Boycott? Child’s play
The Struggle Over the Right to Boycott
Yuval Ben Ami, City Mouse Online
It’s not only the right to boycott that artists in israel fight for, but for the right to support those who want to boycott. Yuval Ben Ami sat in front of Romi Abulaffia’s Camera and refused to be silent.
I have a sympathy for people who boycott in Tel Aviv. In fact, Meir Viltir, Rona Keinan, David Tratcover, Alex Libak, Yossi Pollak and the rest of the artists joined the struggle against the Boycott Law, as far as I know, haven’t boycotted anyone, and didn’t even support the boycotters, al they did was rise up for our right to support boycotters. It’s a rather strange right, trivial on one hand, and on the other, roles of our tongue as a bitter joke. Maybe only artists have the sufficiently developed imagination to even deal with such a ridiculous trial as this.
Those who side with the law often explain that boycotting is a legitimate tool to solving problems. Only a few days ago the Minister of Education quoted his daughter,Daniela, in an article published on his website. “To boycott is to ignore,” said the daughter, “it obviously isn’t a way to solve things. It’s childish.” In the article Sa’ar explains that Daniela is someone who’s counter-boycotting Elvis Costello, who cancelled his performance in Israel this year, and refuses to listen to his music. How absurd.
Is Daniela’s boycott childish? Yes. Muzzling Israeli citizens is also childish. Moreover: The occupation, which the boycotters are opposing, in culture, education and trade, is completely childish. But for those who wish to protect it at any price, it’s easy to call those fighting it infantile, and to use this alleged infantilism as an excuse to legalize a severe sabotage to the freedom of speech.
This sabotage has already passed a first reading in the Knesset. It will hurt, among others, the Ariel Culture Center boycotters, Israelis who’ll take part in building the Palestinian city Rawabi who committed not to use settlement products- not Israeli products, settlement products. A state that prevents its citizens from legitimate, nonviolent protestation activities, is a state that demands rage and admonishment, silence towards it and loud criticism at it. It’s not childish, it’s maturity.
The artists rising up in the face of the Boycott Law aren’t buying cheap talk that’s meant to disorient the Israeli public and convince it that hurting its freedoms, serves it. This is why I joined them, not as an artist, but as an extra. Isat in from of Romi Abulaffia’s camera and said the words “yes, we’ll continue to resist occupation.” If I could have added a sentence, I would have said the words “thank you Elvise Costello, that you contributed to the creation of a discourse in Israel, we’ll continue and try to preserve it, even when it comes to our freedoms it will focus on the issue: The criminal and violent theft of another people’s freedom, that has yet to end after decades.”
In Ingmar Bergman’s film, Persona, an actress decides to stop her monologue, as she stands in front of her audience. She just comes to a silence, and it arouses a scandal. Artists have joined the campaign out of an understanding that non-creation has a power of its own, and that’s why boycotts are extremely valuable. Those who create hear, don’t have the ability to take a stand my coming to a silence, they are unable to boycott the Israeli audience, which is their audience. That’s why, when the silence is forced upon them with legal means, they know that we’re all in danger and that they must open their mouths.
Now is the time to really speak up, to combine the protest within the art-work, and to create fearlessly from within the rage, not “before it’s too late,” because it may just already be too late. It’s possible that Israel may be able to protect it’s democratic treasure and end the disgrace, but it’s also a possibility that the works we produce today will cost us dearly in a lower future. That is exactly why they must be created.