Barenboim is wrong to ask Germany to put pressure on Israel

Barenboim is wrong to ask Germany to put pressure on Israel


norman lebrecht

November 11, 2014

The conductor has published another of his Middle East interventions. This one, in Armistice Week, seems more injudicious than most. Daniel writes:

barenboim ba


Germany’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a diminutive one. It does not want to inflame sensibilities over its relations with Israel. However, if there is to be a solution to the conflict, Germany must play some role and exert some form of influence on Israeli policy. Germany can and should put political pressure on Israel. After all, we are talking here about the intellectual and political future of the state of Israel. The logic is simple: Germany is committed to the ongoing security of the state of Israel, but this is only possible in the long term if the future of the Palestinian people, too, is secured in its own sovereign state.

Aside from grossly over-estimating Germany’s influence, his aim is wild and wrong.

If Germany is to play a Middle East role, should it not start by putting pressure on Russia to end its support for the Assad regime, which has forced more of its citizens to leave the country than Israel ever did with the Palestinians? Shouldn’t it, perhaps, pull out of the football World Cup in Qatar, a major sponsor of Islamist terrorism? Mightn’t it do something to help regenerate the Egyptian economy before hunger breeds another extremist revolution? Shouldn’t it be concerned about chaos in Libya?

I have often endorsed Barenboim’s thinking in the past, but I find him wrong here on two counts, badly wrong. Germany is not the solution to the Jewish problem. And the idea that pressure on Israel – but not on the Palestinians – will yield a just and lasting peace is, frankly, absurd.



  • Simon S. says:

    AFAIR it’s not the first time he says something like this.

    Though many of my compatriots disagree with me on this point, for me as a non-jewish German ist has, for obvious reasons, always seemed absurd that the Germans should tell the Jews how to behave and make peace.

  • Novagerio says:

    You’ve got to hand it to him, he’s at least old enough not to play the politically correct card…

  • Scott Rose says:

    Where is Barenboim’s statement to Hamas that it must fully respect the civil and human rights of gay Gazans to live out gay lives? Where is his statement to the P.A. that it must allow people living under its control freedom of speech?

  • Mark Henriksen says:

    What Barenboim has pointed out is that Germany, “the” European economic power, is mute on this political issue as it continues to “live down” its 20 century history. He deserves credit for being fearless in suggesting a larger political role for modern Germany. This man is a true bridge builder amongst people and deserves praise and support.

  • Pamela Brown says:

    I agree that this idea seems to be something of a strawman. Just the same, it seems better that Mr. Baremboim voice his concerns than remain silent.

  • william osborne says:

    Barenboim’s view is that Likud policies are harming Israel, and that those who care about the country should provide a guiding hand. Germany roundly condemns violence on the other side of the conflict. His suggestion is that Germany has reached a point where it can begin to address problems on both sides. I agree that this might be beneficial for Israel.

  • Michael Schaffer says:

    I agree with Osbo – and who would have thought *that* would ever happen?

  • Heldentenor says "No To A Corrupt Malta!" says:

    While you’re at it, Mr Barenboim, could you say a word about the 20-month old Maltese regime (the infamous, Mintoffian Malta Labour Party) which is turning Malta into China’s Trojan horse in the EU ? Yes, the same Malta, that ‘The Maltese Tenor’ depicts as a haven.

  • steve says:

    A very perceptive article from Barenboim. He’d make a good leader of Israel.

  • Heldentenor says "No To A Corrupt Malta!" says:

    Malta, the country that’s giving refuge to Mrs Arafat is carrying out witch-hunts on anyone who exposes the government’s corruption. This is what Malta’s foremost investigative journalist is going through:

    It’s a very sad time for democracy in this part of the Med.

  • Erich says:

    The whole thing is yet another desperate bid for a Nobel Prize.

    • nancy says:

      he needs to stick to his piano.

      • Anonymus says:

        I’m happy he is politically active and his example gives me a bit more hope in the human condition. I wish more musicians and artists in general would be outspoken about these matters, it is their responsibility.

  • nancy says:

    The press goes a long way in either justifying or promoting terrorism or condoning it, and your remarks are in line with Merkel’s, with reality, and one hopes, taking a path without terrorism and hatred. Thank you Norman for your article, being on the right side of history and stepping up to the plate.

    • Hilary says:

      The press in the UK, and the Washington post can be fairly critical of the terrifying tactics (seizure of homes in relation to expanding borders)employed by the Israeli government. These aggressive things fan the flames,and are sadly a create a fertile ground for terrorism.

  • Mike Schachter says:

    Barenboim’s criticisms are always aimed at Israel, never at its enemies. If he doesn’t like it there he can always move somewhere else, where they are more accommodating to terrorists and don’t object to Wagner.

    • Chris says:

      Strange comment. When I have a discussion with my family and happen to criticize them, they never tell me to find another family I should criticize, yet apparently that’s exactly what you are doing here.

      • Mike Schachter says:

        Not a very exact analogy, I am afraid. I would hope and presume that other families are not out to destroy yours, unlike Hamas, Iran etc with regard to Israel.. I guess you are just trying deliberately to trivialise the issue, or are incapable of understanding it.

        • Anonymus says:

          You are clearly wrong that anybody who criticizes Israel has also to criticize in the same sentence others who are worth of criticism. With such strange attitude, nobody could criticize anything. Also you seem to speak with the same divided tongue, that on one side claims moral and ethical superiority, on the other hand finds “an eye of an eye” an adequate measure to work out indifferences, instead of living up to ones self-assigned superior standards…