Maestro Daniel Barenboim brought his troupe of Arab and Israeli classical musicians to Geneva on Friday for a concert dedicated to the late Palestinian-American academic Edward Said and the contentious choice of Jerusalem as this year’s “Arab Cultural Capital.”
In a news conference that featured the iconoclastic Israeli conductor’s usual combination of humor and gravitas, art and politics, Barenboim said his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra offered another way of examining ideals of justice, humaneness and understanding that are often lacking in the Middle East conflict.
The 10-year-old orchestra founded by Barenboim and Said includes Israeli and Palestinian musicians, as well as performers from Arab countries such as Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, and non-Arab states Turkey and Iran.
Barenboim said it was fitting that such a diverse group celebrate the Arab League’s naming of Jerusalem as a cultural capital, even if the choice has angered Israeli authorities who say the entire city is the Jewish state’s undivided and eternal capital.
“The Arab world is not just Muslims. It’s also Christians and Jews,” said the Argentina-born Barenboim, who moved to Israel when he was 9.
“West Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and East Jerusalem will inevitably be the Palestinian capital,” he said. “The city is neither Israeli nor Palestinian. It is universal.”