Sunday, August 29, 2004

Quaver vs Quaver

Daniel Barenboim is a fine conductor. The fact that he was the first to conduct Wagner in Israel probably says as much about his passion for his music as it does about his empathy for his fellow Jews. The man has done some admirable things in bringing musicians from all races and creeds to play music together. And indeed it was the man who caught my attention, not the musician. In an extensive interview on BBC TV’s HardTalk or similar program, he was asked about all facets of his life. His answers were measured and intelligent and he came across as a thinker, a liberal man, idealistic, maybe to the point of naiveté. It was only right at the end of the interview that he was asked the inevitable question ‘What do you think about the separation wall?’ that he lost my sympathy.

In the fashion I have come to recognize among the many Jews I know who spend much of their time with goyim (especially the intellectual left-leaning types), he was quick to distance himself from the entire controversy and to condemn it as illegal. He has his right to this opinion and for all I know he might be right. My irritation started when he expounded on his theme as he seemed to bask in the unspoken approval of the interviewer. He went on to explain, in a particularly condescending way, that the wall does not bring security, does not save lives and on the contrary will only bring more grief and more death to the country. Listening to him you could be forgiven for thinking this was the defence-secretary or the army chief-of-staff.

I don’t know in what capacity he answered the last question. I certainly don’t understand in what capacity he was asked it and I resent the implication that by being Jewish and active on the political-left’s propaganda machine, his opinion on the security impact of the wall, matters. What is certain to me is that the people on that side politically, tend to use every opportunity to plug their sound bites for maximum effect and are shameless in their promotion of their ideology.

Borat, or Sasha Cohen, formerly best known for his Ali-G character has shown me the best of genuine Jewish politics-in-art, with his latest shenanigans in a town called Tuscon in the USA. In his own inimitable style he gets on the stage in a little town tavern and starts picking out a song, rather shakily, on his guitar as he sings about the problems of transport in his native Khazakstan. The crowd, about a dozen locals, look bemused and not especially interested, but sportingly claps along a little to “Throw transport down the well”. In the next verse the problem is the Jews -taking all the money and never giving it back- who need to be thrown down the well, and the enthusiasm in the crowd visibly grows. (See clip here)

By the time he repeats the refrain the third time the whole audience seems to be singing along and one woman is even putting her fingers up as horns. A disturbing scene that is telling and revealing yet still entertaining and hysterically funny when you realise who the joke is on in the end.

Sasha Cohen (who incidentally describes himself as an orthodox Jew) knows that he cannot say there is a problem of anti-Semitism even in the United States of America because nobody will believe him. Instead he uses his medium as a TV comedian to prove the point itself. Of course we can argue as to whether his point is a good one, or a valid one but at least it is well made, relevant and in keeping with his profession.

Let Barenboim show me a message with his music as powerful as that and I will respect his music and his opinion more.

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