Seeing a gorgeous dancer on stage with a heavy-metal band is nothing unusual.
But when the dancer is Lebanese and the singer Israeli and they hold the flags of their respective countries -- which remain in a state of war -- alongside each other, you have a recipe for potential trouble.
Amateur video footage purportedly showing the performance depicts a member of Orphaned Land singing in what appears to be Hebrew while Fakhry dances around him wearing traditional belly dancer's grab and holding a Lebanese flag.
She then approaches the singer and helps him hold a large Israeli flag before taking her own Lebanese flag and brandishing it alongside the Israeli before the audience.
The former editor in chief of the Wafd party's newspaper was sworn in as the new Minister of Information by the head of the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi on Saturday.
The appointment of Osama Heikal surprised many politicians and activists, who believed that the ministry, which had not filled the job for five months, might keep the position vacant. Many online activists and bloggers quickly highlighted what they called Heikal's "support" to Mubarak's regime through an article he wrote one day before the Jan. 25 revolt that ended with ousting Mubarak.
"I don't think that any devout Egyptian would want his country to witness a similar fate to Tunisia's [referring to the Tunisian revolution]. No one wants a clash between people and the regime. What we should understand is that people want change and the quieter those changes come the better this will be for Egypt," Heikal wrote in an editorial dated Jan. 24.
A year and a bit after the ill-fated interception of the Mavi Marmara that headed last year's flotilla to Gaza, Israel is bracing for another one. This time around, say authorities, they are more prepared, having learned the lessons from operations to public relations and media. (We'll get back to that second point later.)
Israel launched a diplomatic, legal and bureaucratic offensive to prevent the flotilla well in advance and for months has been appealing to governments to block their citizens' efforts to participate, with a certain degree of success. Easing restrictions on goods entering Gaza certainly helped, as has the recent Egyptian decision to open the Raffah crossing, which Israel did not like but quickly recognized as advantageous in this context.
The ships are supposed to rendevous in the Mediterranean and then sail to Gaza but some of the likely candidates in the region are dropping out. Cyprus has announced it will not let the ships in, Greece will let them in but is stalling them with red tape at Israel's request, activists complain. Greece has its own issues this week and will have limited energy to spend on this, one way or the other.
Elsewhere in Europe, delegations met with problems as insurance companies were reluctant to issue policies for the ships and their passengers, after an Israeli legal group, Shurat Hadin, sent letters to the world's leading marine insurance companies advising them they could be held accountable for damages and complicit to violating the law. Other initiatives seek to block satellite communications services to the ships.
The Turkey-based IHH was to be the biggest contingent of the flotilla, its massive passenger ship the largest by far of the dozens of vessels originally slated to sail. Last week the organization announced the ship was staying home.
With Syria's troubles spilling into its backyard, Turkey may have bigger fish to fry at this time -- and both countries seem keen to work things out in advance of the United Nations report on the 2010 flotilla. Turkey was not impressed with the early draft and Israeli media suggest the final report, currently due early July, is still pretty critical of Turkey. And Israel, for its part, always needs all the friends it can get.
In recent weeks, the military completed a series of comprehensive drills for intercepting the next flotilla. Netanyahu is determined to uphold the naval blockade, which Israel says aims only to prevent gunrunning to Hamas-ruled Gaza and not against Palestinian civilians. On Monday, the security cabinet approved the operational plan presented by the army.
Israel has reached understandings with Egypt about the ships docking in El Arish and inspecting the cargo before transfer to Gaza by land in case participants decline Israel's invitation to dock at its Ashdod port -- as expected. There's no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, repeat Israeli spokespeople, who call the flotilla a provocation.
The organizers and activists are equally determined to sail for Gaza and are undeterred by the difficulties. And if Israel has eased up some on Gaza, well, if anything, this just proves flotillas work, says the Free Gaza movement . At a news conference in Athens on Monday, organizers said the 10 ships taking part in the voyage would gather at sea toward the weekend before heading to Gaza.
Meanwhile, until any encounter at sea, the skirmish is being waged on YouTube and all sides are uploading fast and furious -- some straightforward, others kind of clever.
And back to that media lesson learned. One of the main problems Israel had getting its message across last time (besides the message) was the long delay in releasing timely visual images and information from the scene while the operation was still ongoing, leaving the media stage to activists and semi-professionals and an anti-Israeli angle. For weeks, Israeli officials have been stressing the importance of the media battlefield and assuring outlets that professional and credible material will be much more timely.
That's good. Less good was the letter from Government Press Office director Oren Helman on Sunday, warning foreign press they could be deported and banned from working in Israel for 10 years if they participated in the flotilla. Besides infuriating both local and international media, the move seems to have embarassed Netanyahu, who ordered the directive be rethought.
-- Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem
Video, from top: An Israeli Defense Forces video explains the Gaza naval blockade from the official Israeli perspective; activist Yonatan Shapira, an Israeli combat pilot who has become an outspoken critic of his county's policies, discusses his reasons for joining the flotilla. Credit: YouTube
"For the past few years I have been in love with a straight girl, my best friend," she writes.
"Apart from her being straight, I suspect she is homophobic, because bringing up this subject in any form disgusts her. What happens when we fall in love with a straight person, or worse, a homophobe?"
A person writing under the profile "Reem" responds:
"I can relate to this, as it happens to pretty much every lesbian. In my situation I realized that I simply needed to get over her. Maybe you can come out to her at some point, if she is really your best friend then her homophobia should not interfere in how much she cares for you."
The thread above was published on Ahwaa.org, a new user-generated online community and forum run by a group of volunteers where members of the LGBT community in the Arabian Peninsula and beyond can vent their feelings and discuss and debate just about any issue on their minds in what administrators say is a safe and secure environment.
Press freedom groups are calling attention to a raid on the office of the Agence France-Presse news agency in the Jordanian capital earlier this week after it reported that the motorcade of Jordanian King Abdullah II was pelted with bottles and stones during a tour in a southern city.
Paris-based Reporters Without Borders "strongly condemned" the attack in a statement on Saturday.
On Wednesday, AFP's Amman bureau became a scene of chaos and violence when a group of club-wielding men descended on the office, storming the facility and smashing furniture and office phones, according to Reporters Without Borders.
AFP's Amman bureau chief Randa Habib told the group that she had received threats since the bureau reported the alleged stone attack on the king's motorcade.
Alleged Libyan rape victim Eman Obeidy grabbed the world's attention and became a symbol of the uprising against embattled Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi when she stormed into a Tripoli hotel in late March, telling a group of journalists having breakfast how she had been gang-raped and beaten by a band of Kadafi militiamen who held her prisoner for two days.
Now she has been beaten again, this time not by Kadafi's security forces but allegedly by a number of Qatari officials whom she claimed handcuffed and hit her before putting her and members of her family onto a military plane going back to Libya, CNN reports.
Over the last weeks there has been a growing campaign to allow women to drive for themselves in ultraconservative Saudi Arabia -- the only country in the world which prohibits women from driving and where women are forced to hire male drivers or taxis to move around.
Saudi authorities have responded to the call by clamping down on those allegedly behind the campaign and blocking a Facebook page that promoted allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia.
The campaign for lifting the women's driving ban in Saudi Arabia is likely to intensify after a Saudi businesswoman accused her driver of raping her at gunpoint.
According to an article published in the Saudi daily Okaz on Wednesday, her driver pulled over the vehicle in an industrial area of the holy city of Medina in western Saudi Arabia and raped her while pointing a gun at her. The woman, whose name was not disclosed in the report, reported the attack and the driver has been arrested.
The news comes as activists have called on women who have international driving licenses to get behind the wheel and drive their cars on June 17 in protest of Saudi Arabia's ban. The activists insist that the driving ban is based on conservative traditions and call for a change in the law so Saudi women can obtain licenses and drive themselves instead of having to rely on male drivers.
The campaign quickly gained momentum after its launch, attracting thousands of supporters on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter last month. Several Saudi women came out driving their own cars, including a woman who drove her car around for several days in the Red Sea port city of Jidda.
Then came the case of 32-year-old Manal Sharif, who posted a video of herself driving her car in the eastern city of Khobar. In the clip, posted below, she talks about the issues and complications that result from banning female drivers and presents her arguments for why women should be able to drive.
A day after Sharif posted the clip to YouTube, she was arrested by Saudi authorities on May 22 on the accusation of inciting women to defy the driving ban. She was detained for 10 days and was released earlier this week.
Sharif's lawyer told Agence France-Presse that his client had called upon Saudi King Abdullah to release her and said he hoped her case would be closed.
Thousands of people joined Facebook groups set up in support of Sharif.
A day after the Obama administration tried to tighten the screws on Syria by announcing new sanctions directly targeting President Bashar Assad and his top aides amid a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators, regime mouthpieces came out swinging, insisting the penalties are part of some imperialist American plot to dominate the Middle East and serve Israel's interests.
"The U.S. measures are part of a series of sanctions imposed by successive U.S. administrations against the Syrian people as part of a regional scheme, aimed primarily at serving Israel's interests," the official Syrian Arab News Agency reported on Thursday (link in Arabic), quoting an unnamed official source.
"Any aggression against Syria is akin to US support for Israeli aggressions against Syria and the Arabs," added the report.
She is a young Syrian who works as a schoolteacher and is one of those here who still has high hopes that the wave of anti-government protests that have rocked Syria for the last two months will succeed and overthrow the system.
"There will be a long hot summer culminating in the victory of the revolution," says the woman as she puffs on a cigarette, her eyes glued to the TV screen. "Before the fall, we will be able to walk our streets again and see the change that we're fighting for with our own eyes."
Syria braces for another day of possible confrontations after prayers Friday between protesters and violent security forces loyal to President Bashar Assad. Despite the enthusiasm of protesters, many worried that the movement that has already cost hundreds of lives at the hands of Assad's forces would be crushed.
The news network said Monday that it has had no contact with Dorothy Parvaz since she disembarked from a Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Damascus.
“We are concerned for Dorothy’s safety and wellbeing,” Al Jazeera said in a statement. “We are requesting full cooperation from the Syrian authorities to determine how she was processed at the airport and what her current location is. We want her returned to us immediately.”
Parvaz, 39, is an American, Canadian and Iranian citizen who recently reported on the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Before joining Al Jazeera in 2010, she worked as a columnist and feature writer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
As many as a couple dozen journalists have been detained in Syria, where security forces have unleashed a violent crackdown against anti-government protests that began in March.
"It seems as if the government now considers the journalists as much of a problem as the actual social unrest," Mohamed Abdel Dayem, Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists, told Al Jazeera.
A student protester was reportedly killed Monday when security forces opened fire to break up an anti-government protest at the University of Damascus, according to unconfirmed media reports.
The incident followed a weekend in which dozens of protesters across the country were reportedly killed in clashes with uniformed security forces and armed groups in civilian dress. Meanwhile, the leader of Syria's banned Muslim Brotherhood told Reuters that his movement was not behind the protests but that it supports their aims.
"The authorities had thought that killings and terror would scare the masses," said Mohammad Riad Shaqfa, who lives in exile in Saudi Arabia. "The effect has been the opposite; repression only fueled the protests."
In the 1980s, the Muslim Brotherhood was brutally rooted out of Syria by the late President Hafez Assad, father of the current president, Bashar Assad, It has been outlawed ever since. The support of the Muslim Brotherhood could help bolster the protest movement, but could also leave it vulnerable to accusations of external support or ties to fundamentalist Islamist groups.