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Sunday, August 21, 2005


Daniel Barenboim: Live From Ramallah


My translation from German of a press conference with Daniel Barenboim on the occasion of the 21 August performance in Ramallah of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.

A Wall Between Music and Politics?

Does this Music project have a political dimension?

A Voice from the Audience: I would prefer to come back to the date of the concert. Have you confirmed the date? Do you know that it is in the middle of the time of the evacuation of the colonies? Has August 21 already been confirmed?

Barenboim: The August 21 date was confirmed before the dates of the exit was known. It’s up to you whether you believe me or not but believe me that in this situation there was no role for political calculation.

: Excuse, Mr. Barenboim, but I cannot believe you. Because in the film you say, you want nothing other than to make music, but at the same time there are allusions to political problems, like the wall. The circumstances are not described, so that the situation is only presented from one side. It is said that a wall is being erected, but it is not said, why this wall is erected. For this reason I find that the film doesn’t just exclusively center around music, but that there is an undercurrent of politics present..

Barenboim: No, I will tell you, why not. The allusions to the wall are made by the young people in the film, they speak . . .

A Voice From the Audience: Yes, Palestinian young people! There are only ....

Barenboim:I’m sorry, but you have not correctly looked at it. In your opinion how many Palestinians are in the film? Because, do you know, not all Arabs are Palestinian. The allusions to the wall, of which you speak, were made by a young man from Syria. He is most certainly not a Palestinian. A young Palestinian also speaks about it. I would not like to prescribe how they have to think and I also don’t want to hinder them from thinking what they want.

A Voice From the Audience: No, I am speaking about the scene, in which you stand with Palestinians in an area and you clarify, how the wall will be erected. Don’t say that it is exclusively about music, Mr. Barenboim.

Barenboim: But I didn’t say that it was exclusively about music. I said that apart from the music and through the music there will arise connections, above all between men, who share the same passion, the passion for music.

A Voice From the Audience
: You offer a certain contempt for the Israelis when you say that no Israelis could imagine, that an Egyptian ..

Barenboim: Not only . . . also Edward Said, he is Arabic, he was Palestinian . . .

A Voice From the Audience
: Yes, but in the film you say ...

Barenboim: But he said it also! Excuse me, I’m sorry, but one imagines neither in France nor in the USA or in Germany the Egyptians to be passionate musicians dedicated to Bethovens Symphonies. That is a part of the culture of these countries, that we do not know. Very little developed, by the way, and the attitude of the Arabic governments, especially the Syrian and the Egyptian, are in a short scene in the film criticized by Edward Said himself. It would be a gesture of contempt to say that, and I have by the way said in Paris today . . . the Egyptians cannot establish a connection with classical music. Do you know that the project is itself a pardox. Because if there were no conflict, then the project would not be necessary. Egyptians would go to Tel Aviv, and study at music academies there. Israelis would perhaps on the other hand go somewhere else and the project would not be necessary.

Voice From the Audience: There are schools in Israel, there is at least a school in Jaffa, where musicians from . . .

Daniel Barenboim: Also from Syria? Also from Jordan? And also from Egypt? No, what you say is not correct. There is one school in Jaffa, where not only Jews study, but the students are all Israeli citizens. Jews, Palestinians, Christians and Moslems. But that doesn’t apply here. We are speaking here about the entire region and above all the different countries. On must not forget, that this conflict consists of two distinct parts in which there is perhaps a connection, but are independent of one another. There is on one part the Israeli-Palestinian or if you want the Jewish-Palestinian conflict and on the other side the conflict between the state of Israel and all of the other surrounding Arabic states. There are two separate conflicts, that often have something to do with one another. But one should not confuse the two, one can not say that Arabs study at the school in Jaffa. They are Israeli citizens. And I am happy, that that is. The have ssen the pianist Salim Abou Dechka and there are still other Palestinians, Arabs, Israeli citizens, who have the possibility to play. They play in the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra, they work in Israel and that is good.

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