Hundreds protest ‘cultural loyalty bill’ in Tel Aviv

Artists, public figures, members of the public sought to stop advancement of controversial bill.

Artists, public figures, members of the public seek to stop advancement of controversial bill (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)
Artists, public figures, members of the public seek to stop advancement of controversial bill
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)
More than 1,000 people gathered outside Tel Aviv’s Cinematheque on Saturday night to protest against Culture Minister Miri Regev’s controversial ‘cultural loyalty bill,’ which passed a vote in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation at the beginning of last week.
The law will allow the culture minister to revoke budgets and support from cultural institutions that harm or disrespect the symbols of the state.
Politicians, artists, public figures and members of the public participated in the demonstration. Protesters held banners with slogans such as: “The world is a stage and we are nobody’s dolls,” “You want loyalty? Get a dog,” and “Loyalty to the country = freedom for every opinion” while others placed tape over their mouths to symbolize censorship.
Speaking at the protest,  actress, dancer and choreographer Renana Raz said “The desire to tame the art in law is so foolish, but more than that is also evil and even more than that – it is doomed to failure. Because to want loyalty in culture is to change the DNA of art, of creativity, of life.” The government, she said, will never be able to break the human spirit in the long-term, making the efforts behind this bill “a lost and ridiculous war.”
MK Michal Rozin (Meretz) also addressed the crowd, saying “A law that will allow political interference and the denial of budgets from cultural institutions brutally tramples on the conscience of democracy – freedom of expression. If this law sounds familiar to you it is only because it is another loyalty law of this government that smells bitterly of McCarthyism and the beginnings of fascism.”
If the law is passed, she said it would deprive Israel of critical art. “A culture that tries to be nice to the government, which is afraid to criticize and test boundaries, to reflect and question the actions and methods of government. We must not allow this law to pass, we must not give up freedom of expression. We will not let them derail democracy anymore.”
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, who was among the demonstrators, wrote on Facebook: “We have not censored. We are not censors and we will never censor. We supported. We supported. And we support and will continue to support every creator and artist despite this government and this crazy law. And if needed, we’ll help whoever gets hurt by it. Governments change, but human spirit and creative freedom remain. We’ll ensure that Tel Aviv-Yafo stays free!”
In tandem with the Tel Aviv protest, cultural institutions across the country held screenings and performances in a show of opposition to the advancement of the bill.