Daniel Barenboim: Hated in Israel, Unwelcome in Iran
Daniel Barenboim is far more than a brilliant orchestral conductor. He is a human being, a mensch. Though raised in Israel (but not born there), he has always risen above the insular world-view of many Israelis, especially regarding its relations with its neighbors in the Arab world. Together with Edward Said, he founded the West-Eastern Diwan Orchestra (WEDO). It is an amazing project which integrates two halves of Barenboim: the musician and the moral man. He created a world-class orchestra of Israeli and Palestinian musicians who not only perform together, but also live out their values of peaceful co-existence through their music. For his efforts he’s been honored the world over.
Barenboim also conducts the Berlin Philharmonic, and persuaded the German government to help organize a concert tour to Iran. He expected opposition from the Israeli government, which hates everything he stands for. And he got it.
Israel’s culture minister is former IDF spokesperson, Miri Regev. During riots against African refugees, called them a cancer in Israel’s body. When she faced criticism for her statement, she apologized: to cancer victims. On hearing of Barenboim’s project, she flew into a rage and demanded that German Chancellor Angela Merkel cancel the tour. She wrote on Facebook:
This melody we must stop. Barenboim promotes an anti-Israel line against Israel [sic] and takes pains to smear it through culture; using it as leverage on behalf of his political views against the State of Israel. This is a bad decision by Germany’s Chancellor.
I plan today to write a letter to German’s foreign ministry representatives arguing that Daniel Barenboim’s appearance harms Israel’s efforts to prevent a nuclear agreement and lends strength to the delegitimization of the State of Israel.
Iran supports terror stands behind Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and Hamas. Its [Iran’s] leaders have blood on their hands. I believe that Germany will act appropriately and cancel the performance of its orchestra and her conductor. There is no reason for celebration and certainly not for an orchestra. The notes from Tehran are grating and dangerous
In the comment section below, SimoHurtta makes a point that occurred to me while writing this, but which somehow slipped out of my mind before publication. Note Regev’s indignation that a Barenboim appearance in Tehran will harm Israel’s efforts to sabotage the deal. Which is of course true. But she forgets that Germany is one of the P5 signatories to the deal. As such, it wants the deal to work and opposes Israel’s position. So why should Chancellor Merkel give a fig what Regev says on the subject? This shows Israel’s deep narcissism, by which every issue is refracted in a mirror through which the nation may only see itself; a mirror that obstructs the view of anything or anyone else in the world.
It turns out Regev didn’t need to put in her two cents.
As if on cue, the hardliners in Tehran responded likewise. Barenboim, the Israeli artist who has done as much as any to chart a different cultural course regarding Israel’s relations with the Arab and Muslim world, has been banned from Iran. His crime: he is an Israeli. It doesn’t matter that he’s also a Palestinian, Argentine and Spanish citizen. It doesn’t matter that he was born in Argentina and only came to Israel when he was 7 years-old. It doesn’t matter that his entire career is based in Europe, he lives in Berlin, and that he is hated in his homeland. What rankles the hardliners is one of his four nationalities. The land in which he lived for a decade or so trumps values, as it trumps ideas. It does not matter what you think or believe. What matters is what religion you profess or the place where you lived once upon a time. It is as if the land somehow poisons the person. This is a tragedy.
I’ve just learned that another problem for Barenboim may be his relationship with the BDS movement. In 2010, PACBI argued that the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra was boycottable because it didn’t take a sufficiently robust position against Occupation. The claim was that the Orchestra did not incorporate a truly progressive political analysis of the conflict into its cultural-musical mission. While I’m sympathetic in general to this view after reading Raymond Deane’s post, it also seems a shame that WEDO is subject to an Iranian boycott when it can play an important role in offering a cultural opening for Iran to the outside world. In the context of all the hate and ignorance offered by the Israel Lobby, Israeli government and media concerning Iran, it would be wonderful to offer a counter-narrative.
Though I’m sure Omar Barghouti would disagree, I prefer Iran promoting its own national interests. Turning down an appearance by Maestro Barenboim advances the cause of BDS perhaps (though that’s arguable since Iran isn’t even acknowledging its refusal is based on this criteria), but spoils an opportunity to present Iran favorably to the world.
Iran cannot find a braver human being willing to do what is right without regard to nation, tribe or religion, than Daniel Barenboim. Let’s hope it reconsiders.
17 thoughts on “Daniel Barenboim: Hated in Israel, Unwelcome in Iran – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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Barenboim was born in Buenos Aires in 1942. His family moved to Israel in 1950. Wikipedia mentions Barenboim having the citizenships of Argentine, Israel, Spain and Palestine. He was not born and raised in Israel as mentioned in the text.
What is astonishing in this Israeli governmental level demands to German governmental level is that Berliner Philharmoniker is administratively under the city of Berlin and David Barenboim is not a German citizen. Can the German chancellor command the orchestra and its non-german leading artist without making herself look like an complete idiot internationally and at home? Israel has lost completely their sense of proportion in foreign policy and public relations. Do they really think in the Israeli government, that one public demand by them and the leaders of great powers like Germany submit to their odd demands. Well Germany is not USA. Also when a Israeli minister Regev is demanding that the German government sees that the visit “harms Israel’s efforts to prevent a nuclear agreement” is obvious that the minister did forget that Germany was one of those behind that same nuclear agreement Israel is trying to prevent. Is it really wise that these kind of people run one of the world’s strongest nuclear powers?
Jewish organizations used considerable amounts of their “anti-Semitism powder” when just recently the US Jewish artist Matisyahu was almost blocked from performing in a concert in Spain because for his opinions of the state of Palestine. Matisyahu is obviously not a citizenship of Israel, only US. Jewish organizations did not approve that boycott and demanded that blocking artists to perform in concerts because of their political opinions is not proper. Without doubt these same organizations support Israel’s governments line with Barenboim performing in Teheran.
@ SimoHurtta: Thanks for that correction. Good point about Germany being one of the P5+1 powers which created the very agreement Regev wants torn up.
Time tio time, AIPAC et al. complain and denounce the (academic and) cultural boycott of Israel. Nice o see their culture minister is happy doing the same thing, twisting German arms in hopes of banning Barenboim’s visit.
Hated in Israel?
I guarantee that 99% of Israelis don’t know who Barenboim is, much less hate him.
Barenboim is well know and this visit got a few headlines.
Well, they know that Miri Regev hates Barenboim, and for the chach-chachim and the rest of the proles who get their news from Arutz Sheva, the Bibiton or whatever, that’ll be sufficient.
@ Mitchell Blood: That’s an idiotic statement. Israel has a huge audience for classical music with full concert halls for most concerts. Israelis are always proud of their own who succeed abroad. So of course many Israelis know of him. And many right-wingers are disgusted by him. You’d know that if you’d read the links in the post to the protest inside Israel over his receipt of a major music/humanitarian award. But you didn’t, did you?
Trust me on this, the right-wingers you revile, don’t listen to classical music.
Israelis that do listen to classical music, don’t hate Barenboim.
Twenty percent of Israelis are Arabs. Do they know or hate Barenboim? I doubt it.
If I walk down Rothchild St in Tel Aviv, or hang around the university campus, yes, people know him.
Nowhere else in Israel.
@ MItchell Blood:
I don’t trust you on anything, nor on this.
The Moral Men. Book. Film. Ah, where is that quote when you need it about if Good men don’t……yes,of course, how quickly one can seem the font of all information and wisdom courtesy of Google:
‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’
which seems to have transmuted from Burke’s :
‘When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.’
which is even more telling.
But they don’t associate. They stand up individually. A shooting gallery. The moment a well-known public intellectual re-condemns the settlement building on the West bank and East Jerusalem, the whole propaganda apparatus swings into action, a well-oiled machine, to spread so much denial, ‘refutation’, ‘argument’, the original message is lost in the noise. You know when Alan Dershowitz starts to fulminate about anti-semitism and self-hating Jews [or am I behind the times, is that passe?] the poor guy wot just uttered the word settlements has to climb down the rock face, pick up the rock once more and climb back up again.
to the best of my knowledge barenboim was born in Argentina
@ frank: Thanks for the correction. I’ve noted that in the text.
The orchestra in question is the Staatskapelle, not the Berlin Philharmonic.
@ Steve: Right, thanks. Corrected.
Though Israelis seem to think that the whole world hates them, and there is from time to time some karfuffle about the country in an international forum such as the UN, the truth is that Israel has been spoiled rotten by the political heavyweights in the international arena. This is most clearly the case in the US. But I can’t remember any condemnatory stance by a European leader either (apart from some underhand personal criticism of Netanyahu).
No other country that engaged in Israel’s type of colonial practice would have remained so scot-free.
The world’s indulgence thus far has created expectations in which all sense of proportion seems to have been lost . Miri Regev’s expectation that at her mere complaint the German Chancellor would forbid an orchestra to perform in a particular country is one instance of this.
It also highlights how a politician of ministerial rank in a sham democracy can get the limits of governmental power in a real democracy quite wrong.
Since Barenboim is part of Markel’s welcome party in Tehran – Sheikh Rouhani cannot refuse Barenboim’s entry to Iran, who holds citizenship of Israel, Argentina and Palestine.
The denial of entry to Barenboim & his orchestra was announced by Rouhani’s Ministry of Culture & Islamic Guidance, although the hardliners started the noise. That BDS gurus consider boycotting WEDO justified, is an indication of the extremism and irrationality of some of their basic positions. The Iranian authorities did not reject WEDO out of any solidarity with the BDS movement; their basic positions on Israel-Palestine (and they have more than one) are not those of the BDS. As far as “Iran cannot find a braver human being willing to do what is right without regard to nation, tribe or religion, than Daniel Barenboim,” who says they care about such qualities in a human being? Since the Iranian authorities persecute many individuals who fit that characterization within their own society, why would they care about an Israeli one?