New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday criticized his predecessor Rudolph Giuliani for objecting to the Metropolitan Opera’s performance of The Death of Klinghoffer and defended the Met’s right to stage the controversial performance that has been labeled anti-Semitic, the New York Daily News reported on Monday, hours before the play was set to open.
“The former mayor had a history of challenging cultural institutions when he disagreed with their content. I don’t think that’s the American way. The American way is to respect freedom of speech. Simple as that,” de Blasio said at an unrelated press conference.
Giuliani plans to lead the latest protest against the opera outside the Met on Monday, as the show opens.
Critics have labeled the performance anti-Semitic for glorifying the murder of Jewish-American cruise ship passenger Leon Klinghoffer, 69. Wheel chair-bound, Klinghoffer was shot in the head by Palestinian hijackers on the Achille Lauro cruise ship 29 years ago. The terrorists threw his body, along with his wheelchair, overboard into the Mediterranean Sea and his corpse washed up on the Syrian shoreline a few days later.
“I really think we have to be very careful in a free society to respect that cultural institutions will portray works of art – put on operas, plays, that there will be art exhibits in museums,” de Blasio said. “And in a free society we respect that. We don’t have to agree with what’s in the exhibit but we agree with the right of the artist and the cultural institution to put that forward to the public.”
De Blasio said he thinks focus should be shifted to the “anti-Semitism problem” taking place around the world. He added, “I think there is a serious problem today in the world that has nothing to do with this opera.”
“There’s an anti-Semitism problem in this world today, particularly in Western Europe, that worries me greatly. That’s where my focus is. I don’t think an opera is what the focal point should be right now,” he said. “The only thing I know about the opera is that the Metropolitan Opera has a right to show it.”
Earlier on Monday, an individual was arrested for seriously assaulting a Jewish leader at an anti-Israel protest in New York on Oct 7.