The Attorney General and the Justice Ministry gave their approval Wednesday for a law proposed by Culture and Arts Minister Miri Regev to deny funding to culture groups that unfairly denigrate the state, its symbols, or ethnic or religious groups, or refuse to appear in Yehudah and Shomron. Regev will prepare the law for its first reading in the coming weeks and present it to the Ministerial Law Committee for legislative approval.
The law was prompted over a recent brouhaha involving a play which was produced by Haifa’s Al-Midan Theater and discusses the 1984 kidnapping and murder of IDF soldier Moshe Tamam, Hy”d – from the point of view of Walid Daka, the terrorist who was sentenced to life in prison for the murder. The Ministry, claiming that the play was sympathetic to the murderer and implied that the soldier deserved his fate, halted funding for that play last June, setting off a furor in which Regev was accused of “stamping out democracy” and “destroying freedom of speech.”
In comments made on the Knesset Channel last month, Regev said that she had a responsibility to ensure that taxpayers’ money was spent properly. “What is the purpose of Culture Ministry,” asked Regev rhetorically. “Is it to be a bank machine that automatically dispenses money to one and all, or is its purposed to set policy? In sports we are active, and we take an active interest in how money is spent – but in culture, we have been passive, simply dispensing money in a pipeline to anyone, without examining its use.”
No longer, said Regev. “As long as I am Culture Minister, the Ministry will provide funding for events based on clear criteria that will ensure that the works we are paying for enhance Israeli society, and positively deal with the negative phenomena we face. Cultural institutions are not above the law. We all want to act within the law, and respect the principle of Israel as a democratic, Jewish state. Anyone who acts against Israel can do so if they wish, but not with state funding. This is a law. Why is everyone getting so upset? Because I want to enforce the law?”