Barenboim adds chord to Columbia anti-Zionist tune (JERUSALEM POST) By URIEL HEILMAN NEW YORK 01/29/05)
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Israeli pianist Daniel Barenboim compared Theodor Herzl to Richard
Wagner and Israeli soldiers to Nazis during a lecture this week
on "Wagner, Israel and Palestine" at Columbia University.
Going beyond contrasting the taboo on playing Wagner in Israel and
Israel´s treatment of the Palestinians, Barenboim also won new
converts to the cause of Columbia students who argue that the Ivy
League university is hostile to people who express Zionist
Speaking at the inaugural Edward Said Memorial Lecture, in honor of
the late outspoken Palestinian advocate at Columbia, Barenboim turned
what some thought was meant to be a forum for a discussion of music
and reconciliation into a platform for anti-Israel vitriol, according
to some people who attended the lecture.
"He quickly moved from his inability to play Wagner´s music in Israel
to Israel´s sins of occupation and how Israel lost its moral
legitimacy after 1967," said Prof. Ari Goldman, a dean at Columbia´s
School of Journalism. "He tried to explain that Wagner really wasn´t
such an anti-Semite."
Such public pronouncements aren´t new for Barenboim, who has been an
outspoken critic of Israel´s dealings with the Palestinians, breached
the taboo on playing Wagner publicly in Israel and was close friends
with the late Said. What was particularly disturbing, Goldman said,
was the audience´s muted reaction to Barenboim´s diatribe and its
booing of Goldman when he asked a question challenging Barenboim´s
generalization of Israelis and Jews as hypocrites.
Columbia President Lee Bollinger, who was in the audience, remained
"In this environment, at a time when Columbia is trying to heal its
wounds, it was kind of a shocking thing to see," Goldman
said. "Columbia is trying to heal the wounds with the negative image
it has as an unfriendly place for Jewish students. The last thing you
want to do is present more evidence to this."
After the lecture, Bollinger´s office released a statement saying the
university must be a place that is tolerant of "those who express
unconventional, unpopular, and sometimes even offensive views, with
which we don´t necessarily agree, in the course of public debate."
One Columbia professor said it´s fine for Columbia to respect others´
freedom of speech, but Bollinger should exercise his right to speak
"Bollinger also has his academic freedom," said Robert Pollack, a
biology professor and former dean at Columbia. "This would have been
the chance to stand up. Bollinger stayed silent."
Columbia has been engulfed by a controversy in recent months over
charges that the school´s Middle East studies department is anti-
Israel and that its faculty members have harassed and intimidated
students who express pro-Israel viewpoints. A university committee
has been established to investigate the students´ complaints.
The professors have denied that they have harassed students or
intimidated them, and some students defending them say the
accusations of bias and intimidation are slanderous and a McCarthyite
tactic to chill academic debate on the Israeli-Arab conflict.
Not all Jewish students who attended Monday night´s lecture with
Barenboim were outraged by his remarks.
"While I thought he was being anti-Israel, I thought he was being
sympathetic to the Jewish people," said Batya Rotter, a senior at
Columbia. "He was almost giving a reason for why Israel does what it
does. I actually really liked his message."
Malcolm Hoenlein, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major
American Jewish Organizations, who did not attend the lecture, said
Barenboim´s "hate speech" was outrageous.
"A Jew can be guilty of hatred of other Jews just as much as other
non-Jews–just as a black can be racist against other blacks,"
Hoenlein said. "The first problem was that [Barenboim] was invited"
to Columbia, he said.
"When you have an atmosphere as you have at Columbia, you have to
take care of invitations," he said. "We don´t want to see the
situation there deteriorate even further." (© 1995-2005, The
Jerusalem Post 01/29/05)
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