The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra was established by Barenboim and Palestinian-American Edward Said. It includes Palestinian and Israeli members and is based in Berlin.
Last year the orchestra performed with Barenboim at the annual Katara music festival in Qatar – to much acclaim. In light of the success, the orchestra was invited to take part in this year's concert, which was set to begin on Tuesday.
The event was supposed to include three concerts featuring the orchestra under Barenboim's lead as well as a debate at a local university on the subject of "music as a contribution to peace."
Said died nine years ago, his widow was among those invited to the debate. Everything was ready, thousands of tickets were sold, but just a few days ago Barenboim was surprised to hear that the Qatari authorities announced that the festival was cancelled.
The reason? "Sensitivity to the developments in the Arab world." The official announcement further stated: "We are aware of Maestro Barenboim's special talents, but the festival under his lead is cancelled."
Apparently this is only a diplomatic pretext and the reality may be that the Qatari authorities surrendered to the pressure that was put on them by the Palestinian organization for boycott on Israel.
The Arab media insisting that the reason for the cancellation is the fact that "Barenboim represents the occupation" – a strange claim in light of the fact that Barenboim has expressed his enthusiastic support for the Palestinian struggle for statehood and self determination and has even been awarded an honorary Palestinian passport.
Editorials in newspapers throughout the Arab world stated: "This isn't the time or place to entertain Israelis and a Zionist conductor. Qatari authorities are giving the Zionist maestro an opportunity to present a seemingly positive aspect of Israel."