Daniel Barenboim conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra earlier this month. At no point did he mention the plight of Native Americans who were driven out by European settlers.
He performs often in Argentina, where he was born. Again, no mention of the original people of Latin America who were massacred by settlers.
But in Australia this week, he milked unearned applause for a comment on the indigenous inhabitants of that continent, and at every other opportunity he raises sympathy for the plight of the Palestinian Arabs.
Some inconsistency, perhaps?
Barenboim’s concern for the Middle East is commendable. He grew up in Israel and, years later, formed a symbiotic friendship with the Jerusalem-born academic Edward Said. He used to keep a residence in Jerusalem, where his wife Elena Bashkirova runs a chamber music festival. Barenboim has every right to take a position on a place where he belongs, regardless of whether one agrees with him or not.
But Australia? He hasn’t been there for 60 years and his comment has no context. It’s a form of the worst kind of virtue signalling – look at me, I’m a really nice person, won’t you join me on the nice side? If Daniel, or anyone else, had the courage to stand up at Carnegie Hall and denounce what Europeans did to America’s indigenous population, he might be applauded for the courage of his convictions.
More likely, he’d be run out of town and never let back into the United States.
So he won’t do that. Nor will anyone else. He’ll just keep scoring cheap points where he can.
And that’s wrong.
He’s a musician. He should let the music speak.