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September 27, 2002 - Image 33

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-09-27

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TOBIN from page 31

jump to the conclusion that
Barenboim's views on Wagner have
influenced his opinion of the Arab-
Israeli conflict, but that would be
unfair. On this subject, both
Barenboim and Said actually make a
great deal of sense.
Wagner's writings and beliefs about
Jews were, as Barenboim says, "mon-
strous." But he draws a correct distinc-
tion between Wagner's personal anti-
Semitism and "the things we have been
forced to associate with his music."
While Wagner saw his operas as an
all-encompassing art form that had
the power to redeem mankind,
Barenboim seems to understand that
his operas are, after all, just music,
albeit great music.
Despite the fact that after Wagner's
death, his family's Bayreuth Festival
performances of his works became asso-
ciated with Nazism (and this tie lingers
in the minds of many Holo-caust sur-
vivors), the notion that performance of
this music today has anything to do
with anti-Semitism is baseless.
Barenboim was in the right about
the foolishness of bans on Wagner's
music but, nevertheless, wrong when
he attempted to foist such perform-
ances on unwilling Israeli audiences
last year.
Yet what applies to Wagner's politics
goes double for Barenboim's own
questionable beliefs.
His gestures of friendship to the
Palestinians may win him peace prizes
but they do nothing to actually
achieve peace. Playing music for the
Palestinians won't make them stop
killing Israelis. Only defeat at the
hands of Jews with guns, not pianos,
seems to have the power to influence
them in that direction.
Barenboim forgets that German audi-
ences thrilled to Beethoven during the
Holocaust, without it having any
impact on their willingness to murder
What makes him think his
Palestinian audiences are any differ-
ent? Does the fact that he can hold
marvelous dialogues about Wagner's
art change the fact that Edward Said
is a liar and a supporter of terrorism?
Daniel Barenboim may think his
music will transcend the hatred of the
Middle East. As someone who loves
the music that he plays and conducts
so well, I wish that it could.
The unhappy truth is that no one's
music, not even Daniel Barenboim's,
can drown the sound of homicidal sui-
cide bombers any more than the
sound of Wagner could drown the
screams of the victims of the Shoah.

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