Prominent Israeli Arts Fund Requires Filmmakers to Avoid Dishonoring Israel

To obtain funding, filmmakers working with the Rabinovich Foundation must declare their films won't present Independence Day as a day of mourning or insult symbols of the state.

A publicity photo from Dror Moreh's documentary film, "The Gatekeepers."
A publicity photo from Dror Moreh's documentary film, "The Gatekeepers."Credit: AP

The Yehoshua Rabinovich Foundation for the Arts, one of the largest funds supporting Israeli-made films, has recently added a clause to its contracts with filmmakers requiring them to avoid disparaging Israel or denying that it is a Jewish and democratic state.

The new contracts, drawn up for the foundation’s Cinema Project, require film producers to commit to not presenting anything, “statement or message, explicit or implied in any manner or fashion that shows any support” for a long list of matters, including “marking Independence Day or the day the state was established as a day of mourning,” as well as any act of "spoliation or physical disparagement damaging the dignity of the national flag or state symbols.”

The Rabinovich Foundation’s funds for cinematic productions come entirely from the Culture Ministry.

A year ago, Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev initiated the so-called “Loyalty in Culture” bill, actually an amendment to the Culture and Arts Law that would give the minister the authority to retroactively suspend funding for cultural activities that “contravene the principles of the state,” similar to the authority already granted to the finance minister. That bill has been on ice since, but the Rabinovich Foundation said the new clause is intended to legally protect it from the “Nakba Law,” which permits a retroactive budget reduction for “actions against the principles of the state” in case any of the productions they fund violate these regulations.

The new contracts require producers to declare that they will carry out all the relevant requirements of the law, and will be responsible for claims arising from any violations.

The Israel Film and Television Producers Association has set a meeting with the chairman of the Rabinovich Foundation, Giora Eini, for early next week in order to protest the new contracts.

The Culture Ministry is requiring all film and television foundations to provide information on officials who approved or rejected specific projects during the past few years, Haaretz reported. Some in the industry called the move “a threat to democracy.” In an interview with Army Radio on Tuesday, Regev said she intends on advancing the Loyalty in Culture bill after the Passover holiday recess in the Knesset.

The Nakba law, an amendment to the Budget Foundation Law from 2011, lists the following grounds for reducing funding: “Denying the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state; incitement to racism, violence, and terror; support for an armed struggle or terror act by a hostile country or terror organization against the State of Israel; marking Independence Day as a day of mourning; an act of vandalism or physical degradation that dishonors the country’s flag or state emblem.”

In response, the Rabinovich Foundation said that it does not censor films produced with its funding. It chooses which films to support based solely on professional and artistic criteria, according to regulations set by law. The changes in the budget law from 2011 were added to the contracts at the recommendation of the foundation’s legal advisor.

It added that the goal is to protect the foundation from possible damages or losses if a film producer violates the provisions of the law. The foundation is a trustee for public funds and film producers must take care that all films produced with such support do not violate the laws of Israel. The amendment to the contracts is a sort of insurance policy in cases where sanctions are imposed against it due to the actions of a producer who the foundation has no control over.

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