Israeli Culture Minister Seeks to Shut Down Private Anti-occupation Event

Miri Regev asks Haifa mayor to cancel gathering with veterans' NGO Breaking the Silence, to be co-sponsored by local Arab theater and Jerusalem gallery that previously felt minister’s wrath

Breaking the Silence activists protest against the occupation in Tel Aviv, in March 2016.
Moti Milrod

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev has sent an urgent letter to Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav, asking him to urgently intervene and cancel a private event hosting members of Breaking the Silence, which was scheduled to take place on Thursday.

The event was planned in a private studio that is not connected to the municipality. In her Wednesday letter, Regev noted that the Jerusalem municipality had prevented a similar event from taking place, but that one took place at a gallery in a building owned by the city.

Regev’s associates said later that “a complaint that reached the minister stated that this event was being funded and publicized by the city. If the city claims otherwise, the minister will reconsider her position.” In her letter, Regev wrote that she had learned that a meeting with Breaking the Silence was scheduled to take place at the Nemala Studio in Haifa, with the participation of the Al-Midan Theater and Jerusalem’s Barbur Gallery.

“It is unnecessary to point out to you that Breaking the Silence works to tarnish the image of Israel, presenting it as an immoral state and its army and soldiers as an immoral army,” wrote Regev.

Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev.

Regev added that she sees it as particularly serious that the event was scheduled to take place only a few days after the national ceremony commemorating the Holocaust and resistance, and “only a few days before the day honoring the memory of Israel Defense Forces soldiers and the victims of terror.” She wrote that it was “even worse that an accomplice to this event, as I have learned, is the Al-Midan Theater which has glorified a murderer of an Israeli soldier, Moshe Tamam, may the Lord avenge his blood.”

Cites Jerusalem 'precedent' 

The minister noted in her letter that the Jerusalem municipality had prevented a similar event, which she called an “anti-Israel” one, an event initiated by the Barbur Gallery in Jerusalem, which is located in a building owned by the city. “Due to the short notice, I ask you to urgently intervene in the matter,” concluded Regev.

The Nemala Studio, where the event is due to take place, belongs to painter and sculptor Shahar Sivan and is not financed by or connected to the Haifa municipality. The studio is featured on the city’s website, as are all private businesses operating in the area.

Sivan was surprised to learn about Regev’s letter. He told Haaretz he’d decided to hold the event out of solidarity with the Barbur Gallery, whose owners he’s known ever since the gallery was established, and with the Libira Brewpub, which is close to the gallery, after it received threats for serving beer made by a Ramallah brewery.

“I realized that sitting on the fence was not an option for me,” said Sivan. “In Haifa and across the country there are so many good and exciting cultural events taking place and they can’t be silenced. When cultural venues that host Breaking the Silence are issued with closure injunctions, I object and fight back.” Sivan added that in addition to the meeting with members of Breaking the Silence he will host Sinan Abdel Moati, an Arab composer, producer and DJ from Haifa, as well as other cultural figures. He noted that even though the event was intended to express solidarity with the Al-Midan theater, members of the theater are not part of the event.

Likud Youth activists announced on Facebook that they were planning to demonstrate outside the gallery during the event. They called on people to come to their demonstration, writing, “We can’t allow these traitors to come to Haifa. Their only aim is to tarnish the IDF and the State of Israel, to harm our security and emasculate the army. We young members of Likud will be there carrying Israeli flags. We will confront this treacherous organization and not allow it to disseminate its venom in Haifa. We’ll come and show them that we won’t accept them quietly.”