The Palestine National Orchestra: a view from the violin section

ActivismIsrael/Palestine
on 24 Comments
PNO
Palestine National Orchestra, 2010. (Photo: Los Angeles Times)

The Palestine National Orchestra, Palestine’s flagship symphonic ensemble, is the brainchild of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, Palestine’s preeminent institution for both Western and Arabic music. When the Conservatory’s Michele Cantoni asked me to join the PNO for their March 2012 series, I eagerly accepted. What follow are my own personal reflections.
The Belgian-British composer Tim Pottier manages the orchestra, its repertoire, musicians, programming, and tirelessly navigates the Orwellian realities of Israeli occupation. Generous individuals, organizations, businesses, and even local restaurants make the concert series financially possible and demonstrate a deep community involvement.

Typical of major symphony orchestras, the PNO is international in its composition. In addition to its core of Palestinian musicians and extranationals who, ever-subject to Israel’s tri-monthly permit renewal, have made Palestine their home, the PNO taps musicians from elsewhere in the Middle East, from Europe, and the Americas. Many teach at the Said Conservatory (branches in Ramallah, East Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Nablus), or the highly regarded Al Kamandjati in Ramallah, founded by the Palestinian violist Ramzi Aburedwan. English is the one language understood by all PNO members, and so serves as the lingua franca during rehearsals. At meals and over coffee, Arabic and European languages intermingle.

We performed concerts in both Amman (Jordan) and Ramallah (Occupied Palestine), all under the direction of Matthew Coorey (Khoury), an Australian conductor of Lebanese descent who is based in the UK. In keeping with welcome trends toward more correct performance practice, the second violins were opposite the first violins, where the ‘celli are more commonly seen. Communication between the two violin sections is more difficult with this arrangement, but it is effective: their separate lines become clearer and the ‘celli are angled to project forward.
Coorey landed his opening downbeat to the Coriolan Overture of Beethoven without a moment’s pause, giving the work’s arresting opening a special urgency. Beethoven allows little relief from the violence, conflict, and ultimate suicide of the Roman general who lived in the 5th century BC, and Coorey made full use of the ending’s prolonged dissonance between the bassoon and ‘celli that keeps the painful tension all the way to three closing pizzicati.

The PNO’s first clarinetist, the brilliant young Syrian clarinet Kinan Azmeh, performed one of his own compositions dating from 2007. Written in the unusual meter of 21/16, the intriguing “November 22″ juxtaposes the semi-improvisational solo clarinet against a steady rhythmic figure from the bass and sustained lines from the upper strings. Azmeh explains that it depicts “homesickness while away from home,” in which the rhythmic figure is “how the slow and steady rhythm of life keeps moving regardless of one’s emotions,” while the clarinet intones familiarity, childhood, homesickness. The piece begins quietly with a gradual buildup to great commotion, and then ebbs, very gradually, to quite literally nothing, heightening the audience’s already rapt attention.

Alexander Suleiman performed the Schumann cello concerto with both virtuosity and intelligence, and his playing of the concerto’s slow movement was among the most beautifully crafted I have heard. Suleiman’s musical experience is broad, championing new music as well as early music performance practice. He is professor of cello at the University of Southern California, and was recently appointed artistic director of the Art Conquers Borders Academy in Bremen.
Coorey’s energetic approach to Mozart’s “Haffner” Symphony captured the excitement, humanity, and humor of the work, and his fast tempi were particularly demanding of the strings, for whom Mozart is always acrobatics on eggshells. The new urtext parts the PNO wisely used caught my curiosity, as they differed in small detail from the older editions I was familiar with.

The final work was Stravinsky’s colorful and hilarious Pulcinella Suite, from the commedia dell’arte ballet about three couples’ jealousies and flirtations. A string quintet formed by Nabih Bulos and Basel Theodory (violin), Aidan Pendleton (viola), Alexander Suleiman (‘cello), and Priscila Vela Vico (bass) intermingles with wind solos by principal flute Ahmed Qatamesh, oboe Andrea Shaheen, bassoon Maher Farkouh, horn Yousef Assi, trumpet Rani Elias, and trombone Riccardo Benetti, deftly showcasing Stravinsky’s transparently scored adaptation of music traditionally, if tenuously, ascribed to Pergolesi.

Two encores— the “Fire Dance” from Manual de Falla’s El Amor Brujo, and the Palestinian nationalist song Mawtini, proved insufficient, one audience satisfied only after we repeated the last movement of the Mozart symphony.

The PNO faces the logistical and funding challenges common to all orchestras. But in addition it confronts something far more impenetrable: an ever-present military occupation and crippling apartheid laws. Sold to the West as self-defense, Israel’s hold on daily Palestinian life seeks to destroy what its tanks and F-16s can’t. Thus the PNO is an act of defiant normalcy, a refusal to be defined by the 64 years of neo-colonial oppression that is the reality of everyday existence in Palestine.
This refusal of victimhood is powerful—indeed so powerful that it lay beyond the comprehension of the BBC and the popular Israeli newspaper Haaretz. The venerable BBC couldn’t even get past the orchestra’s name, with its implicit statement of sovereign identity. In its report about the ensemble’s debut, the BBC erroneously called it the “Palestinian” National Orchestra.[1]

Both it and Haaretz seized upon the PNO’s 2011 programming of Gyorgy Ligeti’s Concert Romanesc to re-explain the PNO in harmony with the Israeli narrative. According to Haaretz,[2] the Palestinian musicians purposefully chose Ligeti, a Hungarian Jewish Holocaust survivor, as their way of “conceding the tragic refugee history of [Israeli] society” and to say “we are brothers” in tragedy. Yet again, the Holocaust is exploited to empower more terror, and the “left-wing” Haaretz cries tears of commiseration with the very people its nation is brutalizing, as though “the conflict” were the doing of some Other Force to which Israel, too, is victim. Implicitly, Haaretz has the PNO agreeing that the apartheid Israeli state was the answer to Europe’s displaced Jews, and that the fascism it imposes upon Palestinians is the inevitable result of this. Thus the Concert Romanesc served to have Israeli mythology vindicated by its victims.

The truth—that the Ligeti had been an independent Palestinian artistic decision made by Tim Pottier, without any thought to Israel—lay outside the Israeli narrative. Yet in a final twist to sooth its liberal audience, Haaretz jubilantly concluded that the music “managed to get through the checkpoints and the walls as though they never existed.” Forgetting, for the present purpose, the question of why Israel has checkpoints and walls on other people’s land in the first place, let’s take a brief look at how Palestinian musicians do, and don’t, get through the three ghettos into which it has dissected Palestine—Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem.
To start, one must first acknowledge that one and a half million Palestinians are automatically erased from our story, as they are severed from the world by the Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip. Israel even blocks music from Gaza for its “security”.[3] String broke? Bad reed? Need music? You’ll have to get someone to smuggle them through the tunnels from Egypt. Rare exceptions that Israel may cite are meaningless: one cannot commit musicians, venue, travel, and audience on the remote chance that Israel will not sabotage the project.

This writer’s personal experience will suffice to illustrate. I was among a group of people invited to a professional event in Gaza City sponsored by the World Health Organization and the European Union. Applications to Israel were made well in advance by these international agencies, all to Israel’s specifications. But shortly before the event, despite a year of planning and prior approval, and despite Israel’s claim not to be occupying Gaza, it blocked our entry without explanation. When I refused to leave the gate to the Erez crossing, IDF soldiers physically removed me.
Musicians in the West Bank can travel across their own border to Jordan, though the crossing is unpredictable, expensive, and sometimes much worse. Within the West Bank, Palestinians are impeded by Israel’s ever-increasing settlements, and walls that splice villages and families in two. Normal endeavors that musicians elsewhere take for granted—getting to a routine rehearsal in a neighboring town—can be risky and humiliating, and is always unpredictable.

East Jerusalem has different problems. Unlike the West Bank, in which Israel maintains a military occupation, or Gaza, which remains sealed like a massive internment camp, Israel claims to have actually annexed East Jerusalem. The annexation is illegal (not even the ever-compliant U.S. recognizes it), and thus Israel’s ethnically predicated laws have no legal jurisdiction there. But they are, by military force, the laws that control.

“Residency” is the coveted status in East Jerusalem for non-Jews. A Palestinian whose family has lived there for centuries lives in fear of ethnicity-based expulsion on arcane technicalities manufactured for the purpose. Simply leaving East Jerusalem—concert tour, study—can be used as an abdication of residence. Other families become “illegal” when Israel expands the border of Jerusalem to include parts of the West Bank.

The arcane apartheid laws that de facto (not legally) rule occupied East Jerusalem change with neither notice nor transparency. This past January, the Jerusalem Children’s Orchestra, another initiative of the Said Conservatory, was to perform at the National Theatre in East Jerusalem. But suddenly and without notice, Israel lowered the age at which Palestinian children need special permits to enter East Jerusalem, which until then had been fifteen. In this case, Israel’s sabotage of Palestinian achievement succeeded—the new regulations could not be met in time, and so many of the young musicians would be prevented from performing. The concert was cancelled.

Israel was only partially successful when the Palestine Youth Orchestra prepared to perform in the West Bank cities of Ramallah and Nablus. The French authorities, holding more clout than Palestinians, helped the orchestra apply for the permits Israel mandates. Permission was granted and arrangements were made. Israel then arbitrarily changed the permissible dates, but the Said Conservatory, not to be stopped, rescheduled concerts, rehearsals, travel, and housing. But then Israel changed the permits’ dates a second time. When even that failed to sabotage the project, Israel refused either to approve or deny permission for an oud player whose participation was crucial. This new obstacle was thwarted only when the resourceful Tim Pottier masterminded a media coup that would have caused the Israeli authorities more embarrassment than the issue was worth to them. In the end, the double rescheduling put the event into Ramadan, and fifteen children were stopped from participating until the last few days.

At this point, it is worth reminding the reader that nothing here involves Israeli permission to enter Israel; it is Israeli “permission” for Palestinians to enter Palestine.

The Oslo Accords simultaneously allowed the Palestinian Authority a facade of sovereignty, placards on office doors boasting the Palestinian Ministry of This-&-That, while actually tightening Israel’s yoke around their land. One dressing of make-believe sovereignty was the issuance of Palestinian passports, but passports of a nation that doesn’t exist have little meaning. Nor are Palestinian refugees outside Palestine eligible; they hold travel documents that are valid for a short period of time and afford limited privileges. Travel is especially difficult for them, and merely changing planes on an unbroken flight can require special visas and expense.

The PNO operated with the Said Conservatory’s accumulated savvy about Israel bureaucracy, and all the permits Israel requires for the orchestra’s Palestinians had been meticulously secured for our March 15th concert in the West Bank. Israel, however, made two of the permits valid only for April 5th. For three weeks, Tim tried to get the Israeli authorities to correct the dates, but was met with the traditional stonewalling, and two days before the Ramallah concert he had to fly in an oboist from Spain and get a bassoonist from Jordan.

One must remember that Palestinians are refugees only because Israel has for six and a half decades defied United Nations’ demands that it allow those it had ethnically cleansed to return to their homes, broken the explicit promises upon which it was admitted to the UN, violated the UN Partition agreement which facilitated the creation of the state itself, and indeed violated the 1917 Balfour Declaration which Israel cites as a precedent.

But instead of Israel being held accountable, we set out for the West Bank leaving our two colleagues, oboist Haneen Hamadeh and bassoonist Iyad Hafez, behind. Haneen, whose roots are in Nablus (West Bank), lives in Amman. Iyad, the son of Palestinian refugee from Acre, lives Apolid (stateless) in Italy, and had flown to Amman to join us. They had played all the rehearsals for the concerts.

tomsuarez
Tom Suarez at the Erez crossing, 2008. (Photo: ActiveStills)

The roughly 40 km from Amman, through the Jordan Valley, over the Allenby Bridge, and west to Ramallah took the six hours we expected, most of it at the Israeli-controlled border facility. The Israeli “processing” is an arduous and often demeaning affair, especially for Palestinians, and one must work around its limited weekend hours. Israel collects a punitive exit tax at the Palestine-Jordan crossing which it does not impose on the Tel Aviv airport (which Palestinians are forbidden from using).

Bringing instruments and equipment through Israeli control of Palestine’s border is also problematic and expensive. Musical instruments are detained, refused entry, and sometimes damaged by the Israeli authorities. In our case, we were assisted by the French government: they provided a government vehicle that enjoys diplomatic immunity from search. With it, the PNO transported its timpani and basses between Jordan and the West Bank.

After the first couple of security checks, I and two Palestinians were pulled aside for special screening, then released to the interminable wait at the holding facility with the rest of the orchestra. As time passed with our entrance to Palestine uncertain, musicians began unpacking their instruments and doodling. Soon we risked the first movement of the Haffner symphony from memory, and then turned to the Schumann ‘cello concerto with one part per section propped up on chairs. (Someone videoed part of this, and it can be found on Youtube.) Israeli officials approached and reacted with differing body language, some baffled, others annoyed or bemused, or even visible touched.

Israeli control of the movement of Palestinian and foreign musicians, and the havoc wreaked by its military occupation, make reliable planning impossible. If this presents the PNO with daunting challenges and significantly higher expenses for a limited concert series close to home, it makes a more ambitious and international schedule for a Palestinian ensemble all but impossible.

Viewed thus, calls one hears for the boycott of Israeli cultural institutions are nothing more than calls for simply fair play, for a host country to insist that no guest block another guest.

And it is this that we, citizens of nations that empower the so-called “conflict” in Israel-Palestine, must face. The war against Palestinian culture is not the unfortunate side-effect of bureaucracy intended, if perhaps over-zealously, to “defend Israel”. That war is, rather, the explicit purpose of that bureaucracy. The occupation is much more than colonies and tanks, more than its blocking the return of displaced persons, more than its campaigns of expropriation and ethnic cleansing. It is even more than Israel’s core MO: that, like the Orwell novel written in the year of its founding, it must forever manufacture an ever-present external threat in order to justify its actions.

The occupation is, most insidiously, the occupation of a people—the systematic destruction or theft of their history, culture, arts, and self-worth. And as with past regimes predicated on racial supremacy, it has maintained a theatre of integrity through a system of laws that is internally consistent.[4] There are checks and balances, precedent, courts, systems for redress, and all the other trappings of legal procedure, enabling the state to claim that theirs is a system based on justice and democracy.

But the PNO is vivid proof that Israel’s efforts to define Palestinians will fail. My time with the PNO was musically and intellectually exhilarating, one of camaraderie and solidarity of purpose. The musicians are sophisticated, with wide interests and diverse experiences, all determined to work together to produce a Palestinian orchestra that would be at home on any concert stage the world over.

Thanks to Tim Pottier for help clarifying details of bureaucracy and legal status.

1. “Palestinian orchestra to hold debut concert in Ramallah,” BBC, 31 Dec 2010.
2. Ben, Noam Zeev, “In Israel, Palestinian orchestra produces sounds of independence,” Haaretz. 14 Jan. 2011.
3. There is no transparency to the laws of Israel’s siege, but on musical instruments see, e.g., Hass, Amira, “Israel bans books, music and clothes from entering Gaza,” Haaretz. 17 May 2009.
4. For a good analysis of this, see Baker, Abeer and Matar, Anat (eds), Threat: Palestinian Political Prisoners in Israel. Pluto Press. 2011.
 

24 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    March 31, 2012, 11:46 am

    I am an amateur ‘cellist and filled with pleasure at the thought of this orchestra playing the music I have grown old on (and Palestinian music I don’t know).

    As a propaganda measure, the PNO and ESNCM might try to perform the music which was composed and first performed in the 1940s by prisoners in German concentration camps by Jewish prisoners.

    The idea of Palestinians living in permanent prisons (Gaza and WB) ruled over by Jewish guards and playing music (e.g., “Quartet for the End of Time” — by Olivier Messiaen) written and performed by Jews ruled over by German guards — might make an impression on any Jews teetering “on the fence” of developing a politically-action motivating sympathy for Palestinians.

    • mudder
      March 31, 2012, 2:54 pm

      Good point. The second movement of Henryk Górecki’s immensely popular Symphony No. 3, Op. 36, also known as the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, features the soprano singing a text written by a child on the wall of a Gestapo cell during World War II. The symphony has been much appropriated by the Holocaust Industry–to use Finkelstein’s term. Palestinian children and their mothers should certainly be able relate to it today.

      On a side note, I loved reading Edward Said’s classical musical articles in the Nation.

    • Without Walls
      April 1, 2012, 9:38 am

      That’s terrible idea, pabelmont. The world grows weary of the notion that jewish suffering is the standard and touchstone of all suffering in all time. jewish suffering has sucked all the oxygen out of the past century. the suffering of American men and women, as well as the Polish, Italian, French, British and German innocent victims of wars in Europe, have been erased from history — unacknowledged.

      In this short clip of Deborah Lipstadt link to c-spanvideo.org talking to a jewish audience about her victory over David Irving in a British court, jn the space of about 7 min, lipstadt deliberately mischaracterized Irving — she knows full well that he is NOT a holocaust denier but she persists in calling him that anyway; building on that false characterization, she says he does what he does because he is a “hater [of jews];” she mocks American people as stupid and uninformed — “they still think Elvis is alive.” Then she explains that she continues to write about holocaust because “jewish holocaust survivorsare dying off and their stories–their remembrance of “this is what happened to ME” — need to be remembered.”

      Well guess what: the survivors of the firebombing of Dresden are dying off and their stories need to be remembered on their own terms.
      The survivors of the Naqba are dying off and their stories need to be remembered on their own terms.
      The survivors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima are dying off and their stories need to be remembered on their own terms.

      The world is witnessing in living color what happens when only one set of ‘stories’ is permitted to be told — Israel & its US supporters & protectors are the full-scale and heavily armed embodiment of what happens when the whole truth is not permitted to be told. Allies and zionists got away with mass murder in WWII and now they are emboldened to perpetuate their homicidal recklessness.

      No thanks pabelmont. Palestinians should make their own kind of music.

  2. Annie Robbins
    March 31, 2012, 11:55 am

    this is a fantastic article.

    Haaretz cries tears of commiseration with the very people its nation is brutalizing, as though “the conflict” were the doing of some Other Force to which Israel, too, is victim. Implicitly, Haaretz has the PNO agreeing that the apartheid Israeli state was the answer to Europe’s displaced Jews, and that the fascism it imposes upon Palestinians is the inevitable result of this. Thus the Concert Romanesc served to have Israeli mythology vindicated by its victims.
    ………The truth—that the Ligeti had been an independent Palestinian artistic decision made by Tim Pottier, without any thought to Israel—lay outside the Israeli narrative.

    wow, a link to that article would be nice.

    This past January, the Jerusalem Children’s Orchestra, another initiative of the Said Conservatory, was to perform at the National Theatre in East Jerusalem. But suddenly and without notice, Israel lowered the age at which Palestinian children need special permits to enter East Jerusalem, which until then had been fifteen. In this case, Israel’s sabotage of Palestinian achievement succeeded—the new regulations could not be met in time, and so many of the young musicians would be prevented from performing. The concert was cancelled.

    Israel was only partially successful when the Palestine Youth Orchestra prepared to perform in the West Bank cities of Ramallah and Nablus. The French authorities, holding more clout than Palestinians, helped the orchestra apply for the permits Israel mandates. Permission was granted and arrangements were made. Israel then arbitrarily changed the permissible dates, but the Said Conservatory, not to be stopped, rescheduled concerts, rehearsals, travel, and housing. But then Israel changed the permits’ dates a second time. When even that failed to sabotage the project, Israel refused either to approve or deny permission for an oud player whose participation was crucial. This new obstacle was thwarted only when the resourceful Tim Pottier masterminded a media coup that would have caused the Israeli authorities more embarrassment than the issue was worth to them. In the end, the double rescheduling put the event into Ramadan, and fifteen children were stopped from participating until the last few days.

    At this point, it is worth reminding the reader that nothing here involves Israeli permission to enter Israel; it is Israeli “permission” for Palestinians to enter Palestine.

    there’s a sadistic quality to their manipulations. the humiliation must turn someone on, how else to explain this toying around.

    thanks for the videos too, especially the second one.

    • Walid
      April 1, 2012, 2:36 am

      “… The PNO faces the logistical and funding challenges common to all orchestras. But in addition it confronts something far more impenetrable: an ever-present military occupation and crippling apartheid laws. Sold to the West as self-defense, Israel’s hold on daily Palestinian life seeks to destroy what its tanks and F-16s can’t. Thus the PNO is an act of defiant normalcy, a refusal to be defined by the 64 years of neo-colonial oppression that is the reality of everyday existence in Palestine.” (Tom Suarez)

      Annie, this is more than just about good music and its problems in crossing Israel’s hurdles to reach Palestinian ears, it’s about Israel’s never-ending attempts at snuffing out the Palestinian culture and presence on the land. Working at cross-current with the PNO, the PYO and other Said Foundation cultral groups, there’s the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra initially set up by Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim although today the Said Foundation is no longer associated with it for good reason. Barenboim, a great musician in spite of being an ardent Zionist, uses the Divan Orchestra to project a false image of normalcy between Israelis and Palestinians.

      • kamanja
        April 1, 2012, 4:17 pm

        Complete nonsense.

        Edward Said’s widow Mariam Said, Electronic Intifada, March 2010:
        link to electronicintifada.net

        “On 28 January 2010 the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) issued a statement to the Qatari government calling for a boycott of Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra (WEDO) and condemning the Qatari Ministry of Culture for hosting the orchestra in Doha. The statement goes so far as to accuse Daniel Barenboim of being an ardent Zionist. I would like to point out that the PACBI policy is “to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel.” It does not call for a boycott against all Israelis, but those affiliated with institutions that support the Israeli state and its policies and who do not express support for the Palestinian struggle against occupation. Daniel Barenboim and WEDO do not meet any of those criteria.”

        WEDO is but one of the many educational programs of the Barenboim-Said Foundation (BSF) which was founded by Daniel Barenboim together with my late husband, Edward Said. It is registered in Spain and the regional government of Andalusia is the main partner in this project.
        WEDO is not a project for normalization. The yearly workshops in Spain are advanced musical summer courses. When students from Arab countries and Israel attend the same courses at any university around the world where the professor’s competence is the reason for which they enroll, it is considered furthering their education, not normalization.
        The only requirement to attend the workshop and become a member of the orchestra is musical competence and talent. The musicians have to pass rigorous auditions and the ultimate goal is musical education on the highest level. The BSF has been offering music education programs in the occupied West Bank in partnership with the al-Kamandjati Music Center. We are actively supporting the AM Qattan Foundation’s Music Center in Gaza, as well as pioneering projects in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. We also offer music education programs for Palestinians in the Galilee (we have a conservatory in Nazareth) and in Jaffa. The aim is to bring together all the Palestinians in Palestine through the language of music.
        Most importantly, nowhere in PACBI statement is it mentioned that the WEDO was established by Edward Said as well as Daniel Barenboim.
        By attacking the orchestra, PACBI is attacking the integrity of my late husband and his legacy. It is not the first time PACBI has used this skewed approach. The deliberate omission in the statement of any reference to Edward and his support for this project is a manipulation of the media and a conscious effort to mislead the Palestinian people. Edward passed away more than six years ago. I do not know what he would have said about all this today, but I know how he felt about this project and what he wrote about it. A couple of weeks before his death, when a Palestinian activist friend who had reservations about the project asked him about WEDO, Edward unhesitatingly replied in an email: “It is the most important thing I did in my life.””

        You’re invited to read on and then to retract your libelous claim.

        To prove that nothing has changed since then, a clip of Mariam Said talking about the orchestra last summer:
        link to vimeo.com
        and the West East Diwan Orchestra website announcing auditions for 2012: link to barenboim-said.org

      • Walid
        April 2, 2012, 1:20 am

        Kamanja, you are listening to the kamanja in your head and not understanding what I’m saying. Maybe it’s from my not having properly identified the difference between WEDO that’s a product of the Barenboim-Said Foundation, of which Mariam Said is an officer and necessarily a defender of this foundation and of Barenboim “good” work, and the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (ESNCM) which was the Palestinian National Conservatory until it was simply renamed to include Edward Said’s name after his death and which Mariam Said has nothing to do with. Part of ESNCM’s funding had been coming from the Barenboim-Said Foundation and the ESNCM decided to stop accepting this funding after Daniel Barenboim made the nasty remarks about Palestinians being terrorists and Hamas being a terrorist organization during Israel’s last vicious war on Gaza, despite his speaking out against the occupation. Barenboim is a great musician but above all, he is a Zionist mouthpiece making the abnormal Israeli occupation appear normal. Your kamanja needs tuning.

      • kamanja
        April 2, 2012, 3:48 am

        Your words, Walid:
        “Working at cross-current with the PNO, the PYO and other Said Foundation cultral groups, there’s the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra initially set up by Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim although today the Said Foundation is no longer associated with it for good reason.”

        Since you’ve waved it away with a cock-and-bull cadenza, I’ll repeat the apparently intentionally dishonest part of your sentence: “there’s the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra initially set up by Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim although today the Said Foundation is no longer associated with it”.

        And now to the bum notes, one by one: “although today the Said Foundation is no longer associated with it”.

        Mariam Said has explained in detail her differences with the boycott people who started the defamation. You are again invited to read the links I posted and retract.

      • Walid
        April 2, 2012, 6:08 am

        Kamanja, I corrected my sloppy reference to the Said Foundation that should have been the “Edward Said National Conservatory of Music” but you’re insisting in not understanding the distinction.

        Mariam Said is the V-P. of the Barenboim-Said Foundation in the US that is associated with the WEDO which explains her outburst against
        the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and her defense of the super-Zionist Barenboim that believes (in so many other words), that each Palestinian kid spending a few hours practicing music are so many hours less for him thinking about becoming a terrorist. If you just want to take part of what Barenboim said and you happen to believe that all Palestinian kids are potentila terrorists, it’s your business. But for me, Barenboim is a scumbag for saying it.

        As to the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (ESNCM) which stopped accepting donations from the Barenboim-Mariam outfit after their insults to the Palestinian people that I erroneously referred to as the Said Foundation, this ESNCM has nothing to do with Barenboim, Edward Said or Mariam Said as until Edward Said died, it used to be known simply as the National Palestinian Conservatory of Music. Out of respect for the late Edward Said, a remarkable classical pianist himself and 20-year music critic in the American press, the National Conservatory was renamed it the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music.

        Whether or not Mariam Said defends Barenboim because he’s working at cross-current with Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)’s and the ESNCM’s anti-normalization efforts, the guy is still bad news for anything to do with the BDS movement.

      • eGuard
        April 1, 2012, 6:04 pm

        Just to be clear: in May 2011 Barenboim conducted a “peace concert” in Gaza (what were his other concerts then?). Barenboim, who writes on day 4 of the 22 day attack on Gaza: We, the Jewish people, and … the famous intelligence always ascribed to the Jews.

        Actually, Barenboim has three wishes on (Western) New Years Day. Not one is about peace.

        Barenboim, the Guardian, January 1, 2009.

      • Walid
        April 2, 2012, 1:25 am

        eGuard, there’s no doubt Barenboim’s a great musician, but at the end of the day, like all Zionists, he’s a Zionist.

      • kamanja
        April 2, 2012, 4:25 am

        eGuard, Barenboim’s 3 wishes, from the Guardian link you gave:

        “The first is for the Israeli government to realise once and for all that the Middle East conflict cannot be solved by military means. The second is for Hamas to realise that its interests are not served by violence, and Israel is here to stay. And the third is for the world to acknowledge that this conflict is unlike any other in history. It is uniquely intricate and sensitive – a conflict between two peoples who are both deeply convinced of their right to live on the same very small piece of land. This is why neither diplomacy nor military action can resolve this conflict.”

        I can see that number three would warrant discussion, but what is so peaceless about the first two?

        A link for you that contains Barenboim’s Listen Before it’s Too Late in the New York Review of Books a few weeks later link to nybooks.com . Take a look at the list of people who supported it, that includes the likes of Alaa El Aswany, not particularly renowned for their Zionism.
        And brief discussion of it link to jeremiahhaber.com

        You question the importance of a peace concert in Gaza. I would have thought that was obvious. Hamas allowed it to happen. It was Israel they were afraid wouldn’t, which is why it was kept under wraps until the last minute.

        Back to that New Year (celebrated both in the west and in the east) message you posted, were those the only objectionable quotes you could find?

      • Walid
        April 2, 2012, 6:19 am

        “… You question the importance of a peace concert in Gaza. I would have thought that was obvious. Hamas allowed it to happen. It was Israel they were afraid wouldn’t, which is why it was kept under wraps until the last minute. ”

        Kamanja, it sounds like you’re being coached by the Mondo librarian. Looking at your quote above, it makes one wonder if it’s Hamas or Israel that is the violent one that has to change its ways. Love it or hate it, Hamas was democratically elected in the last elections that the Carter Observer Group said had been the cleanest they had ever seen. I’m not a fan of Hamas, but I’d choose it over the viciousness of Israel any time.

      • eGuard
        April 2, 2012, 8:56 am

        From the quote: The second [wish] is for Hamas to realise that its interests are not served by violence, and Israel is here to stay

        So on day six of the attack on Gaza, he blames Hamas for the violence (and remember that Israel had broken the cease fire two months before). Why he introduces the “Israel is here to stay” in this and at this time I do not understand. (Further in the piece he uses the cliche “Israel has the right to defend itself”). How is that an issue on the days when Israel is bombing the Gaza strip?

        Then, in your NYRB link, published within weeks after the attack (after white phosphor and invasion was added), Barenboim still tries to blame both sides. “the injustice done”, yes, but what injustice, and by whom? And note that the statement says the conflict only started just forty years ago, exactly right after the territories were occupied, so the occupation and the fugitives from 1948 do not count as part of the conflict. This, combined with the “Israel is here to stay”, doesn’t look like Barenboim is thinking about giving back those loots from military actions.

      • eGuard
        April 3, 2012, 8:43 am

        Back to topic. (I am sorry that, by zooming in on Barenboim himself, I distracted from the real issue in this comment subthread). The issue is, as Walid pointed to:

        The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (ESNCM) took initiative for the PNO (2010), the Palestine Youth Orchestra (2004) and Jerusalem Children’s Orchestra (2005), mentioned in the post.

        Then there is the Barenboim-Said Foundation (BSF), who now has Mariam Said aboard. This BSF supports the Western-Eastern Divan Orchestra (WEDO). In Januari 2010 PACBI criticezed the Qatar government for inviting this WEDO to perform in Doha (Qatar), because it “cannot but be seen as an act that contributes, even if inadvertently, to whitewashing Israel’s violations of international law”, and asked for a boycott. PACBI reacts to Miriam Said’s piece (note on the Miriam Said link: since PACBI did not want Barenboim to be boycotted, but the WEDO, Miriam Said was introducing a false argument in the outset. After this, she writes “PACBI accuse[s] Daniel Barenboim of being an ardent Zionist” unsourced, so the “accusation” may be made up too then. And this is for her first two sentences).

        re kamanja: the “Complete nonsense”, “the boycott people who started the defamation” and “cock-and-bull cadenza” kamanja wrote here is incorrect, and is not in the links provided. Since Walid specified his writing (the name Edward Said is used in multiple places), there is no kamanja request left to be answered.

        So, there are two institutes (ESNCM and BSF) that each support an orchestra (PNO or WEDO). At this moment, ESNCM does not accept funds or support from BSF: ESNCM has dissociated itself from BSF (and so from WEDO). I could not find more precise sources or a date on this. But anyway, it is no small matter to say “no” to funds in the ESNCM situation.

  3. eGuard
    March 31, 2012, 7:07 pm

    BBC distorting the Palestininan story. Who would have thought that?

  4. Mayhem
    March 31, 2012, 7:22 pm

    it is worth reminding the reader that nothing here involves Israeli permission to enter Israel; it is Israeli “permission” for Palestinians to enter Palestine.

    It is also worth reminding readers that the PNO has played in Israel – in Haifa and Jerusalem as far as I am aware.
    So convenient to leave this out of the story.

    • Philip Munger
      April 1, 2012, 3:52 am

      So convenient to leave this out of the story

      The author here is relating first-hand experience mostly. Unless the author was part of the ensemble that performed in Haifa and Jerusalem, your characterization is unfair.

      I had the opportunity Saturday to lead our local school district’s high school honor band in their 2012 concert. I related to the audience how important it is to support arts programs in our schools, always under threat from the far right, which runs local government. The hurdles our programs and these kids have to surmount are nothing compared to what I just read.

    • justicewillprevail
      April 1, 2012, 2:23 pm

      So what they performed there? Does that negate the power and humanity of this testimony to the Palestinian people, and the negative, obstructive, vindictive attempts by Israel to diminish them?

    • eGuard
      April 3, 2012, 10:35 am

      Mayhem: So convenient to leave this [Haifa and Jerusalem (sic) performances] out of the story.

      Tom Suarez writes more than one paragraph about performing there, sourced with the distorting Haaretz article that ends with “managed to get through the checkpoints and the walls as though they never existed.” Haaretz, 14 January 2011. Suarez indeed “conveniently” left out the notion that a reporter from Army Radio wanted to work at the Haifa concert in army uniform. Convenient that is, for you. Also, could you be more specific on leaving out “Jerusalem”? I read the Jerusalem Children’s Orchestra performance was prevented and sabotaged by Israel (are you still here, Mayhem?). I’d say, inconveniently enough, for you, performing in Jerusalem was in this story.

      To finish it of: the fact that Israel allowed a performance in Israel proper without much noted hindrance, shows again that the acts of sabotage elsewhere are a chosen Israel policy.

      • Walid
        April 3, 2012, 1:36 pm

        “… the fact that Israel allowed a performance in Israel proper without much noted hindrance, shows again that the acts of sabotage elsewhere are a chosen Israel policy.”

        eGuard, it has to do with all the “normalizing” that’s going on by the Israelis and their pals or by some of the Arabs inadvertently going along with it. Whenever you read any of these “feel-good” stories about some joint Israeli-Palestinian enterprise or other, you have to ask yourself what the subtle normalizing message is being passed. Nothing good can come out of any thing to do with Israel.

  5. Tom Suarez
    April 1, 2012, 1:33 pm

    Just to clarify the issue raised by ‘Mayhem’, the PNO performed in Haifa in January 2011. I was not involved with the orchestra then.
    The PNO did not go to Israel (or even East Jerusalem, which is not in Israel) this year. None of the concert series covered in my commentary (PNO, children’s, and youth orchestras) involved entering Israel.

  6. American
    April 1, 2012, 3:43 pm

    “The occupation is, most insidiously, the occupation of a people—the systematic destruction or theft of their history, culture, arts, and self-worth”

    This is exactly what it is.

  7. LanceThruster
    April 2, 2012, 3:23 pm

    I have read before of the outrageous situations where a Palestinian is denied re-entry after leaving the region for legitimate reasons. And the Z-team keeps spouting how they (the Palestinians) were “given” autonomy over their own affairs and borders.

    Simply reprehensible.

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