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II Video: The Death of Klinghoffer – An Inappropriate “Opera”
Achille Lauro hijacking
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In 1985, Klinghoffer, then 69, retired and in a wheelchair, was on a cruise on the Achille Lauro along with his wife Marilyn to celebrate their 36th wedding anniversary. On October 7, 1985, four hijackers from the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF) took control of the liner off Egypt as it was sailing from Alexandria to Port Said, Egypt. Holding the passengers and crew hostage, they ordered the captain to sail to Tartus, Syria, and demanded the release of 50 Palestinians then in Israeli prisons, including the Lebanese prisoner Samir Kuntar.
The next day, after being refused permission by the Syrian government to dock at Tartus, the hijackers singled out Klinghoffer, a Jew, for murder, shooting him in the forehead and chest as he sat in his wheelchair. They then forced the ship’s barber and a waiter to throw his body and wheelchair overboard. Marilyn Klinghoffer, who did not witness the shooting, was told by the hijackers that he had been moved to the infirmary. She only learned the truth after the hijackers left the ship at Port Said. PLO Foreign Secretary Farouq Qaddumi said that perhaps the terminally ill Marilyn Klinghoffer had killed her husband for insurance money. However, the PLO later accepted responsibility and apologized.
Initially, the hijackers were granted safe passage to Tunisia, but US President Ronald Reagan ordered a US fighter plane to force the get-away plane to land at Naval Air Station Sigonella in Italy. After an extradition dispute, Italian authorities arrested and later tried the Palestinian terrorists, but let Abu Abbas, fly to Yugoslavia.
Klinghoffer’s body was found by the Syrians on October 14–15, and it was returned to the United States around October 20. His funeral, with 800 in attendance, was held at Temple Shaaray Tefila in New York City. Leon Klinghoffer was buried at Beth David Memorial Park in Kenilworth, New Jersey. Four months after her husband’s murder, Marilyn Klinghoffer (October 5, 1926 – February 9, 1986) died of colon cancer, aged 59. The Klinghoffers are survived by two daughters, Ilsa and Lisa Klinghoffer.
After his death, their daughters established the Leon and Marilyn Klinghoffer Memorial Foundation with the Anti-Defamation League. The foundation combats terrorism through educational, political, and legal means. The foundation is funded by an undisclosed settlement paid by the PLO to the Klinghoffers, to settle a lawsuit seeking damages for the PLO’s role in the hijacking. This lawsuit spurred passage of the Antiterrorism Act of 1990, which made it easier for victims of terrorism to sue terrorists and collect civil damages for losses incurred.
PLF leader Muhammad Zaidan, a.k.a. Abu Abbas, was freed by the Italian government in the aftermath of the Achille Lauro affair, but was continually sought by the United States government. He was captured in Iraq in 2003 by US forces during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and he died in custody a year later of heart disease, according to the US Government.
The ship involved in the hijacking, the Achille Lauro, returned to cruise duty until she caught fire off the coast of Somalia on November 30, 1994. After evacuating the ship of passengers, the crew could not control the fire, and the abandoned ship sank on December 2.
The hijacking was made into a television movie in 1990, Voyage of Terror: The Achille Lauro Affair starring Burt Lancaster and Eva Marie Saint. Leon Klinghoffer was portrayed by Karl Malden in the 1989 television film The Hijacking of the Achille Lauro.
American composer John Adams’ second opera, The Death of Klinghoffer, based on the events of 1985, opened to great controversy in 1991. The concept for the opera was suggested by director Peter Sellars and it featured a libretto by Alice Goodman. The Los Angeles Opera shared in the work’s commission but never presented it, after the work was criticized as overly sympathetic to the terrorists.
(Please register your dismay and disappointment right now with the General Director, Peter Gelb of the Metropolitan Opera and ask the Met to re-consider production of this anti-American, anti-Israel, pro-Islamist propaganda piece. It only adds fuel to the Muslim fantasy of ultimately destroying us. The Met might also consider the very likely economic push back from a disenchanted, dwindling list of long time Met supporters.) jsk
Peter Gelb, General Manager
The Metropolitan Opera
New York, New York 10023
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Administrative Offices 212-799-3100
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