Monday, January 14, 2008

Israeli Conductor Daniel Barenboim becomes Palestinian Citizen

There are two ways to resolve conflict: attack, or communicate. Communication is always the most difficult of the two, and usually the most rewarding. It requires courage, free-thinking, and iron-clad optimism, sometimes called faith.
Daniel Barenboim, the world renowned Israeli pianist and conductor, in becoming a Palestinian citizen, has demonstrated both. Let's hope the rewards will extend beyond the music world.

According to reuters,
"It is a great honor to be offered a passport," he said late on Saturday after a Beethoven piano recital in Ramallah, the West Bank city where he has been active for some years in promoting contact between young Arab and Israeli musicians.
"I have also accepted it because I believe that the destinies of ... the Israeli people and the Palestinian people are inextricably linked," Barenboim said. "We are blessed -- or cursed -- to live with each other. And I prefer the first."
"The fact that an Israeli citizen can be awarded a Palestinian passport, can be a sign that it is actually possible."

As quoted by the New York Times:

“I hope that my new status will be an example of Israeli-Palestinian coexistence,” he said after a concert in the West Bank town of Ramallah on Saturday.

Barenboim also founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in 1999 with the late Edward Said (who died in 2003), which he called "an orchestra against ignorance", consisting of Israeli and Arab musicians who share a passion for music. The orchestra played Carnegie Hall last December. He is also known for playing Wagner, the composer preferred by Nazis, whose work is banned in Israel - as he puts it, to look beyond the racist hatred of the man to the higher work of his music. Adding to the symbolism is the fact that the orchestra does its intensive practice in Spain, in the area of Andalusia, where notably Jews, Muslims and Christians once lived together in harmony.

Accepting the Palestinian passport is in obvious contradiction of the common Zionist line that if Palestinians had a viable homeland, there should be no "right of return" because Jews are not welcome in Palestine. Apparently, Palestine has welcomed its first Jew, who in turn has welcomed association with Palestine, envisioning the neighborhood "outside the box" of sectarian hatreds, seeking higher ground for mutual cooperation.

Let's follow this conductor's lead and work on symphony rather than non-stop belligerence and discord. Those with more power have more responsibility to lead the way. Not shaken by the warmongering tones of those calling for revocation of his passport (a real non-starter) and condemning his actions, Barenboim undoubtedly won over many former enemies by his daring and creative example for how peace could actually work.

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