Ariel cultural center
Workers readying the Ariel cultural center for its opening. Photo by Alon Ron
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No one disputes the right of Israeli artists to protest sharply, and even vehemently, against any injustice or phenomenon they see, and the town of Ariel is no exception.

One can only wonder about the timing of the protest, and its form, intensity and effectiveness as perceived by the protesting artists.

One might ask, for example, whether it was right to launch so blatant an attack on Ariel at a time when the prime minister is leaving for diplomatic meetings in Washington that will involve, among other things, difficult negotiations over the fate of the settlements.

The consensus Israeli approach strives to include Ariel in the sovereign state of Israel and displaying domestic division will certainly not add to Netanyahu's bargaining power in peace talks.

One may also wonder about the intellectual honesty of those same artists and ask whether artists who benefit from public funding are not obligated to resign from their positions before launching a protest against the public policy that nurtures them.

Protest, as is well known, comes with a price and it is impossible to have the best of both worlds. Just as a soldier who refuses to serve in the territories knows that he can expect jail as punishment, the Israeli artists seeking to violate a contract obligating an appearance in Ariel's cultural center must recognize the consequences of their actions.

Their resignation from their positions would have added dignity and force to their position. Instead their "luxurious" protest detracts from its value.

Anyone hearing the artists' protest may think that Israel has for them turned into a dark, oppressive regime that brutally crushes human rights, analogous to East Germany or apartheid-era South Africa.

This matter raises the question of degree. In other words, one may certainly expect intellectual, cultural elite to protest against the offending phenomenon, but to an appropriate degree. Between Israel and the Palestinians, there exists a bitter conflict that touches on the very self-determination of each people and goes beyond the matter of the territories alone.

In the meantime, Israel's partial military control of the territories, which exist in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, and entails negotiations with it, is not preventing the financial and social development in the territories, and the proof of it is the economic prosperity in Judea and Samaria, where an annual growth rate of 10 percent was recently recorded there.

So long as we have not reached a contractual peace agreement that ends the conflict and determines the final status of the territories, Ariel and its residents are entitled to cultural services just as they are entitled to all other services as tax-paying citizens of Israel.

Barring them from cultural and artistic performances is an unfair blow. One can protest and demonstrate against government policy, but why do so upon the backs of Ariel residents, who moved there in accordance with the policies of successive governments? In general, does a performance in Ariel mean identification with Israeli rule there? Does an artist who performs in the U.S. automatically identify with its military activities in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Regarding the effectiveness of the protest, presumably the artists did not correctly assess the intensity of the counterprotest that they prompted with their very own hands. A boycott can turn into a counter-boycott and in this respect, into a double-edged sword.

Instead of creating a domestic Israeli dialogue, pointed as it may be, on the future of the communities in Judea and Samaria, they created deep alienation between themselves and the residents of Ariel and of Judea and Samaria at large.

They also infuriated many Israeli citizens. Does this work to advance, even by a single millimeter, the artists' positions?

Israel is now dealing with an unprecedentedly intense and dangerous de-legitimization campaign. This campaign, organized by intellectuals and cultural figures in the West, intends to uproot the very idea of a national homeland for the Jews. It is meant to transform the State of Israel into a country for all its citizens, which will mean in practice the end of the Jewish state.

This campaign is accompanied, among other things, by different and strange boycotts against Israel and Israeli companies, alongside malicious propaganda that defames Israel and depicts it as a racist country and an occupier. There is no need to mention that the domestic boycott merely intensifies and contributes to the foreign boycott.

Finally, it is impossible to escape the harsh contexts spurred by the word "boycott." There is no need to go back as far as the Middle Ages; it is enough to recall what took place in Europe in the 1930s, when the Germans imposed a boycott on Jews and their businesses.

This is a dangerous, extreme and acutely disproportional weapon that does not correspond to the nature of the problem, but rather stirs up issues and in effect prevents achievement of an internal Israeli consensus regarding the future of the territories.

 

The writer is the managing partner of the Luzzatto Group, which specializes in intellectual property, and a social activist.