The performance, scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 16, was part of an ongoing Baroque music festival, supported by the Barenboim-Said Foundation, the Consulate General of France in Jerusalem and other organizations, taking place throughout Israel and the Occupied Territories.
According to the Associated Press and The Jerusalem Post, 27-year-old Ramzi Aburedwan of Ramallah (in the West Bank) was stopped at the border by Israeli authorities and told he needed, and did not have, individual permission to enter Gaza. While the other musicians were cleared for entry, they refused to proceed without their colleague. Aburedwan was taken to a police station and questioned for two hours, according to the Post, while the 19 angry musicians remained at the border crossing for more than five hours and then returned to Ramallah.
An Israeli Defense Ministry official told the Post that Aburedwan "was not registered in our system as having the correct permits," while the musician himself wrote in a statement that "the group had all secured security clearance in coordination with the Israeli authorities via the Consulate General of France in Jerusalem to enter Gaza."
The following day Barenboim and the entire ensemble performed their program in Ramallah in solidarity with the people of Gaza, according to the paper.
That same day, the conductor — who has for years been a controversial figure in Israel, due to his criticism of the government's policies in the occupied territories and his attempts to defy the country's unwritten ban on performing Richard Wagner's music — sharply criticized the authorities for detaining Aburedwan.
"You're not going to tell me that the security of Israel was at stake!" the AP quoted Barenboim as saying.
"A Baroque music concert in a Roman Catholic church in Gaza, as we all know," he continued, "has nothing to do with security and would bring so much joy to people who live there in great difficulty."