Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ariel: It's the occupation, stupid אריאל: זהו הכיבוש, טיפשון

May I add my two zuzim to the Ariel theater “boycott” fray?
First of all, let’s get our terms straight. Or rather, let Limor Livnat et al. get their terms straight:
1. What a boycott is: an economic tool used to pressure a seller into ceasing a certain practice perceived by consumers to be unlawful, unfair, or inhumane
2. What a boycott is not: a social taboo, i.e., sleeping with one’s mother

When Livnat decries a “boycott from within”, I say: You can decry all you want, but from within or without, it’s legitimate to boycott an institution. For instance, I choose to boycott products made by Nestle, which now owns chunks of both Telma and Osem. So yes, in a miniscule way, I’m harming my own (Israel’s) economy. Does this mean it’s not my right to boycott it? After all, it’s “a boycott from within”.

3. What the theater personnel are actually doing: striking. That’s right: They’ve declared that they will not work under certain conditions. Prime Minister Netanyahu claims that their threatened actions are illegitimate because their employers — the theaters — are state-subsidized. Interesting. Last time I checked, teachers, firefighters, nurses, EMTs, and airport personnel are also state employees, and we’ve all certainly suffered the effects of their strikes. Therefore logic dictates that if there is a work dispute, it should be referred to the Labor Ministry, not the Patriotism Police, much as Livnat no doubt wishes there were such a thing.

Now let’s turn our attention to one of the popular arguments against the actors’ strike, that claiming that “Successive (read: Labor) governments supported the settlement enterprise, so it is unacceptable to turn our backs on it now”.

First of all, this is a transparent smear at the left, i.e., “Your once-powerful party started this thing, and now you have the chutzpa to oppose it.” This argument is disingenuous at the least, as we all know that many of us, despite having perhaps voted for Labor, opposed the settlements even as Labor established them, as we hoped to influence those whom we saw as our representatives to stop doing so.

Moreover, is the fact that one’s government made mistakes a reason to throw good money after bad? Many governments have backed or actively engaged in spilling effluent into and over-fishing our oceans, over-timbering the Pacific Northwest, and decimating our rainforests. Does that mean we should just continue engaging in these unsustainable practices? Because that’s what the settlement enterprise is: One can argue whether it’s right or wrong, good or evil. But whichever it is, it’s indisputably unsustainable, which in itself is a reason to do a U-turn and not continue down the Greater Land of Israel Collision Course.

Now let’s look at a term that’s being excavated from the media antiquities and bandied about: Ariel was enticingly advertised as being “five minutes’ drive from Kfar Saba”, the subtext of which is: “You get the scenery of Samaria with the convenience of a nearby city, which includes shopping, services, and entertainment, a five-minute drive for which is a low price”. So, the settlers paid their money and made their choice: They chose Samarian scenery over living inside the Green Line; therefore let them drive five minutes to see theater. The majority of Israelis live further than a five-minute drive from a theater, so what makes living in Ariel such a particular hardship?

The actors’ strike was inevitable; it’s a natural response to a policy that they oppose, and it won’t be the last. For their part, the Palis are perfectly situated to ensure that the building freeze never thaws: All they have to do is not show up for work on September 27th, i.e., a strike. What could be simpler? If all who oppose the settlements were to donate to a strike fund for those Palis who earn their livelihoods doing construction work in the settlements, we'd have enough to at least stop work for a while, during which we should demonstrate, but not in Rabin Square. Instead, we should form a human chain stretching from the Defense Ministry Compound to the remotest hilltop settlements, carrying banners proclaiming, "העם אינו עם השומרון"; "Settlers, you're outside the consensus"; and "Israelis Against the Settlements"; and make sure CNN is there with cameras rolling (to quote my talkback to Bradley Burston's heart-stopping piece on the settlements).

1 comment:

  1. The nationalist right is trying to put the actors' boycott of Ariel in the same category as the academic boycott of Israel. But they are very different. The latter seeks to delegitimize Israel as a country, while the former is legitimate political action by citizens of a country who seek to change their society.