Ariel Theater 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Three days before the Ariel Cultural Center is set to open in the northern West
Bank settlement, artists and academics published an open letter on Friday
calling on performers to boycott the theater.
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The letter asks the
performers to consider that Ariel “is an illegal settlement which violates
international law and the Geneva Conditions, which the State of Israel has
The settlement “was founded for only one purpose: to prevent
Palestinians from being able to build an independent state, and by extension,
preventing us, citizens of Israel, from having the chance to live in peace in
this region,” the letter continues.
Author David Grossman, playwright
Yeshoshua Sobol and filmmaker Eytan Fox are among the artists who signed the
letter, which has also gained the support of academics such as Prof. Gad Kiner,
theater arts department head at Tel Aviv University.
The letter was also
signed by actors, make-up artists and lighting engineers.
In late August,
following reports that several major theater houses are scheduled to perform at
the Ariel Cultural Center when it opens this Monday, 36 professional theater
actors and workers issued a letter vowing theywould not perform at the center because it is in the West Bank. A few days
later, 150 professors and authors joined the boycott and published a letter
online in which they refused to perform in theaters or cultural facilities
beyond the Green Line.
In addition to professors such as Hebrew
University’s Ze’ev Sternhell and Ben-Gurion University’s Neve Gordon, a
supporter of anti-Israel divestment, the boycott letter was signed by prominent
Israeli authors David Grossman, A.B. Yehoshua and Amos Oz.
weekly cabinet meeting following the publications of the letters, Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu said that “the State of Israel is under an attack of
delegitimization by elements in the international community. This attack
includes attempts to enact economic, academic and cultural boycotts. The last
thing we need at this time is to be under such an attack – I mean this attempt
at a boycott – from within.”
Friday’s letter was also met with criticism
from a number of politicians, including MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima), who called
on the government to “expand the artists’ awareness and inform them that Ariel
is an inseparable part of Israel.”
Schneller, who lives at the Ma’aleh
Michmash settlement, which like Ariel is in Samaria, said the artists’
“apartheid letter – which boycotts Israeli citizens” only harms the cause of
“Ariel will be part of Israel in any agreement, and it is up to
the heads of the large parties in the Knesset to clarify to Israel prize
laureate authors where the peaceful borders of Israel will be,” he
Knesset House Committee Chairman MK Yariv Levin (Likud) said on
Saturday that he would call for an urgent hearing of the Education and Culture
Committee to debate freezing funding for the artists who signed the
“We must permanently end the funding for cultural institutions
and devise new criterion for funding, which will focus on encouraging works that
reflect the glorious heritage of our culture,” Levin said.
Ben-Ari (National Union) referred to the boycotting artists as “parasites who
milk the public coffers” and suggested that if they seek to make a living in
performance arts, they should “ask for money from [Palestinian Authority Prime
Minister] Salaam Fayyad and not the Knesset.”