Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim will lead an orchestra of 33 young Israeli and Palestinians in Jerusalem Friday in what he called a concert ''against ignorance and lack of curiosity'' on both sides of the conflict.
At a news conference Thursday in the concert hall of the YMCA on the Jewish side of the city, Barenboim said Friday's two performances, entitled ''A concert for two peoples,'' will be the first time the young musicians have played together in public.
Barenboim, who was born in Buenos Aires and grew up in Israel, has drawn much criticism for his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and his decision to perform the works of Hitler's favorite composer, Wagner. He drew fresh fire in January when it became known that he had accepted honorary Palestinian citizenship in recognition of his work to promote musical education for young Palestinians.
He said Thursday he would not be taking part in festivities later this year marking 60 years since the founding of the state of Israel, which Palestinians mark as the anniversary of what they call al-Naqba, Arabic for 'the catastrophe.'
''It is 60 years of Israel's independence, which also means that it is 60 years of suffering of the people who were here,'' he said.
He described Friday's planned performance as ''an anti-political gesture.''
''This concert is a recognition of the fact that the conflict is primarily a human conflict and has to be solved as such,'' he said. ''We have to take this conflict away from the political and military area and bring it back to what it really is.''
Along with the late Palestinian-American intellectual Edward Said, Barenboim formed the West-Eastern Diwan orchestra, which brings together young Israeli and Arab musicians. Some will be playing in the smaller ensemble Friday in a program of works by Mozart and Mendelssohn.
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, leading to the cancellation of a planned performance in a Gaza church.
''It is not very intelligent to stop activities like this,'' Barenboim said. ''I cannot really see the link between that and the security of the state of Israel, and I think that it's very stupid to provide the 200 people who were going to go and hear this baroque music with one more element of hatred.''