New theatre in Ariel
New theatre in ArielIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Knesset Members are threatening to cut off funding for more than 30 artists who say they refuse to appear in a new theater to open in November in the city of Ariel, home to 17,000 Israelis,  because it is located in Samaria. Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman called the performers part of a small minority of extremists, many of whom are in the performing arts.

The artists and actors wrote in a letter to the national management of theaters in Israel that no performances should be held in Judea and Samaria, but rather only “within the Green Line,” a term that designates Israel's borders before the Six Day War. They claimed it was "against their consciences."

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu denounced the boycott at the beginning of the weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday, saying that "the last thing we need is a boycott attempt from within Israel"while international leftists try to make Israel appear illegitimate."

Ori Orbach,  Jewish Home MK and former radio personality on Army Radio, also condemned the boycott.

MKs from three parties—Ronit Tirosh of Kadima, Yariv Levin of Likud and Dr. Michael Ben-Ari of National Union—said they will sponsor a bill canceling government funding of theaters allowing performances by actors who participate in the boycott.

“Even the American government and the Palestinian Authority have known for a long time that Ariel will remain part of the State of Israel in any future agreement,” MK Tirosh stated. “The country must not sponsor anyone who supports a boycott of citizens, whether they are outside the country or within Israel."

The Beersheba, Khan, Habima and Cameri theaters have all signed up for productions in the new theater building.

Leaders of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria (Yesha) said that the boycott is sponsored by “a group that refuses army service and by anti-Zionist leftists.” Mayor Nachman commented using an Israeli adage, "The dogs may bark but the caravan continues on its way, ” used to describe insignificant interference. Famous Israeli actrress Hana Merom and actor Oded Teomi both criticized the actors for mixing political views with performing art.

The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel declared, “These actors of the 'State of Tel Aviv' must understand that there are other citizens in Israel and that they have the same rights to culture... Actors who boycott citizens who have different political opinions do not deserve to perform in any theater in Israel.”

Likud MK Miri Regev, a member of the Knesset Finance Committee, called for a study of government funding of the boycotting actors and questioned whether they should be allowed to perform at government functions. She also suggested a counter boycott of artists who boycott Judea and Samaria.

“Political opinions can be expressed democratically every four years” when there are new elections, and not in the theater, MK Regev added. 

Pini Badash, head of the local council of the community of Omer, an upscale suburb of Be'er Sheva, announced he would bar the appearance of boycotting artists.