(photo credit: OBSERVER RESEARCH FOUNDATION)
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) petitioned the High Court of Justice against Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, calling to revoke amendments initiated by the minister preventing artists from boycotting venues in Judea and Samaria.
The “Regev amendments,” as they’ve been dubbed, would fine artists who refuse to perform in venues in the settlements while rewarding those who do perform there, ACRI explained in its petition.
“The issue of performing in settlements is unequivocally political, is under intense national controversy, and therefore you cannot force someone to perform there against their conscience," ACRI said.
The organization noted that cultural institutions performing in the Negev and the Galilee are eligible for state-funding, but "only those who perform in the settlements will receive an extra bonus, thus giving them an unacceptable priority.”
ACRI further noted that because the ministry's budget is determined in advance, "giving a bonus to one institution would inevitably harm the support of another." "In the forms that all cultural institutions must fill out, there is a requirement to state whether or not it will avoid performing in Judea and Samaria, but there is no requirement to state the reason why they will not appear there, it could be that there is no connection to political stances,” ACRI wrote.
Adv. Dan Yakir, ACRI's legal advisor, said that these "tests" are not consistent with the current boycott law.
"The boycott law establishes sanctions only against those who call for a boycott or commit to take part in a boycott. The High Court explicitly ruled that the law does not apply to a theater that avoids performing in the settlements,” he said on Wednesday.
“Avoidance itself is not illegal, only a call for a boycott or a public declaration of participation in the boycott is,” he said.
Yakir said that Regev has clashed with what she coins the "art establishment" from her first day in office. He said she has repeatedly attempted to "bind artists" and has announced that the "freedom to finance" cultural institutions is at her discretion.
“Now, instead of harming artists for their political views, the Culture Minister tries to discriminate against them by the practical implication of their beliefs,” he said.
Earlier this year Regev presented her "Loyalty in Culture" proposal to the Knesset which seeks to withhold government funding to cultural institutions that incite to racism, violence or terrorism, or support armed conflict of terrorism against Israel.
The proposal would grant the Culture Minister the discretion to deny funding to any cultural institutions rejecting Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state; marking the establishment of the State of Israel or Independence Day as a day of mourning – known as “Nakba Day” or “Catastrophe Day” in Arabic; or destroying or physically shaming the dignity of the Israeli flag or the state symbol.
The bill has not yet passed a vote to become law.