UPDATE: Kobi Fahri, singer of Orphaned Land, wrote an Open Letter in response to this article. You can see it, together with our response, here.
We look up to celebrities, there’s no question about that. Give someone a microphone and a guitar (not to mention a movie role) and you suddenly have hordes of people listening to their every word as if it was gospel. This is the reason why people actually listen to former playmate and imbecile extraordinaire Jenny McCarthy in regards to vaccines and autism, or why people actually debated Mel Gibson’s opinions on the life of Christ, as if they had any relevance.
Heavy metal has always been a very political genre; from its beginnings in the working class neighborhoods of Britain, it was the battle cry of an often neglected youth. Many of the most popular bands today started with very political themes. Seminal bands like Black Sabbath, Megadeth, Judas Priest and Metallica touched upon topics of disfranchised youth, war mongering and religion, unafraid of attacking the status quo.
While it is great to see bands being committed in verbally attacking the establishment, sometimes it would be nice to see a real commitment on their part. As the saying goes, “money talks, bullshit walks”, and it seems to be that most of the time we just see a shitload of walking.
This week we’ll have a look at the hypocrisy of Orphaned Land.
I have met a couple of times with Orphaned Land’s Kobi Fahr, and I’m not ashamed of admitting that I really felt hopeful about what this Israeli band was saying. I thought that their message of love and peace for the region was a very welcomed change in the way things were working in Israel.
Upon scratching the surface, however, things became a bit muddier. I realized that Kobi still served as a mouthpiece for Israeli propaganda (like the absolutely false narrative of the “radio transmissions” before the 1948 occupation) and downright falsified episodes of the band’s history in order to gain exposure. He claimed (falsely) that there is a law in Lebanon prohibiting Lebanese people “to be in contact with Israelis”, and that their Lebanese belly dancer had to seek asylum in France after she worked with them (or at least failed to contradict the story when it was brought up). All of this was, of course, not true.
Although I could cut these people some slack for just exploiting this false controversy, not to mention that the Lebanese government was probably not particularly fond of their dancer anyway (she was vilified for her work, as you can expect from chauvinistic group like Hezbollah), what cannot be forgiven is the complicit silence that Orphaned Land have displayed during the massacre that is currently happening in Gaza.
That’s right, he’s saying that, on the bright side, the current massacre gave him ideas for songs. On that note, the bright side of the Rwanda genocide was that it allowed Don Cheadle to get an Oscar nomination.
Despite their peaceful message, what Orphaned Land have done in regards to the conflict is hypocritical at best, and downright damaging at worst. They have repeated the old mantra about the conflict being a religious one, as opposed to simply the result of a bloody 70-year occupation, and in their refusal to commit to either side (because, “can’t we all just get along, bro?”) they are doing a service to the Israeli government, by not exposing their own countrymen to the atrocities committed in their name.
Why did Orphaned Land stay silent while the IDF killed over 2,000 Palestinians, the majority of which were civilians? Why didn’t they side with every single Human Rights organization that condemned the attacks? Why didn’t they raise their voice against their own government? If, as they claim, they feel sad for the children who have lost their lives in the conflict, why didn’t they demand justice for the hundreds of children who were killed in this assault, and the thousands who live in hunger and despair as a result of the illegal siege of Gaza?
Despite their claims of “All is One”, at the end of the day Orphaned Land are a band devoted to exploiting the “metal hippie” demographic, while not actually doing anything to achieve the peace they so eagerly talk about. It doesn’t matter how often they talk about Arabs being their brothers if, when it counts, they do nothing to protect them. If nothing else, Orphaned Land are a poisonous influence; by reducing the conflict to religion, they obscure the truth, while serving as a very useful propaganda tool for their own government. If they really wanted peace, they would go beyond the college freshman message of “peace and love”, and would use their increasingly important position in Israeli media to actually demand answers from those with the power to change things.
The pain and suffering of thousands of Palestinians is clearly irrelevant for these guys. Their deaths are not important. For Orphaned Land, “justice” and “peace” are just buzzwords to profit from.