Bepi Pezzulli
International counsel & foreign policy adviser

The misguided Maestro

In an op-ed published by the daily Italian newspaper La Stampa on June 8, entitled “The Disastrous Peace Plan in Palestine”, the illustrious pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim has unwittingly added fuel to the fire on an already controversial issue.

That is because the Maestro allowed his tormented soul to take charge. In short, he has put his emotions before facts, which has led to him to downplay historical accuracy. He claims that peace is like music: a dialogue of counterpoints.

Unfortunately, the Middle East peace process is not at all like music. History does matters and so too do the facts. Analytical rigour hence is of the essence.

In his essay, Barenboim affirmed that Theodore Herzl had “insinuated” in the Zionist narrative the “lie” of a “country without a people for a people without a country”. This is simply untrue.

There is much to be said on the origin, meaning, use and abuse of that phrase. Italia Atlantica’s Israel analyst Niram Ferretti has documented that the phrase was first used by Rev. Alexander Keith, a Christian Restorationist, in his 1844 work entitled, The Land of Israel According to the Covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob (Edinburgh: William Whyte and Co., p. 43).

The same phrase was then reiterated in July 1853 in a letter from Lord Shaftesbury to the British Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston, which was made public knowledge in a later biography on the former written by Edwin Hodder, The Life and Work of the Seventh Earl of Shaftsbury (London: Cassell and Co., 1887, p. 487).

Zionists have consistently been well aware that there was an Arab presence in Palestine. One of the most lucid and influential voices of the Zionist movement, Vladimir Jabotinsky, wrote in his 1923 article The Iron Wall that the real unresolved issue for a Jewish home on the land of its Fathers would be the Arab refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the existence of Israel on a territory considered endowed to Islam in perpetuity. The Palestinian refusal of the Jewish State is therefore existential and not territorial.

Barenboim also misinterprets the circumstances leading to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 (5 Iyar 5708). The proclamation of the State of Israel did not come about because of the tragic events of World War II, but as the final result of the Zionist dream relentlessly pursued over 50 years. It was a dream that was supported in the Balfour Declaration (1917), restated at the San Remo Conference (1920), and took place with the partition of the British Mandate (1922). Ferretti recounts that as early as 1915, Lloyd George had agreed with Chaim Weizmann on the need to establish a Jewish homeland. Weizmann, it is said, was granted this concession for resolving the Royal Navy and the British Army’s shortage of acetone during World War I.

Above all, Barenboim made a crucial mistake. Exporting an ethical debate internal to Israeli democracy in order to feed outside partisanship is a political misstep that fuels hostility towards Israel, and in the end, deters peace.

Respect not only for history, but also for the Jewish people and their right to self-determination is a prerequisite for dialogue if the latter is to flourish.

It is not a dialogue of counterpoints.

About the Author
Bepi Pezzulli is a Solicitor specialised in International law and a foreign policy adviser focused on Israel, the UK and the US. Currently, he is Executive Director of Italia Atlantica, a think-tank based in Rome, Italy. In 2018, he published "The other Brexit" (Milano Finanza Books), investigating the economic and geopolitical implications of Brexit. He is a columnist for the Italian daily financial newspaper Milano Finanza; and a pundit for the financial TV channel CNBC. He received degrees at Luiss Guido Carli in Rome (LLB), New York University (LLM), and Columbia University (JD).
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