Music conductor Daniel Barenboim spoke out against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory after a concert given in the city of Ramallah in the West Bank of Palestine on Sunday night, according to a report in the Financial Times. Barenboim’s comments spoke of the challenges that the occupation poses to the moral fabric of Israeli citizens themselves.
Addressing the crowd after the concert, Barenboim stated, “The occupation, of course, is catastrophic for Palestine – everybody knows that – but it is very negative for Israel too. It has eroded all sense of decency and humanity and morality from people like me [Jews], who had been persecuted for over 20 centuries.”
The concert was performed by the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, an organisation founded Barenboim and Palestinian-born academic Edward Said in 1999. The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra is a youth orchestra that focuses on bringing together young artists from the Middle Eastern countries of Egypt, Israel, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria, as well as those with a Spanish background.
Barenboim himself is an Argentinian-born Jew who holds citizenship in Argentina, Israel, Palestine and Spain.
His comments are not surprising as he has long denounced the right-wing Benjamin Netanyahu government of Israel.
As an Israeli, reaching out to the Palestinian cause is a delicate process, as many Palestinians see any coordination with Israeli counterparts as part of a ‘normalisation’ process.
Barenboim’s comments on the West Bank attempted to address those concerns squarely, “Jewish blood runs through my veins and my heart bleeds for the Palestinians”.