Israel's Culture Minister Urges Finance Chief to Cancel Event on Gaza, Citing 'Nakba Law'

Regev calls on Kahlon to withhold funds from gov't-supported institutions if they hold events which deny Israel’s right to exist: 'For how long will you give a pass to those who tar Israel's image as a cruel and racist country?'

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Culture Minister Miri Regev and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, January 2017.
Culture Minister Miri Regev and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, January 2017.Credit: Rami Shllush
Maya Asheri
Maya Asheri

Culture Minister Miri Regev has suggested Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon block funding for Tel Aviv's Tmuna Theater over its planned "Get Out of Gaza" event slated to take place Sunday.

In a letter of protest, Regev told Kahlon the event would be a violation of the “Nakba Law”.

The controversial law is written into the country's budget, giving the finance minister the power to withhold funds from government-supported institutions if they hold events which deny Israel’s right to exist.

"Do you think it's proper for cultural institutions to be turned into a political arena?" Regev wrote Kahlon. "For how long will you shut your eyes and give a pass to those who do their utmost to tar Israel's image as a cruel and racist country?"

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"I approach you because time after time I receive further proof that theaters and screens receiving [state] support are turning into the property of far-left political groups whose main aim is to libel Israel," Regev wrote.

The event, organized by Meretz MK Mossi Raz and Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman, will mark four years since Israel's 2014 offensive in Gaza, Operation Protective Edge. Zionist Union MK Omer Bar-Lev, former Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon and Brigadier General (ret.) Shlomo Brom, as well as representatives from human rights organizations Breaking the Silence, Doctors for Human Rights and B'Tselem will also participate.

The Facebook post for the event highlights the time since the 2005 disengagement from Gaza, saying that "the right has been repeating the same mantra for 13 years: 'We've left Gaza, we've left Gaza,' but did Israel really disengage from Gaza? Thirteen years later, what effect has it had on Gaza and the surrounding area? What solutions are there and how are we to break the cycle of conflict? Until when will the siege of Gaza continue?"

Touma-Suleiman and Raz accused Regev, in response, of politicizing Israeli culture, saying that "this is a left-wing event, which plays an important role in Israeli discourse," adding that democracy "should be able to tolerate a variety of views." Kahlon has not yet responded.

The incident is the latest battle in Regev's war against what she and her right-wing backers see as the country’s left-wing cultural establishment. In September, the Finance Ministry said it would consider cutting funding to the Jaffa Theatre, a Jewish-Arab theater Regev claims has overstepped the boundaries of freedom of expression.

Since assuming her ministerial position in spring 2015, Regev has been locked in an almost unending battle with Israel’s cultural elites.

Regev has completely cut funding to the Arabic-language Al-Midan Theater in Haifa for hosting a play that she maintained glorifies terrorism. Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit ruled she had no authority to deny the theater funding and, with its future hanging in the balance, the High Court of Justice has been called on to intervene

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