a belly dancer performs in Rabat, Morocco_370.
(photo credit: Reuters/Rafael Marchante)
Just days after an Israeli diplomat was forced to cut short a working visit to
Morocco on Sunday, and a day after a Jewish man was murdered in Fez on Monday,
an international belly dancing festival set to take place in Marrakech in May
has come under fire for including performers from Israel, Arab media
“This is an international festival and it is about promoting
art, it is not political,” Simona Guzman, who will perform and run workshops at
the third annual International Belly Dance Festival, told The Jerusalem Post
“We are talking about the body language of dance, and there is
no distinguishing between people’s nationalities,” she said. “It makes no
difference if someone is Jewish, Muslim or Christian.”
Guzman, who also
participated in the event last year and whose family has roots in Turkey and
Morocco, responded that she was surprised by Arab media reports that the event
had stirred up controversy in Morocco because Israelis will be
One Israeli who will be participating in the festival is Asi
Haskal, stylist and owner of a Tel Aviv belly dancing school.
to reports, over the past few days some groups released statements attacking the
festival, which criticized not only Israeli participation but also the arousing
style of dance – which is perceived to be offensive to conservative
Others have expressed anger that the festival’s official website
appears in eight languages – including Hebrew – but does not feature Arabic.
Some political and religious groups have even called for the festival to be
On Sunday, Israeli diplomat David Saranga was forced to cut
short a 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
Saranga, Israel’s representative at a meeting of the
Euro- Med organization (which 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.
Meanwhile, police are investigating whether the murder
of a Jewish man in Morocco – a day after Saranga’s evacuation – was
nationalistic or criminally motivated.
The victim, identified as
Benjamin, was struck in the head repeatedly by a hammer on Monday in the
northern city of Fez, according to reports citing Moroccan media. The attacker
fled the scene and has not been captured, according to reports.
was a rent collector from Jewish-owned properties, according to Ynet. Police
reportedly have ordered an autopsy Guzman, however, said that she found the
anti-Israel sentiment strange given the warm reception she has received in the
country in the past. “In all places there are extremist people but they do not
represent all the people because the festival has received a lot of local
support,” she said.
“Many Israelis visit Morocco all the time so I don’t
really know why this is becoming an issue now,” Guzman added.
International Belly Dance Festival, which is set to take place May 10-14,
includes performances, training for dancers and workshops on the mechanisms of
People are expected to attend from all over the
world.JTA contributed to this report.