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Germany's best-known Jewish musician has used a prestigious awards ceremony to demand that Israel recognize the "sorrow" of the Palestinians and withdraw from the West Bank.
Famously left-wing conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim, an Israeli expatriate who was born in Buenos Aires, made his comments while accepting the Award for Understanding and Tolerance from German Chancellor Angela Merkel at Berlin's Jewish Museum Saturday night, for promoting reconciliation between Israel and its neighbors.
Barenboim conducts a multi-faith orchestra made up of Israelis and Arabs that tours the world.
Barenboim said Israel needed to show more tolerance toward its neighbors. "We cannot forget the values that were respected in the whole of Jewish history, namely dignity, generosity and intelligence," said. "We must acknowledge the sorrow of the Palestinians. This doesn't make us weaker. We must remember that Israel at its foundation promised all citizens equality, including the non-Jewish ones."
He also said, "We, the Jewish people, have no right to occupy the territories, and we must find the intelligence and strength to fight for peace - in fact, with at least double the intensity with which we led war. That is our Jewish heritage."
Barenboim is no stranger to controversy. In January 2005, he compared Theodor Herzl to Richard Wagner and IDF soldiers to Nazis in a lecture on "Wagner, Israel and Palestine" at Columbia University in New York.
Barenboim, the general music director of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden opera house in Berlin, also famously breached the taboo on playing Wagner's music publicly in Israel and was close friends with the late Palestinian academic Edward Said.
The ceremony at the Jewish Museum came days after Merkel awarded its director, former US treasury secretary Michael Blumenthal, 80, the highest accolade of the German state for his work in promoting understanding.
Blumenthal, who fled his native Berlin with his parents shortly before the outbreak of WWII, has homes in both Princeton, New Jersey, and Berlin.