Israel Proposes Bonus for Theaters, Orchestras That Perform in West Bank

New criteria governing state support for cultural activities are first to include explicitly political clause incentivizing performances in settlements.

Culture Minister Miri Regev speaking at the Haaretz Culture Conference, March 6, 2016.
Moti Milrod

The Culture and Sport Ministry is proposing a budgetary bonus for theaters and orchestras that perform in the West Bank, according to new criteria published for public comment late last week.

The ministry's new criteria for providing financial support to cultural activities would also revoke support on a case-by-case basis for theater companies and orchestras that decline to perform in the West Bank, the Negev and the Galilee.

However, no bonus is proposed for groups that perform in the Negev and Galilee, beyond the high points provided for long-distance travel.

It was the first time that a political clause – incentivizing West Bank performances – has been inserted in the ministry's criteria for support of cultural entities.

The new criteria, which the public is invited to comment on until March 27, are the first to be published under the stewardship of Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev.

Alon Ron

Regev originally intended to withdraw all support from theater companies and orchestras that don't perform in settlements, according to news reports last month. But the new clause underwent changes after review by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and now proposes only partial loss of support.

In addition, the ministry will only be able to withdraw support after consultations with the National Council for Culture and the Arts and after the theater or orchestra concerned has been given a hearing.

Refraining from performing is defined in the new criteria as "a decision not to appear in a specific location, prevention of participation due to the geographic location of the participant or invoking irrelevant conditions."

The new criteria also include three exceptions that were inserted at the request of the attorney general. The ministry's sanction will not be applicable in the event of unusual security conditions, if there is no appropriate performance space (unless there is a replacement facility in the area) or if the council justifies the decision not to perform. The latter is likely to take economic factors into account but not ideological ones.