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Israeli Orientalist Festival in Morocco Bellyflops

Moroccan BDS activists who say NO to normalisation with apartheid Israel have claimed victory with the cancellation of the second Mediterranean Delight International Belly Dance Festival which was to be held in Marrakech in May. The Festival has now relocated to Loutraki, Greece in June. It is produced by Israeli Simona Guzman, also involving owner of an Israeli belly dancing school, Asi Haskal, and Israeli belly dance teacher Anabel.

While the Festival site is available in English, Hebrew and other languages, there is no Arabic version, highlighting the exploitative orientalism of the Festival.

Guzman is crying foul:

“I cancelled it because I didn’t receive any authorization and I was afraid for the safety of my participants,” festival producer Simona Guzman told AFP.

Islamist members of parliament and pro-Palestinian associations had criticized the invitation to the Israelis for the May 10 festival.

Criticism over the Israeli presence was first heard last year when the festival was also held in Marrakesh, but the event went off without mishap.

On her Facebook page, Guzman falsely blames “fanatic Moroccan islamists movements” for her cancellation and exposes her racism and bigotry. According to Moroccan news source, Scoop, the Festival was cancelled due to the participation of Israelis. However, objections to the Festival came from across the Moroccan community, regardless of religious view. Guzman further admits on her Facebook:

While the pressure increased, we were asked by the Moroccan authorities to ask for an authorization to produce the festival in Moroccan Territory, a thing that was never asked before. We were suppose to receive an immediate confirmation, but the Moroccan bureaucracy has it’s own time, and time is running short.

The Festival was opposed by Moroccan BDS activists because it was organised by Israelis and aimed at whitewashing Israeli crimes.

Elsewhere, in Hespress, Guzman denies being Israeli and claims to be a Turkish citizen, while on Rue 20 she is said to have “family roots in Turkey and Morocco” and “responded she was surprised by reports in the Arabic media that the event had stirred controversy in Morocco because Israelis would be present”. Yet on her own site she is described as “among the leading belly dancers in Israel”, and offers bellydancing classes in Israel.

‘I teach belly dancing to women of all ages – ranging from high school students to pensioners.

The classes are offered privately, at “Studio C” at “Derech Haim House” and Beit Danny in Tel Aviv and in many other locations.’

The Festival website, bellydancefestival.net is registered to

simona guzman
moshe basula 1
tel aviv, israel, tel aviv 69869
Israel

At the present time, the Belly Dance Festival website shows the transition to the new venue and dates – the homepage and registration have been changed, still many of the associated Moroccan activities have not been altered.

The Festival is partly sponsored by Israeli business Sea of Spa, based in Arad, whose website is owned by Yuval Yarin Dead Sea Ltd. Sea of Spa claims to be “a family business that was founded in 1998, though its activities at the Dead Sea began at the end of the end of 1980s.” YYDS Ltd also owns seaofspa.biz.

Sea of Spa products are marketed, along with Ahava’s, on deadseaofspa.com “founded in 1999. Dead sea of spa.com is a web store dedicated for dead sea and other products related to Judaism and the state of Israel”. seaofspa.com and deadseadeal.com market Sea of Spa products too and have the same domain owner information which coincides with the contact information on the aforementioned storefronts. Ahava.co and seaofspa.us are also owned by the same organisation.

new dead sea
pob 507
arad, 80700
Israel

The visit of the ex-Israeli Consulate from New York, now Head of European Parliament Liaison Department – Mission of Israel to the EU, David Saranga, was also the target of Moroccan protest last week.

On Sunday, Israeli diplomat David Saranga was forced to cut short a working visit to Morocco after tens of thousands of people took part in a pro-Palestinian protest in front of the parliament in Rabat where he was attending meetings.

Saranga, Israel’s representative at a meeting of the Euro-Med organization that groups the 27 EU states with Israel, the Palestinian Authority and eight Arab countries in the region, was escorted out of the parliament at the end of the meeting and – instead of spending another night in the Moroccan capital – was taken directly to the airport and put on a flight to Paris.

Palestinians have called for boycott, divestment and sanction of Israel until they receive their just human rights guaranteed under international law.

Congratulations to BDS Maroc for successfully fighting normalisation with apartheid oppression. Morocco, which has been exploited by Israel as a playground for normalisation, is now at the forefront of the anti-normalisation campaign.

UPDATE 24/4/12

Moroccan belly dancer Nour withdrew from the festival after becoming aware of the BDS anti-normalisation campaign. Translation of scanned material below:

The people against normalization with Israel are getting ready to face off against the Belly Dance Festival. (written in yellow)

Khalid Alsoufiani. with the National Labor group for the support of Iraq and Palestine disputes Guzman’s claim that she is Moroccan, (she claims her mother is Turkish) Khalid said that if Guzman was speaking the truth then she needs to leave Israel and move to Morocco then.

Noor (dancer who cancelled): Don’t entangle me in this troublesome situation with this festival, I’m not going to participate in it.

Kuzman: I am from Moroccan origins and seek for peace
Anti-normalisation activists prepare to face the oriental belly dancing festival

Last year, a Zionist delegation of 17 dancers participated in the festival.. so how many dancer will they participate this year?

Last year, Al-Tajdeed (renewal) newpaper which was owned by the minister of telecommunications and the spokesperson of the new government, published an article on its front page about the the Zionist dancer who is gonna visit Marrakesh to teach the Moroccan girls how to shake their bellies in the capital of Yusuf Bin Tashqin. So what the newspaper is going to write this year which is a tool to Adala and Tanmiya (Justice and development) party?

The activists of Al-Misbah (Lamp) party protested last year in front of the hotel which organised the festival demanding to punish who allowed it to be organised, and kick the Zionist dancers out. Who is going to punish whom this year? who is going to kick the Zionists out? adding: “how come some business men allow themselves to let their classy hotels host Zionist dancers, and at the sametime they claim their support for the national issues and not promoting alcoholic drinks in their markets.” Summing up: The second version of the oriental dancing festival which was organised from the 6th-11th of May.

Related Links:

Youth and BDS groups corresponded with PM Benkirane to cancel the Festival because of its normalisation of zionist oppression against Palestinians.

BDS Maroc calls for cancellation of an Israeli company exhibition in the printing industry and associated sales activities, while Moroccan Palestinian solidarity organisations demand the Moroccan government criminalise normalisation with Israel.

A new report on the complicity of Hewlett-Packard with the policies of the occupation

4 comments to Israeli Orientalist Festival in Morocco Bellyflops

  • […] Israeli Orientalist Festival in Morocco Bellyflops […]

  • DanceforLife

    If your interest is truly in helping the Palestinian people it would help your cause greatly if you could realize that at all times in history it has been the dancers and the musicians were usually the ones to bring people together over and above ideological and religious differences and are as a group most likely to NOT be the supporters of any “apartheid” system…

    If one wants to boycott, then boycott the monsters, don’t just boycott someone because they might be a citizen of a country that you don’t like and seem to have a complete and blind hatred for. There are more citizens of Israel and Jews in this world that actually care about changing this system than you realize. And no, they won’t submit to simply being “pushed into the sea” as many of your friends seem to advocate. There ARE other solutions…

    In the meantime stop persecuting those of us who wish to come together in dance.

    Jinjirrie had made a comment elsewhere about this being “Appropriating Arabic culture and rebranding it for western consumption”…

    Please… how much of western culture have you “appropriated”? Even the computer and the cell phones that you used to write about and sabotage this festival with, could be considered as having been “appropriated from western culture”.

    Is it possible to look at it in a way of that there are aspects to all cultures that are enjoyable and beautiful and deserve to be shared with the world and if they affect another culture with their beauty, then so much the better. Hardly an “appropriation”, just a sign of one place that we can share.

    Let the rest of us learn to enjoy our lives together… or is THAT something you might have fear of? If so, I invite you to let go of that fear for that fear is what keeps people at each other’s throats..including Israelis and Palestinians…. and now Moroccans?… that’s sad…

    Yes, someday normalization with Israel is going to happen and someday Israel’s normalization with Palestinians and other Muslims is going to happen too… That is the day we all can live and pray for.

    And someday all will realize that dancers are not prostitutes by nature and that dance is not “pornography”.

    Meanwhile please leave our dance festivals alone…. Better yet, come and enjoy them and see what people coming together through dance and music can create and model for the world…

    …and if you are an Arabic speaker, possibly you can help set up web pages in Arabic so the dance festival’s publicity can be more inclusive…

    I mean it… there are other solutions besides hatred…

    • I suggest you quit with the ad hominem and assumptions about me, and focus on the issue of normalisation which the Festival represented so you understand why Moroccan people across the board rejected it.

      “The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has defined normalization specifically in a Palestinian and Arab context “as the participation in any project, initiative or activity, in Palestine or internationally, that aims (implicitly or explicitly) to bring together Palestinians (and/or Arabs) and Israelis (people or institutions) without placing as its goal resistance to and exposure of the Israeli occupation and all forms of discrimination and oppression against the Palestinian people.” [2] This is the definition endorsed by the BDS National Committee (BNC).

      So long as Israel’s oppression continues, any engagement with Israelis (individuals or institutions) that is not within the resistance framework outlined above, serves to underline the normality of Israeli occupation, colonialism and apartheid in the lives of people in the Arab world. It is, therefore, imperative that people in the Arab world shun all relations with Israelis, unless based on co-resistance. This is not a call to refrain from understanding Israelis, their society and polity. It is a call to condition any such knowledge and any such contact on the principles of resistance until the time when comprehensive Palestinian and other Arab rights are met. ”
      http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1749

      When white South Africa practised apartheid, it was performers who visibly led the way in resistance and boycott of that regime, refusing to play Sun City, to normalise the segregation and bantustans. If such events as the Mediterranean Delight Festival wish to avoid boycott, they need to reorient themselves in the light of the request by Palestinian people for co-resistance.

      Thus rejection of Israeli apartheid, colonialism and oppression by supporters of boycott, divestment and sanction is political, not religious. There are fundamentalists in most religions who take a prudish hardline against pornography etc, yet this is not the crux of the matter in this case. Israel is no exception for example, with its orthodox Judaic sexists who demand segregation on publc transport, spitting at women whom they regard as immoral, amongst other outrages.

      Your request that an Arabic speaker should translate the Festival page is disgraceful and patronising – if the Festival was not an orientalist manouevre to re-brand Arabic culture and to place the Israeli stamp upon it as surely as Israel has re-branded hummus and other Arabic products, the page would already have been translated to Arabic as a mark of cultural respect to the Arabic country, Morocco, in which it was planned to be held.

      You also might note that it is Israel who has been pushing Indigenous Palestinians into the sea since 1947 – a deliberate genocide planned by zionist northern europeans which continues to this day.

      Please take the time to learn more about BDS, and support the struggle of Palestinians by adherring to their guidelines for resisting the oppression which apartheid Israel inflicts upon them.

      http://bdsmovement.net/call