Arab dancers' participation in Israeli festival draws fire from some

Ahram Online, Monday 14 Jan 2013

While some prominent Arab and Turkish belly dancers plan to take part in upcoming festival in Eilat, others condemn idea as treasonous given Israel's ongoing abuse, dispossession of Palestinian people

Arab dancers participate in Israel's belly dancing festival (Photo: courtesy of Eilat dance festival)

Despite longstanding hostility between Israel and the Arab world, a handful of Arab belly dancers plan to take part this month in Israel's International Belly Dancing Festival in the coastal city of Eilat.

On Sunday, Israeli news website Ynet praised Arab entrants in the festival for "not being afraid to come to Israel and vibrate their hips for peace."

The festival, to be held from 16 to 19 January, comes only two months after Israel's November assault on the Gaza Strip in which at least 114 Palestinians – mostly civilians – were killed.

Egyptian belly dancer Nouran Sharif and prominent Moroccan dance instructor Mayoudi are both slated to participate in the event.

Some prominent Arab belly dancers, however, condemned their colleagues' decision to take part in the festival.

Popular Egyptian belly dancer Sama El-Masry, for one, told Ahram Online: "Let them [Arab participants] burn in hell before they go there."

El-Masry, who recently came under the spotlight for a music video she made criticising Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, added that she herself had not received an invitation. If she had, she stressed, she would have vehemently refused it on principle.

Almost three decades have passed since the signing of Egypt's peace treaty with Israel. The peace, however, has remained a cold one, especially in light of Israel's continued abuse and dispossession of the Palestinians people.

Last October, many Egyptians were angered by a letter sent by the Egyptian government to Israeli President Shimon Peres in which the latter was described as "a great and good friend."

Following news of the letter's contents, leading Muslim Brotherhood member Ahmed Hamarawi resigned from the group – from which Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi hails – in protest.

Also taking part in the upcoming dance festival in Israel is Turkish dancer Azad Kann, whose country has had deteriorating relations with Israel since 2010, when Israeli naval forces attacked an unarmed Turkish aid flotilla en route to Gaza. The attack left eight Turkish activists and one American dead.

According to pan-Arab news website Al-Arabiya, a number of Egyptian belly dancers – including Fifi Abdou, Lucy and Dina – have declared their refusal to take part in the festival.

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