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Israel and Iran agree on something--Barenboim has no business in Tehran.

Who says Israel and Iran cannot agree on anything? They agreed this week that Daniel Barenboim, the Argentine-born musical conductor who also holds Israeli citizenship, has no business taking his Berlin orchestra to Iran to perform.

This saw Iran and Israel standing arm-in-arm and opposing German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who have been promoting the visit.

Barenboim, 72, was born in Argentina. His family moved to Israel when he was 10. Barenboim also holds Spanish citizenship. And he was given honorary Palestinian citizenship several years ago by the Palestinian Authority that rules the West Bank. He lives in Germany.


He is controversial in Israel for the kinds of political views that brought him honorary Palestinian citizenship. He is also often criticized there for promoting the music of composer Richard Wagner, who was adored by Adolf Hitler, but died in 1883, four decades before there was a Nazi Party.

In Iran, however, it is his Israeli citizenship that has done him in.

Iranian Culture Ministry spokesman Hossain Noushabadi announced Sunday that the Berlin Orchestra was unwelcome in Iran so long as he was its conductor.

"The conductor of Germany's symphonic orchestra is affiliated to Israel, considering his nationality and identity. Germany's symphonic orchestra can change its conductor and then request to perform in Tehran, and that request will be studied only then," Noushabadi said.

He slammed the door just four days after the Berlin State Opera (Staatskapelle Berlin) issued a statement saying it "is in talks with Iran about a possible concert in Tehran."


The announcement did not say it would enter talks with Iran. It said it was already in talks with Iran.

That suggested there had been a negative response from prominent clerics to the news last week, and the Culture Ministry felt it was better to close the matter down straight away.

Barenboim is the general music director of the opera house.

Foreign Minister Steinmeier had already agreed to take on the patronage of the concert as he "supports Daniel Barenboim's dedication to making music accessible to all people, irrespective of national, religious or ethnic boundaries," the Staatskapelle Berlin statement said.

Further details of the concert would be announced "once the negotiations have been concluded," the opera house said.

Barenboim's plans drew an angry response first from Israel.

Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev said Wednesday--the same day the Staatskapelle Berlin statement was issued--that she intended to send a letter of protest to Chancellor Merkel calling on her to block the concert.

"In my letter, I shall stress that Daniel Barenboim's appearance in Iran harms Israel's efforts to block the nuclear agreement and gives encouragement to the campaign trying to de-legitimize Israel," she wrote on her Hebrew Facebook page.

"Iran is a state that supports terror, is behind Hezbollah, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas. Its leaders have blood on their hands. I believe that Germany would be acting rightly if it were to cancel the appearance of the orchestra and its conductor," Regev said.

She accused Barenboim of "using culture as a platform for his anti-Israel political views."

Barenboim founded a groundbreaking youth orchestra called the West-East Divan Orchestra in 1999 that brings together Israeli, Egyptian, Iranian, Jordanian, Lebanese and Palestinian musicians. He conducted the Divan Orchestra in a 2005 concert in Ramallah on the West Bank.

He is also controversial in Israel for his efforts to have the music of Wagner performed in the Jewish state.

The prominent Jewish rights group, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, based in Los Angeles, also criticized the concert plans. In a letter to Merkel, a center official, Shimon Samuels, expressed astonishment at her "plan to visit Iran in October" and "at news that you are to be accompanied by the Berlin Staatskapelle, led by its musical director, Daniel Barenboim."

Samuels urged Merkel to "reconsider the mission to Tehran and, above all, to cancel this embellishment --under the cover of music--of Iran's constantly declared nuclear genocidal design to destroy Israel."

Barenboim has not so far said a word about the controversy.

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Title Annotation:Culture: From then to now; Daniel Barenboim
Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Date:Sep 4, 2015
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