Daniel Barenboim: We are banned across the Middle East

Daniel Barenboim: We are banned across the Middle East


norman lebrecht

July 23, 2018

In a Bild interview, keeping up the Middle East rhetoric, the conductor admits a failure of his West-East Diwan Orchestra:

Es ist lang her, dass Sie mit dem Divan im Nahen Osten waren.

Barenboim: „Wir können nicht, die politische Situation erlaubt es nicht. Ich meine, wir könnten noch einmal nach Abu Dhabi fahren, das werden wir sicher auch tun. Aber Ägypten geht nicht, Israel geht nicht, Jordanien geht nicht, Palästina geht auch nicht. Das historische Konzert, das wir 2005 in Ramallah spielten, wäre heute undenkbar.“

It’s been a long time since you were with the Divan in the Middle East.

Barenboim:  We can’t, the political situation won’t allow it. I mean, we could go to Abu Dhabi again, we certainly will. But Egypt won’t work, Israel won’t, Jordan won’t, Palestine does not work either. The historic concert we played in Ramallah in 2005 would be unthinkable today. 

Read on here.


  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    Funny how a whole country could be scared of an orchestra!

  • Borech says:

    DB is a marvellous musician but he’s also turned himself and this orchestra into a highly political statement. He has addressed concertgoers on political matters, on a number of occasions, at the end of a concert.
    Like sport, once politics and music mix, in the most overt way, it’s not surprising that concert managers will be very wary of hosting his orchestra, chancing dissent in the concerthall and demonstrations outside.

    In Israel, with a right-wing government in charge, there would be additional pressure applied.

    DB is entitled to his views and he generally puts his arguments clearly.. However, if he let the Israeli/ Palestinian players perform , without lumping on them a publically-stated political gloss, his orchestra would likely have had oppurtunities to perform in Israel, at least and might have had an influence for the good. (It’s sadly doubtful that they would be welcome (and safe) in any of Israel’s neighbours) It really is a pity and a wasted oppurtunity.

  • Ben G. says:

    What ever happened to the saying: “Religion divides people, music unifies them” ? Did I miss something there?

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Yes: love also unifies people. Here is a related excerpt:

      Wie sieht der Orchester-Alltag aus? Gehen die Israelis mit den Iranern essen?

      Barenboim: „Normalerweise gehen die Jungs mit den Mädchen essen, das ist wichtiger als die Frage, woher sie kommen. (lacht)

      How is the orchestra’s daily life? Do the Israelis go out to eat with the Iranians?

      Barenmboim: Normally the boys go out to eat with the girls, that’s more important than the question where they come from (laughter).

      (Let’s not overanalyze what love is.)

      • Pianofortissimo says:

        A cynical bystander could say that some of them can qualify as refugees after sharing a meal with someone of the opposite gender. Are all those young musicians in DB’s band welcome back home in the West Bank or in Iran? Or are they already refugees?

  • steven holloway says:

    DB is not the only one “…keeping up the Middle East rhetoric…” around here, now is he? Pray survey SD posts past, passim. I see no reason why DB should singled out in this regard, or at least no good and sound reason.

  • Karen says:

    Barenboim talks to the Bild?!

  • YoYo Mama says:

    I have never liked his so-called musicianship. His recording of Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words was entirely devoid of depth, feeling, mood, sensitivity, style, any of the elements of musicianship. He has coasted on the publicity of having been married to Jacqueline DuPre for his whole life. He is a shame to Israel and the Jewish people. He probably embarrasses many Arabs as well. Only the anti-Semites love him, as he plays into the palms of their hands. If only he would shut up and go away.

    • will says:

      I disagree with every one of your opinions.

    • steven holloway says:

      You really are scraping the bottom of the barrel here, you know. You may not like his peformances, you may not like his position re Israel and the Palestinian refugees, but what you have written is really ad hominem vindictiveness and rather pathetic.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Sorry, but even if you don’t much like his conducting, he is a major conductor who has had major positions in Paris, Chicago, Milan and Berlin. I think it is impossible to argue that he isn’t one of the most important currently active conductors.

      Nevertheless, the East-West Divan Orchestra has not really been successful if the aim was to bring middle-eastern audiences to accept both sides of the Arab-Israeli divide (and may even have been counter-productive).

    • Mark Mortimer says:

      He’s a much better pianist than you are Yoyo- or whatever your name is. We would all wish for you to shut up & go away.