Barenboim takes orchestra to Gaza

By Anshel Pfeffer, May 5, 2011
Barenboim conducting in the Gaza Strip this week

Barenboim conducting in the Gaza Strip this week

Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim took a 25-strong orchestra to the Gaza Strip on Monday evening to perform a concert of works by Mozart.

The musicians flew from Berlin to El Arish in Egypt and entered Gaza from the Rafah crossing since, as an Israeli citizen, Mr Barenboim is forbidden from entering the Gaza Strip.

The "Orchestra for Gaza" played in front of an audience of schoolchildren and NGO workers and, while the event was officially organised by the United Nations relief agency working in Gaza, the security for the visit was provided by Hamas.

Mr Barenboim,68, the musical director of the Berlin State Opera, is one the best-known musicians to have grown up in Israel, where his family emigrated from Argentina when he was nine.

He has long been a controversial figure, however. Through his friendship with Palestinian-American academic Professor Edward Said, Mr Barenboim became a supporter of the Palestinian cause and a vocal critics of Israeli policies. In 2005, he even refused to give an interview to an IDF Radio reporter after a concert in Tel Aviv because she was wearing a uniform.

He has also caused anger among Holocaust survivors by insisting on breaking the taboo against performing works by antisemitic conductor Richard Wagner in Israeli concert-halls.

He holds honorary Palestinian citizenship and said after the performance in Gaza: "I am a Palestinian and an Israeli, so you see, it is possible to be both."

Last updated: 10:09am, May 5 2011