An Open Letter to the PACBI re: West-Eastern Divan Orchestra

This letter originally appeared on Wednesday, July 25, 2012, on the official (today archived) Blog of Artists 4 Israel. 

An Open Letter from Craig Dershowitz


I have read your letter to Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process regarding his organization of a concert by the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra (WEDO).

WEDO is an Orchestra consisting of players from Israel, “Palestine” and other Arab Nations. It consists of an equal number of Israeli and Arab musicians. The tag line for WEDO is “Great Music is the Result of Deep Listening”. This is a statement that serves us well in understanding your diatribe against a performance and an organization that seeks to “enable intercultural dialogue”.

In your letter, you express special outrage at the Conductor’s hopes of “overcoming political and cultural differences between the countries represented in the workshop. In this model, an orchestra serves as a good example of democracy and civilized living.” It appears that you are openly advocating against an open society. Worse, you are advocating against civilization. Claiming to be “representatives of the ‘Palestinian’ (author’s internal quotation marks) people” and “the overwhelming majority of ‘Palestinian’ (author’s internal quotation marks) civil society” your words carry great weight and, if listened to deeply, describe the “Palestinian” people as un-civilized.

While it is true that “Palestine” is, in part, ruled by terrorists and that in “Palestine” many minority groups, including artists of all mediums, suffer oppression, intimidation and potential death for their expression of any view that goes against the orthodoxy, I am loathe to call it un-civilized. That you would speak of your own people that way is disheartening. That you would do it publicly and with pride is problematic. That you would do it in a letter to an international organization is threatening.

You threaten music. You threaten WEDO. You threaten inter-cultural dialogue and, worse of all, you threaten hope and peace. Listening deeply, we hear that your biggest concern is with “normalization”. In particular, you rail against the normalization that would lead to “constructive engagement”. You decry the “normal” Israel for being a democracy that excels in the arts. It is as if you would rather “Palestine” be abnormal, undemocratic, uncultured and at a remove from the peaceful progression of time. Either you are liars and true pariahs of the “Palestinian” people or you do represent them and we must question if Israel or the world can ever make peace with a people who bathe in the polluted, artless waters of hate and cultural backwardness.

Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim created WEDO. Daniel is a musical prodigy who gave his first international concert at the age of 10. He has conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra, was Music Director for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, has won a Grammy and has run and funded projects for music education in “Palestine”. If you listen, you can hear the melodies of “Palestinians” seeking music and peace. Let it be louder than your hate-mongering. Edward Said was the author of many, award-winning books, a Professor at Columbia University and a staunch advocate of the cultural uplifting of the “Palestinian” people. If you listen deeply, you can hear pen on paper, Arab writers creating wonderful stories. Mr. Said and Mr. Barenboim believe the Arab people to be cultured, civilized and far above your retrogressive beliefs.

As Daniel Barenboim has said “the open ear is all too often replaced by the unsheated sword”. Unfortunately, when one opens his ears to the fatalistic threats of the PACBI, they hear only the sound of further swords being sharpened. These are swords that not only threaten our people but more greatly threaten the advancement of the Arab World.

PACBI – let us get to normal.

Craig Dershowitz
Executive Director
Artists 4 Israel

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