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ISRAEL: Actors threaten settlement boycott, lawmaker acts up

1Israel is dogged by boycott initiatives from different directions. Academic, commercial and cultural ties are threatened as organizations and individuals protesting Israel's policies turn to boycotting in an attempt to apply practical pressure that will lead to change -- or at least exact a tangible price.

Some direct their efforts against any kind of collaboration with Israel. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions for Palestine movement, or BDS, says academic and cultural cooperation with Israel boosts its international image and that refusing to take part in any exchange can send Israel the message that its "occupation and discrimination against Palestinians in unacceptable."

Other efforts are more selective, boycotting Israeli products and produce originating in the territories, such as Ahava. A while back, a campaign to boycott the popular Dead Sea cosmetics was dubbed "stolen beauty" and called on consumers to shun the products made with "stolen Palestinian natural resources." "Sex in the City" actress Kristin Davis, who promoted Ahava products, was entangled in the controversy, losing her position as an Oxfam ambassador.

Israel also faces taxation issues over settlement products. The European Union exempts from tax most products hailing from Israel proper and the Palestinian territories, but goods coming from the settlements get a different customs arrangement. One Israeli company faking an inside-the-Green-Line address was busted by a peace organization earlier this year.

More recently, the Palestinians have introduced a legal ban on settlement goods, deeply displeasing Israeli authorities.

There are also calls for boycotts from within Israel. A group of theater actors and playwrights recently signed a letter stating their refusal to perform in the territories and asking the country's main theaters to perform within "the sovereign borders of the State of Israel within the Green Line" only. Their move came a few days before the relaunching of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians in Washington last week and in advance of the expected inauguration of the new center for the performing arts in the settlement of Ariel.


Government ministers criticized the move, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pointed to the "international delegitimization assault" on Israel, saying the last thing the country needs is a boycott from within. Netanyahu said that while he didn't want to minimize the right of every individual and every artist to hold political views, "we in the government must not fund boycotts of Israeli citizens or support them in any way." The theaters whose artists signed the letter receive state funding.

Right-wing circles took offense at the proposed boycott, and the residents of Ariel were offended. The Yesha Council -- the settlements' umbrella organization -- said unfounded hatred and factionalism had caused the biggest disasters to the Jewish people throughout time and that the appropriate response was for people to "flock to the beautiful city of Ariel in masses." Further to the right, the tone was much harsher. The "'liberals and enlightened" are "always on the Arabs' side," said a counter-campaign calling the letter's signatories "traitors." When there is a war, they side with Hamas. When Israel's enemies boycott it, they side with the enemy. Go perform in Gaza, said the campaign by Our Land of Israel.

As the dispute intensified, some artists withdrew their signatures, and the large theater companies stated that they would perform wherever invited.

Ariel-02Some Israeli cultural figures opposed the boycott, including left-leaning Ron Huldai, the mayor of Tel Aviv, the city praised/blasted as a bastion of secular Israeli liberalism and home to several of the theaters. But many others expressed support for the proposed boycott, including more than 150 U.S. artists.

Government minister Daniel Hershkowitz said he regretted the mix of culture and politics, but left-wing
lawmakers said the two could not be separated. "Politics and art are one," Haim Oron said last week at a small rally in support of the outspoken artists organized by Peace Now. Dov Hanin said, "Our theater is not a puppet theater."

"Where there is occupation, there is no culture," rally banners said.

After a week of getting angry, some thought they'd get even.

Among the members of the audience that came to see a play at the Cameri Theater in Tel Aviv on Monday night were lawmaker Michael Ben-Ari and his parliamentary assistant, Itamar Ben-Gvir. 

Waiting for an opportune moment in the play written by Anat Gov and Edna Mazia, who signed the letter, the two stood up and heckled the actors loudly, disrupting the play for several minutes. 

The boycott was racism and apartheid, they said.

Ben-Ari explained the next morning that the left must understand that freedom of expression runs goes both ways. 

People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, he preached on Israel radio.

However, Ariel Mayor Ron Nahman and Israel's culture minister, Limor Livnat, both opposed to the boycott, strongly denounced the act of busting up a play as a legitimate mode of protest.

-- Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem

top: "The show must be stopped", from Peace Now website.

middle: "Traitors- go perform in Gaza", from Our Land of Israel website.

bottom: "To occupy or not to occupy, that is the question", from Poster Boy blog

Comments () | Archives (6)

Boycotts are useful, if you do it when there is nothing else going on, usually at the beginning of the movement. This is an old and hoary problem, and another boycott is not useful. Those boycotting will only be replaced by other actors and artists.

This kind of boycott only serves to stiffen the neck of the party being boycotted. They would do more to sit down and negotiate a settlement of issues themselves, taking into account all the positions Israel has taken, and its needs. If it isn't something that Israel can look at as a real possibility, it will be a waste of time, and mere propaganda. It would take many months of work by serious people, but it could be useful.

I predict someday Jews and Arabs will join together against enemies from other parts of the world.

Until the Arabs recognize and accept Israel as a nation there will not be peace and the palistinines can live in there hatred and squalor for generation after generation.

but here we see that israeli helping our enemy , its very common to see that jews

help and kill jews . yes this palestnian angel the victim . israeli helping the nemy . wait when terrorist will kill them ..

the european do it 2010 yers murdering us you europe even cannot pay the bill . europe war war 2 65 milion die . europe war war 1 15 million the dealing other people proble ignoring arab violation .

european murder us kill us . just 65 years ago 6 million . . this how dirty european are ,

what go around come around we jews bettr than any body we dont kill .

we defend ourselves , you dirty euripe like the arab . you german killer murder .

you britain almost the same . russian the same

greenfeld meir

As is mostly the case when certain topics are brought up for discussion, commentary on them tends to polarise along fairly predictable lines. Unfortunately, such polarisation usually has the effect of generating more heat than light and the matter is advanced only marginally, if at all, in the process.

Let us, therefore, agree to disagree and then look at the problem as objectively as we can.

There are six, maybe seven million Jews in Israel now
There are Israeli Arabs who make up approximately 20% out of the whole population.
There are Gazans living, perhaps only subsisting, just outside Israel proper.
There are West Bank Arabs who live and work in some proximity to their Jewish neighbours.

And all of them feel entitled to more of the land around them than present arrangements currently permit.

Barring major shifting of tectonic plates underneath its surface, the land in question is going to remain more or less where it is. The majority of people on this land are unlikely to move much beyond its boundaries in the next few years, Indeed, current peace talks not withstanding, a goodly number of them seem destined to become permanent fixtures, their location being prematurely six feet under it.

While a boycott, a long established Irish tradition, can draw attention to a situation where injustice and bad feeling exist, as an exercise in power politics, it cannot rectify the matter all by itself. Long after Captain Boycott departed the scene, the British presence in Ireland remained as firmly entrenched as ever. On reflection, it must be said that the British withdrawal from its very first colony was a pretty botched affair, characterised by many blunders on both sides and a general unwillingness to tackle or even recognise the problem.
Now doesn't that sound familiar?

Unless we are all simply content to let history repeat itself in its familiar bumbling, brutal fashion, a way must be found to fundamentally address what is a very serious and extremely lethal set of circumstances.

Reaction to events, in the form of boycotts and pointing out the deficiencies of so much that has taken place, can be a contributing factor but, with no unifying framework upon which to base an exit plan, this whole business seems destined to be with us for quite some time to come.

Dear God, we may actually have to THINK our way out of this one for a change. Have things really gotten that bad; no recourse other than to so desperate a measure? If this, indeed, be the case, we must be coming very close to scraping the bottom of the barrel marked ' other options.'

this is not new idea . attacking us . blind eye what ever arab do ignoring the real fact . the world is dirty stink .

this is european that murdr us join together with arab to destroy boycott from the left . helping to kill israeli helping to the arab

this over place . ignoring the truth this what the world did 2010 years killer murder . support nazi . killing us .

no one stand up agaist this killer . you the european that stick your noise in all part of the world .

you the dirty european taxes . . yes you that invented the Christan and murder us . we killed jesus you this dirty people that murder 6 million people its you usa help you .

you that destroy the white rule killed 100 of thousands .

you the world that murder us help to this killer .

German .

you murder us 2010 years this is another form

greenfeld meir


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