Letter calls on Israeli artists not to perform in Ariel

Group of Israeli artists say there is no obligation to perform in West Bank settlement because "Ariel is not part of sovereign territory of Israel."

Ariel Theater 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
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.
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 signed.”
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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.
During the 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 peace.
“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 said.
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 letter.
“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.
MK Michael 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.”