Over 1,500 writers, poets, directors, and actors signed a petition Wednesday demanding the Israeli government to release funds earmarked for the Arab sector that Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich froze on Sunday.
The petition specifically calls for the release of NIS 34 million intended for the development of Arab cultural institutions in Israel – part of the NIS 200 million that was earmarked to support Israel’s Arab community. The NIS 34 million was meant for the establishment of a museum, theater, cinema, and other cultural establishments.
“We, hundreds of creators from all creative fields in Israel, view with great severity Minister Smotrich's attempt to damage the education and culture of the Arab society in Israel,” the petition reads. “Minister Smotrich is trying in every way to cause unrest among the Arab citizens of the country, to deepen the discrimination against them, and to eliminate the contribution of the Arab society in Israel to the development and prosperity of Israel as a Jewish, democratic and egalitarian state.”
Notable signees include actress Alma Zak, filmmaker Udi Aloni, writer/playwright Adiva Gefen, singer Mira Awad, and actor/singer Ran Danker.
Smotrich freezes Arab funds
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich (Religious Zionist Party) announced a freeze of some NIS 200 million that was earmarked to support Israel’s Arab community on Sunday, saying he is “re-examing” the use of the funds. Smotrich ignored a Monday appeal from National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi to release NIS 200 million earmarked for funding for Arab students as part of Jerusalem’s Homesh strategic plan.
This comes amid mounting pressure among Arab authorities over what they perceive as attempts by the coalition to weaken their standing through the halting of other budgets aimed towards development, transportation, infrastructure, and education – culminating in threats to freeze the opening of schools at the beginning of September.
“We believe that it is the right of the Arab citizens of Israel to receive the full budget for the development of their culture and cultural institutions within it and that peace between us and our brothers and sisters, all citizens of Israel, as well as with the Palestinians outside Israel, is possible only through mutual respect with the other, inclusion, reconciliation, and the joint creation of an exemplary brotherhood in the families of the nations,” the petition stated.
“We will stand by our brothers and sisters who create and create in the Arab society in Israel against any attempt to suppress the culture they create and create and deprive the cultural institutions of the Arab society in Israel,” the petition concluded.
Troy O. Fritzhand contributed to this report.