x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

A peace of music

Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim's "peace concert" in Gaza provided one clear sweet note of unity in the fractious Middle East. Now if only somebody could orchestrate the region's leaders to make beautiful music together.

As the world was preoccupied with Osama bin Laden's demise and the Arab Spring continued to rage, one sweet clear note of Middle East peace has sounded out, from an unlikely source.

To the delight of hundreds of Palestinians, Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim led an orchestra of 25 European musicians in a "peace concert" in Gaza on Tuesday.

While Barenboim has never shied from criticising the Israeli government's treatment of Palestinians, he has always maintained that he is not interested in politics, only in peace.

"I don't talk to prime ministers, to governments, I just operate as a citizen of a region that has seen so much suffering and bloodshed for so many years," the conductor told The National in January, before a performance in Abu Dhabi. "This isn't political, it's human."

Barenboim has for many years struck a perfect note with Palestinians. With the late Palestinian thinker Edward Said, he set up the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, an ensemble of Arab and Israeli musicians which performed in Ramallah in 2005.

On Tuesday, it was Gaza's turn to rejoice in the conductor's musical talent and his openness. "This is a unique gesture from the whole of Europe for you, Gaza," he said to thunderous applause.

We wish someone could orchestrate the region's politicians so well.