Thursday, March 29, 2007

Letters to the Editor of the Canadian National Post

Canada's National Post newspaper published an item (see below) about a new choral production portraying Samson as an Irgun fighter about to blow up the King David Hotel in 1946.

But he will be attired with an explosive's belt, a la Arab suicide bombers.

The following two letters were published today.


'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.


'Bomber' Samson not appreciated

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Menachem Begin's Irgun gave advance warning before its attack on the King David Hotel in an effort to avoid loss of human life. Its target was not people, but information which could have been used to destroy the resistance movement. The distortion and degradation of Jewish biblical and contemporary history does not render a performance depicting Samson as a suicide bomber "relevant." It does, however, permit the use of the performance for the demonization of Jews, on the one hand, and the excuse of contemporary suicide bombers and terrorists, on the other.

What can be the motivation for that?

Lloyd Hoffer, Toronto.


Choir to depict bible hero as a suicide bomber
Samson to be a Zionist terrorist
Sarah Petrescu, CanWest News Service
Wednesday, March 28, 2007

VICTORIA - In the Bible, Samson is a hero who used his superhuman strength to do God's will by pulling down pillars in a Philistine temple, killing thousands and himself in an act of vengeance.

But in what's sure to be a controversial interpretation of the story, a Victoria choir will next month present Samson as a suicide bomber.

Simon Capet, music director of the Victoria Philharmonic Choir, says he wanted to update Handel's Samson oratorio to be relevant to today's audiences by drawing comparisons to ongoing conflicts in the Middle East.

While the music will not change, the setting of the oratorio will be 1946 Jerusalem. Mr. Capet says he chose the period to draw comparisons to the bombing of the British headquarters at the King David Hotel by the militant Zionist group Irgun in that year. Menachem Begin, who ordered the attack, would later become Israel's prime minister and win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Mr. Capet says presenting Samson as a terrorist is not meant to offend anyone or point the finger at one group, but to challenge our notions of what a terrorist is.

"Is there any difference between pulling down a pillar or blowing a bomb?" asks Mr. Capet.

"Samson killed thousands of people. To show him in the traditional mythological sense does a disservice," Mr. Capet says.

The choir would not be the first to drawing comparisons between Samson and terrorism.

"There's a large focus on this right now, with Israel being presented as the Samson figure," says Andrew Rippin, dean of humanities at the University of Victoria and a specialist in Islamic studies. American journalist Seymour Hersh coined the term "the Samson option" in his book about Israel's development of a nuclear arsenal.

Shadia Drury, a philosophy professor and Canada Research Chair for Social Justice, recently compared Samson to World Trade Center bomber Mohammed Atta in a talk at UVic. In her book, Terror and Civilization: Christianity, Politics and the Western Psyche, she argues that terrorism is a biblical problem.

"The concept of a collective guilt is a flawed morality," she says. "The idea that 'We're on the side of God and everyone else is evil' has and always will be disastrous."

Ms. Drury says she thinks the choir's modern interpretation of Samson -- scheduled to run April 5, 7 and 8--is heroic.

But local Rabbi Itzchak Marmorstein says comparing Samson and the Irgun bombing will offend Jews and Israelis.

"It's an inappropriate comparison that promotes a shallow understanding of history," says Rabbi Marmorstein. "Israelis never supported Irgun or that kind of terrorism. They weren't heroes ... and Begin went into politics legitimately decades later. He wasn't some crazy terrorist."

One man who is already uneasy about the performance is Samson himself, played by Vancouver Island tenor Ken Lavigne.

"I'm really struggling with this," says Mr. Lavigne, 33. "I can't help but feel that a number of people will not enjoy this rejigging of a biblical hero."

Mr. Lavigne says he has warmed up to the idea of putting on an Irgun uniform and wearing a bomb-belt to sing the emotionally charged part since discussing it with Mr. Capet.

"Simon wants to get people talking about music and its relevance today," Mr. Lavigne says. "In the end I've had to accept that whoever I thought Samson was, what he committed was an act of mass murder."