Israel to Merkel: Don’t take Barenboim to Iran

Israel to Merkel: Don’t take Barenboim to Iran


norman lebrecht

August 26, 2015

Th Israeli media have picked up reports from Slipped Disc and elsewhere that Chancellor Merkel is planning to take a Berlin orchestra with Daniel Barenboim to accompany her to Iran.

This has provoked a furious response from the ultra-nationalist culture minister in the Netanyahu government government, Miri Regev who explodes on her Facebook page, demanding that Merkel leaves Barenboim, an Israeli citizen, behind.

‘Barenboim takes an anti-Israel line and does his best to slander Israel while using culture as leverage for his political opinions against the State of Israel,’ shrieks Regev, who says she will be writing to Merkel today to point out her ‘mistake’.

We’re sure she’ll get a polite reply from the Chancellery, perhaps before Christmas.

Read her full, preposterous post here. And for those who read Hebrew:

את המנגינה הזאת חייבים להפסיק….
המנצח, דניאל ברינבוים אזרח ישראלי, יופיע באיראן יחד עם התזמורת הממלכתית של ברלין.

ברינבוים מוביל קו אנטי ישראלי נגד ישראל ודואג להכפישה תוך שהוא משתמש בתרבות כמנוף לדעותיו הפוליטיות נגד מדינת ישראל. זו החלטה שגויה של קנצלר גרמניה אנגלה מרקל .

בכוונתי להוציא מכתב עוד היום אל נציגי משרד החוץ ושרת התרבות של גרמניה ובמכתב אציין כי הופעתו של דניאל ברינבוים באיראן פוגעת במאמצי ישראל למנוע את הסכם הגרעין ונותנת רוח גבית לדה לגיטימציה נגד ישראל .

miri regev


  • John Borstlap says:

    If I were an ayatollah, I would get sleepless nights of the prospect of DB performing Beethoven. Mrs Regev could consider western classical music as an effective deterrent, and DB as an unexpected ally.

  • PDQ.BACH says:

    Daniel Barenboim is a free agent.
    Perhaps Ms. Regev needs to be reminded of, or learn in the first place, what a ‘free agent’ means.

    If I read the Ivrit correctly, Ms. Regev fears that a Barenboim appearance in Iran would “undermine Israel’s efforts to prevent the nuclear deal”.
    Do I get this right? Does the culture minister in the Netanyahu cabinet actually fear that a conductor giving a token performance for diplomacy could actually boost an agreement destined to slow down the proliferation of nuclear weapons and to try to impede, or at least defer, a war ?

    George Steiner wrote in his preface to Language and Silence:
    “We know now that a man can read Goethe or Rilke in the evening, that he can play Bach and Schubert, and go to his day’s work at Auschwitz in the morning. To say that he has read them without understanding or that his ear is gross, is cant. In what way does this knowledge bear on literature and society, on the hope, grown almost axiomatic from the time of Plato to that of Matthew Arnold, that culture is a humanizing force, that the energies of spirit are transferable to those of conduct?”

    We had to learn that culture doesn’t prevent inhumanity; we must learn that it doesn’t prevent ham-fisted idiocy.

    The minister’s callous stupidity would be infuriating everywhere. Coming from an Israeli woman of power, it adds the poignancy of tragedy to indignity. To quote George Steiner again (from Writing and the Holocaust):
    “We come to hate, to fear most those who demand of us a self-transcendence, a surpassing of our natural and common limits of being. Our hate and fear are the more intense precisely because we know the absolute rightness, the ultimate desirability of the demand. In failing to respond adequately, we fail ourselves.

    If Ms. Regev were the voice of Israel, Israel would be failing itself.

  • Hilary says:

    Mr.Regev (no relation?) is also the voice of Israel. Here he is in conversation with the wonderful Jon Snow :

  • Peter Freeman says:

    Surely the presence of any Israeli, especially one who is world famous, in that country, and in a position of leadership there, albeit non-political, can only enhance Israel’s perceived prestige in the eyes of the populace and its leaders! Frau Merkel was offering a potent stride in the right direction towards a peaceful co-existence, and that stroke of ingenuity is being thrown back in her face. Regardless of anyone’s political views, a myopic, shameful choice!

  • Mark Morrison says:

    No matter what one’s position regarding Ms Regev’s, if Barenboim were any sort of a human being, he would be mortified to be part of this entire charade and would have politely told Ms Merkel that he could not in all good conscience perform in any country where masses repeatedly turn out to scream, “Death to Israel.” Does B. really think that when the ayatollahs exhort their minions to express their hatred of Israel and when those in power frequently talk of annihilating Israel, that they are talking of killing all Israelis except for the “truly enlightened” Barenboim? That, as some Jews in the 30’s and 40’s era believed, the Nazis would only go after the bad Jews? We know how well that thinking worked.

    B. is about himself, first, last, and always. Why should he sorry about the state of Israel, or even about Jews in general? After all, he’s a STAR!!!

    • V.Lind says:

      I would think Barenboim cares very deeply about Israel and “Jews in general.” Why is this the only government in the world that is deemed to be beyond criticism?

      • Derek Castle says:

        You’ve said it in two sentences.

      • John Borstlap says:

        How ‘important’ is it to be ‘a Jew’? Or ‘a Turk’, or ‘a black’, or ‘a dead white male’, or ‘a woman’, or ‘a porcupine’ if one is making music?

        • Mark Morrison says:

          And what exactly has Barenboim done to demonstrate that he cares about Israel? To consistently decry Israel and praise the Palestinians as if they were wonderful, noble human beings who have never, ever done anything to merit their current circumstances?

          If the three of you hate Israel, just say so explicitly. It is not a question of Israel being right in every circumstance. Barenboim, as most of the European media, the European governments, and our disgusting excuse for a president (Obama) demonstrate on an ongoing basis their prejudice against Israel and only in the most grudging manner will allow that perhaps the Palestinians have committed some sort of “error,” but only just perhaps.

          As to how important it is to be a Jew when making music, just ask that of the many Jews who thought that their status as musicians would save them during the Nazi era. Oh … you can’t since, for the most part, the Nazis gassed them or tortured them to death.

          • John Borstlap says:

            Sorry, but the Holocaust does not automatically turn every postwar person from Jewish ethnicity into a saint.

            By chasing-away Palestinians when Israel was created, the Palestinians were given the perfect excuse for aggression. Hannah Arendt had already said that the creation of Israel on the basis of that error, would result in endless circles of violence and counterviolence.

    • PDQ.BACH says:

      Mr. Morrison,

      Arguments such as yours, whatever they may be worth, have been gathered in a reasoned and coherent way by James Fallows in this pro/contra thread at The Atlantic.

      But there is one piece of your statement that one cannot let stand:

      “…if Barenboim were any sort of a human being…”

      Denying Barenboim’s basic humanity, in as many words, is simply monstrous. Your language expresses the very kind of inhumanity that you pretend to decry in the ayatollahs, the Nazis you equate them with, and assorted antisemites. This is intolerable.

      • Holger H. says:

        Thank you, to the point. And to add: “sorts of people” is already the widespread misconceptions as far as humanity itself is concerned. There are no “sorts of people”, only people. Of course we all know there are hard to defeat ideologies out there, who try to make us believe otherwise. These ideologies are the cancer of mankind.

        • Mark Morrison says:

          To Mr. P.D.Q. Bach:
          I read through some of James Fellows posts. He basically posts those who agrees with his own viewpoint and then triumphantly concludes that he is correct in his support of this highly-flawed “deal.” That is hardly surprising coming from a man who was a speech writer for that long-time liar and anti-semite, Jimmy Carter.

          As to the phrase, “any sort of a human being,” which seems to incense you, I probably should have used the word “mensch,” but the Yiddish/Germanic connotations of this might have gone above your head. I don’t understand, however, how my words denied B.’s basic humanity. One can be a miserable excuse for a human being and, nonetheless, still remain human. Just not a very good one and clearly I do not hold much esteem for B. He does seem to be the type of self-hating Jew that anti-semites would like to hold up as a prime example of what a “good” Jew should be. What you seem to find intolerable is anyone who opposes your point of view that B. is a prince among men. Give it a rest!

          And to Holger H., if I could understand the gobbledygook that you wrote, I might comment on it. To me, it simply sounds like “Wortsalat.”

    • George Porter says:

      “if Barenboim were any sort of a human being”

      He seems to be a better sort of human being than you.

  • Neil van der Linden says:

    Regarding the comment by John Borstlap: Beethoven IX was performed earlier this year in Teheran’s Vahdat Hall (the late Shah’s opera house) with the revived Teheran Symphony Orchestra performing, as was reported in Slippedisc as well, I think.
    About other comments. Barenboim had for a long time been outreaching to Iran, partly through a young violinist and conductor, Bardia Kiaras, and along with Pierre Boulez with the Iranian composer Nader Mashayekhi, with the help of Dutch music film director Frank Scheffer. Barenboim’s involvement has been simmering for over ten years.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Very interesting article. If the mullahs could understand German, they would know that their regime goes counter everything that is in the piece. But, to their advantage, they have no clue:

      “When I was a kid, I used to play Mozart. One day my traditional Iranian mum went to see the local mullah, asking him: ‘My son is playing someone called Mozzzar, is that OK?’ The cleric responded: ‘I don’t know Mr Mozzzar in person but I’ve heard good things about him. I’m sure he’ll be fine.’”

  • Neil van der Linden says:

    One more report on the Beethoven IX earlier this year.

    And about Kiaras Bardia, he was assistant of Barenboim in Berlin. But all of this is part of a longer existing plan. More from the side of Barenboim than from the side of Merkel even.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Amazing and encouraging to see so many women in chorus and orchestra.

      Interesting to see in the pictures accompanying this article the influence of Beethoven in the musicians’ haircut, while the ladies protect themselves from Beethoven’s blaze with head scarfs.