Friday, May 20, 2011

Prospects for the Middle East

After doing a bit of browsing, I discovered that I wrote the following in November of 2007:

Perhaps we should recall the wisdom of Georges Clemenceau ("La guerre! C’est une chose trop grave pour la confier à des militaires.") and recognize that peace in the Middle East is too serious to be entrusted to political leaders.

The fact is that the only motive behind Barack Obama’s speech yesterday at the State Department was political, not only with respect to the American electorate but also as a head-on confrontation with those who lobby on behalf of Israel, timed the eve of a visit from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  There is no question that Netanyahu’s reaction to Obama’s “redistricting” proposal to address Palestinian needs was more predictable than assuming that the sun will rise tomorrow.  (Wait a minute, aren’t there folks out there convinced that this will not happen?)  The more important question is whether either Obama’s speech or Netanyahu’s reaction is in any way relevant.

To some extent this was a recurring theme in the survey of reactions released on the BBC News Web site, all from countries currently contending with the consequences of the Arab Spring, each in its own way.  Far more relevant is likely to be a piece by Lucy Ash profiling grass roots efforts towards peace originating with an individual Palestinian and an individual Israeli, respectively.  For people like these, the predictability of the rising of the sun is far less important that whether or not you will live to see that next sunrise.  Without peace one cannot plan for a future, because one is far too uncertain about whether or not there will be a future.

In this respect I find it a bit ironic that, a French Web site that streams videos of classical music performances, should schedule an event particularly relevant to those who strive to pursue the cause of peace without carrying any political baggage.  This Saturday at 10 AM San Francisco time, there will be a live webcast of a performance by the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, originating from the Salle Pleyel in Paris.  The ensemble will be conducted by its founder, Daniel Barenboim, based only on the premise that young Arab and Israeli musicians should have the opportunity to come together in the interest of making music.

Not only does Barenboim believe in peace, but also he believes that he can further it through the resources he has at his disposal.  On the basis of his success in working with the young, at the beginning of this month he challenged the Israeli ban on traveling to Gaza.  His goal was to have a small string orchestra give a concert of the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart there.  He had to jump through any number of bureaucratic hoops, but I felt that his ultimate success deserved a report on my national site.

Barenboim’s successes with both young and professional musicians reinforce my trope on Clemenceau.  “Peace in our time” is a shallow piece of political rhetoric, neither better nor worse than “the audacity of hope.”  The real question is whether we can have “peace without politics.”  When Bob Dylan sang about an “old road” that is “Rapidly agin’,” did he not have the political institutions of his time in mind?  Obama, Netanyahu, and just about everyone trying to manipulate foreign policy decisions through the machinations if AIPAC should think about Dylan’s punch line:

Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.

If an “old school” conductor like Barenboim can get it, why can’t the rest of us?

1 comment:

Jim N said...

Thank you for a realistic article about the machinations of politicians who do not want to be too successful s that would put them out of a job. It seems to me they're more interested in maintaining their current power positions.

I have doubts that classical music performances will lessen political pontificating or religious superstition but it certainly won't hurt and could give the performers a much needed sense of accomplishment.