Berlin orchestra’s Tehran concert blocked by Iran

Iran has barred famed conductor Daniel Barenboim from entering the Islamic republic because of his Israeli citizenship, thwarting his plan to lead a performance in Tehran, media reported Sunday.

Berlin orchestra's Tehran concert blocked by Iran
Daniel Barenboim. Photo: DPA

Barenboim, the 72-year-old general music director of the Berlin State Opera House, said Thursday he was in talks with Iran about a concert, in what would have been a major example of cultural diplomacy.

But an Iranian culture ministry spokesman, Hossein Noushabadi, said an investigation meant Barenboim could not enter the country for “security reasons”, though the Berlin orchestra was welcome.

“We have no problem with the German orchestra coming to Iran, but we are opposed to the person leading that group,” Noushabadi said, quoted by news agency ISNA.

“He has multiple nationalities and one of them is Israeli. For security reasons and to prevent issues following the entry of certain people into Iran, we stopped it.”

Barenboim also holds Argentinian and Palestinian citizenship.

“Our reviews revealed that the conductor has nationality and identity dependence to Israel, was raised in Israel and his parents have also lived there,” Noushabadi added.

“So the suspicion of him being related to that country, which is illegitimate to us, was there.”

Iran does not recognise Israel as a state, usually referring to its leaders as “the Zionist regime”.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is expected in October to travel to Tehran following a July 14 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, had agreed to back the concert.

Steinmeier did so because he “supports Daniel Barenboim's dedication to making music accessible to all people, irrespective of national, religious or ethnic boundaries,” a statement said.

Israel has been the world's most vocal opponent of the nuclear agreement between Iran and the United States, Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany.

Barenboim's plans had drawn an angry response from Israel, whose Culture Minister Miri Regev said she intended to send a letter of protest to German Chancellor Angela Merkel asking her to block the concert.

She accused Barenboim — who founded a groundbreaking youth orchestra called the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in 1999 bringing together Israeli, Egyptian, Iranian, Jordanian, Lebanese and Palestinian musicians — of “using culture as a platform for his anti-Israel political views.”

He is also controversial in Israel for his efforts to have the music of Richard Wagner, the German composer adored by Adolf Hitler, performed in the Jewish state.

The prominent Jewish rights group, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, also hit out at the concert plans. 


Former Israeli soldier attacked on Berlin street

A former Israeli soldier was attacked in the German capital Berlin, police said Saturday, with one or several unknown assailants spraying him with an irritant and throwing him to the ground.

Former Israeli soldier attacked on Berlin street
Israeli soldiers on operation near the Gaza Strip. Photo: dpa | Ilia Yefimovich

The 29-year-old was wearing a top with the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) logo when the attackers started harassing him on Friday about his religion, the police added, calling it “an anti-Semitic attack”.

Officers are seeking the assailants, who fled immediately after the attack, on suspicion of a politically-motivated crime.

Saturday is the second anniversary of an attack by a far-right gunman on a synagogue in the eastern German city of Halle, who killed two in a rampage when he failed to break into the house of worship.

It was one of a string of incidents that led authorities to declare the far right and neo-Nazis Germany’s top security threat.

Also this week, a musician claimed he was turned away from a hotel in eastern city Leipzig for wearing a Star-of-David pendant.

While the allegations prompted a fierce response from a Jewish community unsettled by increasing anti-Semitic crimes, several investigations have been mounted into contradictory accounts of the incident.

In 2019, police recorded 2,032 anti-Semitic crimes, an increase of 13 percent year-on-year.

“The threat is complex and comes from different directions” from jihadists to the far right, the federal government’s commissioner for the fight against anti-Semitism Felix Klein said recently.