Israeli Treasury Opposes Miri Regev’s ‘Loyalty in Culture’ Bill

Regev proposed transferring authority to deny support to institutions that undermine state symbols from the Finance Ministry to her Culture and Sports Ministry.

Miri Regev, center, at a meeting of the Knesset Education Committee in Jerusalem, January 27, 2016.
Emil Salman

The Finance Ministry is opposing the “loyalty in culture” bill pitched last month by Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev at the Knesset Education Committee, which focuses on transferring the authority to deny subsidies to institutions that have undermined state symbols from the Finance Ministry to her ministry.

Moreover, the Justice Ministry withdrew the proposal for the law it had sent to the Justice Ministry for review by Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber on the day before its presentation in the Knesset, apparently because of the Finance Ministry’s opposition to the intervention in the Budget Foundations Law. In all likelihood the Culture Ministry will amend the proposal before sending it again for legal review.

“The Culture and Sports Ministry has not sent the ministry a concrete proposal on the issue,” according to the Finance Ministry. “Moreover, the Finance Ministry is opposed to any damage to its authority under the Budget Foundations Law.”

The Culture Ministry responded that it was in discussions with the Justice Ministry on formulating the bill to withhold support  of institutions that undermine the state’s principles. “The ministry will continue to advance the law that is aimed at defending Israel’s democratic values,” it stated.

In the memorandum presenting the proposed amendment to the Budget Foundations Law, which Haaretz obtained at the time, there was an additional paragraph defining “an activity that is not supported,” which includes denying the existence of the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, incitement to racism, violence and terror, support for armed struggle or acts of terror, anti-Israel activity, marking Independence Day or the date of Israel’s establishment as a day of mourning – as well as an act of destruction or physical debasement dishonoring the national flag or other state symbol. 

Another provision mentioned in the proposal that does not exist in the Budget Foundations Law notes that if “the authority for the budget provision” (meaning the Culture Administration subsidies committee rather than the finance minister, who is the current authority), sees that any organization that has included in its application for support an action that is not supported, that authority is able to determine, after having heard the organization, that the unsupported activity will not afford entitlement to support and funds as a result will not be transferred to that organization, or funds will not be transferred that should be transferred under the state budget.

Since the amendment was presented in the Knesset Education Committee last month, the ministerial committee on legislation has not brought it up for discussion, while the Finance Ministry has not examined it.

Haaretz has also learned that the new criteria for support in the various areas, which include Regev’s proposals, and are to be implemented starting this year, are at the focus of a disagreement between the Culture Ministry and the Justice Ministry. The criteria in the area of theater, for example, were discussed last month in the theater section at the National Council for Culture and the Arts, with people from the theater panel objecting mainly to the new parameter called “cultural uniqueness,” which is supposed to give priority to theaters representing Jewish minorities. The criteria were supposed to have been released for public comment but their publication has been delayed, apparently due to the legal controversy surrounding them. Recently a number of the criteria were discussed by Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber, who severely criticized the Culture Ministry officials involved.

The Culture Ministry responded: “The Justice Ministry approved the main amendments in the criteria for support concerning the repertory theater. The discussions concerning across the board amendments in the criteria are still continuing vis-à-vis the Justice Ministry. Therefore the criteria for theater subsidies have not yet been made available to the public for comment.”