Firebrand Culture Minister Not Invited to 'Israeli Oscars' Ceremony

Israel Film Academy says the Miri Regev snub follows ugly scenes during her appearance at the 2016 event, which 'overshadowed' awards

Culture Minister Miri Regev during the Ophir Awards in September 2016.
Ilan Assayag

Culture Minister Miri Regev has not been invited to next week’s “Israeli Oscars” ceremony, following the uproar that surrounded her appearance at last year’s event.

Mosh Danon, chairman of the Israel Academy of Film and Television, issued a statement Tuesday saying that the organization was determined “to do everything in its power to prevent a repeat of [previous] regrettable incidents. As a result, we have decided not to invite politicians to the ceremony,” noting that this was common policy at other awards ceremonies overseas.

The awards, known as the Ophirs, are set to take place in Ashdod.

Danon said the academy “doesn’t run from confrontation and is willing to conduct a practical and incisive discussion about criticism of the academy and its members’ work. In addition, a large percentage of the works were created out of a desire to create a profound discussion, and out of love for Israeli society.”

At last year’s awards (known as the Ophirs), Regev left the hall the moment performers Tamer Nafar and Yossi Zabari took to the stage (Nafar was nominated as best actor for his performance in the hip-hop film “Junction 48”). The two men proceeded to recite the opening lines from “ID Card” by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish: “Write it down, I’m an Arab.”

Afterward, when Regev returned to the hall and went onstage to present the best film award, her speech devolved into an ugly argument with members of the audience.

“Unfortunately, over time the nature of the ceremony has changed and it has slowly but surely become an arena for an inappropriate wrestling match that cheapens the event and, worse, cheapens the artists and their work,” said Danon.

“Last year, things were even worse,” he continued. “The extraneous events that accompanied the ceremony harmed all the parties involved – first and foremost, those award winners whose cinematic excellence was overshadowed by the uproar and who did not receive the proper respect.”

Danon added: “It should be stressed that this decision is not intended to undermine the dignity of the culture minister or any other politician. Further, it should not be construed as an attempt to refrain from continued debate on the various and profound differences” that can be discuss at any other time of the year – “just not on the eve of our celebration.”

The head of the academy said there was no protocol that meant the culture minister had to be invited to the event. “Ultimately,” Danon said, “this is the awarding of prizes for excellence in the film industry. For years, [culture] ministers were invited to the ceremony – but the tradition is that they go onstage, congratulate and respect us. Since [Regev’s] arrival, it has become a ceremony where they go onstage and maybe congratulate us a little, but mainly they criticize us. And nobody likes to be criticized on the day of their party,” added Danon.

“On the day of your celebration, you want to be detached from everyday matters and to celebrate the successes and excellence of all the nominees. Since the custom of congratulations has changed, I wondered to myself whether the time had come to change the custom of the invitation, too. After all, I know what will happen, and any smart person would say: ‘Why make trouble for yourself?’”

The Culture Ministry has yet to respond to the snub.