Controversy, from Wagner to occupation
The encore for Daniel Barenboim's 1998 recital at the Jerusalem Sherover Theater was dedicated to a Palestinian friend of his from Ramallah who attended the concert. Barenboim told the crowd that Tania Nassir, wife of the president of Bir Zeit University, had been barred from entering the city for many year by the Israeli authorities.
That was the year that the world-famous pianist began forging friendships and work-related ties with Palestinian musicians and scholars - primarily with the late Palestinian-American intellectual Prof. Edward Said, from Columbia University. Said and Barenboim went on to coauthor "Parallels and Paradoxes" (Random House Books, 2004).
Said also became Barenboim's partner in the Diwan East-West Orchestra, which aimed to bring Palestinian and Jewish musicians together. Barenboim has since often performed in Ramallah, where he founded a music education network. In 2004, in a speech at the Knesset, Barenboim read out Israel's Declaration of Independence, and claimed that the occupation of territories located east of the Green Line, in the Golan Heights and in Gaza was a violation of the principles on which the document is based.
His speech managed to alienate many Israelis, who labeled him unpatriotic and disloyal. It especially outraged then president Moshe Katsav and the cabinet ministers. Some people brand him a sensationalistic performer who is out to get headlines. Barenboim says his actions are social and apolitical in essence.