Israel's Culture Minister Doubles Down on Threatening Poetry, Dissenting Theater

'I will continue to insist that venues supported by public money shall not give the stage to lovers of shaheeds [martyrs] and subversives,' said Regev

Israel's Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev at the annual "life achievement" awards ceremony of the Israeli Union of Performing Artists, known by its Hebrew acronym EMI, Tuesday, December 3, 2019.
Gidi Leviathan

Israel's Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev stole the show once again at an awards ceremony on Tuesday, reminding creatives that despite the current political deadlock, she remained committed to the idea of making public funding conditional on loyalty to the state. 

Regev made her case at the 40th edition of the Israeli Union of Performing Artists' (known by its Hebrew acronym EMI) annual "life achievement" awards.

"If you want to yell, this is the time," Regev said during her speech. "I will continue to insist that venues supported by public money shall not give the stage to lovers of shaheeds [martyrs] and subversives undermining our very existence as a Jewish and democratic state."

As the crowd cheered, Regev went on: "It cannot be that we make a place on the subsidized public stage for detestable terrorists such as Walid Daka, the convoys of shaheeds for Dareen Tatour, or the threatening language of [the Palestinian poet] Darwish who calls for eating the flesh of the occupier. Freedom of speech, without freedom to incite."

The minister added that she is glad "the High Court of Justice agrees" with her on halting support for the al-Midan theater. "It wasn't a theater," she said. "It was a dais for supporters of terrorism."

Regev stood beside Yakov Mendel, chairman of the Union of Performing Artists, during his speech. When he said the ceremony isn't political, she interjected that it simply wasn't a right-wing political ceremony. At that point many in the audience had it and quite a few shouted, "Enough!" 

Out of the award recipients, the only no-show was Arab actor Salim Dau, who used to run the al-Midan theater and is currently shooting a movie in Jordan.

While most of the artists who came didn't get political, some took a swipe at Regev.  

Granting an award to theatre producer Noam Semel, veteran actor Oded Kotler said "I want to say much nicer things than some of the things the minister said, unfortunately... Sometimes ministers also talk nonsense."

Actress Liora Rivlin at EMI's annual awards ceremony, December 3, 2019
Gidi Leviathan

Actress Liora Rivlin also rebuked the minister, comparing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a play. "At the end of the day, what will determine whether what we saw is a comedy or tragedy is just one thing: Whether the heroes manage to see, in real time, the other and his own [version of] justice, not only their own," she said, at the end of her address.

Live performances featured apolitical songs, entitled  "Like always", "Will wait for you always" and "Long road," the latter performed by Gali Atari, of "Hallelujah" fame, in memory of her sisters Shoshi and Yona, who died earlier this year.

The winners of the Union's award this year were the actors Tiki Dayan, Salim Dau, Liora Rivlin, the singer Gali Atari, the musicians Miki Gavrielov and Lea Shabat, the actor, theater producer Noam Semel, dancer Oshra Elkayam-Ronen, composer Rafi Ben Moshe, the magicians Yoram Bar Sela and Eliron Toby, the director of the Stage Arts in Ashdod Moti Malka, and the mime Uri Tenenbaum.