Israel's Attorney General Nixes Bill That Would Sanction Institutions Marking Nakba

Avichai Mendelblit's move means the 'cultural allegiance' bill initiated by Culture Minister Regev will not advance

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Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev
Culture and Sports Minister Miri RegevCredit: Marc Israel Sellem/Pool Photo/Jerusalem Post
Yair Ashkenazi
Yair Ashkenazi

Authority to withdraw funding from cultural institutions for violating the “Nakba Law” will remain with the treasury and not be transferred to the Ministry for Culture. This was decided at a Sunday meeting between Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit. This means the “cultural allegiance” bill initiated by Regev, intended to move such authority to her ministry, will not be advanced at this stage.

It was decided, however, to set guidelines whereby the Culture Ministry could withdraw funding from institutions staging full nudity in a strongly objectionable way.

It was also decided at this meeting, first reported in Israel Hayom, that the enforcement of penalties for violating the Nakba Law would be done retroactively and not beforehand, so that no censorship of content could take place in advance. Enforcement would remain under the purview of the treasury.

Regev said, “The law regulating allocations for these institutions will not remain a dead letter. It will henceforth be duly enforced by the Finance Ministry. I hope that following the understanding reached with the attorney general, cultural institutions understand that they are not above the law. I’m glad the attorney general accepted my positions on other topics as well, so that subversive organizations will need to find venues other than Jaffa Theater, the Tel Aviv Cinematheque or any other state-supported institution.”

The attorney general asked the Culture Ministry to provide the treasury’s legal counsel with details of infringements of the Nakba Law by cultural institutions. The counsel would be required to state within a week whether such an infringement necessitated further investigation.

Regev first presented her bill to the Knesset Education and Culture Committee in January 2016. Although approved by the attorney general, subject to some limitations, the bill has been stuck due to opposition by the treasury and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.

Due to claims that state-supported institutions had hosted private functions that allegedly violated one of the clauses of the law regulating their funding (regarding incitement to violence and degrading national symbols), the issue of withdrawing support from hosting venues was also broached. Regev and Mendelblit agreed that institutions renting out their halls bear responsibility for events held there, since they are making money from these events. It was decided that if events in these locations violate the Nakba Law, they will be subject to legal investigation by the treasury.

Another issue related to performances include total nudity. The recent Israel Festival included such shows and Regev threatened that her ministry would not support them since in her view they impinge on Israeli societal values. Mendelblit said that whether he liked it or not, he could not support denial of funding in such cases. A possible amendment was suggested, whereby cases in which “objectification” or “humiliation” of the human body were involved could be reviewed.

The Culture Ministry said the minister would monitor this new arrangement, in which the treasury would withhold funding from cultural institutions which undermine the state. If this doesn’t work, the legislation would be presented again, in order to “respond to this absurd situation.” In addition, “the attorney general embraced the minister’s position that institutions are responsible for subversive activities held on their premises.”

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