Roi Ben Yehuda is a New York-based Israeli writer and blogger. He published
Johanna Fakhry’s response to the dozens of angry messages she received after the performance on his blog.
I think the people angry at this joint performance fall into two camps: The first are those who reject anything positive associated with an “enemy” country or its people. To them Israel/Lebanon is the epitome of evil and one does not dance/play with evil. The second are those who reject any type of activity deemed as “normalization”; which is based on the principle that as long as Israel is an occupying power there should be no contact [between Israelis and others] that expresses a sense of sympathy, symmetry and solidarity.
I disagree with both of these camps. First of all I think that what Johanna Fakhry (and Orphaned Land) did is an example of moral courage – standing up for your values despite all the people (across the world) who would want you to sit down. They should be commended for that. Second, as someone who studies conflict resolution, I’m convinced there is no better way of positively transforming the conflict between Israel and its neighbors without first (or at least concomitantly) transforming the minds and hearts of the people. This, needless to say, is not likely to be achieved through separation. Finally, such artistic collaborations show people there is another way to respond to all the violence and suffering: a way that is at once respectful of identity yet universal.
That being said, a flag is a symbolic address. By brandishing a flag both Fakhry and Orphaned Land can be interpreted as speaking for more than themselves. Naturally, people who don’t agree with them will resent them for doing so.
I think art can influence politics in a positive direction – although it may not have instant and visible success. Non-political music, like Orphaned Land, does so by creating a space for an inclusive salient identity that circumvents the divisive discourse of the conflict. At the end of the day, if a song rocks, it rocks equally in Tel-Aviv, Beirut, or Ankara: fans in those cities will have formed some kind of ties – based on shared values – with each other."