Israeli actors boycott theatres in settlements

JERUSALEM - A group of Israeli actors and playwrights has refused to perform in West Bank settlements just days before U.S.-sponsored peace negotiations start over the occupied territory where Palestinians want a state.

By (Reuters)

Published: Sun 29 Aug 2010, 5:35 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 5:54 AM

A total of 57 theatrical personalities had signed up to the boycott by Sunday, prompted by the planned opening in November of a state-funded theatre in the settlement of Ariel.

The signatories urged six major theatre companies to hold productions only within Israel proper, drawing a rebuke from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The last thing we need at this time, when we are under such assault, is a boycott attempt from within ourselves,” he said.

The actors’ boycott petition was circulated before the Sept. 2 start of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in the United States, which the Palestinians have threatened to quit if settlements expand.

“Those actors among us hereby declare that they will refuse to appear in Ariel, as well as at other settlements,” the document said.

Some Israeli artists and theatre managers came out against the initiative, showing lack of consensus over how to view settlements built on land captured from Jordan in the 1967 war.


In broadcast comments to his cabinet, Netanyahu said he had been informed performance schedules for the settlements were unchanged. He accused the petitioners of acting inappropriately given the government’s financial underwriting of their theatres.

Netanyahu likened their petition to the cancellation by some international artists of performances in Israel and other bids to drum up embargoes in solidarity with the Palestinians.

“I do not want to negate the right of any person, of any artist, to have a political opinion and to express this opinion. But we as a government should not fund boycotts ... against the citizens of Israel, whoever they may be,” he said.

The settlements have been branded as illegal abroad. Many Jews say they have a biblical birthright to live there.

Actor Oded Kotler, who signed the boycott petition, said his government-backed paycheck would not prevent him from shunning settlement venues.

“My contract with the theatre says explicitly that I am obligated to perform within the State of Israel — and Ariel is not part of the state,” he told Army Radio.

Successive Israeli governments have pledged to annex West Bank settlement blocs, including Ariel, under any future peace accord. The Palestinians have spoken about limited territorial exchanges but chafe at Israeli moves to predetermine borders.

A more immediate dispute has been over the Sept. 26 expiry of a partial moratorium that Netanyahu imposed on settlement building to coax Palestinians into negotiations. They want the freeze extended and expanded.

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