Ariel culture center
David Grossman. Signed the letter
Photo: Yehonatan Zur

MKs: Stop funding 'lunatic' artists

MK Levin responds to latest letter by artists calling for boycott of Ariel center, says state must set new guidelines for culture budget. 'Taxpayers' money goes to lunatics using it to promote anti-Zionist narrative,' he says

A number of MKs are objecting to the ongoing artists' boycott of the soon-to-open Ariel culture center, and on Saturday MK Yariv Levin (Likud) suggested the government withdraw funding from theaters supporting the protest.


"We must put an end to the fact that taxpayers' money is going straight into the pockets of fringe groups, who use these funds in order to promote an anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish narrative and boycott the very public which supports them," Levin said.


Dozens of theater figures backing the boycott sent a letter on Friday to Be'er Sheva Theater actors, urging them to join the fight.


Of this, Levin said he would call an urgent hearing of the Knesset Education Committee and demand the government alter the criteria for the funding of theaters and cultural institutions "in order to prevent the transfer of state funds to those who boycott some of its citizens".


"The vast majority of the Israeli public is sick and tired of lunatic fringe groups taking control of Israeli theater and cinema. We must halt the fiscal support in the field of culture and set new guidelines that stress the encouragement of works of art that express the culture of our forefathers and our glorious heritage," he said.


MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) joined Levin and inveighed against "expressions of hatred under the guise of culture, which push away any chance at peace".


"The artists' apartheid letter, which boycotts Israeli citizens, not only does not promote national willingness to achieve peace, but also pushes it away. Ariel, as a settlement bloc, will be included in any peace agreement within the borders of the state. Every big party leader must stress to artists who receive the Israel Prize where the peaceful borders of the State of Israel are to pass," he said.


MK Michael Ben Ari also voiced anger over the letter. "Whoever participates in the boycott of Ariel should take into consideration that we will clip his budget wings and withhold funds. We will not allow parasitic artists who milk the national budget to enjoy both worlds. Those who boycott can go to Salam Fayyad for money, not the Knesset," he said.


The Samaria Settlers' Committee responded to the letter by calling for a reciprocal boycott of the artists listed as signatories. The committee posted a list of all the artists supporting the boycott with a description of their work.


"We have decided to act in opposition by using the same means used by this group, which is utilizing every anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish move. Our call is aimed at the public that loves Israel," said Benny Katzover, who heads the committee.


"We have called for a separation of art and politics. Every citizen, whether he lives in Judea and Samaria or any other place in Israel, has the right to enjoy art free of political appeal, especially when it is funded by all of our tax money."


'Letter proves Israeli democracy still alive'

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz refused this week to give his blessing to the center, set to open on Wednesday. Members of the production company who requested an interview with Katz fumed, though he explained that he had refused because of shortage of time, and not ideology.


"Minister Katz supports Ariel and its culture center. He has repeated this time and again," his office stated.


The interview had been scheduled for Wednesday, as part of preparations by the production company in charge of the center's grand opening. The company visited the Knesset with the aim of interviewing MKs, most of whom were in favor of the center and only a few who were opposed.


One of those belonging to the latter category, Meretz chairman MK Haim Oron, said the artists' letter was worthy of being valued, "and is important public testimony to the fact that Israeli democracy is still alive, and the settlement enterprise is still controversial."


"I am saddened by the waves of violence, incitement, and smear campaigns against the creators, whose spirits revel in freedom, the absence of which leave us with propaganda, which is the opposite of art," Oron said.


'You can't be forced to perform in Ariel'

On Friday initiators of the original boycott against the center published a second letter to artists who have not yet joined them, asking them to reconsider. "You can't be forced to perform there," the letter says. "We call on you to defer to the rulings of your conscience and you public responsibility."


Among the signatories of the letter are Hanna Maron and Ohad Naharin, both Israel Prize laureates, and author David Grossman.


"Dear actors, you are about to perform at a culture center established on occupied land in the settlement of Ariel. Just a few kilometers away from the aspiring and affluent Ariel Palestinians are residing in refugee camps, in conditions too difficult to bear and without recourse to basic human rights. Not only will they never have the leisure of attending cultural events, some of them do not even have the luxury of running water. These are the two realities that create apartheid," the letter begins.


It also offers confused artists a legal overview of their performing rights, and as such strives to legitimize their protest. "You are not alone in the battle," the letter assures its readers.


"After the publication of this letter no one will be able to say that he did not know or didn't understand the significance of this. Ariel is not just another town in Israel," the letter says.


"Ariel is an illegal settlement and settling there is a violation of international law and the Geneva Convention, which Israel has signed. Ariel's establishment has one aim and one aim only: To prevent the Palestinians from founding an independent state, and thus preventing us, citizens of Israel, from ever living in peace in this region."


Merav Yudilovitch contributed to this report



פרסום ראשון: 11.06.10, 20:02
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