Loyalty in Culture Versus Freedom of Speech

YERUSHALAYIM -
State Prosecuter Shai Nitzan. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The “Loyalty in Culture” law encountered its first official obstacle on Sunday as the state prosecutor Shai Nitzan cast doubt on its legality.

An amendment to the law proposed by Culture Minister Miri Regev with the support of Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon would deny state funding to artists and cultural institutions who denigrate state values and symbols.

Accordingly, a cultural offering which disrespects the flag, incites terrorism, marks Israeli Independence Day as a day of mourning, or denies Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state, would forfeit funding by the Culture Ministry.

“The proposed amendment raises serious legal concerns, including violation of the freedom of expression…The proposal seeks to restrict freedom of expression by withdrawing support from those whose expressions are inconsistent with the values ​​of the state,” argued Nitzan, who is acting attorney general while Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is overseas.

Nitzan pointed out that the amendment would put inordinate power in the hands of the Culture Minister. “In some cases, the proposed arrangement permits fully shutting down access to government finances, meaning that the culture minister could single handedly close a cultural institution.”

“This leads to an arrangement that would affect culture the most, a sphere which requires a special protection when it comes to the freedom of expression. When the punitive measures are so severe, there is a legal difficulty that arises with regards to the amendment’s ability to pass the proportionality test,” he concluded.