(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The Israeli Academy of Film and Television announced this week that it will not invite Culture Minister Miri Regev to its annual Ophir Awards ceremony, Israel’s version of the Oscars. This is because last year she stormed out of the awards ceremony to protest against the lyrics of a song written by a Palestinian poet.
On that occasion, Regev stalked out demonstratively in the middle of the event, when Mira Awad was to sing a song with lyrics by Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish.
“I am appalled at the continuing raging incitement against the late poet and his poetry, and the interference of the minister in matters of artistic expression,” Awad posted on Facebook in response. She invited the minister “to educate herself better regarding Darwish’s poetry and my work in general, because I would have never composed a text written by a Jew-hater, or any hater for that matter.”
Which brings us to the minister’s latest assault against the very arts she is paid to support on behalf of our culturally rich nation: the film Foxtrot
This remarkable Israeli film has just won the Silver Bear, the second prize, at this year’s Venice International Film Festival. As such, it is likely to be Israel’s entry in this year’s Oscar competition. With this award, Israel’s unique culture will be displayed before the world in a manner far exceeding any attempt at public diplomacy by our government.
In what is we hope the last expression of her contempt for Israeli culture that she finds distasteful, Regev disparaged the prize-winning film as unpatriotic. In anticipation of what would likely be the outcome of her reappearance at the Ophir Awards next Tuesday – whether another walkout or more likely a diatribe – the organizers declined to give her a podium.
This was a wise decision, one that we hope might lead our culture minister to finally accept that she is no longer in uniform as the IDF censor, nor even at her old job as IDF spokesman. This may be too optimistic.
Responding to the news of her disinvitation, Regev vowed that she would not be silenced or censored. “This is a cowardly and undemocratic decision by a body that is excluding the position of the public and its officials, particularly on a night that is supposed to represent the freedom of expression and creation,” she said.
Regev added that she refuses to be stifled regarding her opinion that “films that defame and lie about the IDF, like the nominee Foxtrot, will not be funded from the state budget.”
Since taking office, Regev has repeatedly called to withhold state funding from plays, films and other performances she does not approve of. Earlier this year she formed a committee to examine the approval process of film funds, in a bare attempt to increase her oversight.
The organization’s decision not to invite Regev actually included all politicians, as Israeli Academy of Film and Television chairman Mosh Danon explained, saying it is “one day of the year when the theater community shows appreciation and respect to the artists and their creations, and commemorates those among its members who have died.”
He regrets that the ceremony’s character has changed with the politicization of Israeli society, becoming “an inappropriate wrestling ring that cheapens the event and, even worse, cheapens the artists and the work that it is meant to show appreciation and respect to.”
Regev disagrees. “When an Israeli film wins an international prize, the heart fills with pride and my natural desire is to strengthen and encourage the Israeli success,” she wrote. “This rule has one exception – when the international embrace is the result of self-flagellation and cooperation with the anti-Israel narrative.”
It is here that the former brigadier-general declares, “The IDF in which I served for more than 25 years had no scenes like this. This is slander, pure and simple,” is how she dismisses our award-winning film – which she has the chutzpah to condemn while admitting that she has not actually seen it.
At an opening of the Israel Festival in Jerusalem, our culture minister was greeted with boos after stating that she opposes giving state funding for performances featuring nudity. But the barefaced truth is she is undeterred.
“Nobody can shut my mouth,” she said. “I won’t get off the stage until I’m done.”