(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel on Sunday said that Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev lacks the authority to cut Tel Aviv Cinematheque’s budget due to its screening films for the Nakba Film Festival.
Regev had said that her Film Review Board would examine whether the budget could be cut alleging that the festival, organized by Zochrot, breaches the Budget Foundations Law.
However, a letter last week from Deputy Attorney-General for Legislative Affairs Dina Zilber to ACRI said it was up to the Finance Minister to make such a decision.
Zilber detailed the formal process for reducing financial support to a cultural institution for incitement to violence or racism, or support for an armed act against Israel.
Regev and her ministry may issue a recommendation to the Finance Minister, as the ministry with professional expertise relating to the issue at hand, the letter said.
However, any recommendation from Regev and any board she forms is nonbinding, since it is the Finance Minister, in consultation with the Attorney-General’s Office, who makes the final call about financial support.
In addition, the Deputy Attorney-General said amendments to the budget cannot be made in advance and cannot cause delay. If the Finance Minister finds there are grounds for cutting the budget, the sanctions get imposed retroactively for violations after they have occurred.
The reason for this is the importance of freedom of speech and extra care the state takes in avoiding violations of this right except in the most extreme cases.
Zilber further wrote that the standard of harm by the speech or film in question must be very high for sanctioning a theater over films that it shows.
“The only conclusion arising from Minister Regev’s conduct is that she is again trying to threaten the art community, and in particular the Nakba Film Festival, even though she has no authority on the subject,” said ACRI’s Chief Legal Counsel Dan Yakir, who petitioned Zilber.
“Although it is clear that there are no grounds to examine the Nakba Film Festival, the Minister of Culture and Sport has achieved her goal of restricting artistic freedom and scaring artists from engaging with sensitive and controversial issues in Israeli society,” Yakir also said.