[Marxism] Israeli actors to boycott performances in West Bank territories

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Aug 30 09:45:33 MDT 2010

NY Times August 29, 2010
Actors’ Protest and Rabbi’s Sermon Stoke Tensions in Israel Ahead 
of Peace Talks

JERUSALEM — Israel was in an uproar on Sunday over a refusal by 
Israeli theater artists to perform in West Bank Jewish 
settlements, and Palestinians were outraged by a virulently 
anti-Palestinian sermon by a Jerusalem rabbi, further fueling the 
atmosphere days before the expected resumption of 
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in Washington.

The artists’ protest awakened internal debate in Israel over the 
legitimacy of the Jewish settlements, while the Palestinian 
government condemned the sermon delivered by the influential rabbi 
on Saturday in which he described the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud 
Abbas, as “evil” and called on God to strike “these Ishmaelites 
and Palestinians with a plague; these evil haters of Israel.”

Excerpts of the sermon were broadcast on Israel Radio on Sunday.

The Iraqi-born rabbi, Ovadia Yosef, 89, is the spiritual leader of 
the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, which is a member of Prime Minister 
Benjamin Netanyahu’s government coalition. A widely respected 
religious authority, Rabbi Yosef also is known for his incendiary 
pronouncements against Arabs and homosexuals, among others.

Referring to Mr. Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, by 
his popular name, the rabbi said that “Abu Mazen and all these 
evil people should perish from this earth.”

The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said in a statement 
that the rabbi was “literally calling for a genocide against 
Palestinians” and “for the assassination of President Abbas.”

Mr. Netanyahu stopped short of condemning the rabbi’s remarks, but 
his office said in a statement that they “do not reflect 
Netanyahu’s views, nor do they reflect the stance of the Israeli 

The statement continued, “Israel plans to take part in peace 
negotiations out of a desire to advance toward a peace agreement 
with the Palestinians that will end the conflict and ensure peace, 
security and good neighborly relations between the two peoples.”

Eli Yishai, the interior minister and the political leader of 
Shas, had no comment, according to his media adviser, Roei 

Skepticism about the chances of a peace deal within 12 months — 
the goal set by the Obama administration — already is running high 
among Israelis and Palestinians, and nerves are raw on both sides.

Israel is usually the one accusing the Palestinians of incitement, 
citing the naming of public squares, streets and cultural events 
for Palestinians who planned or carried out bloody attacks against 

The Palestinian leadership has focused until now on the issue of 
settlements and the looming question of the partial Israeli 
moratorium on settlement construction, which is due to expire on 
Sept. 26.

In a speech broadcast on Palestinian television on Sunday night, 
Mr. Abbas said that the Palestinians had “informed all concerned 
parties, including the Americans, before agreeing to participate 
in the negotiations, that Israel will be held responsible for 
risking the failure or undermining of the negotiations if it 
continues settlement expansion in any form in the Palestinian land 
occupied since 1967,” in a reference to the West Bank and East 

The direct negotiations, scheduled to start Thursday, will be the 
first in 20 months.

The Palestinians aspire to an independent state in the territory 
that Israel conquered in the 1967 war. The West Bank is now dotted 
with Jewish settlements, which are home to about 300,000 Israelis. 
Israel maintains that the territory is disputed. Most of the world 
considers the settlements to be illegal under international law.

More than 50 Israeli actors and playwrights signed a letter on 
Thursday to the managements of six Israeli theaters protesting 
plans to stage productions in a new performing arts center 
scheduled to open in the urban settlement of Ariel in November. 
The artists asked the theater managers to limit their activity to 
sovereign Israeli territory within the 1967 lines.

The letter led to threats by members of the Israeli Parliament of 
economic consequences for the theaters, which are partly 

The managements of four major theaters responded with a statement 
saying that they “will perform in any place where there are 
theater-loving Israelis, including the new cultural center in Ariel.”

The issue of performing in West Bank settlements has not arisen 
before because there were no large facilities there to host major 
productions, Noam Semel, the director general of the Cameri 
Theater in Tel Aviv, said by telephone.

In a separate response, Miki Gurevitch, the artistic director of 
the Khan Theater in Jerusalem, posed the question of whether 
excluding Ariel from Israel’s social borders would mean that the 
artists were excluding themselves from society.

Mr. Netanyahu said Sunday that the Israeli government did “not 
need to fund boycotts” directed at Israeli citizens. The Israeli 
government has been critical of a Palestinian Authority boycott of 
produce from Israeli settlements.

Ron Nachman, the mayor of Ariel, said by telephone that the 
problem was between the theater managers and their employees. He 
added that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations based on a 
territory-for-peace formula were bound to fail.

Ariel has been a sticking point in past negotiations — with Israel 
insisting on keeping it within its borders and the Palestinians 
insisting on its removal — because it juts far into the West Bank.

Amid the discord, and in an effort to win over the Israeli public, 
a number of Palestinian leaders have recorded one-minute video 
clips expressing their seriousness about the negotiations and 
commitment to peace. The clips, sponsored by a joint 
Israeli-Palestinian organization and paid for by the American 
government, began to appear on Web sites on Sunday and were 
expected to spread to electronic billboards in the coming days.

“Shalom to you in Israel,” states Mr. Erekat, the chief 
Palestinian negotiator, in one such clip. Like a half-dozen 
others, Mr. Erekat’s message is, “I am your partner.” He expresses 
confidence that a two-state solution can be reached.

Ethan Bronner contributed reporting.

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