Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What Would Edward Said Say? Updates

Barenboim and Said
In a letter to the UN Special Coordinator for the ME Peace Process, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has expressed its dismay that the UN is sponsoring the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra (WEDO). The reason: WEDO's 'agenda' of normalization between Israel and the Palestinians. Amazingly, nowhere in the letter is there mention that the orchestra was the brainchild of the late Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim.

I don't need to spell out the bitter irony encapsulated in this. I'll just provide the conflicting missions of WEDO and PACBI. Think what you will of Edward Said but even he might be appalled by the descent into pure denial of humanity of Israelis that is inherent in this strategy by those who claim to represent Palestinian civil-society.

Here is a brief excerpt from WEDO's mission: "The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra has proved time and again that music can break down barriers previously considered insurmountable. The only political aspect prevailing the West-Eastern Divan’s work is the conviction that there will never be a military solution to the Middle East conflict, and that the destinies of the Israelis and Palestinians are inextricably linked. Through its work and existence the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra demonstrates that bridges can be built to encourage people to listen to one another. Music by itself can, of course, not resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. Music grants the individual the right and obligation to express himself fully while listening to his or her neighbour. Based on this notion of equality, cooperation and justice for all, the Orchestra represents an alternative model to the current situation in the Middle East."

You can read PACBI's problem with it here. It re-rehearses the same injunctions against normalization that are foisted upon any musician and artist who dares perform in Israel as well as Israeli artists and organisations that perform abroad. I've posted my take on the cultural boycott of Israel here, here and here.

Artists4Israel has posted an open letter to PACBI, and Sarah AB at Harry's Place demonstrates how muddled with contradictions is the rage against normalization. Predictably, the UN has been forced to 'postpone' a WEDO concert in East Jerusalem due to the "objections of some groups."

Friday, July 13, 2012

Leonard Bernstein in Jerusalem Three Weeks After Reunification

I've come out my blogging hiatus to share something wonderful for Shabbat. Last weekend I was surfing music documentaries on Netflix and happened by The Journey to Jerusalem, the Maysles Brothers' film about Leonard Bernstein's tour of Israel and celebration concert on Mt. Scopus upon the reunification of Jerusalem after the Six Day War. The film is rough and ready and thrilling. Try to see it. You can also read a contemporary review in the New York Times and a synopsis on the Bernstein website.

The film breathes life into what may be, for some of us, abstract notions of those heady yet solemn days after the war. This YouTube intro may move you. So should seeing Bernstein conducting Isaac Stern and the Israel (formerly Palestine) Philharmonic while Ben-Gurion watches from the steps of the newly liberated Mt. Scopus amphitheatre.