The artists who last year signed a letter against performing in the city of Ariel,
located beyond the Green Line, are facing a new reality after the Knesset adopted a bill
proposing sanctions against anyone declaring a boycott on Israel.
According to the proposal, if these artists take part in a similar initiative in the future, they will be violating the law. On Tuesday they joined left-wing organizations in slamming the controversial move.
"This bill is a measure of intimidation which isn't that frightening. It joins several other childish bills which I can hardly remember because they're so delusional," argues actor Rami Heuberger, who signed the original letter against Ariel.
"These types of bills contradict human nature, and I presume no one is interested in such things. I guess some people forgot to show up for the Knesset vote last night, and that's why it passed. At least that's what I'm trying to think."
Would you sign the letter today, after the bill has been adopted?
"Yes. It's a funny bill. Not everything should be taken seriously. I couldn't understand it. It seemed childish to me. Perhaps I'm living in 'la-la-land', but I'm not worried.
"I personally boycott the entire occupied territories – I simply don't go in there, don't perform there, don't eat there and don't sleep there. Is there a law saying that if someone personally boycotts the territories, they'll be forced to go in there or face prosecution? It sounds like a fantasy to me."
Heuberger. 'It shouldn't be taken seriously' (Photo: Yoni Tuvali)
"I have just taken another job to be able to pay any fines imposed on me, and we're prepared to pay the fines. We're desperate," playwright and screenwriter Edna Mazia says cynically.
"It's unbelievable. I'm sure the High Court won't approve it, and if it does – I'll be a proud criminal."
Knesset votes on boycott bill. 'Arrogance' (Photo: Atta Awisat)
"Not only is it illegal and undemocratic," Mazia says angrily," "it's a huge step toward fascism. These people want to reach it slowly. Instead of waiting patiently for demography to win, they're impatient.
"Clearly the State is heading toward a catastrophe. It's a case of unbelievable arrogance on their part, and they will pay for it… Today we're silent because we're desperate. We're headed toward dictatorship.
"I would be glad to see someone lead the change that must take place. I don't have the energy. I'm waiting for a charismatic leader to take the matter into his own hands, lead a depressed nation. This is the kind of nation that wakes up only when its cottage cheese
is taken away. I'm staying here for now, but perhaps I'll try to become a Buddhist."
Like Heuberger, author and playwright Savyon Liebrecht clarifies that she wouldn't hesitate if asked to sign a similar letter after the bill has been adopted, expressing her hope that the threat would vanish once the High Court judges rule on it.
Ariel cultural hall. 'I won't touch money coming from there'
"They may be our last resort," she says. "If this bill and other bills the Right is planning pass, I don't know if we'll be able to do anything about it. I assume the law won't make me not sign a similar letter or not take any measures, but it's sad that this is happening.
"I never thought something like this could happen, but reality here is stranger than fiction. Personally, I haven't crossed the Green Line for years, but as a private person.
"When it comes to a play, I can't prevent a play invited to Ariel from performing there. But I plan to donate the money coming from there. I wouldn't touch it."
According to Prof. Avraham Oz, who signed a second anti-Ariel letter, "This bill brings us closer to a delusional situation in Israeli politics. My friend Amnon Rubinstein wrote that 'this is a day of disaster for Israeli democracy'.
"This is the kind of bill that doesn't let you think. If you're against something, no matter what, you're facing legal proceedings. I'm unfamiliar with such a law in any other country, democratic or non-democratic.
"The Israeli Knesset is dominated by a group of people with a majority in the votes, but with no realization of what they're doing. Any person who understands the meaning of democracy should rebel today, regardless of certain issues, because if one day they decide to rise up against the majority – they are facing collective punishment.
"Even (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu
and (Defense Minister Ehud) Barak
didn't show up for this vote. They're afraid, as a thought police has been introduced."
What about the boycott of Ariel? Will it continue?
"I can't say what we'll do. I'm responsible for myself, and naturally I'll continue boycotting and calling on others to boycott anything I view as illegal and unacceptable, which has to be boycotted. They have increased our motivation to express the opposition's opinion.
"If asked, I would sign a similar letter tomorrow, without any hesitations. I'm willing to be the first person to be sued under this law. It's against any basic rules and values, so I believe I am not violating the law."
Nonetheless, many of the artists who signed the anti-Ariel letter refused to comment on the new law adopted by the Knesset.
"It's very easy to intimidate people," Prof. Oz says in response. "I'm a law-abiding citizen, but this law is not a law as far as I'm concerned."