When it comes to Israel and Palestine, pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim has a lot to say. He has spent decades defending through music that the only path to peace “is not military action” but “humanism, justice, equality and the end of the occupation.” The events now in the Middle East, which continue with “horror and enormous concern”, have strengthened his belief more than ever.
“The situation is worsening to unimaginable limits” and “the tragedy will continue for a long time, as there are dead people, hostages, destroyed homes and devastated communities. We must make room for emotions such as fear, despair and anger, but in the moment If this leads us to deny the humanity of others, we will be lost,” warns Barenboim. The question is: “What now? Do we surrender to this terrible violence and let our fight for peace die, or do we insist that there must and can be peace?”
He will move on. “There is no justification for Hamas’ barbaric terrorist acts against civilians, as it is an outrageous crime that I fiercely condemn,” but “the Israeli siege of Gaza constitutes a policy of collective punishment and is a violation of human rights,” he maintains. this universal Jew, founder and president of the Barenboim-Said Academy, the culmination of the joint work he carried out with Palestinian intellectual Edward Said and for which he received the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord. “Any analysis, any moral equation we can construct, must have at its core this basic understanding: There are people on both sides. Humanity is universal, and recognition of this truth is the only way forward. The suffering of innocent people is absolutely unbearable,” he says.
For Barenboim, his friendship with Said was key to understanding this conflict of more than 70 years. They helped each other to understand it better from humanism, hence “the West-Eastern Divan and its culmination in the Barenboim-Said Academy, is probably the most important activity of my life,” he maintains, referring to the creation in 1999 of the orchestra of young Israeli and Arab musicians. It may seem like a small thing, but the mere fact that Arabs and Israelis share the podium at each concert and make music together has immense value.
The musicians of the West-Eastern Divan and the students of the Barenboim-Said Academy are almost all directly affected by the conflict. Many live in the region and others have ties to their homeland, but they do not let the message of the war go unnoticed. “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a political conflict between two States over borders, water, oil or other resources. It is a deeply human conflict between two peoples who have known suffering and persecution,” the musician clarifies.