Harmony Beat

William Harvey's thoughts about cultural diplomacy and news about Cultures in Harmony, the non-profit he founded in 2005.

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Location: San Juan, Argentina

violinist, violist, educator, composer, conductor, arranger, cultural diplomat

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Nuclear deal with Iran

These views are William Harvey's personal views and do not represent the position of Cultures in Harmony, which as a 501(c)(3) does not take positions on political issues.

After many years of enmity and mistrust, we have reached a nuclear deal with Iran that our Congress should support.

First, our country has a long-standing tradition of granting the president authority to conduct foreign policy. In 1948, a Republican senator, Arthur Vandenberg, overcame his political differences with the Democratic Truman administration to support the creation of NATO, famously declaring that “politics stops at the water’s edge.” What has happened to Sen. Vandenberg’s legacy of bipartisanship? 

Sadly, Sen. Tom Cotton’s letter has already eroded that legacy. How would Republicans have reacted if anti-war congressional Democrats had written to the President Chirac, or even to Saddam Hussein, to communicate their lack of support for President Bush’s war against Iraq? Yet it is not too late to remember the spirit of Sen. Vandenburg and the patriotic American tradition of presented a united front abroad, provided that Congress takes no further action to prevent negotiations from proceeding.

Second, if we cannot support our president in foreign negotiations, we damage our relationship with our allies. We have no better friends than the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. Their trust in our integrity will suffer if, after they have stood by us throughout difficult negotiations, opposing elements within our own government block our ability to honor the commitments we have made. 

Third, if other world leaders sense we are once again a “house divided against itself,” as Lincoln put it, they will exploit this internal division to further weaken us. If they don’t like what our president and State Department offer them, they’ll simply shop around among members of the opposing party to try to get a better deal.

Fourth, if our country and Iran can overcome a difficult history, we might find that we have more in common than we think. Yes, they took over our embassy in 1979, but we overthrew their democratically elected leader in 1953 and shot down their civilian airliner in 1988. For four years, I had the privilege of living in Kabul while teaching violin in Afghanistan. While there, I got to know several Iranian people and learned to love the beauty of the Persian culture and language. Without hesitation, I can assure you that Iran and the USA can work to overcome this history and build a future based on shared values and interests, such as our common goal of defeating the Islamic State. There are many countries with which we exchange ambassadors (Saudi Arabia, Russia, and China come to mind) with which we have more insuperable cultural and political differences than we do with Iran.

Finally, Republican opposition to the negotiations appears to be primarily based on concern over what would happen if Iran got a nuclear weapon, a desire to protect Israel, and disgust at anti-Jewish statements made by Iranian leaders. Iran would not be able to build a nuclear weapon under the new deal, and furthermore, Ayatollah Khamenei has already issued a fatwa stating that nuclear weapons are prohibited in Islam. If members of Congress wish to show concern over foreign states’ nuclear weapons, they would be wise to raise their voices about the nuclear weapons that Israel probably has and that Pakistan definitely has, rather than weapons Iran does not have and does not seek to produce. 

Iran’s leadership, though clearly not in agreement with Western allies on many issues, is ultimately pragmatic, and would never risk a crippling war with Western powers by threatening Israel. They suffered enough during their catastrophic war with Iran, instigated by Saddam Hussein, then an ally of the US. Many of our current allies, closer geographically to Israel than Iran is, routinely voice and act upon anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish sentiments.

If we base our foreign policy on isolating countries whose governments or populations oppose Israel, we would be unable to sustain relations with any Muslim-majority countries, which would be a foolish proposition. Indeed, Iran has a larger Jewish population than any Muslim country except Turkey and Azerbaijan, and Iran guarantees a seat in its parliament for Jews, ensuring that we will have a voice. This is clear evidence that Iran makes a distinction between Israel and Jews, whom it protects better than any Arab country.

As a person proud of my Jewish ancestry, I assure you that Israel does not speak for all Jews, but also that I am as concerned for Israel’s security as you are. The tentative peace reached at Lausanne protects Israel far better than war or continued sanctions. 

As a patriotic American, I am grateful to my government for working to create a more peaceful world.

As a voter, I urge Congress to respect the American political tradition, so beautifully embodied by Sen. Vandenberg’s famous saying, of delegating to the president the authority to conduct foreign policy. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Video about our deputy director in Pakistan

Check out this video by the US Consulate General in Lahore about CiH Deputy Director Kimball Gallagher's recent trip to Pakistan!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Congratulations to Gulalai!

Congratulations to Gulalai Ismail, founder of Aware Girls, for winning the Commonwealth Youth Award for Asia! Cultures in Harmony partnered with Aware Girls on last month's project in Pakistan. Gulalai also got to meet HM Queen Elizabeth II.

Gulalai (center of photo) meets with HM Queen Elizabeth II after winning the award

Me with Gulalai after the CiH benefit concert for Aware Girls at Kuch Khaas in Islamabad, Pakistan, on February 1, 2015

Friday, March 06, 2015

Pakistani Passacaglia video now public

The first piece created as part of our Passacaglia Project, can now be viewed via this public video taken at the world premiere on February 1, 2015, at Kuch Khaas in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

From Okemos to Afghanistan and back: in 29 years!

In September 1986, I started learning violin with Cheryl Hudler at Okemos High School. I was almost 4 years old. On February 25, 2015, in Kabul, Afghanistan, I performed Raga Pillo with rubab and tabla. And yesterday, students at Okemos High School watched the video of that performance! Thank you to Okemos High School Orchestra Director and CiH project participant Joel Schut for arranging this!

Monday, March 02, 2015

Crossover performance from Kabul

Want to see 2 Afghan and 1 American musician go absolutely crazy—in an awesome way? Check out the brilliant, peerlessly charismatic rubab virtuoso Ramin Saqizada, the rock-solid tabla wizard Fraidoon Myayee, and myself on violin playing a version of Raga Pillo that starts with one of the most difficult Indian rhythms—9.5 beats!—and finishes with a teentaal (16-beat) section played at head-banging, neck-breaking velocity. Can I keep up with the fastest fingers to caress the rubab strings at near-light speed? Of course not...but I do try!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Iranian-American cultural diplomacy

It is great to see that Iran is engaging in cultural diplomacy by bringing jazz saxophonist Bob Belden and his group to play there, making them the first American musical group to tour Iran since the revolution. I hope they will be the first of many groups.