Knesset C'tee to debate celebrity draft-dodger bill

New law would prohibit public funding of artists who evaded military or national service.

The Ministerial Legislative Committee is set to decide Sunday on whether to adopt a new bill that will prohibit public funding of artists who evaded military or national service.
The private member’s bill, sponsored by MK Moshe Matalon (Yisrael Beiteinu), proposes that the culture and sports minister have the authority to pull public funding from performances of artists who evaded their military service, unless convinced of the performance’s merit by the sponsoring body.
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The definition of performance in the bill refers to any culture or sporting event viewable by the public, whether directly or on television, whether paid for or free.
Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat opposes the bill and warned that if passed, it would jeopardize the activities of hundreds of institutions and cause the firing of thousands of workers who did serve in the army, and at the same time place an “absurd” demand on the minister to investigate and keep tabs on thousands of artists and athletes and the circumstances of their discharges.
“The goal of the bill is to prevent an absurd situation, whereby a publicly funded body directs its budgets to celebrities who are unwilling to share the burden,” read the bill’s explanatory notes.
According to the bill’s proponents, draft-dodging celebrities play a decisive role in expanding the general phenomenon of eluding service.
“Every artist, singers and actor must understand that there is no prize for dodging service and that in order for the state to support them, they must support the state,” Matalon said. “In the near future, I will expand the bill to include athletes, to take care of a problem that exists in other fields.”.
The bill has come under widespread criticism by celebrities, civil rights organizations and members of Knesset.
The Culture and Sports Ministry’s legal department has said it is impossible to stop the funding of a public body because of a single performance, in which one artist may have evaded military service.
“The Culture and Sports Ministry provides general monetary support for cultural or sports bodies. It does not fund particular performances,” the ministry stated in a press release.
Several Israeli singers, including, Ivri Lider, Aviv Geffen and Hemi Rodner, have spoken out against the law. Israeli Union of Performing artist’s CEO, Yankele Mandel, called the proposal “populist and infuriating.”
“Not only doesn’t the bill provide a definition of what a draft-dodger is, its wording is extensive and is directed against anyone who didn’t serve in the army or volunteer to national service,” wrote Civil Rights Association lawyer Dan Yakir in a letter to the ministers.
“A draft-dodger is someone who was required by law, and found qualified, to serve in the military and through fraud and deceit received an exemption. This foul phenomenon must be battled through legal procedures and educational efforts. At the same time, it is important to note that the trend of nonservice has increased substantially in recent years because of a sharp rise in the number of exempted yeshiva students and because the IDF does not require full enlistment cycles and has made it easier to receive discharges,” read the letter.
“Several years ago the Labor Court ruled that limiting employment to people who served in the army alone is a breach of the equal access to employment law. Such policies discriminate against not only Arabs, but people with physical or mental disabilities. A bill such as this may cause employers to avoid hiring artists or athletes for fear of loosing public funding,” wrote Yakir.
The Civil Rights Association also expressed concern that attempts to distinguish between draft-dodgers and people who were legitimately exempt from military service would involve excessive intrusion in to the subject’s private medical information.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said the bill would introduce irrelevant interests into the decision of whether to serve in the army, instead of military service being considered a great opportunity and a chance to unite with Israeli society in its own right.