Revolution #235, June 12, 2011

From a reader:

CHEERS to Daniel Barenboim for his concert in Gaza

On May 3 Daniel Barenboim, a classical pianist and world-famous conductor, led an orchestra made up of musicians from some of the top orchestras in the world, including the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic, and La Scala, to perform a Mozart concert for several hundred people in Gaza. According to Israeli law, it was illegal for Barenboim, an Israeli with honorary Palestinian citizenship, to enter Gaza, which has been under a brutal Israeli blockade since 2006. So he went through Egypt, which opened the border crossing at Rafah and the El Arish airport near the Egyptian border, so the musicians could get into Gaza. The concert was sponsored by the Al Mathaf Cultural House in Gaza, under the auspices of UNSCO (Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process) and UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency).

At the concert, Barenboim told the cheering crowd which included many children, "We are very happy to come to Gaza. We are playing this concert as a sign of our solidarity and friendship with the civil society of Gaza." He said the concert was intended to "bring solace and pleasure through music to the people of Gaza and to let them know that people all over the world care for them." He also said, "No people should be expected to live under occupation."

Jawdat Khoudary, of the Mathaf Cultural House, said, "For one hour or so we listen to music like the rest of the world. It is an acknowledgment that we are normal people, that our interests are the same as anyone else's in the world, that our dreams are the same, and that we want to create beauty again in Gaza. Culture has no borders, no limits."

Daniel Barenboim, along with his friend, the late Palestinian activist/scholar Edward Said, founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, made up of young Palestinian and Israeli and international musicians. In 2005, they performed an historic concert in Ramallah, on the West Bank. This concert has been filmed in a powerful documentary, The Ramallah Concert – Knowledge Is the Beginning, available on DVD.

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