- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 3, 2004

Beautiful music

Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon believes Arabs and Jews can make beautiful music together if they only try. To prove his point, he hosted a weekend performance of the Israeli-Arab Orchestra of Nazareth.

“Tonight, we are one audience: Muslims, Christians and Jews, respecting each other and celebrating our diversity,” he told the audience at Georgetown University.

“We are joined together by beautiful music that will bond us, bridge our gaps and unify us.”

Mr. Ayalon said he welcomed the opportunity to address a cultural event.

“It is unusual that I am asked not to speak about politics, and tonight is one such special occasion,” he said.

“We all know too well the hurdles and challenges we face in the Middle East, but tonight we leave that behind. We come to celebrate. We come to listen. We come to unite.”

The orchestra that played Saturday night consisted of a Jewish cellist, a Muslim violinist and six Arab Christian performers. In Israel, the orchestra can draw on 40 to 50 musicians of all religious backgrounds to put together touring groups.

The orchestra was founded in 1991 by Suheil Radwan, an Israeli Arab, whose son, Nizar, is the conductor. They perform classical and traditional Arab or Israeli music.

Mr. Ayalon said the orchestra sends a “powerful and inspiring message … of cooperation between Jews and Arabs.” He added that “message is all too often overlooked and ignored.”

“I can think of nothing better than culture to use as something to bridge divisions,” the ambassador said. “We should not deny difficulties; but in the same vein, we must recognize progress, achievements and advances and promote greater understanding between communities.”

Saudi ‘myths’

Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan says the 9/11 commission report cleared his country of a litany of charges that include an accusation that his wife, Princess Haifa al-Faisal, funneled money to terrorists.

“The 9/11 commission has confirmed what we have been saying all along,” the ambassador said in his review of the report’s findings.

“The clear statements by this independent, bipartisan commission have debunked the myths that have cast fear and doubt over Saudi Arabia.”

The commission cleared the Saudi government and senior Saudi officials of charges that they supported the al Qaeda terrorist network.

On Princess Haifa, the commission said, “We have found no evidence that [she] provided any funds to the conspiracy, either directly or indirectly.”

Prince Bandar was also pleased that the commission dismissed charges by leftist filmmaker Michael Moore that the Bush administration arranged for relatives of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to leave the United States before the national airspace was reopened two days after the attacks.

Macedonia maturing

Macedonia proved it could overcome a political crisis and hold reasonably fair elections, but the country still faces serious challenges, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG).

The Balkan nation avoided potential destabilization after the death in February of President Boris Trajkovski. Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski won a two-stage April election to replace the president, even though the opposition raised charges of irregularities.

“The presidential election indicated that Macedonia has attained a certain level of democratic maturity and stability,” the group said in a recent report.

However, the ICG analysts warned that the country’s latest challenge is to decentralize political power to local governments, while keeping promises to give its restive ethnic-Albanian population more control over their lives.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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