Cabinet Fast-Tracks Culture Loyalty Law

YERUSHALAYIM -

The Culture Loyalty Law, and the battle over it, are back on track.

In fact, a vote of Cabinet ministers on Sunday put the bill on a fast track, slating it for Cabinet approval before being sent to the Knesset.

The bill, sponsored by Culture Minister Miri Regev and supported by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, would make state funding of cultural programs and artists contingent on non-subversive content.

Thus, any denial that the Israel is a Jewish, democratic country; incitement of racism, violence, or terror; marking Independence Day as a day of mourning; or degradation of the flag or any state symbol, would disqualify an applicant for state funding.

According to the current proposal, the Culture Minister would be the official empowered to determine whether any given cultural project should be disqualified for funding on the grounds of disloyalty.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit gave his approval for Sunday’s Cabinet decision to advance the legislation, on condition that it be revised to avoid posing “a serious risk to freedom of speech,” Calcalist reported.

Addressing the issue, Regev said that freedom of expression, however important, is not absolute:

“Freedom of expression is a guiding light for us and a central value in the life of the State of Israel as a democratic state but preserving freedom of expression does not allow incitement against the Jewish and democratic State of Israel,” she said in a statement.

Knesset opposition leader Tzipi Livni rejected such nuances, saying that the “demand for loyalty in art is another step in silencing expression and forcing culture to be a mouthpiece for the government.”

Meretz chair Tamar Zandberg accused Regev of “want[ing] to become the chief censor and the head of the thought police, working not for the promotion of culture, but for the suppression of freedom of creativity and free thought.”