A Lebanese bellydancer’s performance with an Israeli heavy metal band at Hellfest in Clisson, France has stirred controversy. Johanna Fakhry’s gesture of holding her country’s flag alongside the Israeli flag carried by Orphaned Land’s lead singer Kobi Fahri has been both praised and decried. Before Fahkry joined the band on stage Fahri said
Music is the best religion in the world
I find this kind of initiative totally absurd. Clearly the dancer involved has no idea what it is like to live in Lebanon today [Johanna Fakhry is based in Paris]. We hear the drums of beating from Israel every day. It is pointless to fly our flags together, that only adds fuel to a constantly burning fire.Under Lebanese law, it is illegal for a Lebanese citizen to have any form of public dealing with Israelis, because we are technically still at war. If Fakhry were a higher-profile dancer or lived in Lebanon, she would probably get into trouble with authorities. And she would certainly get into trouble with her neighbours – the vast majority of Lebanese feel angered and betrayed by her kind of behaviour.
I don’t see how anything good could come from this. There is a path for peace, but this is not a step in the right direction. Real, useful steps would be Israeli leaders around the negotiating table willing to acknowledge – and compensate for – all the lives lost, the human suffering, the damage done.
Roi Ben Yehuda, a New York-based Israeli writer and blogger, posted both Johanna Fahkry and Orphaned Land frontman Kobi Fahri’s response to their critics. Johanna Fakhry wrote in part:
…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….I’d say that we are the promise of the future.
We are not the messengers, just the Hand.
Make this world a better place and spread this message of Peace and Unity.
Kobi Fahri wrote:
…. For me, Johanna is the pure symbol of hope, courage and belief. At first I was afraid that waving both Israel and Lebanon’s flags will cause a huge criticism towards Johanna and I shared with her those fears, yet she insisted that we shall do it and you know why? Not because she supports the governments of our countries, nor the actions of wars we had in the past. But it’s because we hope to end this never ending circle of wars, to create a dialog, understanding, friendship, brotherhood; to create a better world for children who lives in this Orphaned Lands. The past and history are just too bloody & tragic….