Knesset panel slams artists, academics over Ariel boycott

Committee says state-funded bodies must perform for all; support convoy from Tel aviv to Ariel planned to protest performers.

Ariel Theater 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Ariel Theater 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
The Knesset’s Education, Culture and Sport Committee voted during a special session Thursday to condemn the performing artists and academics whose refusal to appear in the West Bank city of Ariel drew headlines throughout the past week.
The Knesset committee, which met despite the Knesset’s summer recess, voted in favor of conclusions emphasizing that state-funded cultural bodies must perform in an equitable manner before all Israeli audiences, regardless of their political beliefs.
MK Danny Danon (Likud), who was one of the forces behind the resolution, said that he was satisfied by the direction taken by the committee, but stressed the importance of ensuring that theaters would not send their “B-teams” to performances in places such as Ariel.
MKs Alex Miller (Israel Beiteinu) and Carmel Shama (Likud) had requested the special committee session after some three dozen members of Israel’s theater community signed a petition in which they said that their consciences would not allow them to participate in performances in Ariel’s not-yet-opened cultural center.
The petition set off a firestorm of criticism among Israeli politicians, with rightwing MKs arguing that statesubsidized theaters could not select their audiences, and leftwing MKs arguing that the artists must be allowed to act according to their consciences.
“The credibility of those who aspire to possess humanistic, enlightened and pluralistic beliefs is tested against perspectives of values that oppose their world-view,” said MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima), one of two Kadima MKs who participated in the hearing.
“The cultural boycott of the ‘stage people’ against Ariel and the academic boycott against the capital of Samaria expresses a fanatical, unenlightened and primitive approach that once again displays the essential weakness of the minority of the radical left in Israeli society.
Boycotts and incitement are the province of the ‘hilltop youth’ from the illogical right and the supporters of the cultural boycott of the radical left.”
MK Nitzan Horovitz (Meretz), however, was not satisfied by the committee’s decision.
Horowitz emphasized that he was strongly opposed to any cuts to funding for cultural organizations and activities, and said that any such cut made to a theater as a result of the artists’ missive constituted “McCarthyism.”
Meanwhile, a group of activists said that they planned to hold a massive convoy of as many as 100 vehicles on Friday that will travel with Israeli and Ariel municipal flags from Glilot Interchange in north Tel Aviv to Ariel in support of the settlement.
The protest, the slogan of which was “Ariel is Israel,” started as an initiative on Facebook.
The organizers then contacted the Ariel municipality, and municipality representatives were expected to meet the convoy at the entrance to the city.