For a Two-State Solution? Boycott Ariel

The Large Settlement Serves as a Litmus Test

Bone of Contention: The settlement of Ariel juts into the West Bank, cutting it in two.
Nathan Jeffay
Bone of Contention: The settlement of Ariel juts into the West Bank, cutting it in two.

By Leonard Fein

Published January 04, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

A while back, I wrote a column in which I urged people to boycott Ariel.

An explanation is in order here: Ariel is a town of some 18,000 people that juts 16 kilometers (10 miles) beyond the Green Line. It is, in other words, rather deep within the West Bank. It is 25 miles from Tel Aviv and 25 miles from the Jordan River. It forms a barrier between the northern and the southern West Bank. 


My column recommending a boycott of Ariel led to some harsh comments. My favorite, so to speak, was in the form of an impassioned letter to The Jewish Advocate, urging that I be excommunicated, and suggesting that it be the Boston Federation that would do the excommunicating. This was, of course, utter nonsense, and the president of the Boston Federation was quick to leap to my defense — not on the matter of the boycott, but on account of my diverse contributions to the Boston community over the years.

Now I learn that I am in good company. On Christmas day, the Associated Press reported that “a trio of Israeli stage actors is refusing to perform in an acclaimed play before a theater in a West Bank Jewish settlement [in fact, Ariel], part of a burgeoning domestic movement against the government’s settlement policies.”

Would it were so. But the notion of a “burgeoning movement against the government’s settlement policies” strikes me as wishful thinking, of a piece with the AP report that “Israelis who once considered the West Bank inseparable from the rest of the country, or at least shrugged off the settlements as insignificant, have begun to protest the large government budgets promoting West Bank construction instead of solving a dire housing crisis plaguing the rest of the country. Others refuse to purchase settlement goods or perform reserve military guard duty in the West Bank.” If all that’s so, it is a well-kept secret.

As to the actors and the play, what we know is that three cast members asked to be excused from performing at the cultural center in Ariel. They were granted exemptions and were replaced by alternates, allowing the show to go on. The Cameri theater said it was committed to staging the show in Ariel but would respect the political positions of its artists. “The theater does not force its actors to perform in Ariel. Those who are not interested are replaced by their colleagues,” it said in the statement. “The Cameri theater chose to allow its actors to exercise their freedom of expression and follow their conscience.”

One of the actresses, Sarit Vino-Elad, said she could not bring herself to step foot in a theater built on occupied land and which posed an obstacle to peace with Palestinians.

“This is not a boycott. It’s my own little protest against a government policy that continues to build settlements,” she told the AP. “They are trying to make Ariel part of the consensus, but as far as I am concerned it is not legitimate. You want me to perform there? Solve the problem.” Vino-Elad said her colleagues would have preferred to stay quiet for fear of political backlash — but she could not. “We don’t want to create world wars here, we want to make theater,” she said.

Ariel Turjeman, the director of the Ariel theater, played down the protest, saying the actors who refused to perform in the West Bank were a tiny number compared to the thousands who did. He said the theater purchased a play, not an actor, and that the move is little more than a publicity stunt.

“Those who don’t want to come don’t have to,” he said. “If Ariel makes them uncomfortable, they can stay home. And to be honest, we don’t want those who don’t want to come here.”

When Israel’s High Court approved the accreditation of Ariel’s university – the first beyond the Green Line – Deputy Education Minister MK Avi Wortzman welcomed the court’s ruling, saying that it “reinforces the fact that [the city of] Ariel is an inseparable part of the State of Israel.” But although right-wing ministers and activists make grandiose promises regarding Ariel’s permanence as part of Israel, it is exceedingly difficult to imagine its annexation to Israel if and when a final two-state settlement is reached. It is a deception, a down-payment on endless dispute. In its own way, it provides us a litmus test: If you have no use for a two-state solution, you can celebrate Ariel; if you believe that only a two-state solution offers a happy ending to the conflict, then you must oppose Ariel. Or, in the present circumstances, boycott it.

Contact Leonard Fein at feedback@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Sigal Samuel's family amulet isn't just rumored to have magical powers. It's also a symbol of how Jewish and Indian rituals became intertwined over the centuries. http://jd.fo/a3BvD Only three days left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.