The protest has been held and the Death of Klinghoffer will go on. The fat terrorist will sing, the media will chant his praises and the old sad story of failed Jewish activism in America will go on.
After the behind-the-scenes lobbying and the ignored letters to the editor, a protest rally fronted by two out of work Republican politicians brought more attention to the Met's pro-terrorist opera without doing anything to actually stop it from going forward.
Rudy Giuliani, the protest's marquee name, wrote an article expressing his admiration for the composer, called the Met's cancellation of HD broadcasts a "harder and more courageous decision than is recognized by those who oppose this opera" and promised to continue patronizing the Met.
And if hard-hitting rhetoric like that doesn't make the Met shake in its boots, I don't know what will.
None of this is a new story. It's the repetition of a very old story.
In 1914, the Gary Plan was the Common Core of its day, a highly controversial radical educational reform that both dumbed down the curriculum and made it ridiculously confusing. Like Common Core, the Gary Plan was backed by major business interests, including the Rockefeller Corporation, liberal newspapers and wealthy busybodies. It was championed by the progressive quasi-Republican mayor of New York, John Purroy Mitchel, the Bloomberg of his day.
The schools targeted by the Gary Plan were primarily Jewish. Among its other charming features, the Gary Plan made it difficult for students from working class families to work part time or obtain a religious education. And it killed their hope of a higher education by dumbing down their classes.
Immigrant Jews took on the liberal establishment. And the liberal establishment ignored them and mocked them.
The Jews formed committees and leagues, attended every meeting, wrote letters to the editor, pleaded to be heard. And for two years the newspapers, including the New York Times, refused to report on the opposition. A coalition of parents associations and chambers of commerce asked for hearings on the plan and the Board of Education replied that it saw no evidence that the public wanted hearings.
The Jewish establishment had its shot and it failed. It had gone through all the decent motions of democracy and was brushed off by the liberal establishment.
So Jewish students and parents instead began boycotting classes. Thousands of students marched through the streets. School windows were smashed. Board meetings were hijacked by protesters. Police fought students and parents in the street. The opposition could no longer be ignored.
Mitchel lost the election. The Gary Plan disappeared into history. Both are mourned obscurely by progressives for not doing a better job of "messaging".
All that may have happened a century ago, but the lesson has yet to be learned.
The American Jewish establishment's narrow toolbox of meetings, lobbying and letters to the editor utterly failed during the Holocaust. The Nazis were not impressed by them and neither was FDR. It took rogue elements like Hollywood screenwriter Ben Hecht to actually bring the issue to public attention through abrasive and angry rhetoric targeting FDR and the establishment.
The impotent establishment which had written letters and engaged in backdoor lobbying while millions died denounced them for it.
The same thing happened again with Soviet Jewry. For two generations, the Jewish establishment had issued meaningless formal protests when the USSR closed synagogues, shot Rabbis and then went straight to mass murder. Soviet Jews were only truly able to leave once another group of rogue activists hijacked Soviet attempts at detente by vandalizing Soviet embassies and airplanes and releasing mice at Soviet cultural events.
In 1972, when Soviet dancers appeared at the Metropolitan Opera, activists of the Jewish Defense League threw chicken blood at them. "Soviet culture will not be allowed in New York while Soviet Jews languish in concentration camps", their statement said.
In 1986, a Soviet dance troupe's appearance at the Met was emptied out with a tear gas grenade. The Soviet ambassador had to be evacuated from the building with tears in his eyes. By the next show, the Met had to be packed with security, patrons were being all but strip searched and bomb sniffing dogs were circulating through the audience. Going to the Met was now like going into a prison.
The establishment condemned them. Koch called them "the scum of the earth" for making the Soviet ambassador cry. But their tactics worked when those of the establishment had failed.
The same story repeated itself when it came to Israel. Except the left has monopolized militant activism while the Jewish establishment scurries around with reactive responses, defensive editorials and the occasional rally. These tactics are not useful when it comes to people throwing blood at you and they are useless even when opposing the high culture's endorsement of the mass murder of Jews encoded in pro-terrorist events like the Death of Klinghoffer.
American Jewish activism remains rooted in checking boxes. The establishment lobbies, comes away with some sort of compromise, like the ADL's cancellation of the Met's HD broadcast, and declares victory. Angry letters are written. A protest takes place. And nothing changes except for the worse.
The other side knows that activism is meant to lead to something. Our side runs cargo cult activism in which going through the motions of activism is supposed to lead to results without actually having a plan. It's an organizational loop that leads to nothing. We protest to register our protest. These aren't actions. They're comforting rituals.
Protesting to register displeasure is a middle class reflex. It's the response of those who think that the institutions we deal with are basically democratic and just aren't hearing us. It's not a movement of real change. Like the Tea Party, it goes through the middle class motions of democracy without recognizing that the system is fundamentally broken and will not be fixed at that level.
Expecting the rituals of middle class outrage to register against the militants of the left who are now in charge or their useful idiots is a faint hope. It would take far larger numbers to even make a dent in their arrogance and their certainty that their network of media and political support will hold on.
The Death of Klinghoffer protests got some things right, like the wheelchairs, a coalition with the Catholic League and the badges and signs, and some things wrong, like Giuliani, but it made the same basic mistakes that the various pro-Israel and anti-Terrorist protests that I used to attend regularly over the years did. It was protest as catharsis. It had no real objective that it could hope to accomplish except to embed mention of it somewhere in a story. It was registering opposition and moral outrage, rather than forcing change.
And as noble as that is, it's also impotent.
If the Met had decided to put on an opera in which Jews were the victims and Muslims were the villains, activists from the left would have chained themselves inside with bullhorns, they would have poured fake blood on themselves and on the patrons, they would have done their best to disrupt every performance turning the story around from the opera to their message.
And they would have gotten their way.
Despite how this may sound, I am not criticizing the organizers of the protest. I have been to countless protests like it overseen by very nice and committed people who think that they have succeeded if they can get the City Comptroller or Public Advocate to come on stage and condemn terrorism. Their hearts are in the right place and they are doing their best against the odds.
But the left does not view activism as a middle class ritual. It doesn't protest and expect things to change. It protests to mobilize and radicalize. It has an agenda every bit as developed as that of any corporation, and usually funded by corporations, even if it doesn't seem like it sometimes. Activism to it is a science. A protest rally or a letter is one stage in a comprehensive plan of action.
Our side does not have a plan. We react in outrage to something and we express our outrage with words, with letters, articles and speeches. We fail to effectively change things at the top because there is never anything at stake for an institution like the Met. They have nothing to lose. We do.
The Met is vulnerable through its government funding. And it's vulnerable to disruption. It's an institution with financial problems faced with angry unions and accusations of waste. The left would have had a field day with any of those things. It would not have wasted its money getting Giuliani and Pataki up on stage to cloak the protest in middle class respectability.
Militant tactics aren't the only option, but you either have a goal and a plan for accomplishing it or you're going through the motions of outrage. You're not going to win an argument with the liberal establishment with a protest rally featuring two retired politicians. You're not going to get people to take the murder of Jews by Muslim terrorists seriously by doing the same things that failed when it came to Nazi Germany and the USSR.
Activism is about accomplishing short term goals or using outrage to build a movement. If you're not doing either of these things, then the fat terrorist will go on singing.