Barenboim in Al-Ahram Weekly Newspaper

🙂 Dear-Arab-Readers > Section: Egypt-Normalization > Barenboim in Egyptian Media
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A hard note to play Apr 22 2009 / Al-Ahram Weekly, Nevine El-Aref
Issue No. 943 Front Page
A hard note to play
Nevine El-Aref asks what Daniel Barenboim’s Cairo Opera performance implies for normalisation

Conductor Daniel Barenboim’s first ever performance in Egypt is tonight. The famous musician’s concert at the Cairo Opera House, a collaborative initiative of the Spanish and Austrian embassies and the Ministry of Culture, has sparked controversy in Cairo’s Middle East politics-vexed public sphere.

“I am not here to represent the Israeli government,” the Argentine-born Barenboim, who holds Argentinian and Spanish as well as Israeli and Palestinian citizenship, said Wednesday at a press conference in the Austrian Cultural Forum. “I am here as an individual who has been very critical of the Israeli government.”

And Barenboim’s supporters point out how vocal he has been about the injustices of Israel, condemning the occupation of Palestinian territory and the ongoing spread of settlements — which put him on the wrong side of the Israeli government on many occasions.

Barenboim’s Egyptian opponents, on the other hand, question his decision to hold onto Israeli citizenship, pointing out that his visit to Egypt, the first such, may be intended to furtively normalise relations with Israel — a step Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni, along with the vast majority of intellectuals, formally rejects. Hosni’s critics ask whether inviting Barenboim to Egypt is a nod on his part to the pro-Israel-dominated US political sphere, with a view to gaining favour regarding his nomination to the post of UNESCO director-general.

“I will not accept such a visit or such a performance,” the well-known writer Youssef El-Qaeed declaimed. “And don’t tell me that Barenboim has a Palestinian passport or that he was a close friend of Edward Said’s. I still will not accept it. The visit seems ill- timed in the wake of the Gaza War,” El-Qaeed went on. “And if the invitation came from the Austrian Embassy, then let the performance be held within its premises. Barenboim’s position is just not clear enough for me to see this project as innocuous.” Pointing to Hosni’s “firm stand” against normalisation, El-Qaeed added, “Why this person at this time, I just don’t know.”

Yet the better known novelist, Gamal El-Ghitani — also the editor of the cultural weekly Akhbar Al-Adab — takes the opposite stand: “Had it been 10 years ago, it would have been perfectly fine. As it is this visit looks like an electoral manoeuvre in Hosni’s candidacy for UNESCO director- general, which it is not. This is not normalisation and it’s a dangerous wager to say that it is. This conductor is a hugely important figure who has always supported peace and spoken out against Israeli aggression in the Middle East. We cannot oppose someone because of their religion. Barenboim is a citizen of the world with a Palestinian as well as an Israeli passport. I personally have nothing against him.”

In this context El-Ghitani suggests that it may be time to review the normalisation debate in the light of global developments: “Should I meet an Israeli counterpart at a conference, do I walk out or confront him and put across my point of view?” Intellectuals should convene and draw up committees to discuss the issue, El-Ghitani went on. “To be perfectly frank with you,” he confessed, “I want to visit Ramallah to support the Palestinians there and the reason I cannot is that it will release a Pandora’s box of criticism on me. Barenboim is my friend because he was Said’s friend. Said is the one who showed us that Barenboim is respectful and supportive of the Palestinian cause — that he was no Zionist.”

Novelist Ibrahim Aslan agrees, suggesting that the Arab Writers Union should hold a meeting to reconsider normalisation. “It saddens me deeply,” he says, “that no one was able to share in the Palestinians’ celebration of the choice of Jerusalem as capital of Arab culture this year.”

The well-known journalist Assem Hanafi goes even further, explaining that refusing to let an anti-Zionist figure perform in Egypt is to realise Israel’s wishes. “All I can say,” he says, “is that this is an excellent opportunity and I have already booked my seat.” The head censor, critic Ali Abu Shadi, feels that “what we have to go on” is Barenboim’s stated position on the Arab-Israeli conflict. “If it is in support of the Arab cause and Palestinian rights, I am all for the person. If it is not I am against him — even if he is the most outstanding artist on earth.”

To the claim that it is an electoral manoeuvre on the part of Hosni, Abu Shadi exclaims, “normalisation of what? And to what end?”

Over the 20 years of his term, Abu Shadi points out, Hosni avoided every kind of cultural normalisation, expressing the majority position of intellectuals. As Hanafi explains, had Hosni wanted to normalise relations, he could have allowed Israelis to participate in the Cairo Book Fair or the Cairo Film Festival — in order to promote his UNESCO nomination. For show host Wael El-Ibrashi, Hosni has always been in a no-win situation: when he stands by the Arab cause, he is accused of anti-Semitism; when he invites an anti-Zionist Jew, he is accused of “appeasing Israel”. It is a line of thinking Hosni himself agrees with.

“Why reject Barenboim,” the minister wonders. “He is with our cause and he is not doing this for the sake of fame but because he is already famous. He embodies a cultural value that can only benefit our orchestra and audience.”

Yet there remains the question of the word “normalisation” itself and what it entails. El-Ibrashi, for example, says he is staunchly against normalisation, but points out in the same breath that this position is in dire need of practical clarification: “What exactly should it entail to be against normalisation? At any given time, what are the rules?” Visiting Ramallah was once normalisation, now it is not.

“According to my current understanding of the term,” El-Ibrashi concludes, “we should be against whoever holds Israeli citizenship and not let them into our Opera House. To me, that remains a kind of normalisation.”

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From 2007 to 2008

Al-Ahram Weekly | Culture | Music for the United Nations 2008/926
Daniel Barenboim, one of the most distinguished musicians of the world, founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in 1999 with the late Palestinian writer …

Al-Ahram Weekly | Front Page 2008/926
By Daniel Barenboim. Entertainment: • Egypt through a smokescreen. By Rania Khallaf. Interview: • Abdel-Rahman El-Abnoudi: an Upper Egyptian Odyssey …

Al-Ahram Weekly | Culture | Plain talk 2008/894
The Observer describes it as Barenboim’s big adventure and one critic writes that … But who is Barenboim and what, apart from his virtuosity, creates this …

Al-Ahram Weekly | Culture | Hail the hero 2007/866
He also won several prizes and worked with the famous Daniel Barenboim and the soloist Yo-Yo Ma in 1999. As for the bassoonist, Tamer Kamal, he pursued his …

From 2003 to 2005

Ignace Tiegerman (1893-1968) was a Polish pianist who in 1931 … 2005/769
Sednaoui with Said in Cairo in 1993 (top); and with Said and Barenboim in Weimar in 1999. parent page (17 – 23 November 2005, issue #769)

Al-Ahram Weekly | Books Supplement | Notes from a life of music 2005/769
“He was a great admirer of Glenn Gould, and also of Daniel Barenboim, … She told me that Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said had had the idea of an orchestra …

Al-Ahram Weekly | Books Supplement | Letter from the editor 2005/769
… his decision to form the East/West Divan Orchestra with the musician Daniel Barenboim. Sednaoui remembers the young Edward Said as being a “self- …

Al-Ahram Weekly | Culture | For a Fistful of Dust: A Passage to … 2004/709
Nadine Gordimer was there, as was Danny Glover, Vanessa Redgrave, Salman Rushdie, and Daniel Barenboim. But all through the service, presided over by our …

Al-Ahram Weekly | Culture | Remembering Edward Said 2004/715
In his article Daniel Barenboim writes that Edward Said was many things for many people, but his was a musician’s soul in the deepest sense of the word; …

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Al-Ahram Weekly | Culture | The Maestro 2004/715
Below Daniel Barenboim writes that Edward Said was many things for many people, but his was a musician’s soul in the deepest sense of the word; …

Al-Ahram Weekly | Culture 2004/715
Two events marking Edward Said’s birth anniversary last Monday: a concert by Daniel Barenboim at the Carnegie Hall in New York and the screening of The Last …

Al-Ahram Weekly | Front Page 2004/715
by Daniel Barenboim. Intimidating Columbia University. by Joseph Massad. Sami Yusuf: new voice of European Islam takes Egypt by storm …

Al-Ahram Weekly | Reader’s corner | Letters to the editor 2004/696
Barenboim played Wagner in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and still got the Israel prize, despite the protestations of Holocaust survivors and opportunist and …

Al-Ahram Weekly | Books Supplement | A year in review 2003/669
… Mahmoud Darwish, Mohamed Sid Ahmed, Hanan Ashrawi, Anouar Abdel-Malek, Ferial Ghazoul, Daniel Barenboim, Samir Amin and Mourid Barghouti. …

Al-Ahram Weekly | Opinion | The artist of our dream 2003/659
… lectures and speeches, but also by founding with his friend, fellow musician and world-renowned composer, Daniel Barenboim, a joint West-Eastern Divan, …

Al-Ahram Weekly | Reader’s corner Letters 2003/658
With Said, Palestinians and Israelis had a vision for a better future, personified by the long cooperation with the Jewish musician Daniel Barenboim, …

In the year of 2003

Al-Ahram Weekly | Tributes to Edward Said 2003/658
Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said’s last concert. By Tania Tamari Nasir ….. Daniel Barenboim Perhaps the first thing one remembers about Edward Said was …

Al-Ahram Weekly | Front page | ‘What are we waiting for, assembled … 2003/658
Daniel Barenboim, Chief Conductor for Life of the Staatskapelle Berlin and a … Bahnan’s anger and the serenity of Barenboim’s piano-playing embodied the …

Al-Ahram Weekly | Articles by Edward Said 2003/658
Barenboim and the Wagner taboo — ( 16 – 22 August 2001) On the occasion of his playing a Wagner extract at Israel’s premiere musical event, Edward Said …

Al-Ahram Weekly | The death of Edward Said 2003/657
Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said’s last concert. By Tania Tamari Nasir … Barenboim and the Wagner taboo — ( 16 – 22 August 2001) …

Al-Ahram Weekly | The death of Edward Said | Obituaries 2003/657
Either way his final act, that riveting joint symphonic concert with Daniel Barenboim reached for hearts and minds in deeply moving terms. …

Al-Ahram Weekly | Reader’s corner 2003/655
Sir– ‘No ordinary concert’ by Tania Tamari Nasir (Al Ahram Weekly, 4-10 September) tells a moving story of how an Israeli concert by Daniel Barenboim …

The inspiration of art: the Barenboim- Said partnership; (left … 2003/654
The inspiration of art: the Barenboim- Said partnership; (left) Barenboim practising with partner Jacqueline du Pré (source: http://www.daniel-barenboim.com)

Al-Ahram Weekly | Features | No ordinary concert 2003/654
Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim’s friendship has inspired numerous creative … The article was an interview with Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said, …

Al-Ahram Weekly | Front page 2003/654
Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said No ordinary concert • Theatre CIFET 2003: Thespian fever • Sports: squash Climbing the squash ranks …

Al-Ahram Weekly | Culture | Of joys and sorrows 2003/649
… one of the most important international conductors, a celebrated musician who belongs with Sir Simon Rattle, Zubin Mehta and Daniel Barenboim. …

Al-Ahram Weekly | Culture | ‘Being among difference’ 2003/627
5 Mar 2003 … Since their chance meeting at a London hotel, Said and Barenboim have … And Barenboim was currently training two Palestinian prodigies, …

From 1998 to 2002

Al-Ahram Weekly | Focus | Laudatio for Said 2002/615
Predictably, the words and the notes mix and harmonise: he has collaborated with Daniel Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a new production of …

Al-Ahram Weekly | Culture 2001/547
Barenboim and the Wagner taboo. On the occasion of his playing a Wagner extract at Israel’s premiere musical event, Edward Said explores possible political …

Al-Ahram Weekly | Culture | Barenboim and the Wagner taboo 2001/547
On the occasion of his playing a Wagner extract at Israel’s premiere musical event, Edward Said explores possible political implications of Daniel …

Al-Ahram Weekly | Opinion | Too much work 2001/519
I know two contemporary prodigies, the awesomely gifted musician Daniel Barenboim, the brilliant linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky: they could not be …

Al-Ahram Weekly | West Bank diary 1998/407
I recalled that in West Jerusalem last March, Daniel Barenboim and I had met with an Israeli Jewish group who were also concerned with secularism, …

Al-Ahram Weekly | Culture and conflict 1998/386
Agreeing with the Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim’s perception that “the ….. And yet, at the same time, he agrees with Daniel Barenboim that “the only …

Al-Ahram Weekly | Leonora centre stage 1998/379
A NEW, semi-staged performance of Fidelio, Beethoven’s opera, was premiered in Chicago yesterday, conducted by Daniel Barenboim, directed by Alexander …

Al-Ahram Weekly | Scenes from Palestine 1998/1948/370
Born and raised in Argentina, Barenboim came to Israel in l950 at the age of … What I found extremely heartening is that Barenboim, one of the world’s …

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