Barenboim to lead concert for peace in Jerusalem

Daniel Barenboim, the Israeli conductor and, since January this year, honorary Palestinian citizen, will lead 33 young Israeli and Palestinian musicians in a special "concert for two peoples" in Jerusalem today.

Barenboim said the musicians, some of whom have not played together in public before, will take part in two performances of what he called a concert "against ignorance and lack of curiosity" among the peoples on both sides of the conflict.

The Argentinia-born maestro, champion of Palestinian rights and friend of the late Palestinian intellectual Edward Said, said he would not be taking part in celebrations of the 60th anniversary of Israel's foundation as a state. He said of the anniversary, which to Palestinians is that of the nakba, when hundreds of thousands of refugees fled or were driven from their homes: "It is 60 years of Israel's independence, which also means that it is 60 years of suffering of the people who were here."

Describing today's planned performance including works by Mozart and Mendelssohn as "an anti-political gesture", he added: "This concert is a recognition of the fact that the conflict is primarily a human conflict and has to be solved as such. We have to take this conflict away from the political and military area and bring it back to what it really is."

Along with Mr Said, Barenboim formed the West-Eastern Diwan orchestra. In December, Israeli military officials prevented a Palestinian member of the Diwan group from entering the Gaza Strip to take part in a festival of baroque music there.

This led to the cancellation of a planned performance in a Gaza church when the other musicians refused to cross into Gaza in solidarity with their excluded colleague.