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Wednesday, 6 March, 2002, 14:19 GMT
Barenboim calls off peace concert
Daniel Barenboim
Barenboim: Liberal stance on Middle East issue
Renowned Israeli pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim has called off a concert which he was to have given in the West Bank after Israel said it could not guarantee his safety.

Nothing will break our joint determination to bridge our efforts at working towards a just peace

Concert sponsor Mustafa Barghouthi
Mr Barenboim had said that Wednesday night's concert in the city of Ramallah would be a musical plea for dialogue to end the bloody Middle East conflict.

But the Israeli army said it had banned all Israeli citizens from entering territory under sole Palestinian control and Mr Barenboim was no exception.

Palestinian sponsors of the concert said they were hopeful that the concert could be rescheduled for a later date.

"We have agreed with Mr Barenboim that this will not prevent us from continuing visits to have him visit us in the future," Palestinian activist Mustafa Barghouthi told Reuters.

"Nothing will break our joint determination to bridge our efforts at working towards a just peace."

Continuing bloodshed

Mr Barenboim would have performed the "Recital for Peace" in Ramallah, where Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has been confined by Israeli forces since December.

Palestinian among rubble in Bethlehem
The concert would have taken place amid escalating violence in the Middle East
His initiative came amid some of the worst bloodshed since the Palestinians began their current uprising, or intifada, 17 months ago.

"I express myself by means of music and I find that until now no political solution has been found," Mr Barenboim had told reporters in Jerusalem.

"For those of us who have the possibility of opening up dialogue, I think it's our duty."


Foreign mediators had welcomed the concert, although it met with some criticism within a society which had seen 21 people killed in Palestinian militant attacks over the preceding weekend.

"For a person of Barenboim's stature to go to Ramallah now shows a certain insensitivity to the pain of the average Israeli here," said Ephraim Zuroff, of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Remembrance.

Daniel Barenboim
Barenboim controversially conducted Wagner in Israel
But Miguel Angel Moratinos, the European Union's Middle East envoy, had described the aborted event as "a useful contribution to efforts toward peace, dialogue and understanding between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples".

Mr Barenboim first performed in the West Bank in 1999, appearing alongside Palestinian academic Edward Said, with whom he became friends after a chance meeting in a London hotel foyer in the early 1990s.

For the last three years he has run summer workshops bringing young musicians from Israel and Arab countries together in Germany and the United States.

However, he faced vociferous protests last year when he conducted the overture to a Wagner opera at a Jerusalem music festival.

The BBC's Paul Wood reports from Jerusalem
"Even something as simple as a concert has become the subject of controversy"
See also:

08 Jul 01 | Arts
Barenboim breaks Wagner taboo
30 May 01 | Arts
Protests stop Wagner concert
27 Oct 00 | Middle East
Israeli orchestra breaks Wagner taboo
07 Jun 98 | Middle East
Tel Aviv opera drops plans for Wagner
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