The debate over the boycott of a West Bank cultural center by a group of theater professionals intensified on Monday, with the Culture and Sports Minister calling the boycotters "ignoramuses".
The uproar began in September, when a group of theater actors and public figures signed a petition saying they would not perform in a newly constructed center in the settlement of Ariel as a protest of Israel's settlement policies. The protest was supported by over 150 academics.
On Monday, Limor Livnat gathered the Culture and Sports Ministry to discuss the most recent development in the saga, a letter sent by the dozens of theater figures boycotting the Ariel center to Be'er Sheva Theater actors urging them to join their boycott.
Livnat slammed the letter writers, calling some of them "anarchists" and "unsuccessful".
"Ariel is not just another community," the letter to the Be'er Sheva Theater actors said, stressing that actors were about to perform in a center that was erected on occupied land. "Just several kilometers from the thriving and flourishing Ariel, Palestinians live in refugee camps, in harsh living conditions and without any basic human rights. Not only are they not entitled to see performances in Ariel, some of them have no access to running water."
Responding to claims by some that the letters didn’t constitute a boycott, Livnat said "I am using the word 'boycott'. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck."
"When they say they won't perform in Ariel or enter Ariel, that is a boycott no matter how you write it," Livnat continued.
Livnat had criticized the actors earlier this month, saying "The residents of Ariel are equal citizens of Israel and are entitled to cultural rights just like anyone else in the country."
The theater boycotters have found support amongst leading Israeli film and television artists, who signed an online petition supporting the right of actors to refuse to perform in the West Bank arts center.
"A number of Knesset members and ministers from Yisrael Beitenu and Likud and other right-wing figures are calling for cutting off funding to artists that this week called for a boycott of the cultural center in Ariel," the online petition said.
"Threats of this type by these Knesset Members do not scare us," the petition continued. "As Israeli citizens, the refusal of these theater actors to perform in Ariel, which is not within the borders of Israeli sovereignty, is a democratic right."
"It is unconscionable that the resistance to the settlement enterprise, a belief shared by a substantial amount of the Israeli public, has turned into an illegitimate position that leads to slandering, silencing, and funding cuts," said the petition.
The Ariel cultural center celebrated its official opening earlier in the month.
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