Monday, June 1, 2009

Minuets, Sonatas and Politics in the West Bank: Another Excuse for the New York Times to Show its Anti-Israel Bias

The New York Times has an article about the state of classical music in the Palestinian territories, “Minuets, Sonatas and Politics in the West Bank.” In the article we are put face to face with the struggles of Palestinian children and adults as they strive to transcend the struggles of the world around them through embracing music. For those of you under the impression that the Palestinians have done nothing but produce a generation of jihadists and suicide bombers, “a new generation of Palestinians who have been swept up in a rising tide of interest in Western classical music in the last several years.” Now you may ask who is to blame for the difficult situation these people are in. The New York Times’ evenly balanced response is that both the Israelis and the Palestinians are at fault through their mutual prejudices. The author, Daniel J. Wakin, notes that: “across the border in Israel, which has a mother lode of classical music talent, there is little awareness that Palestinians are pursuing the same artistic tradition. That is perhaps no surprise in a conflict where mutual ignorance is prodigious.”

I have no problem with writing stories about the real life struggles of Palestinians trying to make a better life for themselves. I actually sympathize with them. If I were writing this story it would be about my belief in the power of music to defeat tyranny and put a candle to darkness. This would lead me to asking questions like how much money is being sent by Arab countries to support music programs in the Palestinian territories or why have the Palestinians, or the Arab world for that matter, not produced a world class orchestra like the Israeli Philharmonic. Could it be that a society that values suicide bombers more than musicians has no interest in peace and should not be trusted to make peace?

Thomas Friedman famously observed that no two countries with McDonalds in them have gone to war with each other. The reason for this is that a McDonalds requires the existence of a well developed middle class, a group of people notorious for not wanting to fight wars. I would add a corollary to this principle: any country that does not have a McDonalds should not be trusted in a peace treaty. There are simply too many entrenched powers open to breaking it. Following this line of reasoning, I propose that we add a world class classical orchestra to this list. To build a world class orchestra requires a society that cultivates higher culture. In my mind this is a reason to take a leap of faith with them to make peace. So here is the Benzion Chinn doctrine for signing peace treaties. If you wish to make a treaty with me you better have a Starbucks in your country for me to sign the treaty in. (There are no kosher McDonalds outside of Israel and Starbucks represents the same middle class values to an even greater extreme.) You must also produce a homegrown world class classical orchestra to come to this Starbucks and play for us while we sign.

So here is to world peace over a venti latte to the accompaniment of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”


Anonymous said...

Benz, didn't the Germans have world class symphony orchestras? Did that keep them from going to invading Austria, which also had world class symphony orchestras? And fortunately, it did not keep the UK or the US, which both had some world class symphony orchestras, from declaring war on both.

Just asking.
--Uncle Jack

Izgad said...

That was a thought running through my head when I wrote this and for this reason I put in that this is “a reason to take a leap of faith.” The Holocaust gets in the way of all the best humanist hopes, but I still like to cling to them. Think of my statement as the ground for actually starting negotiations. Whether one actually makes peace at the end is a different story. You do not negotiate with a rabid dog. If one crosses your path you shoot it, no ifs and or buts. (Normal dogs are quite reasonable and you can negotiate with them particularly if a cookie.)I believe that there are people out there that are the moral equivalents of rabid dogs. You do not negotiate with them; you simply kill them down to them, men women and children. So what would it take to convince me that the Palestinians can be negotiated with? It would certainly help if Palestinian TV was full of Palestinian children talking about how they want to grow up and be like Mozart and Beethoven. (Notice I said Palestinian TV and not the New York Times.)