Culture center in Ariel
Yoaz Hendel

Our cultural dictatorship

Op-ed: Yoaz Hendel reminds leftist actors that rightist taxpayers fund their work

Over the weekend we were informed that a group of artists subsidized by the State of Israel decided to boycott close to 20,000 Ariel residents. Why? Because of politics.


These people are leftists, they oppose the occupation, Ariel is the capital of the occupied Samaria, and therefore the necessary conclusion (which attests to amazing analytical thinking) is that Ariel residents do not deserve to consume culture. One of the boycotters went as far as self-righteously arguing that if these settlers wish to attend plays, they should come to Tel Aviv.


Well, before I move on to the question of a cultural boycott’s legitimacy, we would do well to make note of the main actors in the boycott show. On stage right, we have the residents of Ariel, a town established in August 1978 on the initiative of Labor party members; it is a community that was premised on Zionist ideology and continued through economic ideology, providing affordable housing to those who cannot afford a Tel Aviv apartment.


As result of this economic situation, Ariel’s socioeconomic status has traditionally been relatively low compared to other parts of the country. Not all Ariel residents can afford theater tickets or trips to Tel Aviv.


Ariel is home to wealthy families, and also to families who arrived in the name of political ideology, yet most residents live there because of their desire for a normal life: Students who arrived at the local university because they were received with open arms, young families lacking economic means, new immigrants, and regular Israelis who wish to lead a dignified life in the State of Israel. A dignified, cultural life.


Importance of diversity

On stage left we have the play’s stars – “prominent” artists and writers. Although you won’t find even one interview where they don’t whine about their own economic misery or the State of Israel’s situation, there’s no reason to worry about them. They know how to make ends meet. This year, for example, they received larger grants from the Education Ministry, while those being boycotted faced government budget cuts.


Besides, life is beautiful over there in Tel Aviv, so what’s the problem for these settlers to get on their motorbike and head to the big city for a show?


Well, ladies and gentleman, playwrights and actors: This is not the problem of Ariel residents, but rather, of “legitimate” residents such as myself, who are allowed to attend the theater (as long as you continue to approve a cultural life in Jerusalem, of course.) It’s the problem for those Israelis whose tax payments finance and subsidize your work for the sake of democratic culture.


I keep on sponsoring you even when you present works that are incommensurate with my worldview, and I continue doing so even when you express yourselves in a way that contradicts my wishes and beliefs. I do all this because in a democratic state it’s important to have culture that does not present one voice, it’s important to have criticism, and mostly it’s important to create cultural bridges between people (as some of the boycotters argued in another era.)


However, your proposed boycott, which would target anonymous audience members, would constitute political coercion – a dictatorship established on the backs of innocent citizens who are guilty of nothing. This is what I find hard to accept, even if in your view it’s all about culture. 



פרסום ראשון: 08.31.10, 11:48
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