Samson And Delilah - Poem by gershon hepner
Honi soit qui mal y pense
on Samson, though some think Saint-Saëns
makes more sense if you think of him
as being Palestinian, while the grim
reality against which he
is fighting is the Jewish entity,
today called Israel but in days
that two directors paraphrase
was ruled by frightful Philistines
who maybe do not share bloodlines
with Jews, but are as cruel as them,
and thus as Jews we should condemn,
if we’re politically correct
and Jews as racists thus reject.
Delilah, claims this version, was
a Jewish slut who failed because
her Palestinian lover brought
the house down, having always fought
just as a terrorist should fight
against superior Jewish might,
not just with skill but willingness
to die as a shahid. I guess
this all makes sense if you recall
that Samson used to love to ball
a lot of women, which Islam
permits, seducing them with charm,
as Muslims do today I think,
like Samson without help of drink,
while claiming they’ve immunity
if they leave their community
as suicides, precisely just
what Samson did. I think we must
accept this new interpretation,
expelling Samson from our nation
as an immoral, sober thug
whom Palestinians want to hug.
Let them have Samson, and take care
in case he wants to cut his hair
or drink with Jewish girls who’re sluts,
and acts less like a judge than putz.
He’s not a saint, but who needs those
if Zionism you oppose.
Saint-Saëns was also not a saint,
but no one likes a Jew who ain’t.
Inspired by Michael Kimmelman’s review of a production of Saint- Saëns’s opera “Samson et Dalila” in Antwerp, directed by Omri Nitzan, an Israeli, and Amir Nizar Zuabi, a Palestinian (“In Belgium, Samson gets a makeover, ” May 6,2009) :
A handful of agitated Antwerp Jews, part of the round table audience, took umbrage, the businessman among them, at the production. They felt they had an inkling of what was in store (not altogether wrongly, as it turned out) from advertisements plastered around town showing a stone-throwing Palestinian boy. It so happens that the opera house itself is a stone’s throw from the city’s Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, a coincidence not lost on one blog that is sympathetic to the Muslim-bashing Dutch politician Geert Wilders. It declared the production, sight unseen of course, a celebration of the “mass murder” of Jews. Ordinarily, Saint-Saëns’s “Samson et Dalila” is a harmless, second-rate melodrama with a couple of crowd-pleasing numbers. It tells the biblical tale of the Hebrews under Philistine occupation in Gaza, who, thanks to Samson, rise up, only to be enslaved again after Dalila, Samson’s Philistine lover, betrays him. The opera ends when the Philistines celebrate their victory in the pagan temple of Dagon by mocking Samson, now blinded and shorn of the hair that gave him his strength. He calls on God one last time to help him topple the pillars that bring the temple down on his enemies and himself…
Finding parables for today’s Middle East doesn’t take much imagination. Savvy directors don’t belabor the point. Mr. Nitzan and Mr. Zuabi, however, turn the Hebrews into Palestinians, the Philistines into Israelis, and Samson into a suicide bomber, donning a dynamite-loaded vest when the curtain falls. That comes after Jews, in fancy dress, dance atop a shiny, black, two-tiered set, oblivious to the swarm of robed Palestinians under their feet. In another scene Dalila’s Jewish handmaidens, in red underpants, sprawl on their backs, legs spread in the air, helping to seduce Samson. Samson and Dalila court by pointing a pistol at each other. Young Israeli soldiers clad in black humiliate blindfolded Palestinians and shoot a Palestinian child, who reappears as a kind of leitmotif during the opera like the holy spear in “Parsifal.” Then, for the appalling bacchanal in the last act, a disaster in most productions, Israeli soldiers dance orgiastically with their phallic rifles. That scene was too much even for the polite Belgian crowd on opening night. A smattering of boos sprinkled down on the dancers. Otherwise the performance, dully sung, received several rounds of generous applause. This is Western Europe. A similar production would be nearly unthinkable in New York or Washington. One presumes, had the opera been cast as a metaphor of Flemish-Walloon conflicts in Belgium, rather than Palestinian-Jewish, that the local reaction might have been different.
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