Zubin Mehta: Here’s how Israel Phil will hire Arab players

Zubin Mehta: Here’s how Israel Phil will hire Arab players


norman lebrecht

September 20, 2019

In an extensive interview with El Pais, the outgoing music director expresses regret that he was unable to hire a single Palestinian or Israeli-Arab musician into the Israel Philharmonic.

But, he says, things are changing fast:

‘My dream is that the young Palestinian musicians who are currently studying at the University of Tel Aviv with the help of my Foundation, will end up entering the ensemble because their teachers are musicians of the Philharmonic.’

Let’s see.



  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    Any Arab musician with any talent is in Berlin working for Barenboim.

    • Precisely because the could not work in Israel…ask any one of these musicians and they will answer that they prefer to live and work at “home.” Not that it makes any difference, but even though Zubin and Danny started out together, Zubin is a far more internationally respected artist, and certainly a better conductor. ZM’s years in Munich are incomparable, imo, and he has certainly never been accused of any kind of embarrassing, violent behavior toward the press and colleagues. I say this because I trust ZM’s word more than Barenboim’s ego, and if young Palestinian musicians have his support, there will be a big change within the IPO.

      • Bufffums says:

        Are you kidding Helene? Zubin far more internationally respected artists, certainly better conductor? Look at the messy legacy in LA and NY. When he left both became third rate bands. Zubin is certainly one of the most overrated conductors living. Barenboim is a much better musician and conductor. I’d go with Barenboim, pianist and conductor, any day. He’s much more musical than flashy/shallow Zubin. You can say that Zubin, besides having the ability to wow rich orchestra board member widows with his looks and telegenic conducting, rose to fame because of his association with classical music’s glamour couple (DuPre and Barenboim), both much more musically talented than he.

        • I respect your right to an opinion Buffums. As far as the musical future of Israel is concerned, specifically the IPO in this instance, imo no one beside Lenny has done more in the name of cultural progress in Israel than ZB, and that is really the issue here. I consider DB somewhat a traitor to “his people” and when all is said and done, his allegiance to Germany is a grandstand of self-deception proving my point.

          • Sam Weiner says:

            ” I consider DB somewhat a traitor to “his people” and when all is said and done, his allegiance to Germany is a grandstand of self-deception proving my point.”

            Ahh, that old canard…goodness gracious me…

      • Saxon Broken says:

        Whatever Barenboim’s personal faults, most would consider that he has the more substantial reputation as a conductor.

    • XAVIER says:

      Arabs work for Barenboim and Barenboim works for Arabs.

  • sam says:

    “…because their teachers are musicians of the Philharmonic”

    However laudable the specific aim is here, the wider problem nonetheless is perpetuated, namely, musicians succeed (whether in competitions or for jobs) because of who their teachers are, whether its in Vienna or in Tel Aviv, where teachers often are fathers, and a position is handed down from generation to generation, which is great for tradition, bad for opening up the orchestra (to women in Vienna, to Arabs in Israel).

    Sure, In theory, a VPO player could be teaching his daughter the trade, but looking at the results historically… Let’s hope the musician/teachers of the IPO fare a little better.

  • AC says:

    a part of the whole- who knew?

    ‘ Israel is not a state of its citizens. Israel is the state of the Jews,
     both Israelis and diaspora. Israel is a state that enforces racial laws and has institutionalised discrimination against the people of the land, the Palestinians.’
    — Gilad Atzmon ,
    Israel: The only Jewish ghetto in the Middle East


    Israel: democracy or apartheid state?..Unlike most liberal democracies, Israel classifies its citizens as holding differing ‘nationalities’. It distinguishes between citizenship rights and national rights; the latter are reserved almost exclusively for its Jewish citizens.

     National rights are deemed to be superior to citizenship rights so 
    if there is a conflict between a ‘Jews national right and a Palestinians individual citizenship rights, the national right is given priority by officials and the courts’. .
    .There is an admissions committee Law which enables communities to reject housing applicants based on ‘cultural and social suitability’; a euphemism for denying residency to non-Jews.

     Ethnic separation is further reinforced through the education system. Barring a few exceptions most educational institutions are separated into Jewish schools (teaching in Hebrew) and Arab schools (teaching in Arabic). Sociological studies show that not a single positive reference to Pal
    estinians exists in Israeli high school textbooks. This all leads to a situation where there is minimal contact between Jews and Israeli Palestinians… 

    In July this month, the Israeli Parliament passed a new Basic Law the Jewish ‘Nation-State’ Law. This Law declares that only Jews have a right to self-determination in the country. 
     The Law was widely condemned outside of Israel, and by powerful voices within, with the famous Israeli composer Daniel Barenboim, for instance, saying it made him ‘ashamed to be Israeli’

    …Bishop Desmond Tutu- who has first-hand experience of apartheid in South Africa-argues in fact that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is worse than that of Black people during apartheid; he has called it ‘apartheid plus.

    • Anton Bruckner says:

      Without derogating from legitimate criticism of Israel under Nethanyahu, the attempt to characterize Israel as an apartheid state is absurd and is nothing but straight antisemitism coupled with a fair degree of ignorance.

      • Disappointed says:

        S. Africa: “pass” laws which restricted movements of black people to be in designated “white” places.

        Israel: Blockades and restriction movements of Palestinians in occupied territories.

        S. Africa: police/military engaged in systematic brutalization and humiliation of the black population, including demolition of homes and forced relocation of population.

        Israel: Systematic brutalization and humiliation of Palestinian population. Eviction of Palestinians from their home/land to make way for Israeli Jewish settlers.

        I support Israel’s right to exist. I support the Israeli state. I am disappointed by how brutal the Israeli state has become.

        • James says:

          This is a very ignorant comment – I don’t mean that rudely, I mean you are clearly just ignorant of the actual facts. It’s ironic, especially in a week where the Arab faction has just been voted (including by a significant number of Jews) the third-largest in Israel’s Knesset. Any roads that get separated or closed in the territories are for security reasons and there are ample and violent reasons why that has happened. But let’s stick to music on this site, shall we? Hats off to Zubin Mehta – very rare for a conductor to show such devotion to any orchestra for so long, and vice versa.

    • You are correct. Israel is a proud Jewish State. You are wrong about the role of Arabs in the Jewish State. How do you explain Israeli Arabs living and thriving in Israel. By the way, Israeli Arabs have the right to vote, as witnessed in the most recent election. Israel is the most tolerant country in the world and I wish the world would be more Israeli and Jewish tolerant, Too many people are under the misconception that Palestinians are the underdog because of Israeli military might…used only as a means of self defense against the Arab world. As far as making music is concerned, be assured all appointees to the IPO will be fairly judged and if the time has come to include Israeli trained musicians it will be so.

    • M2N2K says:

      Calling Daniel Barenboim “the famous Israeli composer” shows how much (or more precisely how little) true knowledge and fairness there is in that ridiculous comment.

    • John Borstlap says:

      People form Jewish descent can be as stupid as any people from any descent. No ethnicity has any ‘inborn’ privilege in terms of making mistakes.

  • Nick says:

    Please leave Classical Music outside of the dirty identity politics. People are tired of this crap.

    Orchestras should hire ONLY highly qualified, highly talented people.
    Orchestras also have the full right to have a policy to preserve national identity of the ensemble if they wish to do so. Nobody can dictate any orchestra who to hire based on identity.

  • Gustavo says:

    By the way, where’s Barenboim?

  • Buffums says:

    Paying lip service. The man was an advisor to the orchestra from 1969, ran the orchestra from 1977-2019 and he couldn’t recruit a single Palestinian musician?

    • ZB hired the most qualified musicians, which is absolutely correct. Have you ever even heard Barenboim’s East West Divan? I heard them some years ago at the UN and it was truly a work in progress. Palestinians are not yet a known commodity in classical/symphonic/chamber/opera, etc. genre. Let’s hope the future brings progress and change. Are there many Palestinian musicians employed by other orchestras?

      • Petros Linardos says:

        Where are the Arab former members of the West–Eastern Divan Orchestra. The latter was founded in 1999. There must be some highly qualified orchestral musicians, both Jewish and Arab, who have moved on.

  • XAVIER says:

    Daniel Barenboim, what a pathetic figure!
    A megalomaniac with a malignant ego, probably best embodied by a friend of mine, a British officer veteran of the Falklands war not exactly PC quip: the Argentinians are a bunch of Italians speaking Spanish and wish they were British.
    Barenboim is an Argentinian speaking Hebrew and wish he was German.
    I wander what will remain from all his ad maiorem Barrenboim gloriam enterprises, his Philosophical-Musical “Academy” (see Comintern’s International Lenin School), his quer piano, his rapidly aging divan band or his compulsory recordings.
    Money, a lot of money, not in the least to support his hapless son when papa’s buddies wouldn’t feel obliged anymore to share with him the concert podium.

    • Bufffums says:

      Wow this post manages to combine racism, anti-semitism, anti-german at the same time. You are definitely a piece of work Xavier. BTW, you didn’t say anything about music and offer any judgement on DB’s ability as a musician. You are a truly pathetic racist Xavier.