REBECCA ANNA STOIL
Livnat says boycotting ‘actors have divided Israeli society.’
Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat (Likud) slammed dozens of performing artists over the weekend after they signed on to a letter saying they would refuse to perform at the new culture center in the West Bank city of Ariel. MKs Carmel Shama (Likud) and Alex Miller (Israel Beiteinu) issued a joint request for an urgent recess hearing on the subject in the Knesset’s Education, Culture and Sport Committee.
On Friday, 36 prominent theater personalities sent a letter to the directors-general of Israeli theaters in which they said that they would boycott any event held in the Ariel facility, as working there would be “against their consciences.”
The writers, directors and actors wrote the letter in response to reports in Haaretz that a NIS 40 million cultural center was slated to open in Ariel (population about 17,000) in November.
The Cameri, Khan, Habima and Beersheba Theaters are scheduled to mount productions in the new facility.
Livnat, in response to the artists’ letter, issued a statement in which she called on the theater directors “to immediately address this crisis that has been created, in which actors and creators have decided to divide Israeli society.
“This creates a rift in society, and discriminates between audiences on the basis of the political opinions of the artists. Culture is a social bridge, and the political debate must be left outside of cultural and artistic life,” the minister continued.
She called on theater managers to maintain their performance schedules in Ariel and throughout Israel.
“Every citizen has the right to culture, anywhere they want.”
Miller and Shama said in their letter to Culture Committee chairman MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi), “This is an infuriating and dangerous precedent that discriminates against innocent citizens based on their place of residence and prevents them from receiving cultural and artistic services despite being lawabiding taxpayers. This is a case of ugly political discrimination that must be rejected and uprooted.”
Miller and Shama requested the Knesset examine the possibility of denying government subsidies to “those who take part in this absurd initiative.”
Miller, who lives in Ariel, said the artists’ boycott constituted “collective punishment.”
“Ariel is an inseparable part of the State of Israel, the state that subsidizes and supports theaters and numerous artists,” the lawmakers wrote.
The managers of a number of prominent theaters, including Habima and the Cameri – perhaps the nation’s leading stages – have distanced themselves from the letter.
“We will respect our actors’ political views, but we will bring the best plays in Israeli theater to Ariel,” they wrote in a statement together with the heads of other leading theaters.
MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List) congratulated the artists for standing at the “front line in the struggle against the inequities, oppression and repression of the occupation.
“The decision by the theater managements to appear in Ariel is embarrassing, but is consistent with the fascism that has almost become mainstream in Israeli society,” Tibi said.
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