Ariel cultural center – boycott legitimate?

Boycotts are legitimate

Op-ed: Boycotts are the Jewish way, so why all the fuss over Ariel theater embargo?

The Ariel boycott announced by artists, authors, and professors provoked great commotion around here. As if a grave crime had been committed. Some argued that boycotts are wholly illegitimate and, heaven forbid, constitute a Diasporic custom. The more cautious ones argued that those who enjoy public funding - theaters and universities, for example - must not boycott other Israelis, whoever they may be.


Boycotts are a legitimate means anywhere in the world and a vital political weapon. The Americans and Indians imposed a boycott on British products when they fought against the English occupier. Anti-slavery Americans boycotted US manufacturers who used slaves. Many states boycotted South African products while the country was under racial segregation.


Elsewhere, the US boycotted the Olympics in Moscow, while the Soviet Union boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics. Labor unions and consumers also boycotted lettuce and grapes in the wake of a labor dispute between American farm workers and farmers. Boycotts are the way of the world.


And also the way of the Jews. Indeed, the Jews imposed a boycott on other Jews, known as Samaritans. This was not done because the latter were sympathetic to the Palestinian struggle, but rather, because these Samaritans believe that Mount Gerizim is a holy site, while Jerusalem is not.


The fact that the Samaritans read and believe in the Torah, while largely discounting the rest of the Bible (which is very common among current-day haredim) made no difference. The fact that they uphold the mitzvahs to a much greater extent than the average secular Jew made no difference. Just because of their political (religious) views, Orthodox Jews imposed a boycott on them, with the State of Israel doing the same. A major boycott.


Not to mention the Jewish boycott against Ford vehicles. Today, there are plenty of Fords in Israel. Yet in the 1920s, the Jews imposed a boycott on Ford. Why? It doesn't really matter. What's interesting about the story is that it was one of the more successful boycotts, like the one imposed against South Africa. The car manufacturer eventually shunned the anti-Semitic writings of the corporation's founder.


Elsewhere, "Zionist" Jews in Eretz Yisrael imposed a boycott on products produced by other Jews, who employed Arab workers.


And what about boycotts imposed by those funded by the State of Israel? There are plenty of those. All Orthodox Jewish institutions, which are state-funded, nonetheless boycott Reform and Conservative Jews. Meanwhile, haredi Jews in Israel impose a boycott on stores that sell non-kosher food next to kosher food – something that haredi Jews in London would never dare do. All of this is done via government-funded bodies, often yeshivas and "Torah" institutions.


Yet when it comes to the politics of religion, Limor Livnat and Benjamin Netanyahu (who are now preaching their views about state-funded boycotts) do not utter a word.


Nonsensical condemnations

The European Union imposed a boycott on settlement products and did not recognize them as Israeli-made, thereby charging customs fees. So what did the Israeli government, which comprised Ariel Sharon, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Olmert, and Limor Livnat do? It agreed to cooperate with the boycott, and Ariel products are no longer recognized as Israeli-made.


Finally, the Israeli government does not recognize the Ariel College. The Higher Education Council legislation does not apply in Ariel, and when officials tried to apply it, the Council resisted. Hence, the college is recognized via a decree issued by a military governor, Jordan's replacement at the occupied area. That is, the boycott against Ariel was started by the government, Limor Livnat as head of the Higher Education Council was a full party to it, and she continues with it. Everything was done with public funds.


So why do actor Dror Keren and author David Grossman deserve all the nonsensical condemnations? For acting like Jews and their governments had been acting for many generations? For doing what any freedom fighter who objects to discrimination and oppression would do?



פרסום ראשון: 09.03.10, 00:07
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