A-G backs Regev’s ‘loyalty’ funding bill

Mandelblit waters down legislation that would withhold state monies from ‘un-Zionist’ cultural institutions.

Avichai Mandelblit (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Avichai Mandelblit
Newly minted Attorney- General Avichai Mandelblit on Wednesday backed Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev’s bill to reduce state funding to institutions that refuse to perform in the West Bank or act against aspects of the state’s Zionist principles.
Regev’s “Loyalty in Culture” bill, would give the culture minister the authority to withhold state monies from cultural institutions that incite to racism, violence or terrorism, or support armed conflict or 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; and destroying or physically shaming the dignity of the Israeli flag or other state symbols.
Despite Mandelblit’s support for the legislation, the Justice Ministry put out a fairly defensive statement explaining all of the ways that he had watered down the bill in order to make it pass legal muster and be more fair.
The statement noted that Mandelblit rejected Regev’s request to block all state funding for such cultural groups, with him agreeing only to a 6 percent budget reduction, and with that reduction applying to artistic groups that refuse to perform not only in Judea and Samaria, but also in the Negev and the Galilee.
Further, he exempted groups from the budget cut that refused to perform in the West Bank due to security or professional considerations, as opposed to political ones.
Next, he said that groups using art to undermine Zionist aspects of the state would only be defunded on a case by case basis and after a process of warnings and clarifications – not wholesale based on a group’s advertised ideology as Regev had originally requested.
The bill has caused public backlash from both opposition MKs and Israeli artists who have asserted that Regev is attempting to act as a censor – a claim that Regev has categorically denied.
She wrote in a Facebook post following the attorney-general’s decision: “I am proud and happy to announce that a cultural institution that undermines the state will not benefit from its support. For the first time, the Culture Ministry, which is responsible for funding cultural institutions, also receives the necessary authority to ensure that cultural institutions are not above the law.”
The decision represented a “great achievement for democracy in that the elected government will have ‘financing freedom,’ the freedom to choose what the State of Israel will fund in accordance with its laws, values and policies.”
The bill will still have to pass in the Knesset to become law.