am not entirely convinced.

If that is not enough reason for you, I offer the following thought.  The daughters of the late Leon Klinghoffer are actively opposed to this opera which they feel takes a sympathetic approach towards the terrorists that murdered their father.  Without having seen the opera I can not give an entirely fair assessment, but my inclination is to accept their word on this matter, not yours.  You see, as opposed to you, they gain nothing from having this opera performed at your institution.  All it will do for them is rehash the feelings of devastation and horror they must have felt knowing that their father, a 69-year-old wheelchair bound man, was shot and thrown overboard by a group of terrorists now being glorified in song at your institution.  In the name of compassion the right thing to do would be to cancel the performances.  Unfortunately, it is clear their feelings are only enough for you to allow them to make a statement, not enough for you to take a stand on behalf of your people.

Which leads me to one last thought.  As I said to open this letter, you and I have something in common.  We are both the sons of Jewish immigrants.  Do you know what that means Mr. Gelb? It means that under different, but hardly unimaginable circumstances, the man being shot and thrown overboard that day on the Achille Lauro could just as easily have been your father or mine.  Maybe you should consider that when making the decision as to whether or not to continue with what till now has been a display of very poor judgment on your part.

I urge you to look into your heart and soul and do the right thing regarding this matter.  I believe the long-term effects, either good or bad, may end up having more impact on your future than you are capable of realizing at this time.  You see Mr. Gelb, you are at a crossroads, and your legacy as a Jew, something that may or may not be important to you, will rest on the decision you make in the coming weeks. I implore you to make the correct one.


David Groen





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How Ariel Sharon’s life tells the truth about Israel

sharon_arielWhen I think of Ariel Sharon and what kind of leader he was and the person he appeared to be, I realize that his legacy tells the real truth about Israel, its leadership and its approach towards its enemies.

Let me begin by saying that I have always lived by the basic premise that when a man or woman who has devoted their life to the betterment or safety of the Jewish people passes on, I as a Jew will mourn their loss.  With our history, both ancient and modern filled with persecution and murder, we as a people need to appreciate those whose lives were focused around what at least appeared to be, the protection of the Jewish people and or the security of the modern Jewish State of Israel.  With that in mind I speak from my heart when I say Rest in Peace Ariel Sharon.

When one examines Ariel Sharon’s life, it is clear that this was a man who was strong and forceful, unafraid, and at times one might say brutal.  If we look at the list of Israeli Prime Ministers starting with David ben Gurion in 1948, it is very clear that the two most militant were Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon.  It should therefore come as no surprise that Ariel Sharon served under Begin as Secretary of Defense.   To me however there is a very clear difference between the two men.  Menachem Begin, my personal political hero, was so militant leading up to the establishment of the State of Israel that some described him as a terrorist.  However as Prime Minister, an argument could be made that Begin was more moderate than Sharon.  To someone without a vested interest in Israel and the Jewish people, Menachem Begin’s greatest legacy was the peace treaty with Anwar Sadat and Egypt.  Ariel Sharon on the other hand was seen as far more controversial, even to the point of being called a war criminal by his enemies.  As someone who tries to be fair and equitable in my opinions I contemplated his legacy and in doing so realized that Ariel Sharon’s behavior as a leader in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Prime Minister of Israel, actually tells the truth about Israeli leadership and its approach towards Arabs and the Palestinian issue.

Consider this fact.  Mohammed Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority,  by most accounts a moderate, was quoted as saying,  “We have frankly said, and always will say: If there is an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, we won’t agree to the presence of one Israeli in it.”  Abbas  was the leader of the element within the PLO responsible for the hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship in October 1985.  It was during this hijacking that Abbas’s people, shot a 69 year old Jewish wheelchair bound man named Leon Klinghoffer in the head and threw his body overboard.  I use Abbas as an example to compare the Palestinian’s most “moderate” leader to Israel’s most extreme leader, Sharon.

The incident that causes some people to brand Sharon as a war criminal was the massacre in Sabra and Shatila.  Under his command as Secretary of Defense for the IDF, Sharon did nothing to prevent the massacres of Palestinians in these southern Lebanon refugee camps.  The massacres were perpetuated by Lebanese militants with connections to the Syrian government, which incidentally was then run by the father of Syria’s existing dictator, Bashar al-Assad.  Therefore, if we choose to look at this with brutal and objective honesty, we might say that Sharon was guilty of being complicit in someone else’s crime.   

Sharon also would lead the charge for more settlements in what the world likes to refer to as the “Occupied Territories”.  For the sake of this discussion I will go along with the term.  Subsequently, if we are to accept this logic, Ariel Sharon, the Israeli “war criminal” was primarily most notorious for two things, not preventing the citizens of another country from murdering each other, and for accelerating the building of homes for his residents in the occupied territories.  

If we were to take the side against Ariel Sharon we would say that he was cold and callous with no consideration for the well-being of Arabs, particularly Palestinians within Israel and its surrounding nations.  As a Jew and a Zionist I can confidently make this statement.  We would dance in the streets of every city we reside in worldwide if the most militant of our enemies would be most guilty of not caring if we kill each other and for building homes on the land they occupy.  What Ariel Sharon’s life shows us is that even the “worst” of Israel’s leaders still live by a higher moral and ethical standard and are less likely to murder their enemy in cold blood than the majority, if not all of the most moderate of Arab leaders.  The world will likely not see it this way because anti-Israel sentiment is becoming a popular fad, but for those who analyze this honestly the truth will be glaringly apparent.  Ariel Sharon’s life as an Israeli leader proves this better than anything else ever could.