Why is a Belgian Festival Stirring Lebanese Anger About Normalization With Israel?

Published July 30th, 2017 - 12:59 GMT
The Israeli and Lebanese flags reportedly flew side-by-side at the music event (Twitter)
The Israeli and Lebanese flags reportedly flew side-by-side at the music event (Twitter)

When Belgian festival ‘Tomorrowland’ decided to host a sister event in Lebanon’s Byblos called ‘UNITE’ they probably did not expect that it would do anything but "unite".

Aiming to "build bridges between Belgium and the rest of the world", according to its website, Tomorrowland hosted simultaneous concerts in South Korea, Malta, Dubai, Germany, Lebanon and Israel on Saturday.

One Belgian tweeted a picture apparently showing the Israeli and Lebanese flags flying side-by-side at the music event, although it is not clear where the photo was taken.

Lebanon, which shares its southern border with Israel, has a large proportion of residents of Palestinian origin (around a fifth), and has been at war with its neighbor no fewer than five times in recent decades.

It’s fair to say, then, that the Lebanese were not feeling much like ‘building bridges’ with festival goers in Tel Aviv.

#BoycottTomorrowLand and #NoToNormalization took off on Twitter as the Lebanese expressed opposition to what they felt was an attempt to impose 'unity' between Lebanese and Israelis.

There are no official diplomatic or economic ties between the two nations, and from sentiments expressed on social media it seems that the Lebanese would like to keep it that way.

Reject normalization, resistance

The hashtag #BoycottTomorrowland was actually launched by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, an international Palestinian-led movement against the Israeli occupation.

Earlier in the month they called on people to tweet at the Lebanese Minister of Economy, Raed Khoury, to ask him to cancel the event.

A statement on the group’s website said “Tomorrowland festival organizers are spinning their international music event as one that will “unite” people across the world.

“But what they are not telling you is that by including Israel in the line-up of participating countries, they are helping spin Israel as a fun, liberal place, and are helping cover-up its ongoing war crimes and grave violations of Palestinian and other Arab human rights.”

May the art that would raise [up] the name of Israel fall.

No to normalization, no to relations with the enemy in any form whatsoever.

For the blood of the martyrs has barely dried and their mothers still cry for them.

#ByblosIsLebaneseNotIsraeli was also trending.

The law is clear. All kinds of normalization are not accepted. Those responsible for the festival must be held accountable. We should never let our dignity pass away.

Israel is a military, cultural, ethnic and religious enemy... We will not allow bridges to be made with the enemy in any way, even with a small party, in the land of dignity...

Where are the officials?? I spit on those who have no dignity. People are paying with blood for the homeland and there are people who want to dance even at the expense of the homeland.

Still, the Lebanese attended the party in droves, and attendees on Twitter denied that the concert had anything to do with establishing relations with Israel.

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