Leading Israeli theater actors, playwrights and directors signed a letter announcing they refuse to perform or have their work shown in the Ariel Culture Hall in the West Bank.
Earlier this week it was revealed that the Culture Hall in Ariel, which is due to open in November, will host productions from all major Israeli theaters. This would be the first time such productions take place in the West bank.
Arab-Israeli actor Yousef Sweid immediately announced he won’t take part in shows in the occupied territories. He was joined by actor Rami Heuberger and playwright Shmuel Hasfari. Hasfari is one of the leaders of The National Left, a Zionist movement calling for the immediate evacuation of the West Bank and the establishing of a Palestinian state.
In a letter published today on Ynet, notable Israeli theater artist declared that:
We wish to express our disgust from the intention of the Israeli theaters to perform in the new hall in Ariel. The actors among us declare here that they won’t perform in Ariel, or any other settlement. We call the managing boards of the theaters to conduct their activities inside Israel’s sovereign territory.
The article on Ynet names 32 actors, composers and writers that signed the letter. Among them are Renee Yerushalmi, winner of the Israel prize, and Yehoshua Sobol, one of Israel’s most celebrated playwrights, and Prof. Gad Kinar, head of the theater department in Tel Aviv University. “I wouldn’t have signed my contract in the Cameri [theater] if I was told I’m about to perform in the occupied territories,” said TV and theater actor Dror Keren.
“It seems that the theaters will have to make major changes in their casts, if they want their work shown in Ariel,” the article on Ynet concludes. The writers are less of a problem, since the theaters can probably have the plays shown without their consent. Still, this is a major development, especially since under the new boycott bill, which stands a good chance of becoming a law in the one of the next Knesset session, any call to boycott Israel or the settlements could result in a fine of up to 30,000 Shekels (9,000 USD), without proof of damages.
So far, no theater has backed down from the intention to perform in the West Bank.
UPDATE: Culture minister Limor Livnat and PM Benjamin Netanyahu issued statements condemning the boycott letter. The pressure made four Cameri actors, including TV star Dror Keren, to announce they are withdrawing their signature from the letter, and that they will perform in Ariel after all.