Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hundreds of actors and representatives from cultural institutions gathered at a meeting in Jaffa on Sunday where they continued their protest against Culture and Sport Minister MIri Regev.
Actor and director Oded Cotler's speech at the meeting stirred controversy Monday, prompting responses from politicians and members of the arts community
"Imagine your world silent, Ms. Regev, without books, music, poems," he said. "A world where there is nothing to disturb the nation from celebrating thirty Knesset seats followed by a herd of animals eating their grass."
Part of the audience reacted angrily to Cotler's remark prompting the artist to say that his aim was to be provocative.
Regev said that Cotler's remark revealed the "ugly and snobby face of the speaker and of those in the audience that applauded in support."
"The remark is an expression of cultural darkness," Regev added.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog said in response that Cotler's remark and the applause that it received have "nothing in common with culture, love of mankind or pluralism."
"Artists must also know that even in a difficult argument one must choose to remain human and to act with respect toward the other side who thinks differently, even if the opposing position is something that drives you mad," Herzog said.
Israeli author Amos Oz told Israel Radio on Monday morning that he condemned the attacks on Regev.
The meeting in Jaffa comes amid the signing of a petition by more than 1,500 artists
against Regev and her ministry following a political storm in which Arab Israeli actor Norman Issa refused to participate in a performance in the Jordan Valley.
After Issa declined to participate in a performance of the Haifa Theater’s Boomerang production in the Jordan Valley over the Green Line last week, Regev called on him to reconsider his decision and accused the actor of not believing in coexistence.
She followed that with a thinly veiled threat to cut off the ministry’s support for the theater Issa runs with his Jewish wife at Jaffa Port, which provides entertainment for Arab and Jewish children, youth and adults.
“If Norman does not withdraw his decision I intend to reconsider the ministry’s support for the Elmina Theater which he manages,” she said.
The protesters’ petition accused Regev of involvement in “the anti-democratic moves instigated by governmental organizations.”
The minister said those petitioning were unfamiliar with her or her policies.
She called their petitioning action “uncultured” and “baseless.”
“I don’t intend to engage in conversations through petitioning,” Regev said Sunday in response to the petition.
She stressed that “upholding the law, respect of mankind and his liberty, and a love of Israel are my guiding principles. I am committed to forwarding culture and fostering creativity in the country as well as to promoting Israeli culture abroad.” Dana Somberg contributed to this report.