Netanyahu: Boycotting Settlement Arts Center Cuts Into Israel's Flesh

The prime minister criticized the artist boycott of the Ariel cultural center during Sunday's cabinet meeting.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday spokes out against the artists boycotting a newly opened arts center in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, telling cabinet ministers that move was "cutting into our collective flesh."

In September, a group of theater actors and public figures signed a petition saying they would not perform in the new Ariel center as a protest of Israel's settlement policies. The protest was supported by over 150 academics.

boycott - Emil Salman - August 31 2010
Emil Salman

"I believe that the arts center is important and that Ariel is important," Netanyahu told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. "I was involved in the establishment of the arts center at various stages. Unfortunately, I couldn't make it to the official opening, as I was out of the country at the time."

"Boycotts, we know how they begin, but we can't know how they'll end," Netanyahu said. "Whoever decides to boycott is cutting into our collective flesh."

At the official opening of the cultural center last week, Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman said" "The thousands of residents of Ariel will also have the right to culture - as all citizens of Israel," adding that its "tax-paying" residents should not be culturally boycotted.

However, it has recently come to light that in 2001, the municipality of Ariel petitioned the Tel Aviv District Court against the tax authorities to return the Value Added Tax it paid between 1994 and 1998.

In its brief, the municipality argued that it is not part of Israel according to the law, because "the Ariel Local Council and the municipality, composed of residents of the region, convenes in the region and is managed from Ariel," and the city is not governed from Israel.

This stand seems to contradict Nachman's statement on opening night at the cultural center.