Why is it important for Israel’s national theater company, Habima, to perform in Kiryat Arba? For two reasons: First, because boycotting Kiryat Arba and the occupied territories in general is only a broad and convenient fig leaf for Israel’s impotent left. It is cheap lip service to a genuine war against the occupation, a war that will not be waged with boycott. This boycott doesn’t change anything for anyone, apart from the leftists who use it to polish their conscience and then rub their hands with self-righteous glee and continue to do nothing. That, because the ideological — and, it sometimes seems, the physical convenience — is more important to them than promoting their ideas.
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Israel maintains its hold on the occupied territories through the power of a democratically elected government, and the war over public opinion is waged not by boycotts, but by voicing our ideas.
And so we reach the second reason: The voice of the left, of humaneness and of opposition to the occupation should be voiced not only in the salons of the left in central Israel, but also in the settlements and in other peripheral areas. In other words, instead of preaching to the choir, the sermon must be addressed to the transgressors. The left’s sour sanctimoniousness convince mainly the sour and self-righteous leftists, not those who need to be convinced.
Habima, together with the left-wing journalists, authors and poets, should rise up from its prolonged armchair revolution and go forth to settle in the hearts of the settlers, the people of the periphery and others. Real life, the thing that determines our fate at the polls, takes place far from the districts of the left. It takes place in the settlements, east of the Ayalon River, north of the Yarkon River, even west of the hills of darkness of Rishon Letzion.
There, in those forgotten places, the actors and writers will put on plays, talk about literature, deliver passionate speeches not only against the occupation but also for freedom of speech, for human rights, for man qua man. In short, they will journey far and will personally advance the humanist ideas they champion.
And perhaps, as a result of these actions, and as opposed to the idiotic attempt by Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev and Education Minister Naftali Bennett to foist on us fascist, discriminatory ideas and to establish a fundamentalist regime in which everyone speaks in a single voice, other voices will also be heard: voices that will raise doubts and provoke questions regarding the justness of the path. Just as performers and performing institutions can boycott, they can also spread the message, their own message.
Only by making our voice heard, by trying to inculcate ideas of liberty and humanism, can we, perhaps, change things. The boycott should be boycotted, because boycotts are a convenient route for those who don’t want to change the situation, but only to be right. Boycotts don’t contribute to changing the atmosphere in Israel at all, they only cause each side to become entrenched in its own positions.