Government Report: Arab Villages Have No Arts Center, Museum or Cinematheque

Culture Ministry is yet to file seemingly damning report with High Court following 2012 petition that claimed only 3 percent of cultural budget reaches Arab cultural organizations, despite Israeli Arabs comprising 20% of population.

Jack Khoury
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Nazareth's Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation. Despite being the largest Israeli-Arab locality in Israel, Nazareth has no arts center.Credit: Gil Eliyahu
Jack Khoury

A government report on the Arab-Israeli community’s cultural needs shows that some Arab towns and villages have no cultural offerings whatsoever, while others have minimal cultural activity.

Miri Regev addresses students at Sapir College, Sderot, June 9, 2015.Credit: Yehuda Peretz

The Culture and Sports Ministry’s report, completed about a year ago, was supposed to be submitted to the of Justice. However, it remains in a desk drawer at the ministry, which has reportedly postponed submitting it numerous times.

The report was ordered after a petition was filed with the High Court in 2012, demanding an in-depth look at Arab-Israeli cultural needs. The petition was filed by the Mossawa Center – the Advocacy Center for Arab Palestinian Citizens of Israel, and other Arab-Israeli organizations.

Their petition claimed that only 3 percent of the country’s cultural budget of 660 million shekels ($172 million) reaches Arab cultural organizations.

The court subsequently ordered the ministry to file a report in response to the petitioner’s claims.

This was not the first time the Sports and Culture Ministry was ordered to provide such information.

In 2008, the state comptroller made a similar request, but the ministry evaded it until the High Court became involved. The report has been compiled, but the ministry is still withholding it from publication, says the Mossawa Center.

Lawyers from the center, however, did receive copies of the final report last April. With data from 53 Arab villages, 43 local authorities, six mixed cities and 19 organizations, the report reveals large gaps in cultural services provided to the Arab population and institutions, in comparison to the Jewish population. For example, the report says there is no arts center, museum or cinematheque in any of the towns or villages.

The report also notes that in 92 percent of Arab towns and villages, there is no cultural authority providing support for creative artists. In addition, some 83 percent have no orchestral or choral activities; 32 percent have no public library; 50 percent don’t host any shows, festivals or children’s activities; and not a single Arab town or village has an arts center that meets the latest ministry standards.

The report also found that only 19 percent of the towns and villages surveyed actually received budgeting for cultural events or activities.

“Nazareth has no arts center and our funds are sent to the cultural hall in the settlement of Ariel,” said Jafar Farah, director of the Mossawa Center. “It’s shameful that a national and linguistic minority that comprises a fifth of the nation’s citizens receives 3 percent of the cultural budget – no more than 16 million shekels – and even then, politicians get involved in the content.”

Farah also noted that foreign bodies, including the European Union and the governments of Qatar and Abu Dhabi, and more organizations, provide more funding for Palestinian cultural events than the Culture and Sports Ministry.

Farah said he was convinced that Culture Minister “Miri Regev and her friends won’t win her any more votes. She asked for an opportunity, and we’re already seeing the results. [Education Minister Naftali] Bennett and Regev are competing with [former Shas MK] Eli Yishai, [former Likud MK] Limor Livnat and [right-wing settler] Baruch Marzel.”

Farah said that Mossawa Center lawyers have petitioned the court to speed up the process and hold a final hearing that would make the Culture and Sports Ministry allocate funding more equally.

The Culture and Sports Ministry did not respond to Haaretz’s request for comment. The ministry did, however, file an additional request to postpone the hearing on the report, noting that a new minister had been appointed and it would take time for her to become fully acquainted with the issue.

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