(photo credit: AP)
Argentinian-born Israeli pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim received honorary Palestinian Authority citizenship on Saturday.
Barenboim, who had been playing regular concerts in the PA - the only renowned Israeli musician to do so - said he was honored by the gesture.
Other Israelis playing in the PA usually did so under Barenboim's baton and as part of his Diwan Orchestra, which includes Israelis, Palestinians and citizens from Arab countries such as Syria and Egypt.
"I hope that my new status will be an example of Israeli-Palestinian coexistence," said Barenboim as he received the new passport at the end of a concert he played in Ramallah. "We have been blessed - or cursed - to live with each other. I personally think we have been blessed."
One of the world's most distinguished pianists as well as an outstanding conductor, Barenboim has been musical director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and of the Staatskapelle Berlin. In May 2006, he took up the coveted position of music director at the La Scala opera house in Milan.
Although he is one of the best-known Israeli musicians of all time, he is considered a controversial figure in the country. Aside from his PA concerts, he drew fire in late 2000 for conducting a Wagner piece in Jerusalem, breaking on his own initiative a 50-year-old ban on the music of "Hitler's favorite composer." The Wagner movement played that evening was not detailed in the concert's program, but rather offered as an encore pending the audience's agreement.
The Right has also criticized him for establishing the Diwan Orchestra with Palestinian-American academic Edward Said, a vocal critic of Israel.
Until now, however, he has never obtained foreign citizenship aside from that of his native Argentina, and he has never played in countries that refused to allow him in on his Israeli passport.
"The fact that an Israeli can get a PA passport means that this is possible. I accept this citizenship because it symbolizes the everlasting bond between the Israeli and Palestinian people," said Barenboim.
Speaking at a press conference after the concert, Barenboim also referred to US President George. W. Bush's recent statements on the conflict.
"Now, even not-very-intelligent people are saying the occupation has to stop," said the musician.
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