Artistic arrogance

Those who demand the public’s backing for their ventures end up alienating that public.

Miri Regev
Two things happened at Sunday night’s gathering in Jaffa of several hundred performing arts celebs who protested against Culture Minister Miri Regev’s decision to withhold government funding from a theatrical production based on the writings of terrorist Walid Dakka. It should be recalled that Dakka abducted, tortured and then murdered 19-year-old soldier Moshe Tamam in 1984.
One incident received abundant media attention but the other, perhaps the more troubling, was played down.
Actor/director Oded Kotler became the latest member of the liberal artistic community to court controversy by spouting spite at political opponents. He likened Likud voters to “a herd of behemoth who lick up straw and dung.” Rather than backtrack, he later elaborated, saying he was not referring only to Likudniks but to the entire Israeli aggregate.
His vitriol – no spontaneous outburst – was later condemned by many, on the Left as well.
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The embarrassment was as great as painter Yair Garbuz’s depiction in March of right-wingers as “kissers of amulets, idol worshipers and people who bow down and prostrate themselves on the graves of saints.”
Garbuz triggered actual political repercussions mid-campaign.
Kotler merely exacerbated the animus and compounded the Left’s elitist repute. He accused his political opponents of wanting “a world without books, music or poetry.” To his mind, enlightenment resides exclusively to the left of the political divide.
We have heard this before. On the day Regev was appointed as minister, actor Gavri Banai (famous for his role in the classical comedy group Hagashash Hahiver) had already called Regev “a behemoth.”
Sunday’s second incident, however, was the more disturbing one and yet was mentioned by the media only in passing as a negligible footnote.
Tamam’s niece Ortal attended the anti-Regev rally and sought to appeal to the conscience of the participants. She asked that they not forget the nature of Dakka’s brutal crime. As soon as she began speaking, Ortal Tamam was loudly heckled and booed by the purported upholders of freedom of expression. Some even shouted: “Shut up! Get off the stage!” In the end, she did. She was not allowed to say her piece.
Nothing underscores the hypocrisy of the assembled luminaries more than their insensitivity toward a bereaved family’s pain. They refused to let another viewpoint be sounded.
Some members of Ortal Tamam’s intolerant audience later seized on the discovery that the Jerusalem Film Festival had been scheduled to feature a documentary about Yigal Amir, prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin. They demanded that it be removed from the festival’s fare, and it was.
Apart from the fact that the film was not bankrolled by the taxpayers (as distinct from the Dakka play), their outcry indicates a phenomenal moral double standard. If Amir is taboo (and we do not object to that judgment), why is Dakka a fitting subject for a theatrical production? Was Tamam’s blood less red? This is entirely apart from the fact that the play about Tamam’s slayer was subsidized by public funding (i.e. with taxes paid by each of us) and was among plays to which organized groups of schoolchildren were taken (another source of revenue).
This calls attention to more mind-boggling disingenuousness.
It is fine for assorted artistes to offend what’s most sacrosanct for their society. In a liberal setting, such as ours, nobody muzzles even the most galling of provocateurs (whom Israel-bashers overseas then gloatingly quote).
Nonetheless, those who provoke in the name of artistic freedom ought to at least free themselves from reliance on state financing. True freedom and suckling on officialdom’s outlays do not go together.
Those who demand the public’s backing for their ventures end up alienating that public because they couple their self-serving cynicism with inimical stereotypes of their nonvoluntary benefactors. Even without resort to zoological imagery, these benefactors are despised as a book-less, uncouth and irrational lot.
The very portrayal of Israel’s taxpayers as the great unwashed bespeaks haughtiness and abrasive snobbery.
Such arrogance should at least preclude the expectation to be financially sustained by the very ones debasingly characterized as loutish, uneducated, intellectually deficient, culturally backward and generically inferior.
Those who disdain much of the population cannot expect that it foot their bills. More than that – they cannot hope to sway the objects of their contempt.