Israeli pianist Barenboim takes Palestinian passport

Sun Jan 13, 2008 10:00am EST
 
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RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Daniel Barenboim, the world renowned Israeli pianist and conductor, has taken Palestinian citizenship and said he believed his rare new status could serve a model for peace between the two peoples.

"It is a great honor to be offered a passport," he said late on Saturday after a Beethoven piano recital in Ramallah, the West Bank city where he has been active for some years in promoting contact between young Arab and Israeli musicians.

"I have also accepted it because I believe that the destinies of ... the Israeli people and the Palestinian people are inextricably linked," Barenboim said. "We are blessed -- or cursed -- to live with each other. And I prefer the first."

"The fact that an Israeli citizen can be awarded a Palestinian passport, can be a sign that it is actually possible."

Former Palestinian Information Minister Mustafa Barghouthi, who helped organize Saturday's concert, said the passport had been approved by the previous government of which he was a member and which was replaced in June. The passport had actually been issued about six weeks ago, he added.

Argentine-born Barenboim, 65, is a controversial figure in his adoptive homeland, both for his promotion of German music and vocal opposition to Israel's occupation of the West Bank.

Asked about U.S. President George W. Bush's remarks last week on a visit to the region that a peace could be signed this year, Barenboim warned of the danger of raising hopes too high.

"It would be absolutely horrible if now, with good intentions, expectations are raised which will not be able to be fulfilled," Barenboim said. "Then we will sink into an even greater depression."

Though he dismissed any wish to play a political role, the former music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra took a dig at Bush's strikingly forceful call in Jerusalem last week for Israel to end, in the president's own words, "the occupation."   Continued...

 
<p>Argentine-born Israeli conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim plays during the presentation of the Award for Understanding and Tolerance to him and former BMW CEO Helmut Panke at the Jewish Museum in Berlin November 18, 2006. REUTERS/Miguel Villagran/Pool</p>