Sharif says those who criticize Barenboim are 'idiotic'

Joseph Fahim
4 Min Read

CAIRO: Egyptian screen legend Omar Sharif referred to Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim a “friend of the Arabs and said that those who criticize him are “idiotic.

In response to the media frenzy surrounding Barenboim’s performance in Cairo,

Sharif defended the musician and said those who criticize him are only looking for publicity.

Sharif will introduce the world-renowned conductor and pianist at the Cairo Opera House’s Main Hall tomorrow. “Mr Barenboim is a friend of the Arab people, he told Daily News Egypt on Monday. “He’s gotten a passport from the Palestinian Authority because he’s trying to make good relations between Palestinians and the people in Israel he likes .

“I think we should encourage those [Israelis] who are willing to give a fair deal to the Palestinians.

Barenboim, who holds Argentine, Spanish and Israeli citizenship, is known for his outspoken opposition to the Israeli government’s treatment of the Palestinian people. He was named Messenger of Peace by United Nations’ Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in 2007 for his work in finding peaceful solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Responding to recent accusations by Egyptian media that dubbed Barenboim’s concert an attempt to normalize relations with Israel, Sharif said, “It doesn’t matter what they say. I don’t follow the brains of idiotic people.

“One of the people who was most insulting to Barenboim, the one who’s most angry, is [popular TV host and journalist] Mahmoud Saad. . He [Saad] wrote a whole issue in Kawakeb magazine on my account, saying I was an Israeli spy. This guy wrote – in order that I don’t sue him – that [these allegations] were made by Edward Said to his very closest friends.

“I don’t understand what he wants. Barenboim was a friend of Edward Said, and he [Saad] should hate them both or love them both. What does he have to do with politics? Nothing at all.

Sharif was approached by Egypt’s Culture Minister Farouk Hosni and Spanish Minister of Culture Cesar Antonio Molina to present Barenboim’s first performance in Egypt. Barenboim will conduct Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 performed by the Cairo Symphony Orchestra.

“I’m very fond of Mr Barenboim as a musician and as a person, Sharif said. “He’s one of the greatest pianists in the world and one of the great conductors. I’m a great lover of classical music. I’ve attended several of his concerts in Paris when he was running the Opera in Paris.

When asked whether he’s concerned about a possible media backlash resulting from his involvement in the concert, Sharif said; “I don’t care. I’m above these people. These people are small people. You don’t answer to small people. You’d spend all your life doing that. I have other things to think about.

“I’m not interested in small people who write in small papers. Who reads these papers apart from in Egypt and in some desert somewhere? Nobody. However, everyone has his opinion; it doesn’t bother me at all.

“I’m never concerned about any backlash. I do what I believe is right. You have to do what you believe in.

There’s been a near local media blackout regarding Barenboim’s achievements and his great support to the Palestinian cause. Sharif said those responsible for withholding this information from the public are “making publicity for themselves. They’re trying to make friends with the extremists so that they’d never get killed. I’m not afraid to be killed. They’re afraid.

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