Report: Finance Ministry Seeking to Cut Funding to ‘Incitement Theater’

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

For the first time, the Finance Ministry will seek to reduce the budget of a cultural organization that is accused of incitement to violence, Yediot Acharonot reported Wednesday. Directors and managers of the Jaffa Theater have been summoned to discuss the budget cuts with Ministry officials, after what officials said were at least two incidents in which violence against Jews and Israeli institutions were encouraged by performances at the theater.

The latest of these occurred in recent weeks, when the theater put on a play that featured poems by Dareen Tatour, a Palestinian who has authored numerous songs and poems advocating terror attacks against Israelis. In the play, images of Arabs throwing stones at IDF soldiers and Israeli police are flashed along the walls of the stage, with the background an audio recitation of a poem by Tatour that included lines imploring Palestinians to “resist the settler’s robbery” and “follow the caravan of martyrs.” She was placed under house arrest in 2015 for singing and distributing the song.

Three months ago, the theater put on another anti-Israel performance, Ministry officials discovered. In the presentation, actors read out letters from terrorists in Israeli prisons to family members. At least one of those letters contained incitement to terror acts. The Ministry is investigating other incidents of anti-Israel activity at the theater as well, the report said. In its response, the Jaffa Theater said that the play “is being presented by a guest troupe and we do not censor works of art. We believe in freedom of speech” for artists.

Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev has been seeking to halt funding for the theater, which in the past has sponsored other plays with anti-Israel themes. Regev sent numerous letters to Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon to halt the funding, according to Channel Ten. The evidence presented by Regev at the Cabinet meeting Sunday, said the Ministry’s legal advisor, attorney Assi Messing, was sufficient to allow for proceedings against the theater to proceed. The report said that the Ministry is also investigating anti-Israel incitement at other theaters, but those investigations were still preliminary.

Regev in the past has proposed a new law that would expand the criteria for the funding of plays, concerts, art exhibitions and other cultural events to examine whether the content is damaging to Israeli security or society. According to the proposal, works of art will not receive government funding if they unfairly denigrate the state, its symbols, or ethnic or religious groups. The move was prompted by the showing of a play that was produced by Haifa’s Al-Midan Theater and discussed the 1984 kidnapping and murder of IDF soldier Moshe Tamam – 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 in 2015, setting off a furor in which Regev was accused of “stamping out democracy” and “destroying freedom of speech.”