Israel’s Culture Minister Wants Tel Aviv Cinematheque Fined for Hosting Nakba Film Festival

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Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev speaking to reporters at a Cabinet meeting
File photo of Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev speaking to reporters Credit: Pool Photo Israeli Cabinet Meeting

Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev has asked Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon to see if the Tel Aviv Cinematheque can be fined for holding a film festival about the Nakba, “catastrophe” in Arabic, the term used by Palestinians to describe Israel’s 1948 War of Independence and its aftermath.

“While is Israel is celebrating 70 years, the Cinematheque State is trying to remember and sanctify the Nakba. Not on my watch” said Regev.

Regev claims holding a film festival like this would be a violation of the “Nakba Law”. The controversial law is written into the budget by law, giving the finance minister the power to withhold funds from government-supported institutions if they hold events which deny Israel’s right to exist. Regev has called for an urgent meeting of a government committee that reviews complaints against events that might undermine the state, its symbols and values, in hopes of cutting the cinematheque’s funding for the film festival.

Regev said that the festival, organized by Zochrot, an organization that works to raise awareness in Israel about the events of 1948 from the Palestinian perspective is made up of people, who she said had forgotten the facts of what happened in 1948 which she described as an organized attempt to wipe out the remnants of the Jewish people.

“This group is trying to rewrite history and create an imaginary Palestinian narrative” she said.

Regev said that her ministry had already approached the treasury’s legal counsel on the matter.

“The delay in dealing with this harms the law which protects our values and very existence” she said.

This is not the first time Regev’s ministry has tried to cut the cinematheque’s budget. Two years ago Regev set up a team to investigate if another festival’s films were in violation of the Nakba Law. The committee found that some films were offensive, but not to the point of violating the law.

Regev then dropped her request for a fine.

Some of the films in the upcoming festival were originally scheduled to be screened at the Al-Saraya Theater in Jaffa, but the theater cancelled, citing concerns it would see some of its government funding cut. In the past the theater was in danger of losing funding for staging an event called “Notebooks from Prison” and for holding an evening honoring Israeli-Arab poet Dareen Tatour, who is under house arrest for posts she put on Facebook that the Israeli authorities said were examples of incitement to violence and support for a terror organization.

Zochrot issued a statement, rebuffing Regev’s comments, saying the festival is intended to create a space for talking about the Nakba: “We believe that without knowing about and taking responsibility for the events of 1948 we cannot achieve peace and integration into this region. It is time for a critical reflection on the past, present and future.”

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