Israeli Culture Minister Looks to Ban 'Nation-state' Protest Event

In a letter, Regev instructed Haifa mayor to prohibit the event by 'those who wish us ill, who undermine our existence'

Israeli Sports and Culture Minister Miri Regev delivers a statement in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, June 6, 2018.
AP Photo/Ariel Schalit

Culture Minister Miri Regev asked the attorney general Sunday to ban an event against the nation-state law to be held Sunday night at a Haifa community center. The event is sponsored by activists of the leftist Hadash party, which rented a hall at Beit Hagefen, and which is supported, among other bodies, by the Culture Ministry and the Haifa municipality.

In a letter to Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, Regev asked him to instruct Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav to prohibit the event “to prevent the rental of the public stage for a political/party and/or fifth column [purpose] in the service of those who wish us ill, who undermine our existence.”

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The event, billed as an “emergency Arab-Jewish conference against the racist ‘nation-state’ law.” According to the invitation, the event will include discussion and work groups about the ramifications of the nation-state law and opposition to it. MKs Ayman Odeh and Aida Touma-Sliman of the Joint List are planning to addend, as is MK Mossi Raz (Meretz), the historian Kais Firro and the former director of the New Israel Fund, Rachel Liel.

Regev wrote Mendelblit that she intended “to pass a new law already in the next Knesset session, which will prevent breaches of the existing law and will allow more effective sanctions against cultural institutions supported [by the state] when they use or rent spaces for performances, conferences and events that undermine the State of Israel, its values and its symbols.”

Regev also wrote that at a meeting in Mendelblit’s office about six months ago, “you supported by approach that publicly supported cultural institutions must not hold political events in their spaces, and that support should be significantly reduced and even withheld from cultural institutions for providing a platform for incitement and damage to our symbols, values and our very existence.”

Beit Hagefen is an Arab-Jewish cultural center established in 1963, and operates as a non-profit association. It describes itself as seeking “to strengthen common egalitarian spaces that contain a variety of identities and cultures in Israel and the world.”

Regev approached Mayor Yahav on Friday afternoon demanding that he cancel the event because it was a political event being held in an institution that is supported, among other bodies, by the Culture Ministry and the Haifa municipality. She also said she wanted her ministry to condition to support Beit Hagefen only if they did not hold “these and similar events.”

As in other, similar instances in the past, Regev turned to Mendelblit and Yahav after she was approached by Likud activists.

In his letter of reply to Regev, Yahav wrote: “The subject was checked into. This is not a Beit Hagefen activity, but the rental of a hall at full price by the organizers of the event. In light of this and an analysis of the legal situation stemming from it. There is no reason to intervene as requested in your letter. If the attorney general thinks differently, we would be happy to receive directives and act accordingly.”

Raja Za’atara, the secretary of the Haifa branch of Hadash, said: “Attempts to silence the sane Arab public and Jewish public will not succeed. Miri Regev is the leader of ignorant culture of silencing others. We will not give in. On the contrary, we will continue to fight together against racism and discrimination and for full equality.”

MK Touma-Sliman tweeted: “It feels like Miri Regev wakes up every morning and looks for activities and conferences that don’t toe conform to her small politics and she pushes to silence them. So take note, Miri: You can’t do it. You don’t have the authority. Take note. We’ll continue to fight.

Mendelblit’s office did not respond.