Peace Prospects Go Belly Up?


Now this is really something.

The LA Times blog Babylon & Beyond reports:

Seeing a gorgeous dancer on stage with a heavy-metal band is nothing unusual.

But when the dancer is Lebanese and the singer Israeli and they hold the flags of their respective countries — which remain in a state of war — alongside each other, you have a recipe for potential trouble.

The controversial joint appearance and performance by Lebanese belly dancer Johanna Fakhry (reportedly based in France) and the Israeli heavy-metal band Orphaned Land last month at the Hellfest music festival in Clisson, France only recently emerged in the news and is now stirring the pot.

Amateur video footage purportedly showing the performance depicts a member of Orphaned Land singing in what appears to be Hebrew while Fakhry dances around him wearing traditional belly dancer’s grab and holding a Lebanese flag.

She then approaches the singer and helps him hold a large Israeli flag before taking her own Lebanese flag and brandishing it alongside the Israeli before the audience.

“This is all about peace my friends,” the singer is heard singing in the clip. “We are all brothers and sisters. Now I want to see all of you jumping and party with us, OK?”

The audience responds with cheers and heavy-metal “devil horns” signs. Fakhry and the Israeli start jumping up and down to metal beats holding their flags.

The performance has stirred quite a bit of controversy and prompted much reaction and commentary, ranging from mere shock and outrage to support.

“Shame on her,” read one comment posted under one of the clips uploaded to YouTube that purportedly shows the performance. “She’s putting our Lebanese flag with the … Israeli flag. That’s really shame!!!!!”

Another commentary, meanwhile, applauded Fakhry’s move: “She’s really brave cause she wants peace,” while a third remained indifferent to the political gesture:  “More rock, more dancing … less bullets, rocks and bombs,” it read.

Lebanon and Israel remain in a state of war with each other and it is illegal under Lebanese law for Lebanese citizens to have public dealings with Israelis.

 Update: Further background:

“It was her idea to go on stage with the flags,” lead singer Kobi Farhi told Ynet. “She contacted me on Facebook and wanted us to cooperate and wave the flags. I explained to her that it would be amazing for us, but I didn’t want people to harass her. I didn’t want it to seem that we were using her and that she would be criticized in her homeland.

“But she insisted, despite everything, and I see her as a hero. I had a long conversation with her about the problems in the Middle East, and following the meeting she really wants to visit Israel.”

Update: Johanna Fakhry penned the following letter in response to reactions received.

Facing the amount of mails concerning the deed we’ve done on stage at the Hellfest Festival with Orphaned Land – that is to say raising and uniting on stage both Lebanese and Israeli flag – your worldwide reactions as bad or positive, as hateful or supportive as they can be, led us (Kobi and I) to write a statement explaining and not justifying our behaviour.

First of all, I know that politics, religion or other matters, moreover foreign ones, don’t hold an important place in a festival, but music is a tool for expression, and has to bring messages, history and legacy. This way, I wanted to take this opportunity so rare in history – witnessing on stage an Israeli group and a Lebanese dancer – to say that beyond the artistic exchange and our collaboration for the love of art, we were willing to make it a symbol of Peace. And these two flags that we held as high as the fist can rise, transcends all these years of war and suffering.

We both experimented, endured the vicissitude of this neverending war. But we belong to this new generation – those who behold far the horizon, who open the boundaries. Because the future dwells in metissage and solidarity between men.

Our opinions might separate us, but our fears are binding us together; our Art entwines us, just like metal music.

The escape from a world barely acknowledging us sometimes, or bringing credibility or legitimating our words. I’d say that this world is gonna hear us, as loud as our amplifiers can spit their guts, and for our people to hope for better days.

I’d say that we are the promise of the future.

Following the trail of my thoughts I wanted to thank Orphaned Land for bringing such open-mindedness to metal music and an echo to my request.

We are not the messengers, just the Hand.

Make this world a better place and spread this message of Peace and Unity.

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