Article by Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on the promotion of the Barenboim-Said Akademie. Published in the “Tagesspiegel” newspaper on 28 October 2017.
Looking at the Middle East, there are not many grounds for hope. The civil war in Syria has now been raging for over seven years; Israel is surrounded in part by countries at war with it; and the Middle East peace process between Israelis and Palestinians has been treading water for far too long.
Daniel Barenboim has made it one of his life’s missions to stand up against hatred and irreconcilability and to bring people closer together through music. “The impossible is far easier to achieve than the difficult,” Daniel Barenboim said when he conducted the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in Ramallah in 2005. I have never forgotten his words, which epitomise his courage and vision of showing young people an alternative to hatred and antagonism through music.
Thanks to the support of the German Bundestag, the Barenboim-Said Akademie was opened in the heart of Berlin a year ago. It is the only place of its kind in the world, and provides a safe space far away from the crisis-hit regions where Daniel Barenboim gives young Arab and Israeli students the opportunity to play music, study and work together, and in doing so to become open to the other side’s point of view.
The Barenboim-Said Akademie thus stands in its own way for what is also important to us in our cultural relations policy, namely joint cultural activities and endeavours to foster a vibrant civil society by creating culture together.
Since the era of Willy Brandt, cultural relations and education policy have been an essential part of our efforts to bring about peace and stability. Outside the realm of politics, cultural activities prepare the ground that makes political understanding possible in the first place. In conflict-ridden times such as these, we need cultural activities more than ever. That is also why we are supporting the Barenboim-Said Akademie by funding scholarships.
The great statesman Shimon Peres, who died a year ago, stood for overcoming confrontation and animosity so that Israel can one day live in peace with a Palestinian state in part because he firmly believed that peace results “not necessarily from love, but rather need”. Also in view of our own history, working to foster peace in the Middle East remains a key foreign policy task for us.