(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev presented her “Loyalty in Culture” proposal to the Knesset Education, Culture and Sports Committee on Wednesday, emphasizing that she did not intend to act as a censor or censure any cultural institution.
“Freedom of expression is part of the DNA of the State of Israel and I have no intention of harming this, but the state will not fund any cultural institution that subverts it or that burns the flag,” she told the committee.
“We all respect the principles of democracy and the State of Israel being a Jewish and democratic state. I will not allow the subversion of the foundations of the state, especially when it is government-funded. What is this outcry? That I ask that a funded institution will abide by the law?” she added.
Referring to herself in the third person, she said: “Miri Regev did not invent any new law. I want to introduce an amendment that the minister who releases funds can also withhold them,” she told the committee, Regev’s proposed bill would withhold government funding to cultural institutions that incite to racism, violence or terrorism, or support armed conflict of terrorism against Israel.
Among the other reasons for which the Culture Ministry could deny funding are 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.
Criticism from MKs on the panel was quick and sharp.
“Regev is using all her resources in an irresponsible and un-Zionist manner to silence all the demons that haunt her,” said MK Stav Shaffir (Zionist Union). “She uses her authority to suppress the arts and humanities rather than strengthen then. Instead of being loyal to hear fears and her chair, it would be worthy of Miri Regev to begin discovering loyalty to the country’s citizens.”
MK Haim Jelin (Yesh Atid), meanwhile, said: “We are proud to be the only democracy in the Middle East and, so, the combination of the words loyalty and democracy does not sit well with me.”
MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) called the law “completely unnecessary, making me ask – are you patriots or idiots?” Regev also announced at the meeting her intention to create equality through the budget of the Culture Ministry – allocating more funds to cultural institutions in the social and geographical periphery, as well as to Arab and ultra-Orthodox cultural institutions.
“As long as I am culture minister I will allocate funds according to cultural justice and through a different allocation of resources,” she said.
MK Ya’acov Margi, chairman of the committee, concluded the heated discussion by saying he was “encouraged and strengthened” because it addressed “poignant issues,” and praised Regev, in the name of all the MKs on the panel, for her intention to distribute a more equitable budget.Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.