‘All the world’s a stage,” goes one of Shakespeare’s most quoted sayings. Well,
perhaps not all the world. Apparently, there’s a corner of Ariel in Samaria
which is so otherwordly, or out of this world, that it is being rejected by a
group of Israeli artists.
Whether or not you consider Ariel part of
Israel – and the vast majority of Israelis do think of it as part of a consensus
– the recent uproar over the protest letter leaves no doubt that it is
definitely part of the Middle East.
The act, while creating much debate,
obviously did not go down too well.
The headline “Theater of the absurd”
appeared more than once.
And Shakespeare also provided much inspiration
with a Yediot Aharonot cartoon, for instance, asking “In Ariel or not in Ariel?
That is the question.” An obvious play on words.
The list of 36
signatories – and those who joined them, including writers Yehoshua Sobol, A.B.
Yehoshua, David Grossman, Amos Oz – is not particularly surprising. It’s a free
country and these people have been freely expressing their opinions for
Playwright Anat Gov, no stranger to controversy, claimed the
uproar was “much ado about nothing.” In various interviews and a Yediot op-ed,
Gov said, somewhat disingenuously, that artists do not like to be the center of
stormy attention. She sounded more convincing when she pointed out that nobody –
and particularly theater people – likes to be hated.
The point is,
however, that while the spotlights made it uncomfortable for a few of those who
signed, many thrive on the love they receive, albeit not necessarily from local
I call it the Oslo Syndrome – a near neighbor of the
well-known Stockholm Syndrome, in which hostages come to identify with their
captors. In the Oslo Syndrome, Jews and Israelis of a certain type are willing
to say almost anything that will portray them as being propeace – as if those
who query the need to evict thousands from their homes in return for promises
which have repeatedly literally blown up in our faces are anti-peace.
perhaps there is some sort of herd instinct at play, much like those kids who
eagerly returned to classrooms last week while professing they don’t like
school. It’s not cool to be a good student. And it’s not politically correct to
In the old days, when settlers were people who set up secular
kibbutzim on the borders, entertainers traveled all over the country to perform,
often under attack. Now, some entertain themselves by criticizing the settlers
over the Green Line without ever bothering to meet them.
that the letter unleashed a huge backlash, Gov nonetheless stated that Ariel is
“not a consensus city.” Which is probably true – on the Palestinian side of
wherever the border ends up. No Israeli government – not even the most
concessionary – has suggested giving up major centers like Ariel, the Etzion
bloc or Ma’aleh Adumim, although such protests are obviously intended to set the
stage for just that.
Sometimes you ask yourself on what planet these guys
are living. Not in what town. And I assume that none of the signatories
vacations on the Golan Heights (although it deserves its reputation as one of
the country’s more beautiful holiday spots).
Political scientist Prof.
Yaron Ezrahi told Israel Radio he had joined the protest because “science and
the arts are universal endeavors that flourish in an atmosphere of freedom and
cannot thrive in a military regime.” It’s a good job he knows how to
philosophize, otherwise how could he explain that he lectures at the Hebrew
University of Jerusalem, on a part of the campus built post-’67? The Ariel
University Center in Samaria, where Arab students study alongside Jewish
classmates, has of course also been targeted by foreign boycotters. It is
amazing what can be done in the name of academic or artistic
Personally, I applaud those artists including Yehuda Poliker,
Hanan Yovel, Yehoram Gaon, Sarit Hadad and Eyal Golan, who were willing to sign
a counter-letter stating, among other things: “Woe betide us if we do not
promote the arts and Israeli culture wherever it is wanted.”
including cities like Ariel, is a tiny country.
The arts have not,
despite Ezrahi’s poetic comparisons, been repressed under the barrels of guns.
Box-office hits include the Cameri Theater’s iconic satire by Hanoch Levin,
Queen of the Bathtub, targeting Golda Meir’s policies in the territories. And it
would be hard to think of Israel’s cinema successes without mentioning all the
recent antiwar movies (is there, indeed, an Israeli pro-war
While used to fighting boycott attempts abroad, we now have a
burst of homegrown versions – cheap imitations.
On the one (left) hand,
we have the group of artists and intellectuals intent on telling the rest of us
what we should think, and determining when – and more importantly where – the
show must go on. On the other hand, the right, groups like Im Tirtzu want a role
in deciding who is teaching the next generation in the country’s
The boycotts and counter-boycotts have grown so ridiculous
that I recently read an article suggesting that Israelis avoid companies like
Ikea and H&O because of the anti-Israel boycotts in Sweden. How boycotting
those very companies that are doing business in Israel is meant to help is
Ultimately, I might just boycott boycotts.
OF the protest letter ahead of the launch of the talks in Washington was
obviously intended as a message. However much I might dislike it, it was
certainly a more cultured move than the terror attacks that cut down the
of four people near Hebron on August 31, and wounded two the following
although these too were definitely a message. Both in their own very
ways protest normalization and facts on the ground.
No doubt the
peace-loving protesters would reject any suggestion that they have
common with the terrorists who try to shoot down peace – dragging the
Yitzhak Ames, 47, his wife Tali Ames, 45, Kochava Ben- Haim, 37, and
Schindler, 24, from the car in which they were slain to make sure they
dead. It’s hard to think of the six Ames children losing both parents in
It’s easier, however, if you can persuade yourself that
these aren’t real Israelis, but settlers, barely real people at all.
this is the inevitable result of the delegitimization process. Attacks
begin with “settlers” have a way of developing into attacks that reach
heart of the country. Residents of Tel Aviv might have been lulled into a
sense of security recently, but speak to the parents in Ashkelon
schools and kindergartens be missile-proofed and you’ll probably find
identify more with Ariel residents than with those people living in the
world, unwilling to acknowledge Judea and Samaria.
President Mahmoud Abbas did condemn the deadly ambush – not having much
at the start of peace talks. But it is clear that Hamas wants some of
limelight, even if it is by bombing, in the non-box office sense.
difficult to imagine the talks in Washington between Israel and the
ending with a standing ovation, although it is worth a try.
Would that we
could at least live in peace among ourselves in the new year, and
like “left” and “right” to stage commands, not insults.The writer is the
The International Jerusalem Post.