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Friday, September 21, 2007

Ban Ki-moon's strange choice of 'peacemakers'

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has named Israel Philharmonic Orchestra conductor Daniel Barenboim as a 'Messenger of Peace.' Barenboim will be honored at a ceremony later today with three other 'Messengers of Peace.'
Barenboim, a world renowned conductor and pianist who was born in Argentina and is an Israeli citizen, co-founded an orchestra that brings young musicians from Israel and Arab countries together. He recently initiated a music education project in the Palestinian territories.
I cannot think of too many more divisive Jewish Israeli figures that Ki-moon could have selected. At the 2001 Israel Festival, Barenboim caused Holocaust survivors to protest in the middle of a concert when he had the orchestra play Richard Wagner's Tristan and Isolde. Wagner was a favorite musician of Hitler and Nazi Germany and his music was often played in the Nazi death camps.
Barenboim was originally scheduled to perform the first act of Die Walkuere (The Valkyries) with three singers, including the famous tenor Placido Domingo. However, severe protests by Holocaust survivors as well as the Israeli government led the reluctant festival authorities to ask for an alternative program.

Barenboim agreed to substitute the offending piece with Schumann’s Symphony No. 4 and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, but expressed regret at the decision. Still, at the end of the concert, he declared that he would play Wagner and invited those who objected to leave.
Since then, Barenboim has taken it as his personal mission to try to force as much Wagner on Israelis as possible; as a result he is rarely invited to play in this country.

One of the previous 'Messengers of Peace' is Elie Wiesel. It's a pity that Ki-Moon obviously did not see fit to consult with Wiesel before making his choices.


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