Culture Minister Miri Regev.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Culture Minister Miri Regev’s controversial Loyalty Bill passed a vote on Sunday in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation.
The bill seeks to cut state funding to cultural works or institutions that, among other things, harm or disrespect the symbols of the State of Israel; refer to Independence Day as a day of mourning; or incite to violence or terrorism. The legislation, which gained the backing of Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon last month, will now move to the Knesset for debate and further voting.
“Freedom of expression is a guiding light and a central value in the State of Israel as a democratic state,” said Regev on Sunday, “but preserving freedom of expression does not mean allowing incitement against the Jewish and democratic State of Israel.”
Voting on the bill by ministers was delayed a week after opposition from Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, who said the legislation “would harm the right to freedom of expression, and lead artists to shy away from creating different content for fear of losing government support.” But after changes in the structure of the bill, Mandelblit reversed his opposition to the legislation.
Many industry figures and opposition politicians spoke out against the bill on Sunday.
“This is a problematic law whose implementation could lead to silencing and preventing any political content in Israeli theaters,” said Uri Reshtik, the CEO of Shaham, the Israeli Actors Guild. “We will fight to make sure the law does not pass in its present form.”
Ahead of the Sunday vote, the Culture and Art Institutions Forum in Israel published an open letter against the bill, which it said would “suffocate the vibrant democratic, social, cultural and artistic discourse in Israeli society.”
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai
, who is running for reelection, pledged Sunday that his municipality would work to support anyone affected by budget cuts under the legislation.
“This law is a silencing law from a government that has forgotten what democracy is, and doesn’t understand that without freedom of expression, there will be no culture here,” said Huldai.
“No bill will prevent free and uninhibited Israeli creativity,” said Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai. “That is what makes or breaks culture. This bill will not survive.”
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