Boycotting Ariel: Missing the Forest for the Trees

Ariel is an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank.

PACBI Statement

Provoked by the recent announcement of the inauguration of a cultural center in Ariel, the fourth largest Jewish colony in the occupied Palestinian territory, 150 prominent Israeli academics, writers, and cultural figures have declared that they “will not take part in any kind of cultural activity beyond the Green Line, take part in discussions and seminars, or lecture in any kind of academic setting in these settlements” [1].  A few protestors went as far as reiterating the fact that all Israeli colonies built on occupied Palestinian land are in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and thus constitute a war crime.

This position by tens of Israeli academics and artists has generated a great deal of controversy within the Israeli public sphere, attracting rebuke from across the political spectrum and especially from the academic and cultural establishment.  All major theaters were quick to declare their refusal to boycott Ariel under the pretense of serving “all Israelis;” university administrations echoed this position or resorted to silence, continuing business as usual with Ariel and other settlements.  The terms of the discourse, however, raise a number of issues for supporters of Palestinian rights.  While we welcome acts of protest against any manifestation of Israel’s regime of colonialism and apartheid, we believe that these acts must be both morally consistent and anchored in international law and universal human rights.

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Not Playing Anymore – Israeli Theatre Actors Rise Up

“Ariel’s Center for the Performing Arts – Ariel’s residents have always benefited from a rich variety of local facilities and services. These services have traditionally rendered Ariel the focal point of life in the region, and earned it the title of Capital of the Shomron. The city’s Center for the Performing Arts is yet another addition to life, culture and excellence in the heart of Israel.” (from the Ariel website)

It’s no news by now that Israel is constructing a culture center in the illegal Ariel settlement. It’s not surprising that Habima, Israel’s national theater company, was scheduled to preform there. It is, however, refreshing that actresses and actors from Habima and other leading theater companies, the likes of the Cameri, signed a letter to Culture Minister, Limor Livnat, refusing to preform in the Occupied Territories.

Of Boycotts and Green Bans

Sixty/Thirty-six is a big number for any one sector in Israel, not to mention for any dissent in Israel, at all. I can’t say the actor’s letter doesn’t spark hope in me as to a growth in dissent in Israel (they’ve been joined by non-theatre people of the arts), but one mustn’t get carried away. The Guardian reported:

“Dozens of Israeli actors, playwrights and directors have signed a letter refusing to take part in productions by leading theater companies at a new cultural center in a West Bank settlement, prompting renewed debate over the legitimacy of artistic boycott.”

Continue reading “Not Playing Anymore – Israeli Theatre Actors Rise Up”