12 April 2007

Samson As A Terrorist

Boy, do I need to let off steam after reading this article, which describes and discusses a certain performance of The Victoria Philharmonic Choir (Canada). Do read it in full and then come back and share your views.

In short, many leftists can't get over the fact that Jews have produced a stunning number of scientists, engineers, artists, professionals and thinkers, while Muslims have thus far produced a startling number of suicide bombers, misogynists, tyrants and crybabies. In order to portray Jews and Israel as evil - moral equivalence is a must, after all - they decided to turn their attention to ancient history and draw inspiration from there. And they also want us to look at Palestinian terrorists from a different vantage point.

But until Capet, nobody had figured out a way to use the Samson story to so completely turn things upside down as to reconstruct an important work of art to portray a Jew as a suicide bomber.

You'd think it would require quite some talent to create something that does this, but the way Capet carries it off is actually quite subtle. The Samson libretto is almost exactly as Handel wrote it, but instead of keeping it set in the days of the Israelites' ancient oppression under the Philistines, the costumes and the minimalist stage props are meant to suggest Gaza, circa 1946. The Philistine guards wear British army uniforms.

It started when the National Post picked up a thoughtful article Sarah Petrescu had written for the Victoria Times-Colonist, in which Capet declared his intent to challenge contemporary conceptions of terrorism. Capet asked: "Is there any difference between pulling down a pillar or blowing a bomb?"

Capet told CBC News that he was struck by the persistence of this kind of violent act through history, and the Samson story cried out for a treatment that would make it relevant to contemporary events in the Middle East. "Samson could be any 'freedom fighter,'" Capet said. "Some say I'm brave, some say I'm anti-Israel or whatever, but that is OK. The point is to get discussion going."

He got discussion going alright, but not so much in the direction he wanted. It didn't help that the philosophy professor Shadia Drury weighed in. Drury had previously compared Samson to the 9-11 bomber Mohammed Atta. She called Capet heroic.

Capet then followed up with an interview on CBC's As It Happens, counseling an approach to terrorism based on "empathy" and "understanding," lest we leave ourselves with "no chance to reach across and make a conversation with these people." Then two Jewish choir members issued a statement about the rumpus declaring that "every hero is someone's terrorist as well as someone's child."

On the one hand, Capet would stake out fairly clear positions, proposing "understanding" and "empathy" as the proper approach to take on the question of suicide bombing.

The article is pretty tight, broaching a vast number of subjects and events, and the performance in question can be understood in a multitude of ways. Oh, well, maybe the music was nice.