Treasury Rejects All 98 Appeals to Enforce the ‘Nakba Law’

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Miri Regev, Israel's Minister of Culture and Sport, addresses journalists before the weekly cabinet meeting at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem, Sunday, August 12, 2018.
Miri Regev, Israel's Minister of Culture and Sport, addresses journalists before the weekly cabinet meeting at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem, Sunday, August 12, 2018.Credit: Jim Hollander/Pool via AP

Not one of the 98 requests filed with the Ministry of Finance over the last year, asking for the enforcement of the “Nakba Law,” has been adopted.

This information was disclosed in a letter by Annette Kleinman, who is in charge of freedom of information at the ministry. The law authorizes the Finance Minister to withhold funds from institutions receiving government financing, if these institutions host people denying Israel’s right to exist.

The Ministry of Culture and Sports under Miri Regev filed 17 of these requests. 14 other requests regarding the enforcement of the “Boycott Law” also went unheeded by the Treasury’s legal adviser.

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The highest number of complaints regarding the “Nakba Law” came from Shai Glick, a right-wing activist, who filed 60 of these. He was the one who requested information regarding the number of appeals and the responses they received. 18 other requests came from people or private organizations, as well as from three Knesset members. Regarding the “Boycott Law”, 9 requests came from Glick, one from the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, and 2 came from private persons or organizations. Two others came from Knesset members. Not one of the complaints led to withholding of funds.

Last week, Regev sent an angry letter to Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, complaining that his ministry is not enforcing these laws. She said Kahlon is turning these laws into a dead letter. The Minister of Culture and Sports noted two events at the Jaffa Theater which caused her to request the slashing of its budget. The first event honored poet Dareen Tatour, while the second one, held in June 2017, included readings from “prison notebooks”, a work written by Palestinian prisoners and edited by Einat Weizman.

Regev claims that no minutes were provided from the sole meeting of a Treasury committee dealing with the issue. “Your Ministry’s failure is outrageous and I hope you tell them to wake up and deal with this important topic. It’s unthinkable that supported public venues become a fifth column at the expense of Israeli taxpayers.”

Upon assuming office, Regev declared that she would act to create a situation in which institutions that negate Israel’s Jewish character would not benefit from public funding. Last year she met Attorney General Mendelblit to discuss the implementation of the law. It was decided that all appeals in this matter would be addressed to the Ministry of Finance, which would respond within a week. 

Following Regev’s protests regarding the Jaffa Theater, a committee convened, headed by her ministry’s director general Yossi Sharabi and the Treasury’s director general Shai Babad. It was determined that the two incidents were isolated ones and that the theater would be fined by only a few thousand shekels. The committee called for legislation that would set parameters for future punitive measures. So far this has not happened and the theater has not been fined.

Culture and Sports Minister Regev, in response to Haaretz, said that “my repeated appeals to Finance Minister Kahlon who has the authority to slash the funding of cultural institutions which harm or undermine our values and symbols, were met by foot-dragging on the part of Treasury officials. The limited and ridiculous authority granted by law to the Minister of Finance is incongruent with the serious harm done by these institutions to everything we hold sacred. The director-general of my ministry and the Treasury’s director-general agreed that the current law is ineffective. The Ministry of Culture and Sports has prepared a draft bill for correcting this legal loophole. I intend to submit this bill in the next Knesset session.”

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